The White Mountain: A Beautiful Viewpoint Over Eilat

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The Eilat Mountains are one of the most beautiful sights in Israel. So full of colors, they are a wonderful place for a hike. Last week, I visited Eilat with a friend and we decided to take a short hike in the mountains early in the morning, just before it got too hot. Since I have already been to the top trails of the area, I looked for a trail I haven’t hiked on. Then I found the White Mountain Trail, which is also known as the Yotam Knife Trail.

The circular trail takes you up a beautiful white mountain and offers a breathtaking view of the surroundings, including the Red Sea Gulf and the city of Eilat. In my view, it is much more amazing than the view from Mount Yoash. But, the highlight of the trail is without a doubt its “knife”, especially for people who like to live on the edge. I’ll tell you more about it in this post, so…

Let’s start with some safety instructions and general notes:

  • The hike is under your responsibility, so please be careful.
  • Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 1.5 liter of water, and wear a hat. Though, take into account that if there will be wind at the top of the mountain, your hat might fly off and away, so keep watch of the wind. You can also bring snacks for the way and of course, a garbage bag.
  • The top of the trail is entirely exposed to the sun. Therefore, don’t attempt to hike it in very hot hours. The ideal season is spring (February-April) or fall (October-November), but if you choose to hike in the summer like we did, you should start the hike early in the morning. We started at 6:30 AM.
  • The trail is well-marked, but it’s always good to have a good hiking map with you.

How to get to the head of the trail?

The trail leaves from a dirt road, that makes its way through the mountains. The quickest and easiest way to get there is by car. In Eilat, you need to get on the bypass road, that bypasses the city from the north. Then, you need to leave the road to a dirt road, that makes its way towards Benny’s Farm and Nahal Netafim. You can search for “Benny’s Farm (החווה של בני)” in Waze. The dirt road is accessible for any type of car, but it’s recommended to drive slowly and carefully because there are some rocks on the way. Drive on the road for about 300 meters until you reach a “Mekorot” water station, where there’s a fork in the road. Right will lead you to Benny’s Farm, but you need to continue straight towards the head of the trail. Then, drive for around 1.3 km until you reach a signpost pointing to the left with a blue marker on it. This is the head of the trail. You can park here and begin the hike.

For those of you who don’t have a car, you can start your hike from the bypass road, what will add about 1.6 km to the total hike.

My Hike:

Map used from Israel Hiking Map

My friend and I drove along the dirt road all the way to the beginning of the trail. Along the way, there were many improvised graves. 

“Ah, now I understand,” my friend said, “These are dog graves.”

We’ve already been in this area before, when we were camping at Benny’s Farm, not far from here, almost five months ago. I also wondered at the time what were all those flowerpots, stones, and signs. I stopped and took a closer look. It really looked like dog graves. Taki, Lada, Ginger, and other dog names were written on the signs. On one sign someone even wrote: “My best friend.” And it seemed like most of them lived for 20 years or so. 

Part of the dog cemetery… there were many more

At the beginning of the trail (1) stood a signpost, with a sign pointing left to a blue marked trail and stating “Road 12 (MAALE EILAT).” 

The signpost which is the beginning of the trail

The hour was 6:30 AM. There were lots of bikers and trotters that passed by us. The start of the trail wasn’t so promising. A wide dirt path with a few mountains around it. To our right we saw a long, white mountain. “That mountain looks edgy,” my friend said. “I think it’s the mountain we will climb on,” I told her. 

This is how it looks in the beginning

The way seemed very long, but after about 1.2 km we reached a crossroad. Here the trail splits – forward is a black-marked trail and rightward is a blue-marked trail (2). We continued on the blue-marked trail and at last, the trail started to become more interesting.

This is when the blue trail starts turning towards the White Mountain

We hiked between colorful rocks – orange, brown, pink, and white. We even spotted some sort of desert fox, skipping up one of the mountains. Then, after about 500 meters of walking, we reached the beginning of the climb (3). 

It was quite a steep climb and took us about 10 minutes to complete. At the top stood a tall electricity pole, which was buzzing very loudly (4). It’s amazing that you can actually hear the electricity making its way through the power lines. But in spite of the noise, we decided to stop, sit down, and appreciate the magnificent view of the Red Sea, peeking between the mountains.

A beautiful pink rock we saw on the way up
This is just a small bit of the view and of course, the electricity pole

A few minutes later, we were on our legs again, and almost took the wrong turn down a dirt road, that made its way to the left of the mountain. I looked upwards and saw that the blue trail mark was actually making its way up the mountain, on an ascending trail behind the electric pole. So, we continued upwards.

It was a steep but very short climb, and then we were standing at the very top of the mountain (5). To our right we could see the entire Red Sea Gulf, as well as a large part of the southern Arava. We stopped again to appreciate the view. “The houses look like Lego,” my friend said with a smile. They were so small and distant. The vision was not so good, maybe because it was so close to sunrise. Nevertheless, it was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.

The view from the top of the White Mountain. It looks MUCH better in reality!

The wind was blowing hard, cooling down our bodies. We didn’t even feel that we were totally exposed to the summer sun. We continued along the top of the mountain, which shortly turned to a very sharp edge, a “knife”. It was a very narrow and edgy trail. It felt like if we put out foot in the wrong place, we might stumble down the edge of the mountain. For people with major fear from heights, this is definitely a challenge. For me, it was the highlight of the trail, standing on the very top of the mountain, feeling like I’m hovering in midair with all the wind blowing hard around me.

This is the “knife”, clicked at the end of it. It’s MUCH narrower in reality!

The “knife” was over after a few minutes and then we were again on stable ground. The view was still there to our right. We continued along the ridge and after about 1.2 km reached the moderate descend down the mountain (6). At the bottom of the mountain, we continued on a dirt trail that made its way back to the dirt road. This dirt road led us very quickly back to the car. That was it. Short but thrilling. I highly recommend!

To sum it up, this is a short and fun trail, with fantastic views and a wonderful “knife”. We did this hike in July, which is summer in Israel, and that is why we started so early in the morning. It is not advised to hike in the afternoon during the summer, especially in Eilat, where the temperatures can soar to 40 degrees Celsius and more.

How much time does the trail take? About two hours.

Difficulty: Moderate. There are some steep climbs and the “knife” could be challenging for some people, especially those afraid of heights.

It is about a 4.5 km hike.

When is the best time to hike? February to April or October to November, as long as it didn’t rain before you came.

I wish you a wondrous hike in the Eilat Mountains!

Here are more hiking trails which might interest you:

Hiking around Eilat: Beautiful Red Canyon

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains to Beautiful En Netafim

Hiking Near the Dead Sea: Lower Nahal Oz

A Beautiful Hike in Upper Nahal Darga – Dead Sea Area

Beit Guvrin National Park: A Beautiful Day Trip from Jerusalem

Mount Carbolet: A Beautiful Segment of the Israel National Trail

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Kfar Giladi to Nahal Kedesh

Hiking the Israel National Trail: From Dan to Kfar Giladi


Hiked the trail in July 2020.

If you liked this post or found it useful, I would appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

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Yours,

Lior

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains to Beautiful En Netafim

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On the last day of the Passover holiday, my family and I drove up to the Eilat Mountains to try one of the many hiking trails, which we haven’t tried yet. We chose to hike the circular trail to En Netafim, which partly overlaps the Israel National Trail. It’s a 3.5-km trail, that takes you down to the small and beautiful Netafim Spring, called En Netafim in Hebrew (“En” means “Spring”), and then back up to the starting point. I really loved the view of the desert around us and am not surprised that part of this trail was combined in the Israel National Trail. The hike takes about 2 hours and includes some descends and ascends which are a bit challenging, especially for those who are afraid of heights.

Before I start telling you about the trail itself, let’s go over safety instructions and general notes:

* The hike is under your own responsibility, so please be careful, especially when you are standing next to the cliff that’s along the trail.

* Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 2 liters of water and wear a hat. It is recommended to also pack snacks if you want to stop somewhere, BUT make sure to bring a garbage bag as well and take your garbage with you.

* Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 6-7 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM) and begin your hike at least 4 hours before sunset.

* During the rainy season, check for flood hazards after every rainfall. If there is a flood hazard, do not hike in the mountains area. Also, do not attempt to hike this trail right after rainfalls, as it can be slippery.

* The water in the spring basin is not good for drinking or bathing.

* This trail involves many climbs and descends, so if you are not fit for this kind of hiking, don’t attempt to hike the trail.

* Those afraid of heights might get afraid at some points along the hike.

* The phone signal is bad in the mountains area and sometimes non-existent. Though, I was able to get a phone signal down at the spring.

* Do not camp next to the spring. Camp only in designated areas (Mount Yehoram Camping Site). If you camp next to the spring, this might frighten the animals in the area and prevent them from getting to the water at their time of need.

Before the Hike – A Bit About En Netafim:

En Netafim is a special point in the Eilat Mountains, as it is the only spring in the area, which flows all year round. Many desert animals stop by the spring to drink and refresh themselves during the early morning and twilight hours.

