The hiking paths that will reveal to you the most stunning features of Israel
by Erez Speiser, Israel by Foot
The most striking feature of Israel‘s landscape is its variety. In this tiny area, you will find a harsh desert in the South and the green Galil mountains in the North. Two regions that are totally different, however, you’ll be able to drive from one to the other in less than three hours.
When to visit Israel for Hiking?
Israel has a very dry and hot summer that’s not hiking friendly and, in some areas, even dangerous. The autumn remains dry and dusty. Conditions begin to get better only in November. December-March is the most attractive season. However, the “sweet spot” is between mid-February until mid-March, when wildflower blossom is at its peak and lots of streams and springs that are dry throughout the year are filled with water. From the end of March till may it’s still possible to hike, however, the weather gradually becomes hotter, and the landscape dries out.
Main Hiking Regions
Golan Heights: large open planes and deep volcanic rock canyons.
The Golan Heights is a flat highland that drops steeply towards the sea of Galilee and the Hula Valley. The soil is usually Basalt rocks originated from ancient volcanic activity. This results in a series of gorges with waterfalls, pools and water that flows throughout the year. The best place to start is the Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve that features three of the most important gorges. The Zavitan, Yehudiya and Meshushim.
Galilee Mountains: A lovely mixture of archaeology, history and nature.
A Green area packed with wildflowers (When you hike in the right season). Hikes can be easily combined with archaeological sites like ancient synagogues, aqueduct, watermills and crusader fortresses. Or historical spots like the Sea of Galilee, Mount Tabor or the Horns of Hattin. a good hiking hub to explore the region is the old town of Safed with its picturesque little alleys and galleries.
Jerusalem area: Judean Mountains and the Judean Desert.
Jerusalem is located in a unique geographical location. On the West, the scenery is of the Judean mountains western slopes, which are green and forested. Looking East, the scenery is of the Judean desert which is rugged and dry. (A great spot to understand the “desert shade” effect).
The western slopes are characterized by steep slopes covered with an evergreen forest and many wildflowers during winter and spring. However, the main attraction for hikers are the dozens of small springs that are scattered in the region.
The eastern slopes mark the beginning of the Judean desert. As we move further east and south we get deeper into the desert and the scenery turns very quickly dry and barren. It is a paradise for hikers with a variety of classic hikes such as Ein Gedi, Masada and Wadi Qelt.
Negev Desert: The Makhteshim (Craters) and much more.
The Negev desert is the largest region in Israel and offers a large variety of hiking choices. The most accessible section for hiking in the central Negev region between the towns of Yeruham and Mitzpe Ramon. This region includes the three “Makhteshim” and the Zin valley. The area offers a good choice of well-marked and attractive trails. “Makhtesh” is a unique crater-like formation created by erosion. There are only seven such craters in the world, all of them located in the Land of Israel (5) and the Sinai desert (2). Any hiker visiting Israel ought to include at least one them in his itinerary.
Eilat Mountains: The festival of colours.
Unknown to many, but The noisy and touristic town of Eilat is also an amazing hiking hub. Within a short drive from town, you’ll be able to explore wonderful desert hiking trails. What makes the Eilat mountains range unique is the contrast of colours. The sand and rocks change sharply between Black, Yellow and Red. in the horizon, you’ve got insight the Edom red mountains and the Deep Blue of the Red Sea. the most known and accessible hike is the “Red Canyon“, however many alternative more “serious” hikes are can be tackled in the area.
More details and hiking options can be found on “Israel by Foot” web site.