The most stunning places in Israel you probably did not know about
I am guessing that not many of you would have thought about Israel as a travel adventure destination. Many travellers are stopping in Jerusalem visiting the holy places and some are having one day trip from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea. Oh, Eilat became more in the front line recently as a seaside destination due to the increasing number of direct low-cost flight But, the beautiful spots in the desert are somehow overlooked. I love the desert, and this new passion I discovered during my trips through the deserts of Israel. Paradoxically, this arid landscape can be so addictive and fascinating at the same time. I am never going to be able to explain why… It is just something that grows on you little by little the moment you breathe the hot air and the sun is caressing your skin. Probably because geological and biblical events are connected to this desert and I find utterly captivating this clash between forces of nature and humankind ready to survive in the most inhospitable places.
But,less talk and let`s begin with…
5. Nahal David, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Judean Desert
Nahal/Wadi David it is a beautiful canyon carved by the waters in the soft layers of limestone and sandstone. It is one hour driving from Jerusalem in the Judean Desert and in the vicinity of the Dead Sea not very far from Masada. According to the bible when David was running from Saul he was hiding in this canyon in Dodim cave.
Hiking in this canyon is a real delight being more luscious than one might think considering the desert around it. Natural polls were carved by the falling freshwater and are perfect for a dip when the heat strikes. The trail is spectacular with alternating waterfalls and steep walls that seems to guard every movement.
Keep in mind that is a Natural Park and a fee has to be paid, also from October to March the park is closing at 4 PM and the last admission is at 2 PM.
4. Ramon Crater/ Makhtesh Ramon, Negev Desert
190 km from Tel Aviv in the middle of Negev Desert is the town of Mitzpe Romon. Probably the only town in the world having stray Ibex walking around. But the topic is not about Ibex but about the big erosion crater that lies at town`s edge. Ramon Crater is a Nature Reserve 40 km long, in shape of a heart which offers a quick glance into Earth`s Geological History. For a Geology buff is a real treat. The crater is big and with numerous trails and off roads are crossing it from one side to another. It can take you from the high edges, to the basaltic hills, the old mines or to fresh water springs and to some Jurassic strata revealed by the erosion. It is a place that needs more than a day to be explored because while there you cant leave without discovering every corner. There you can spend the night either at Be`erot Campground or in your own tent, or to benefit from the Bedouin hospitality and spend the night in their tent and enjoy a delicious meal.
3. Timna Park, Negev Desert
Not very far from the Red Sea, at the doors of Sinai in Negev Desert, there is another spectacular natural reserve, Timna Park. Don’t be fooled by the name, because it is not a park but a nature reserve, a sensational place where nature played in sandstone creating the most unusual shapes and colors. Its reddish color is due to the presence of copper that was mined since Paleolithic. The long trails are taking you to the old Egyptian mines or to the remains of the smelting furnaces. Also, Solomon`s Pillars are a majestic sandstone formation carved by nature looking like a megalith in the desert. The trails are long and you should make sure you take water with you. Timna is at 25 km north of Eilat. It is opening at 8 AM and closes at 4 PM. Ideally to be there early in the morning, also, before visiting is better to consult the official page because the closing hours can be changed during the holidays.
2. Nahal Arugot, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Judean Desert
Nahal Arugot e most spectacular canyon in Ein Gedi. The hike is amazing going either on the river banks overlooking the river form a narrow path on a steep cliff or you can choose to hike walking in the water. I went up following the dry path but went down following the wet path and I loved it. Also, the dip in the natural pools formed not very far from the creek spring is well deserved after climbing in the desert heat. It feels like a garden of Eden, although it does not look like what we imagine a garden of Eden to be. But it gives you the sense of being so closest to nature than you will ever be. Sadly being a Nature Reserve it has opening hours. I kept looking back when I left Nahal Arugot because I wanted to carry with me its image, everywhere.
1. Nahal Dragot and Muraba`at Cave, Judean Desert
If you are adrenaline junkiy Nahal Dragot is the place to satisfy your addiction. A 6 km stream starting from the Judean Mountains carved its way towards the Dead Sea leaving behind not only a spectacular canyon but also a difficult one to hike. The trail takes at least 7 or 8 hours to complete and is going down 380 m through a succession of ladders, dry waterfalls and natural pools filled with waters. In some places, the difference can be up to 10 m so do not forget to take a rope with you. This trail is for experienced hikers also keep in mind to choose carefully when you decide to do the hike because the canyon is prone to flash floods.
Nahal Dragot is sensational but is also connected to one of the historical events in Israel. In Murabba`at Cave scrolls signed by Simon Bar Kochba that led the revolt against the Romans were found hidden there.
This top might be subjective, but these are the places I found the most intriguing. I know that I still have so many things to discover in Israel so it will remain for now on my “Places I Need to Return“ list