In 1906, when the British and the Ottomans decided where the border line will pass between their two empires, the British insisted that the spring will be in their territory. That border line from 1906 eventually became the border line between Israel and Egypt, and En Netafim stayed in our territory, as Israel is based on the British mandate territory.

How to Get to the Head of the Trail?

The easiest way to get to the head of the trail is by car. We used our car to get to the trail and parked next to its head. But if you don’t have a car or don’t have enough budget for renting one, you can get on Egged bus number 392 from Eilat Central Bus Station and get off at the forth stop, called “Ma’avar Netafim” (מעבר נטפים). It should take about 15 minutes by bus. Make sure to tell the driver you want to get off at this station. Keep in mind that the bus does not operate on Fridays and Saturdays (there’s no public transportation on Shabbat). From this station, you can walk south along road number 12 for about 1.5 km – about 20 minutes – until you reach the trail end. It should be to your left and there should be a road sign pointing towards it, saying “En Netafim” (עין נטפים).

The way from Ma’avar Netafim (Netafim Passage) to the trail as shown by Google Maps
Standing at the head of the trail, looking back at Mount Yoash

The Hike:

The map of the trail (based on a map from the Amud Anan website)

The trail begins opposite of Mount Yoash (1) as a wide dirt road, that descends down towards Wadi Netafim. Every trail in Israel is marked by a specific color. This part of the trail is marked by the black color and also by the orange-blue-white mark, which is the color combination of the Israel National Trail.

The beginning of the trail…

We continued along this trail for about 1 km until we got to a big sign, warning about the cliff up ahead and prohibiting the lighting of fire in the area. A few steps ahead there’s a crossroad of trails (2). We continued straight on the green marked trail, which is also part of the Israel National Trail. 

The sign before the crossroad
The crossroad

We continued a few steps along this trail and then got to the cliff’s edge (3), where a horizonal bar is blocking the wrong way down the cliff. There are two narrow descends here that require using some step bars, which have been installed into the rocks. We climbed down carefully through the narrow opening, passed one descend and continued right away to the second, which is actually a pile of stone boulders, which have collapsed from the cliff and created a convenient way down the cliff.

Climbing down the cliff through the narrow opening…

After the descend, we continued on the green marked trail until reaching a shady spot (4), where we stopped to drink water. My father looked at his map, looked around and said: “This is supposed to be the place of the spring.” Then he pointed at a wet spot on the ground and said: “Well, this is the spring. It’s supposed to be small.” I said: “It can’t be. Do you really think any animal can drink from this tiny spot of water?” “Maybe it’s dried up,” he shrugged and then pointed at the green foliage at the base of the cliff: “Look, it’s enough for the plants.” I saw an opening in the cliff, right where the foliage was situated. “Maybe the spring is inside the opening?” I suggested and started climbing up to the base of the cliff. A few steps up and I already spotted the artificial basin, which was created here by the British in the 1930s to keep the water of the spring and repaired by the Eilat Field School staff in 1968. The animals which live in the area, amongst them the ibexes, come to the basin to drink water. Though, for us, the water is not good for drinking. In the 1980s, the spring’s water turned suddenly very salty. It’s also not good for bathing. The source of the water in the basin is from the En Netafim spring, which emerges as little drops of water from the rocks of the cliff. “Netafim” in Hebrew means “drops”.

Where’s En Netafim?!
Here it is!

Happy we’ve found the spring, we continued on our way along the green marked trail until we got to another crossroad of trails (5). The green marked trail continues from this point straight, but we took the red marked trail, which turns right, back in the direction of the starting point. The red marked trail ascends upwards. There’s also a point where you need to climb up using a few bar steps, which were installed into the wall.

The climb up

After finishing the climb, we continued on the red marked trail until we reached another crossroad of trails (6). Here, the red marked trail meets the black marked trail. You can either turn right or left on the black marked trail. If you turn right, you arrive back at the same spot where you descend down to the spring. We decided to take the longer and other way back and turned left. The sign at the crossroad indicates that left leads to Mt. Yehoram.

Another crossroad…

The black marked trail continues along a quite wide dirt trail, that is very exposed to the sun. To the right, you’ll see part of Wadi Netafim, which is almost always dry but still quite beautiful. After a while, the trail begins to ascend towards the top of a saddle (7). The ascend is quite steep, but goes on for only about 300 meters. At the top of the saddle, the wind is very mighty. We took a few minutes to rest at the top and then continued downwards. The descend is also quite steep, so we walked down step by step.

The view from the top of the saddle

We continued on the black marked trail, which continues on a rather flat surface, until we got to the Mount Yehoram Camping Site (8). From there, we took the dirt road that turns right and walked along it until we reached road number 12 after about 200 meters (9).  We crossed to the other side of the road and continued right in the direction of the trail head, where we left our car. We continued along the road for about 600 meters until we reached the point where we started.

The meeting with road number 12

It was a very nice trail, with beautiful landscapes and some nice climbs. We were sorry it didn’t last a bit longer!

Optional Additions:

  • Hiking in the Eilat Mountains from Mount Yoash to Mount Zefachot. Instead of using public transportation back to the city, you can take hike the last segment of the Israel National Trail, from Mount Yoash to Mount Zefachot. Since it’s a long hike, I’d recommend you spend the night at the Mount Yehoram Camping Site and then wake up early and begin the trail.
  • You can also continue along the Israel National Trail towards the north.

How much time does the trail take? About 2-3 hours.

Difficulty: Mid to high level of difficulty due to the steep descends and ascends, which sometimes require climbing.

It is a 3.5-km circular trail with some steep descends and ascends along the way.

When is the best time to hike? Spring (March to May) or Autumn (October to December), when temperatures are mild.

I wish you a great hike in the Eilat Mountains.

More hiking trails that might interest you:

Hiking Around Eilat: Beautiful Red Canyon

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

Hiking Near the Dead Sea: Lower Nahal Og

A Beautiful Hike in Upper Nahal Darga – Dead Sea Area


If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll be glad to get a like, share or comment from you (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

Yours,

Lior

3 to 5 Days in Eilat: Travel Ideas

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Soon flights will start landing in the new Ramon International Airport, which is situated about 20 km north of Eilat. Until then, flights are still landing in Ovda Airport, 60 km away from Eilat, which only makes it a little bit longer to reach the sunny city at the southern tip of Israel.

Eilat lies between the colorful mountains, the flat yellow Arava and the beautiful turquoise Red Sea. I’ve spent much of my childhood in Eilat and still visit the area once in a while, so I can assure you, there’s lots to see there! If you only have 3-5 days and want to experience the Israeli desert and the sunny city of Eilat, here are some travel ideas which could help you plan your trip:

(Almost) Only Hiking:

Planning to come on the tightest budget and to hike through the beautiful landscapes of the Eilat Mountains and Arava? Make sure to come with a good tent, sturdy hiking shoes, a sunhat, sun screen and enough water (at least 3 liters a day in winter and at least 5 liters a day in summer). And do not attempt to hike after rainfall, because there’s a flood hazard. Here is my suggestion for a few days of hiking and having a fun time in Eilat and the area:

 

Day 1: Hike from Eilat Field School to Mount Yoash

Wake up early and start the first part of the Israel Trail – or the last part, depends on how you look at it – from Eilat Field School to Mount Yoash. Expect a long hike through the beautiful Eilat mountains, around 8 hours of hiking, about 14 km. Before you start hiking, read more about this trail in my post: Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot. It shows the trail if coming from the opposite side, but it still gives you the overall feel.

At the end of the trail, you can set up your tent at the Mount Yehoram Campground. There are no facilities in the campground, so you should make sure you have enough food and water for the night and the next day. There’s an option of paying for someone to bring you water to the campground or for someone to hide water for you in advance. Check out the list of water caching service providers here.

View of the Eilat Field School from the beginning (or end) of the trail

Day 2: Explore the Red Canyon

Wake up early, before sunrise, and climb up Mount Yoash, which is a very short walk from Mount Yehoram Campground. From the top of the mountain you can see a beautiful view of the Red Sea, the mountains of the area, Jordan, Egypt and even a bit of Saudi Arabia, and the view is even more magical at sunrise. It should take you around one hour to climb up and down. If you want, you can pack something to eat on top of the mountain.

Afterwards, you can start your way to the Red Canyon. You can try hitchhiking, but there are times when this road is quite empty. It takes about 3 hours to hike along the road to the Red Canyon. Please be careful and don’t walk in the middle of the road! You can read my post: Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon for all the details.

After hiking the Red Canyon, you can catch bus number 392 back to Eilat (not on Shabbat). Last bus leaves around 7:30 PM, so make sure not to miss it. If you do miss it, you can camp near at the Red Canyon Campground. If you get to Eilat this day, you can set your tent on one of the southern beaches or in the Eilat Field School (at a cost). Read more about camping options in the area in my post: Camping Sites in and Around Eilat.

The Red Canyon

Day 3: Discover the Underwater World

This day is meant for a bit of relaxation, away from the mountains and into the underwater world. If you chose to camp in the southern beaches area, then you can wake up and walk to the Coral Beach Reserve, which is situated right in front of the Eilat Field School. It’s a lovely beach, where you can rent a mask and a snorkel (ID needed) and snorkel above the most northern coral reef in the world! The entrance is at a fee (35 ILS per person), as the place belongs to the INPA, but it’s worth the price. You can easily spend there around 3-4 hours.

