Free flowing near the Dead Sea

Waterfalls, small pools and varied fauna make the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is one of Israel’s most enduringly popular destinations.

Ein Gedi (photo credit: TOURISM MINISTRY)
Ein Gedi
(photo credit: TOURISM MINISTRY)
The contrast between the arid landscape and impressive cliffs above the Dead Sea, and the sweetwater spring in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve never ceases to amaze me. The two rivers – Nahal David in the northern part and Nahal Arugot in the southern part – flow through the nature reserve year round.
The water flowing in the rivers comes from four separate springs: David, Shulamit, Arugot and Ein Gedi.
The source of the water in the springs is mainly from rainfall on the Judean Hills that seeps into the groundwater.
Because of the abundance of water in the area, Ein Gedi is a popular meeting place for a variety of animals, including rock hyraxes and Nubian ibex, which roam the area freely, and wolves and hyenas which sometimes appear at night. In contrast to the desert landscape, a variety of trees and plants grow in the reserve, such as acacia, reeds, Sodom apple and cattails.
Amid the greenery, you can also find remains of water reservoirs, irrigation systems and aqueducts, which archeologists claim were used by a Jewish settlement from the seventh century CE.
One of the most amazing things about Ein Gedi is that everyone can find something there they love. Antiquities enthusiasts will be delighted to discover remains scattered around the reserve; desert lovers will enjoy hiking in the gorges, and water lovers can take a dip in the delightful pools.
The first trail is called Lower Nahal David, and begins near the parking area. This is a relatively easy hike, appropriate for the entire family. The trail follows along the river until it reaches the magical David Waterfall.
This hike takes about an hour (but you should leave extra time for swimming in the pools) and is linear, so you retrace your steps to reach your car at the end.
Tickets can be bought at the entrance of the reserve.
Another trail is circular and begins at Nahal Arugot.
This is one of the most popular hiking trails in all of Israel, despite the fact that it can take up to three hours to complete. The trail begins and ends at the Nahal Arugot ticket booth. The trail follows the lower section of the river and reaches a hidden waterfall. If you like, you can also deviate from the path and hike up to the upper water pools and then return to the spot where you left the path, and continue along the circular path back to the parking lot.
A third trail is a little more challenging, appropriate for more seasoned hikers. Begin walking along Lower Nahal David until you reach the waterfall. There are a number of places where you can deviate from the path to get to small pools and reservoirs, so stop whenever you want to wade in the water.
From the waterfall, climb up toward the beautiful Shulamit Spring and from there to the Dodim cave (karstic caves near the top of the waterfall). Next, stop at the Chalcolithic Temple, which is perched on a rock jutting out of the cliffs. From here, you’ll have the most amazing view of the Dead Sea area.
Archeologists who’ve carried out excavations in the area believe the temple was used by people who arrived in the region from faraway places. The ruins are near the Ein Gedi Spring, so continue along the trail in that direction and after viewing the antiquities, continue back down toward Nahal Arugot and the hidden waterfall.
The hidden waterfall, as you have probably guessed from its name, cannot be seen from the trail. To find it, you need to follow a narrow path marked with red trail markers until you find the hidden waterfall, which is tucked away behind the shrubbery and rocks. At the bottom of the waterfall lies a pool of water you can swim in all year long.
From the hidden waterfall, continue along Nahal Arugot until you reach the ticket booth. Take note, however, that this last route is not a circular trail: it begins in Nahal David and ends in Nahal Arugot, so plan accordingly (either leave one car in each location, or hitch a ride back to the starting point). This trail can take up to six hours.
Location: Dead Sea area
Type of hike:
There are a number of possibilities, including linear and circular trails
Level of difficulty:
One trail is easy, and others are more difficult Length: Depending on which trail you choose, between one to six hours Hours: The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is open from 8 a.m.-to 4 p.m.
Directions: Take Road 90 south. The entrance to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is about 1 km. before Kibbutz Ein Gedi; the first parking area is Nahal David. To reach the Nahal Arugot parking area, continue from the first parking area for another 2 km.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.