Hiking the Holy Land

Israel by Foot program makes country’s abundant, varied trails easy to find

Migrating cranes rest on the Hula Lake Ornithology and Nature Park in northern Israel (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Migrating cranes rest on the Hula Lake Ornithology and Nature Park in northern Israel
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Most tourists come to Israel either out of religious sentiment or because of an interest in the country’s abundant historical and cultural sites. Others come to enjoy the beaches and night life of Eilat or Tel-Aviv.
But aside from these known attractions, Israel is also a unique hiking destination. What makes Israel – a tiny country without high mountain ridges – attractive for hikers?
• Variety – This small area has the desert in the South, the Galilee mountains in the North and many historical and archeological sites that blend into the natural surroundings.
• Desert – The Negev is one of the most hiking-friendly deserts in world, and definitely the friendliest one closest to Europe. If you have not hiked a desert before, expect a truly unique experience.
• Wildflowers – In late winter and spring, wildflowers bloom in a variety of shapes and colors that will amaze and overwhelm your senses.
• History – While hiking, you will find ancient synagogues, Crusader fortresses, old monasteries and Nabatean towns blended into the landscape around them.
• Weather – The winter months, which present unfavorable hiking conditions in most northern countries, are the best months to hike in Israel
• Hiking Infrastructure – There are thousands of kilometers of wellmarked hiking trails in Israel covering the entire country.
Hiking is a wonderful way to spiceup a conventional visit to Jerusalem, Eilat, Tiberias and other popular tourist locations. Within a short driving distance from just about anywhere, you can find great options for a full-day or half-day hike at all levels, from easy to extreme.
But the fact is, when I hike in Israel, I rarely meet tourists on the trails. In trying to understand the reasons behind this, I concluded that a non-Hebrew speaking tourist will find it very difficult to obtain the information needed to hike independently in Israel.
The motivation behind the Israel by Foot program (www.hike-israel.com) is to make hiking accessible to tourists by building a web platform that will make it comfortable and safe for a tourist to hike the country.
The hikes offered range in lengths between a few hours to a full day and can be tackled by any tourist with basic physical fitness.
If you are into serious multi-day hiking, Israel is also very attractive in that category:
• The Israel National Trail (INT) is approximately 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) in length. The trail – which stretches from Kibbutz Dan near the Lebanese border to Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba – was named one of the 20 best “epic hiking trails” in the world by National Geographic.
• The Golan Trail is approximately 125-km. (75-mi.) long. The trail begins on Mount Hermon and ends just above Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). The Golan is full of streams, rugged landscapes and wildlife, and is especially beautiful in spring when wildflowers and tree blossoms are in their prime.
• The Jesus Trail is a 65-km. (40-mi.) hiking trail in the Galilee region of Israel that connects important sites from the life of Jesus as well as other historical and religious sites.
The writer is a nature-lover, hiker in Israel and other countries, and the founder and manager of www.hike-israel.com.