Watch a bit about coral reef conservation in Eilat by GoEco:

Afterwards, you can sit down and relax on one of the nearby beaches, such as the Migdalor Beach or the Village Beach, or you can take a bus (number 15 or 16) to one of the more northern beaches. One of the most popular beaches in Eilat is Mosh’s Beach. It’s also one of the southern beaches, but is much nearer to the city center, north to the Eilat Port. The service on Mosh’s Beach is perfect, the music is fun and there’s a lot of food and drink options. You can relax here for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 4: Hike Through the Arava to Schoret Canyon

This day will have the longest hike, around 18 km. Unlike day number 1, you won’t have to climb up and down mountains, but you’ll still have to walk this long distance on a trail that has no piece of shade along it, so get ready for it, pack enough water and snacks, and wake up as early as you can. If you’re coming from the southern beaches area, you can wait for the first bus to the starting point, bus number 16. It leaves the Eilat Field School area around 9:00 AM and gets to the Ice Mall around 20 minutes later. From there, you can begin the hike along the Arava towards Schoret Canyon, passing by a number of interesting points along the way. You can read more about this hike in my post: Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat.

After visiting the Flamingo Pools, you can hike back to the path junction that led to the pools and turn towards road number 90. You’ll have to cross the road to the other side to get to Schoret Canyon. Lately, they’ve put a road barrier in between the two lanes, so please cross very carefully and make sure there’s no car coming your way. This is under your responsibility! After crossing the road, continue according to the signage until you reach Schoret Canyon Campground. There, you can set up your tent. The campground is without any facilities, so make sure to pack enough water for the day and the day afterwards.

Near the Schoret Canyon

Day 5: Schoret Canyon and Back Home

On the fifth and final day, you can take a hike in beautiful Schoret Canyon (the Black Canyon). There are some really nice lookouts along the way, as well as an interesting ancient leopard’s trap. From the Schoret Canyon Campground continue on the green-marked trail until you enter the canyon. This is also part of the Israel Trail, so you might see the orange-blue-white marking on some stones as well. After about 1.2 km you will get to a fork in the trail. Choose the red marked trail. After an easy climb and about 1.5 km, you’ll get a point where the red trail meets a black trail. Turn right on the black marked trail and continue along it until you get back to the campground. It’s an easy and very nice trail, that is about 4 km long and takes about 2-4 hours to complete.

*If you want, you can make your hike longer by hiking to Amram Pillars and back. Instead of turning right on the black marked trail, turn left and hike about 4 km until you reach a trail junction. Continue straight on the red marked trail until you reach the blue marked trail. Turn right and follow the signs to Amram Pillars. Those pillars are a beautiful example of erosion in the desert and are very similar to the Solomon Pillars in Timna Park.

Schoret Map

After the hike, you can continue hiking back to road number 90 on the same trail you hiked yesterday. If you want to catch a bus, you’ll need to walk a bit further south from the place where the road to the Canyon meets road number 90. Walk about 4 km south to Schoret Industrial Area (in Hebrew: אזור תעשיה שחורת) and try to catch any bus driving south. That will take you to Eilat and from there you can catch a bus to Ovda Airport. If you want to get to Ramon International Airport (still not open for international flights in the time of writing – February 2019), then you can walk to Schoret Industrial Area and try to catch a bus driving to the north. The airport is just one stop afterwards, but it’s a 11 km walk from the Schoret road junction.

Another option is to hike along the Israel Trail throughout your 4-5 days.

 

With a Rented Car:

With a rented car you can make the most out of your trip, but at a bit higher cost. Renting a car can cost around 100 ILS per day, not including fuel costs. Two of the major car rental companies in Israel are Shlomo Sixt and Cal Auto. Check out this deal for a better price. The roads are very easy to navigate and most are paved.

Let’s say your starting point is Eilat. I recommend you use a navigating app like Google Maps or Waze.

Day 1: Explore Timna Park and its Surroundings

Drive from Eilat to Timna Park, 30 km north of Eilat. It is open from 8:00AM, so it would be best to come as early as possible to avoid the warmer hours. There is no shade in Timna Park. The entrance fee is around 50 ILS.

You can either drive between the different sites with your car or rent a bike from the entrance to the park or from the park’s shop near the artificial lake and ride along 14 km of bike trails that have been marked throughout the park.

Highlights of the park include Solomon’s Pillars and Hathor’s Temple, the Arches Site and Ancient Mined (the most ancient copper mines in the world!) and the Mushroom, a unique formation in the red sandstone.

Solomon Pillars in Timna Park

You can easily spend here the entire morning. You can eat lunch near the park’s lake (either buy food from the park’s restaurant or bring your own) and then move on to Elifaz, the kibbutz that is situated right beside Timna Park. In the kibbutz plantation you can taste different types of vegetables grown in the Arava (if the season permits). The entrance to the plantation costs 30 ILS per person. For more info about Elifaz’s plantation and how to get there, you can call the kibbutz at: 08-6356230 (You’ll need to add the international dial code +972 if you’re not calling from an Israeli number).

Then, you can continue northwards. If you have time and are interested, you can pay a short visit to Samar Dunes (near Kibbutz Samar), which are one of the last remaining sand dunes in the Arava. Run up the majestic dune and roll your way down, or bring with you something to slide on!

You can stay the night at one of the kibbutzim in the area. I recommend on Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-friendly Jewish settlement, that is one of the leading places in the world in the natural building field. You might get a chance to sleep in one of their cool natural buildings! They also have a nice tour in their eco-park, that takes place every day at 9:00 AM. Talk with them on the phone +972-54-9799030 or by email info@klotan.co.il.

Get a glimpse of Kibbutz Lotan in this video by Kibbutz Lotan:

 

This day is also possible without a car (by public transportation):

You can get on any bus driving to the north along road number 90 from the Central Bus Station in Eilat and ask the driver to stop at Elifaz/ Timna Park Junction (in Hebrew: אליפז/ פארק תמנע). The bus ride should cost around 14 ILS. From the junction, you can continue by foot to Timna Park and pay the entrance fee (around 50 ILS). I recommend you rent a bike from the visitor center at the entrance and paddle along the many bike trails in the park. A regular bike rental will cost you 60 ILS for half a day, and an electric bike rental will cost you 85 ILS for 4 hours.

At the end of the day, you can choose to camp inside the park. If you bring your own tent, you’ll pay about 104 ILS (the park admission price included). If you prefer something fancier, you can use one of the park’s tents at a higher price. Email the park for more info and reservations: timna8@parktimna.co.il.

You can also take a bus to Kibbutz Lotan and stay the night there as suggested in the rented-car option. The kibbutz can arrange a lift from the junction to the kibbutz itself.

And there’s another option:

You can visit Timna Park by joining the Timna Park Safari Tour. They’ll pick you up from your hotel around 10:00 AM and then take you to Timna Park. You’ll have about a 2-hour safari inside the park, seeing the main sites, and then you’ll be returned to Eilat. The price starts from 25 USD per person, not including the site entrance fee. You can book it by calling +972-8-6616976.

Day 2: Discover the Beaches and Underwater World of Eilat

On your second day, wake up and make your way to Eilat (if you want to take a tour in Lotan’s eco-park, you can do it in the morning).

I recommend starting your day early in the Coral Beach Reserve, where you can snorkel above the beautiful reef. You will need to put an ID at the reception to be able to use the site’s snorkel and mask. If you want to see the underwater world much more clearly, you can visit the Underwater Observatory Park, though it is super pricey (about 100 ILS!) If you do want to visit the observatory, you should definitely book the tickets in advance through their site, as it is a bit cheaper there.

After enjoying your time under the water, you can sit down and relax on one of Eilat’s beaches. As I’ve already mentioned, Mosh’s Beach is one of the best.

In the evening you can do some pub crawling around the different night venues of Eilat. My favorites are Mike’s Place, Paddy’s Irish Pub and Bears Pub. Some would also recommend the legendary Three Monkeys Bar, but I find it too noisy.

If you prefer something a bit different, on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings there’s also a nice musical fountain show in the park behind the Eilat Museum.

If you aren’t interested in camping, you can check out the Arava Hostel, which was recommended to me by some people. There’s also the Shelter Hostel, which is more Christian-oriented, but also recommended.

This day is also possible without a car (by public transportation):

Use bus number 15 or 16 to get to the Coral Beach Reserve and to the more southern beaches.

Day 3: Drive Through the Eilat Mountains

On the third day, set out early in the morning to the Eilat Mountains, one of the most beautiful geological areas in Israel and the surroundings. At the time of the formation of the Great Rift Valley, secondary rifts were also formed horizonal to the Great one. Those rifts made it possible for us to see many types of rocks each beside the other, what makes the Eilat Mountains so colorful. Some of the darker rocks you see are about 500 million years old! Road number 12, that makes its way through the Eilat Mountains, is one of the most amazing drives in the area. It winds between the different mountains and valleys as it stretches beside the border with Egypt.

The road through the mountains…

Drive about 8 km from the beginning of road 12 and you’ll see to your left a little mountain with an antenna on top of it – that’s Mount Yoash. You can stop in the dirt parking lot and climb up to the top of Mount Yoash to enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, of the Egyptian territory to the south and of the enchanting Red Sea to the east. If you don’t have problems with waking up really early, I recommend you try to come here at sunrise. The sunrise is amazing from Mount Yoash. The climb up and down takes about an hour (if you stop to appreciate the view from atop).

There are mainly trails in the area, which you can see are marked by signs along the way. The most popular trail is the Red Canyon, so after Mount Yoash I’ll recommend you to return to your car and continue through the mountains another 11 km or so until you see the turn to the Red Canyon (in Hebrew: הקניון האדום). You’ll need to drive a few minutes on a dirt road that is quite bumpy, so be aware of that, especially because your using a rented car. Drive slowly and carefully. When you’ll get to the end of the road, you can start the hike. Read more about it here: Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon. It shouldn’t take you more than two hours.

Continue along road number 12. You’ll reach the Ovda Valley, where Ovda Airport is located. If you want to see one of the most interesting archeologic finds in the area, you can turn right about 45 km from the Red Canyon towards a site called the Leopards’ Temple. It’s an ancient open-air temple, with rocks that are arranged in the shape of leopards on the ground.

From the Leopards’ Temple you can continue about 5 km to the road junction with road number 40. There’s a nice mini-restaurant on this junction, called Pundak Neot Semadar. The menu includes vegetarian options, including shakshuka, different kinds of toasts, humus, tahini and salads. You can eat here lunch.

Then, continue about 8 km east on road number 40 until you see a brown sign indicating right towards Mount Ayit. This is another lookout, but this time over the Arava and the Edom Mountains (which are on the Jordanian side). You can see some of the settlements down below, including Lotan and Grofit.

After the lookout, you can continue on your way back to Eilat (or to the Ramon Airport if your flight is leaving from there). If you’re coming back to Eilat for the night, you can make a quick stop at the Bird-Watching Park that’s near the Arava Border Crossing (Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing). If you’re travelling in the bird migration season in the spring, you might be able to see some birds before sunset. The entrance to the park is free of charge.

Part of this day is also possible without a car (by public transportation):

It would be difficult to make the full circuit with a bus, but you can definitely catch bus number 392 from the Central Bus Station in Eilat to the Red Canyon. Ask the driver to stop for you at the Red Canyon junction. From there, you’ll need to hike a short way on the dirt road to the beginning of the trail. Make sure to ask the driver where and when you should wait for the next bus back to Eilat.

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Wishing you a wonderful time in Eilat and its surroundings!  

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to connect with me on Facebook – Backpack Israel.

And if you’re planning a trip to Israel, don’t forget to check out my FREE app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

 

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

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 Most people come to Eilat to enjoy the fantastic sea and the colorful mountains, but there are also some interesting points in the Arava. The Arava is the narrow region that spreads all the way from the south of the Dead Sea to Eilat. It’s the long yellowish plain between the Negev Mountains (on the Israeli side) and the Edom Mountains (on the Jordanian side). Though it seems like there’s nothing to see along it, the truth is that it has some interesting archeological sites, wildlife and agricultural points. The weather was great this Saturday, so I decided to take my friend on a hike from Eilat, my childhood town, to the Sharsheret Wells, which are about 11 km from the city.

This trail isn’t marked, but goes along a semi-paved road, so it’s easy to keep track of it. It’s a nice and easy hike for those of you who have already been to the sea, the mountains and to Timna Park and now want to taste a bit of the Arava. It’s also a fantastic trail for bird-lovers! Be ready for a hike of around 3-4 hours each way with almost no shade along the way.

Before I start telling you about the trail itself, let’s go over safety instructions and general notes:

* The hike is under your own responsibility.

* Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 2 liters of water and wear a hat and sunglasses (the trail is almost entirely exposed to the sun). It is recommended to also pack snacks.

* Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 5-6 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM) and begin make sure your hike won’t exceed the sunlight hours.

* During the rainy season, check for flood hazards after every rainfall. If there is a flood hazard, do not go on this hike, as the floods almost always end up in the Arava.

* The whole trail is on a flat surface with no climbs along the way.

* All points mentioned in this post can be reached by car if you prefer to drive between them rather than hike.

 

How to get to the head of the trail?

The beginning of this trail is near the Ice Mall. If you’re staying in a hostel or camping on one of the beaches in Eilat, you can either walk to the Ice Mall (up to 40 minutes’ walk inside the city), take a taxi (around 20-25 ILS) or take a bus (cheaper than a taxi, but takes much longer to get to the starting point). If you want to take a bus, you can use the Moovit app to check out which lines are best for you. Search for “Ice Mall”, put your location and find the best route. When you arrive at the front entrance of the mall, you just need to walk about 750 meters east along the road until you see the trail to your left.    

The trail:

We began our hike from the Ice Mall (1), located at the north-eastern part of Eilat. We took the road leading east towards Jordan, passed by a parking lot with some caravans, passed above a small bridge and then turned left onto the trail (2). This short part of the trail goes along the Kinet Water Channel, which was built as a drainage channel for floods.

The Kinet Channel and the City of Eilat

After about 400 meters, there’s a split in the path, with a bird pointing right (3). One way continues along the Kinet Channel, while the other, which is “paved”, takes a slight turn right and then continues straight along the palm plantation, that belong to the nearby kibbutz. We took the right turn and continued along the palms.

The bird pointing to the trail

Palm trees have existed in the Land of Israel during ancient times, in the First and Second Temple periods, but have gone extinct at some point, when there was nobody here who took care of them. The palm trees returned to Israel in the 1950s, when two people, Ben Zion-Israeli and Yani Avidor, were able to get some dates and palm twigs out of Iraq. Today, the most popular dates are those harvested from the Medjool palm tree, but those were brought to Israel from the USA. Palm trees grow mainly in the Southern Arava because it is much saltier here than in the middle and northern part of the Arava.

We continued along the road, which is paved, but badly maintained. After about 2 km we saw the Bird-Watching Park to our left (4). This area was once much more wild. It was part of the Eilat Saltmarsh, full of trees and bushes, a perfect spot for migrating birds on their way to Africa. After the city of Eilat was established in 1951, the marsh began to suffer until it was finally taken over by the hotels, the shopping centers, the airport, the salt production ponds, and the city dump, which was right where the Bird-Watching Park is today. Many studies took place in the area, until finally the Bird-Watching Park was established in 1993. An artificial pond was created and today, millions of migrating birds stop in this park to refuel themselves before continuing towards the Sahara Desert and Africa. The park is free of charge and is open all day long. There’s a circular route inside the park, which takes you around some of the main watching points. The best times to be here are in the Fall or in the Spring, when there’s more chance to see migrating birds on their way to or from Africa. If you would like to donate to the park, it would be nice of you to purchase something from their store. This is also a great stop to refill your water bottles or take a restroom break before continuing on this trail.

The bird-watching park for afar

After taking a short walk in the park, we continued towards the Arava Border Crossing, also known as the Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing (5). This border crossing takes you into Jordan, and many people choose to cross here in order to get to Petra. Maybe you’ll choose to do that as well. We continued along the road that leaves the border crossing towards the main road, road number 90. But we didn’t go all the way to road number 90. About 750 meters along the road, there’s a narrow-paved road that leads straight ahead, parallel to road number 90. Next to it is a sign that says “מכון טיהור שפכים אילת” (which actually means “Eilat Sewage Treatment Plant”), with an arrow pointing to the left (6).

The sign leading to the trail

We went after the arrow and continued on that straight road, that is accompanied by a pipeline to its right. The pipeline has a purple stripe on it, which indicates that the pipeline is leading recycled water. Instead of wasting the water, the farmers of the Southern Arava use recycled water to water their fields of palm trees. Vegetables are not watered by recycled water.

Walking along the pipeline…

This long and narrow road is the part that links between one interesting point to another. It’s about 5.5 km long, so get ready for about one hour of hiking along agricultural fields and dead yellowish cactuses. Vehicles passed by us every now. One time a lady with a jeep stopped by us and asked if we would like a lift. “No, thanks,” we smiled at her. She looked at us, shocked: “You’re going to the Flamingo Ponds?” “Yes,” we nodded. “You’re going to walk all the way THERE?” she asked, astonished. “Yes, we like to walk,” we replied. She was still quite speechless, took hold of her steering wheel and continued up the road. Yeah, not a lot of people walk along this road. Actually, there was NOBODY walking along this road when we did it. But, if you like walking, it’s a nice workout.

After about one hour, we finally got to a junction in the road. The bike trail, signaled by a camel on two wheels, continued straight, but we took the right turn onto an agricultural road between two plantations (7).

The junction

This part is a little bit shady. Near the end of the road, we started hearing the cry of the flamingoes and after passing a small mound of dirt, the huge Flamingo Ponds were laid before us. We continued north along the ponds until we saw a small white lookout point up on a small mound of dirt. We climbed to the building and took a rest on the benches before reading a bit of the informative signs (8).

It’s hard to see, but there are flamingoes out there!

The Flamingo Ponds (or the Avrona Ponds) are artificial and were made by Salt of The Earth Ltd. in order to function as salt production ponds. The ponds here are the most northern of three ponds in the Southern Arava. When the migrating birds made their way to Africa, some of them found those ponds and decided to make their stop here. Amongst those were the flamingoes. Pink brine shrimps, that grow in the ponds, are great snacks for the flamingoes. If they eat enough of them, the flamingoes turn from their white color to their more famous pinkish color.

After eating an orange, we continued a bit farther to the Sharsheret Wells, which are just about 800 meters north-west to the Flamingo Ponds. We got to the brownish shade shed (9) and then followed the black arrows, that are stuck in the ground, until we got to the two wells. It seems like you’re walking in a complete wasteland, which is somewhat true. There’s barely anything around you, but if you keep on following the arrows you’ll get there. “Sharsheret” in Hebrew means “Chain”. The two wells are part of a chain of wells, which are part of an ancient watering system from the time of the Muslim era, called a qanat. In the past, floods would flow into this depressed area and with no drainage, stayed here and formed a huge dry lake, known as Avrona Dry Lake. Ancient farmers wanted to grow their crops here, but couldn’t use water that was in contact with the salty water of the dry lake, so they built the qanat as a solution. They captured the floods at a higher point, underground, using the wells and the tunnels between them, before the water got to the salty areas. Then, they led the water in channels to their agricultural fields.

Those yellow bars signal one of the wells

We climbed inside one of the wells and made our way in the dark tunnel to the second well, climbing out of it. There are bars leading down and up, so you can do this as well. Just pay attention that one of the bars has fallen in one of the wells, so mind your step. And don’t forget to take a flashlight with you, because it’s dead dark inside! It takes just a few minutes, but is really exciting.

After climbing out of the well, we met my Dad, who gave us a lift back home. If you don’t have anyone who can give you a lift, you can make the same way back to Eilat (maybe someone will give you a lift on the way back). Another option is to go camp near Shchoret Canyon. To get there, you’ll need to walk to road number 90, which is about one km from the Sharsheret Wells, and then cross it. Recently, a road separation fence was built in the middle of the road, so please be careful when crossing and make sure there are no vehicles coming your way. After crossing, you can hike along the road that leads towards Amram Pillars (עמודי עמרם) and Shchoret Canyon (קניון שחורת). When you get to a split in the road, take the green-marked trail that goes left towards Shchoret Canyon. From the split in the road, it is about 3 km until you reach the Shchoret Camping Site. Overall, it should take you around one hour and 15 minutes to reach the camping site from our ending point at Sharsheret Wells.

How much time does the trail take? About 3-4 hours one way, depending on your fitness and how long you stay at each point along the way.

Difficulty: It’s a flat trail, which means there’s no difficult climbs, but because of its length with no shade along the way, I’d say it’s a moderate-level trail.

It is about 11-kilometers long. 

When is the best time to hike? During the Winter and Spring (December-May), when the temperature drops in the Arava.

Other trails in Israel:

Sataf: Beautiful Hiking Trails Just Outside Jerusalem

Hiking Near the Dead Sea: Lower Nahal Og

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot

A Beautiful Hike in Upper Nahal Darga – Dead Sea Area

Hiking Down the Carmel Through Wadi Kelah and Galim


Wishing you a great hike along the Southern Arava!

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to connect with me on Facebook – Backpack Israel.

And if you’re planning a trip to Israel, don’t forget to check out my FREE app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Israel

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Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. All the recommendations are my own.

The Israeli Summer is already here! Summer in Israel takes place from June to September. I would recommend traveling to Israel in the Spring (February to May), because of the high temperatures in the Summer, but if you can’t come any other time or if you prefer the sunny months, here is my ultimate guide to traveling to Israel in the summer.

Israeli Summer Overview:

The Israeli Summer (June to September) is when the temperatures go way up. In some places, such as Eilat, it can climb over 50 degrees Celsius. This means you’ll have a great time on the beachside and in the cool water springs. On the other hand, you shouldn’t plan to take long hikes at this time of year.

From the end of June until the beginning of September Israeli kids are on their Summer vacation. This means many attractions will be crowded, especially on weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), when the parents are also on a break.

Bottom line: Summer is a perfect time to visit Israel if you just want to chill out on one of Israel’s beaches and take it easy. This time of year is also perfect for festival lovers because some of the best festivals take place at this time of year.

Watch this cool video by Shai Cohen:

Essential Summer packing list for Israel:

  • Enough short shirts and pants
  • Something that will warm you up in the evenings, in case it gets chilly (this is relevant mainly for those planning to go to Jerusalem, the desert or the Golan Heights area or for indoor activities)
  • Modest clothes to ear for holy places
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip-flops
  • Good sandals for walking
  • Sun hat
  • Beach towel
  • Bonus – a small personal fan
  • Anything else you may need for your trip

Summer travel tips for Israel:

  • Every day, pack at least 2-3 liters of water before you leave your accommodation.
  • Start your day as early as possible to get advantage of the cooler hours of the morning, or go out at night when temperatures drop.
  • If you want to cool down with an awesome soft drink, find a place that sells the Tamarindi drink.

Top things to do in the Israeli Summer:

  • Chill out on the Tel Aviv beachside (or any other beachfront town’s beachside, like Netanya or Herzliya).
  • Snorkel or dive in the Eilat Coral Beach Reserve.
  • Cool down in the springs and streams of Golan Heights.
  • Visit the many museums of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
  • Enjoy the Tel Aviv nightlife.
  • Explore the city of Tzfat (Safed).

Top things to avoid doing in the Israeli Summer:

  • Hiking – The Summer isn’t a good time for hiking (especially in the desert)! That’s because the heat is high and not all trails are shaded. Even if they are shaded, the temperatures are still very high. If you won’t carry enough water, it could be dangerous.
  • Pilgrimage tours (visiting churches) – Most of the churches in Israel and especially in Jerusalem don’t have A/C or any other cooling system. With all the pilgrims crowded in the small chapels, this could be a very sweaty experience. So, if you can postpone your pilgrimage journey to some time else, it would be better.
  • Exploring the Negev & Arava – The Israeli sun is a strong one and in Summer it “burns” the Israeli desert. During the daytime, the temperatures can be unbearable (around 40-45 degrees celsius). In the evenings, it can be much cooler. Though, if you want to have a great time in the Negev & Arava and see as much of it as you can, Summer is not the time.

Top places to visit in the Israeli Summer:

Eilat –

Eilat is one of the hottest places in Summer, with the temperature rising over 50 degrees celsius at times. But what makes Eilat a perfect place to visit in the Summer is its beautiful Red Sea, which is usually around 25 degrees celsius during Summer.

You can snorkel or dive in the Coral Reef Reserve, enjoy plenty of water activities or just hang out on one of Eilat’s beaches (Mosh Beach is highly recommended).

Eilat is also a leading shopping destination, thanks to the VAT-free shops. In the new Ice Mall on the northern side of Eilat is a nice ice rink if you have some spare shekels for a few minutes of ice skating.

Expected Weather: Very hot temperature ranging from 25 degrees Celsius at night to 50 degrees at day. The air is usually very dry.

Places to Stay: In Eilat, you can either camp (Camping Sites in and Around Eilat) or stay in one of the hostels: Arava Hostel or The Shelter Hostel. Both hostels are a few minutes by foot from the seaside. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to do in Eilat

Eilat – Perfect Place in Summer, taken from Pixabay

Tel Aviv –

Tel Aviv is super humid in Summer, but it has excellent beaches. Most of them are well maintained and they are a perfect place to get to know people, because they are packed people in Summer.

When you get tired of the beaches you can visit some of the leading Tel Aviv museums, including the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Independence Hall, and the Palmach Museum (pre-reservation needed).

In the night, one of the greatest things you can experience is Tel Aviv’s nightlife. Jump from one bar to another until the early morning. You can read my post – Pub Crawling Tel Aviv – The City That Never Sleeps,

Expected Weather: Hot temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius at night to 35 degrees at day on average. The humidity is super high with over 60% humidity during the day, which means you’re going to sweat a lot!

Places to Stay: There are plenty of great hostels in Tel Aviv. If you want to be near the sea, try out Tel Aviv Beachfront Hostel, which is situated right on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade. Another great hostel is Little Tel Aviv Hostel, situated in the heart of the city, a bit far from the beachside, and of course, the famous Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to Do in Tel Aviv

One of the beaches near Old Jaffa- Tel Aviv, taken from Pixabay

Tzfat (Safed) –

Safed is the city of Kabbalah and also one of the coolest cities in Israel (weather-wise), with temperatures around 30 degrees in Summer. In Summer, the temperature in Safed isn’t as hot as in other places in Israel, so it’s a good opportunity to explore the small, mystical Old City of Safed in Summer.

Walk along the beautiful alleys, enter the many art galleries, talk with the local people about the mystics of the city and Judaism, enjoy the music coming out of the houses, and simply breathe in the extraordinary air.

Expected Weather: Hot temperature ranging from 20 degrees Celsius at night to 30 degrees at day. The great thing about Safed is that humidity levels are quite low, with only about 40% humidity during the day, which makes the temperature much more bearable.

Places to Stay: There are some hotels inside the city, but if you want a cheaper stay you can check out Safed Inn, which is about a 10 minutes drive from the Old City by taxi. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to Do in Safed

The streets of Safed. Credit: Safed Municipility

The Golan Heights –

If you’re searching for some cool temperature during the Israeli Summer, you might find it in the Golan Heights, which is one of the highest regions of Israel.

Although the Golan is less green in Summer, it is still a nice place to visit. The best experience in the Golan in Summer is the springs and streams, where you can cool down from the heat.

One small and beautiful spring in the southern Golan is Aiah Spring (עין אי”ה), that overlooks all three countries: Israel, Jordan, and Syria. You can get to the spring by rented car. Type into Waze: “מעיין עין אי”ה”.

If you have some shekels to spare, you can visit the fantastic Hexagon Pool (HaMeshushim Reserve) in central Golan. It costs 22 Shekels per adult to enter.

Expected Weather: The temperatures are slightly different throughout the Golan, but on average they range from around 20 degrees at night to around 35 degrees during the day.

Golan – a wonderland even in Summer

Jerusalem –

If you haven’t been to Jerusalem, you should go despite of the heat. Evenings in Jerusalem are usually cool even in Summer and some activities can be done at that time, like hanging out in Machane Yehuda Market or exploring the alleys of the Old City. When it’s out outside, try visiting some of Jerusalem’s top museums, including The Israel Museum and Yad Vashem Museum (Yad Vashem, by the way, is free of charge). And of course, don’t forget to take part in the many events and festivals taking place in the city in Summer.

Expected Weather: The temperature is quite hot, with temperatures ranging from around 20 degrees at night to around 30 degrees during the day. The average humidity is 40%, which makes the temperatures more bearable.

Places to Stay: The best place to stay in Jerusalem is in the city center. I highly recommend Abraham Hostel Jerusalem, but there are also other recommended options, such as The Post Hostel and Rich’s Place in the City Center. If you want to stay in dorm rooms, enter the official hostel websites, where you will probably find the best prices.

Read more: Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem 

Jerusalem – a must visit

Top Summer festivals and events in Israel:

Tel Aviv Pride – This week-long event celebrates Israel’s LGBT community life in a series of colorful events. The main event is the Pride Parade, which makes its way through Tel Aviv.

Lights in Jerusalem Festival – In this fabulous festival, the Old City of Jerusalem is lit by many artistic light displays. You can walk along designated trails and explore the wonders of the four different quarters at night. Free entry.

Israel Museum Wine Festival – In this four days event, visitors of the Israel Museum can sample wines of the leading wineries of Israel in the unique Art Garden. Ticket purchasing required through the Israel Museum website.

Safed Klezmer Festival – Enjoy a magical musical experience in the streets of Safed. Some performances require a ticket, others are open to the public.

Jerusalem Beer Festival – Enjoy dozens of beers in the heart of Jerusalem. Besides the beer, the festival is also full of great music, food stalls, and a clothing and accessories market. Ticket purchasing required and can be done at the entrance to the festival.

Hutzot Hayotzer Fair – This great festival takes place every year in the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem. It combines music with arts & crafts and is an event in which dozens of artists meet together from around the world. You can stroll through the artists’ stalls or purchase a ticket to one of the great musical shows. Anyhow, ticket purchasing is required.

Red Sea Jazz Festival – A four-day musical event in the hot city of Eilat, with top local and international artists. Ticket purchasing required and can be done through the festival’s website.

 Jewish holidays in the Summer:

Tisha B’Av – An annual fast day in Judaism, which commemorates several Jewish disasters, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, but usually, most people you’ll see fasting on this day are the religious Jews (unlike Yom Kippur, during which almost all Jews fast). There is no change in public transportation this day. Tisha B’Av usually takes place at the end of July or the beginning of August.

Rosh Hashana – The beginning of the Jewish year. On this holiday families and friends gather together, eat apples and honey and pomegranates as a wish for a sweet and fruitful new year. This is a two days holiday, during which there is no public transportation. Rosh Hashana usually takes place in September.

Yom Kippur – The holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the day of atonement. Many people in Israel fast for 25 hours, don’t use electronic devices such as smartphones, don’t drive or ride transportation. During this day there is no public transportation and to respect this day it is advised not to use private transportation as well. Yom Kippur usually takes place in September.

Suggested itinerary for a Summer in Israel (7 Days):

Land in Tel Aviv

Day 1 – Enjoy half a day on the beach and experience Tel Aviv’s nightlife

Day 2 – Visit one of Tel Aviv’s museums, Old Jaffa, and Florentine neighborhood.

Day 3 – Take a morning bus ride to Safed. It will take around 4 hours. When you arrive, start exploring Safed’s Old City.

Day 4 – You can spend the morning in Safed if you want to see anything else and then take a bus ride to Jerusalem. This will take about 3 hours and will require you to change buses at least once. When you arrive in Jerusalem, you can spend the night in the cool bars of Machane Yehuda Market.

Day 5 – Explore the Old City of Jerusalem and Ben Yehuda Street for shopping. You can also visit the City of David if you want to walk in the Siloah Tunnel which is full of flowing water.

Day 6 – Visit one of Jerusalem’s leading museums (the Israel Museum or Yad Vashem museum). Afterward, take the 5 PM bus to Eilat.

Day 7 – Snorkel in the Coral Reef Nature Reserve in the morning and then spend free time on one of Eilat’s beaches.

Book a flight out of Ramon Airport the following day. If there’s no flight to your country from there, take a bus back to Tel Aviv and take a flight from there.

The estimated cost of the trip (not including flights, transportation to and from airport, and food) – 1,130 NIS

Breakdown:

*3 nights stay in Tel Aviv – around 300 NIS in a hostel

*Tel Aviv nightlife expenses – around 70 NIS (online booking with D-TLV Pub Crawl – highly recommended!)

*Tel Aviv Art Museum – 50 NIS

*Bus ride from Tel Aviv to Safed – around 42 NIS

*Night in Safed – around 100 NIS in a hostel

*Bus ride from Safed to Jerusalem – around 61 NIS

*2 nights in Jerusalem – around 200 NIS in a hostel

*Jerusalem nightlife expenses – around 50 NIS (online booking with Abraham Hostels Pub Crawl – highly recommended!)

*City of David – 28 NIS

*The Israel Museum – 54 NIS (or Yad Vashem for free)

*2 nights in Eilat – around 140 NIS

*Coral Reef Nature Reserve – 35 NIS

To make your life easier with transportation, purchase a Rav-Kav transportation card at the Ben Gurion Airport or in one of the main bus stations. Read my Full Guide to Public Transportation in Israel.

Keep in mind that there is no public transportation during Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening) and Jewish holidays, so make sure that you don’t plan to ride a bus on a day there isn’t transportation.

Have a great Summer in Israel!

Want help planning your trip to Israel?

You’re welcome to contact me for trip planning services.

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Think this post is useful or helpful? Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment 🙂

Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comment or through my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like a guided tour of Jerusalem when you come this summer!

Want help with planning your trip to Israel? Check out my new app, Travel Israel on Google Play or iTunes. You’re also welcome to contact me through the Experts tab.

Yours,

Lior

Top Free Things to do in Eilat

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Eilat is a perfect destination for those of you seeking for some sea and sun and beautiful hiking trails. Here are some of the best free things you can do in Eilat:

1 – Enjoy the Red Sea:

The Red Sea is the center of the city. We Israelis love going to the sea, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing and just sun-bathing on the beach. So go on, make your way to one of the beaches and have fun. The entrance to the water is free (as long as you’re not entering from a beach that requires entrance fee)! You can also rent a mask, snorkel and flippers from one of the diving clubs for a small fee and set out for some snorkelling. It’s better to snorkel near the Taba Border, there the coral reef is richer.

The Beautiful Red Sea from the Coral Beach Area

2 – Go on a Hike in the Mountains:

Eilat is surrounded by the beautiful Eilat Mountains, colored red, brown, pink and other fascinating colors. If it’s not too hot outside, put on a hat and hiking shoes and go on a hike in the mountains. There are also many camping spots in the area, so you can spend the night in one of them (all of them are simple and have no lights at night, showers or toilets).

Here are three trails you might be interested in:

And some more info about: camping in and around Eilat.

The Eilat Mountains – Just a Part of Them

Watch a video of Mount Yoash Viewpoint in the Eilat Mountains (video by Eilat City):

3 – Visit the Bird Watching Park:

It’s not exactly in the city, but if you like bird-watching, you should make your way there. Eilat is one of the most important stops for birds on their way to different places in the world. It’s a very quiet place, not very touristic, the place gets full only when the bird migrating season starts (spring), so you can feel like it’s all for yourselves. Walk along the circular path, stop now and then to try and recognize birds sitting in the trees or walking in the waters, and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings and calm atmosphere!

Tip: Go early in the morning with a pre-arranged picnic basket and eat breakfast on one of the picnic tables in the park. It’s a nice place to have a picnic!

The park is open 24 hours day, every day. 

How to get there? You can take about a 30 minutes’ walk from the Ice Mall area, through the agricultural fields, all the way to the Bird Watching Park. The park is located near the border crossing with Jordan. For more details, see the map below. If you want, you can combine this with a longer hike: Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat.

4 – Go Watch People Ice Skate in the Ice Mall:

If you’re coming to Eilat in the Summer, you should get ready for very high temperatures. To chill down, you can enter the Ice Mall, which is the newest mall in Eilat, built in 2012. The mall is shaped as an oval and inside you can find two floors full of shops and restaurants, but most importantly, you can find a huge ice rink in the middle! Ice skating is quite expensive, so if you don’t want to spend your money, you can just enjoy watching other people ice skate (or falling on the ice over and over again because they don’t know how to skate).

How to get there? The Ice Mall is located at the Northern end of the touristic city. It’s not far from the abandoned “King City” castle, a short 10 minutes’ walk from the main promenade.

5 – Walk Along the Promenade at Night:

Until November 2013, the main promenade in Eilat was covered stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs, but the supreme court decided to shut those stalls down, as they weren’t completely legal and very messy. Now you can walk along the promenade without having to squeeze your way through a hoard of tourists and stalls. You can walk along the promenade during the day and enjoy the beautiful sight of the Red Sea, but you can also walk along the promenade at night, enjoy the sight of the far away lights, enjoy the music played by the musicians along the way and the nice atmosphere. If you like art, you can watch caricature artists draw people at the big plaza next to “The Ball”.

6 – Learn a bit of history at the Umm Rash-Rash Plaza:

Eilat is not just the sea and the sun. You can also find some history in it. Go to Umm Rash-Rash Plaza and read about the final military operation of the Independence War, admire the monument representing the Hanging of the Ink Flag and try to imagine how the place looked like back in 1949.

How to get there? Umm Rash-Rash Plaza is situated right next to Mall Ayam, on its southern side.

For more info, take a look at my post – “Meet Umm Rash-Rash”.

Umm Rash-Rash Plaza

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Also check out – Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

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For more info about Eilat and other places in Israel – check out my new app, Travel Israel – Land of Creation (free download on Google Play  and iTunes).

Yours,

Lior

Camping Sites in and Around Eilat

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Where can I camp in Eilat? – That’s a question I hear a lot lately. Eilat is full of hotels and even has some great hostels in it, but what if you’re on a very tight budget and don’t have much money for accommodation? In this case, you might want to know about the camping options in Eilat and its surroundings. You might also want to know about them if you’re looking for a unique way to spend the night in Eilat. So… Here they are:

Free Camping on the Beach:

According to the Eilat Municipality’s policy, you cannot camp on all the beaches in Eilat. There are only some beaches which are open for camping. In reality, there are some people who do camp on “the forbidden” beaches and the Municipality’s inspectors aren’t doing much to prevent that from happening. Anyway, I suggest that if you choose to camp on the beaches, you do so on the legal beaches only. By the way, it is completely free to camp on the beaches! But keep in mind that there are no organized facilities there.

So here are the legal beaches for camping:

Camping on the Southern Beaches:

It is legal to camp on the beachline that stretches from Snuba Beach to Migdalor Beach (the “Lighthouse Beach”). Near Snuba Beach you can also find an organized parking lot, where you can park a caravan.

Camping Eilat – Where Can you Camp on the Southern Beaches

Camping on the Northern Beaches:

It is legal to camp in the parking lot of the Mifraz HaShemesh Beach. It is also possible to park a caravan there. Be aware – It is illegal to camp on the beach itself, only in the parking lot area.

It is also possible to camp on the Roksa Beach (also called “Ardag Beach” or “Thailandi Beach”), which is located a bit east of Mifraz HaShemesh Beach, near the border line with Jordan.

Camping Eilat – Where Can You Camp on the Northern Beaches

Camping in the Eilat Field School:

If you prefer to camp in a more organized place, that also feels safer (although camping on the beaches in Eilat is considered safe), you might want to check out the camping option in Eilat Field School. The field school is located across from the Coral Beach Reserve, at the end of the Israel National Trail, in the southern beaches area. It is a short bus drive from the city center. There are rooms for accommodation, but if you bring your own tent, you can stay on the Eilat Field School’s grounds for a reasonable amount of money (around 50 Shekels a night, but check with the field school itself for prices). The campground includes showers, toilets, BBQ corners and lighting.

For more info about prices and availability, call: +972 3 638 86 88 or send an email to talid@spni.org.il.

Free Camping in and Around Eilat:

There are several free camping grounds around Eilat, but all of them are very basic and do not have any facilities in them. There are no toilets, no showers, no flowing water or lighting in those campgrounds (January 2019 Update: Those campgrounds are supposed to be upgraded this year and will include field toilets and water jerrycans from which you will be able to drink). They are good for hikers who make their way in the Eilat Mountains Reserve or in the Timna Valley area, but if you plan to stay there, you should make sure you have enough water for the night.

Here are a few of the camping grounds around Eilat:

Nahal Shlomo (Solomon River) Camping Ground: This camping ground is located a bit west of the Camel Ranch in the southern part of Eilat. This is a perfect campground for those of you who plan to hike up Mount Zefahot in the early morning, as it is about an hour hike from the mountain. There are no facilities. To get there, you can take a bus from the Eilat city center towards the Taba Border (line 15), get off at Mitsrayim Road/Camel Ranch station (דרך מצרים/ חוות הגמלים) and then hike along the dirt road north-west to the campground. It is about a 30-minutes’ hike from road number 90.  

Mount Yehoram Camping Ground: Located near Yehoram Mountain, about 2.5 km north of Eilat, a bit off road number 12. The campground is on the other side of the road from Mount Yoash (there is a brown sign pointing to the mountain), a bit north-east to Mount Yoash. It is considered a safe camping ground, which currently only has a toilets facility. This camping ground is perfect for those of you planning to hike up Mount Yoash in the morning or hike down Gishron Wadi on the Israel National Trail. You can get there:

  • By Bus – Line 392 to the station called Mahavar Netafim (מעבר נטפים) and then a 30-minutes’ hike down along the road to the camping ground.
  • By Foot – About a 2.5-hours’ hike from the beginning of road number 12 in the south-western part of Eilat.
Mount Yehoram Camping Site. The colorful box is full of books!

Red Canyon Camping Ground: If you’re planning to hike around the Red Canyon, this camping ground can suit you. It is with no facilities. Check out my post – Hiking Around Eilat – Beautiful Red Canyon –  for more info about getting here.

There are a couple more camping grounds that are farther away from Eilat, on the Israel National Trail. Those include: Nahal Raham Camping Ground (חניון נחל רחם) and Shchoret Camping Ground (חניון שחורת).

Camping Outside Eilat:

Here are a few camping grounds outisde of Eilat that charge a fee:

Hai Bar Yotvata Camping Ground: Located near the Hai Bar Yotvata Reserve between Kibbutz Yotvata and Kibbutz Samar on road number 90, about 35 km north of Eilat. The camping ground includes hot showers, toilets, BBQ corners, electricity spots for phone charging, drinking water faucet and a field kitchen with a refrigerator and cooktop. It is possible to get sleeping mattresses for an additional fee. The camping is in private tents.

You can arrive at the camping ground until 5:00 PM (on Fridays until 4:00 PM) and you need to leave before 11:00 AM on the day you choose to leave. If you wish to leave the camping ground during the day for a hike in the area, you will need to leave an ID at the entrance of the site as a security deposit.

The prices (in the time of writing – March 2018) are: Adult – ₪ 53, Child – ₪ 42. Payment is made upon arrival to the camping ground at the ticket office. You can pay by credit or cash.

It is possible to reserve a camping place in the camping ground in advance by calling +972-8-6373057 or sending an email to haibar-yotvata@npa.org.il.

To get to the Hai Bar Yotvata Camping Ground by bus, you can take lines 390, 397, 444 or 991 and get off at Samar Station. Then, walk a short while to the camping ground.

Camping in Timna Park: There is an option of camping in private tents near the artificial lake in Timna Park. The camping ground includes toilets, hot water showers, electricity sockets, lighting, drinking water. It is possible to get sleeping mattresses for an additional fee. This is a perfect camping ground for those of you planning to hike around Timna Park.

Please contact Timna Park for more info about camping prices and availability.

And check out my post – Saturday Morning in Timna Park – to learn more about the park.

Wish you all a wonderful camping experience!

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If you need help with planning your trip itinerary to Israel – contact me.

Yours,

Lior

Entering Israel By Air – All You Need to Know

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There are three ways to get into Israel: by land, by sea and by air, which is the most popular way of getting into Israel. In this post I’m going to tell you all you need to know about entering Israel by air (and if I forget anything, please let me know in the comments).

So… You want to come to Israel by plane, but wondering where should you land? There are two options at the moment: landing in Ben Gurion International Airport (near Tel Aviv) or landing in Ramon Airport (near Eilat). The Ovda Airport is going to be shut down this April 2019 and all flights are supposed to move to Ramon Airport, which has been inaugurated March 2019.

Where Should You Land: Ben Gurion International Airport or Ramon Airport?

Ben Gurion International Airport is the biggest airport in Israel, situated about 25 km  from Tel Aviv and about 53 km from Jerusalem. Ramon, on the other hand, is situated in the southern part of Israel, about 20 km from Eilat and if you want comparison, about 295 km from Tel Aviv. So… where should you land?

Here are some reasons why you should choose to land in Ben Gurion Airport:

  • It is the closest international airport to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If you don’t have much time and want to visit one or both of those cities, this is the airport for you! Regular public transportation leaves from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (not during Shabbat), and it will probably take you about 30-60 minutes to get to your destination. If you’ll land in Ramon, there’s at least a 4-5 hours’ drive to those cities.
  • It’s also much closer to the North. If you want to make your way to the more northern regions of Israel, it makes much more sense to land in Ben Gurion Airport than in Ramon. Again, because of the distance.
  • The transportation from the airport is great! You can easily get on a train or on a bus or on a taxi or on a sherut and get to wherever you wish to go. Note – this changes a bit on Shabbat and Holy days, so for more details, please read There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat. In Ramon Airport, public transportation is much much more limited, though there are regular buses to Eilat and taxis.

Here are some reasons why you should choose to land in Ramon Airport:

  • It’s the closest airport to Eilat. If you wish to enjoy a sunny vacation next to the holiday city of Eilat, this is the airport for you. Instead of making the whole way down to Eilat from Ben Gurion Airport (a ride that takes about 6 hours by bus), you can get to Eilat from Ramon within only 30-45 minutes.
  • It’s the closest to the desert. A lot of people are enchanted by the desert of Israel. Ramon is surrounded by the desert, as it is situated in the yellow strip of the Arava. If you want, you can get off of the plane and start hiking through the many kibbutzim in the area.
  • It’s the closest to the land border crossings into Jordan and Egypt. If you want to visit Petra in Jordan, the border crossing is about an hour away from the Ramon Airport (take bus 30, get off at Rabin Border Crossing on road 90 and then walk about 10 minutes to the border). You can also get to the Taba border crossing within an hour and enter Sinai (Egypt).
  • It’s an airport for lowcost flights, which means it is the perfect airport for budget travelers!

Getting Ready for Israeli Immigration and Security:

The security checks for those coming into Israel are the most comprehensive checks in the world. You should get yourselves ready not only for your luggage being x-rayed, but also for some questions, that might even seem a bit too personal. Not all tourists are deeply checked when they go through Israeli Immigration and Security, but you should keep in mind that you might seem suspicious and be asked a lot of questions (even if you’ve never harmed a fly). Don’t take it personally. The people asking you questions in Immigration and Security just want to make sure everyone is safe. So answer honestly and with as much detail as possible, so you won’t have to get stuck in this process for too long.

Some questions you might be asked:

  • What is your name? It’s written on your passport, but they want to hear it from you.
  • Why did you visit an Islamic country? If you have an Islamic country’s stamp on your passport, that might make them wonder what you’ve been there. Unlike Islamic countries, that deny entry for people with Israeli stamps, Israel will not deny entry for people who have stamps of Islamic countries. But, keep in mind that they might question you further because of this.
  • Where are you planning to stay? If you’re staying at a friend’s house, you’ll probably be asked about that friend.
  • Why are you travelling alone?

Getting from Ben Gurion International Airport to…

Let’s say you decided to land in Ben Gurion Airport. How do you get out of the airport?

To Tel Aviv:

  • Take the train to one of the stations in Tel Aviv. It’s only 16 shekels.
  • Take a sherut taxi (shared taxi).
  • Take Kavim bus number 445. It operates from 4AM Sunday to 5PM Friday and from 9PM Saturday, leaving the airport every hour and reaching areas of hotels in Tel Aviv. It costs around 9 shekels each way.
  • Use the new service my El Al – the TAXI POOL. It lets you contact other passengers on your flight to try and set a shared taxi with them to your destination.

To Jerusalem:

  • Take bus number 485 from the bus station area. It drops you off near the central bus station in Jerusalem. The bus leaves every round hour. The ride is only 16 shekels and takes about one hour. The ticket is bought on the bus (you can use Rav Kav).
  • Use the Nesher shared shuttle, that leaves whenever it’s full (10 seats in a minibus). It will take you to your accommodation in Jerusalem (check with the driver if he gets to your accommodation, because there are exceptions). The ride costs 64 shekels per person. Keep in mind that it might take time until the shuttle will get to your destination, as it drops off everyone else at their destinations as well.
  • Take the new train to Jerusalem. There’s a new train line from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem, which will take you to Jerusalem Central Station (Yitzhak Navon) within about 30 minutes. It costs about 17 ILS one way.

To Haifa:

  • Take the train to one of the stations in Haifa. It costs about 35 shekels.
  • Use the Amal shared shuttle, that leaves whenever it’s full. The ride costs 115 shekels and takes about an hour and a quarter. It is possible to be dropped off at your accommodation.

For all destinations there is also an option of taxis, but that is much more expensive (even though the prices were a bit lowered during 2017).


Before leaving the airport, make sure to aquire a Rav Kav so you will be able to use public transportation in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and travel in an easier way all around Israel. Read more about it in my post – Full Guide to Public Transportation in Israel.


Getting from Ramon Airport to…

Let’s say you decided to land in Ramon Airport. How do you get out of the airport?

To Eilat:

  • Take Egged bus number 30 or 50, that leaves the airport every 20-30 minutes to Eilat (also on Shabbat). Line 30 stops at the Central Bus Station, and line 50 goes through the hotel area and stops at Taba border. The ride costs about 5 shekels and takes about 30 minutes. You can buy tickets on the bus.
  • Take a taxi. At the moment (November 2019), a taxi ride to Eilat will cost you 84 ILS during the day and more during the night or on Shabbat. Also, if you have luggage yoy might be charged a bit more.
  • Rent a car.  There are a number of car rental companies operating in the airport, including Shlomo Sixt, Budget and Albar. Renting a simple car costs about 100 ILS a day not including fuel.

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And if you’re looking for a guide in Israel, contact me through the form on My Tours.

If you need any more information for your trip to Israel, check out my FREE app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains: From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot

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My aunt and uncle are crazy about the Israel National Trail. They want to hike all the trails that make up the Israel National Trail, one at a time. At the end of the Chanukah holiday, they decided to come to Eilat and hike the final part of the National Trail: from Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot. They asked me if I wanted to join them, so I left my apartment in Jerusalem and took the bus to Eilat. We set off for the trail in the early morning (around 6:00 AM) of the following day.

This part of the trail, which is one of the most beautiful trails along the Israel National trail, goes through the wonderous landscapes of the Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve. The trail is about 14 km long and is an excellent hike for the whole day. For some reason, my uncle was sure that it would take only 5 hours to finish. The truth is that the hike takes at least 6 hours (if you’re in really good shape), but can also take about 9 hours (if you’re not used to hike on steep trails and for long distances), so be prepared. They finished the trail barely. But I think it isn’t such a hard trail. It’s hard only because it’s long and has some mountains that you have to climb on the way to the sea.

Before I start telling you about the trail itself, let’s go over safety instructions and general notes:

The hike is under your own responsibility, so please be careful.

* Make sure you hike with good hiking shoes, have at least 3 liters of water and wear a hat. It is recommended to also pack snacks and lunch.

* Pay attention to sunset hours (in Summer around 5-6 PM, in Winter around 4-5 PM) and begin your hike at least 9 hours before sunset. The best time to begin this trail is at sunrise.

* During the rainy season, check for flood hazards after every rainfall. If there is a flood hazard, do not hike in the mountains area.

* There are three mountains that you need to climb along the way, starting from Gishron Ascent, which is about halfway through the trail. There is also a tall ladder and a few places with bars stuck in the stones, where you need to climb down.

* The phone signal is bad in the mountains area and sometimes non-existent.

* The army sometimes closes part of the trail when there are security issues, so it is advised to call the IDF coordination center beforehand to make sure that the trail is open: 08-9902927/6.

How to Get to the Head of the Trail?

The head of the trail is at the base of Mount Yoash, which is one of the most popular overlooks in the area. My Dad gave us a lift to the starting point. It’s about a 20 minutes’ drive from Eilat on road number 12. But how can you get there? If you don’t have anyone that can give you a lift up there, you can take Egged bus number 392 from Eilat Central Station to Netafim Station (נטפים). It’s the fourth stop from Eilat. From there, you will need to hike about 30 minutes down road number 12 until you see the sign pointing towards Mount Yoash. The first bus from Eilat leaves at 6:30 AM, so you can get to the head of the trail at 7:00 AM. The alternative is to hike about two and a half hours from Eilat. I think you should save your powers for the trail.

If you want, you can come to the area a day before and camp in the Mount Yehoram Camping Grounds, which are situated on the other side of the road from the head of the trail. The camping grounds have no facilities on them, so it’ll be just you, your sleeping bag and your tent if nobody else decides to camp there.

This isn’t a circular trail, so you’ll end up on road number 90 near the Coral Beach Reserve. From there, you will be able to catch a bus to the city center.

Before the Hike – Overlook from Mount Yoash:

If you get to the head of the trail early, you might want to climb up the steep Mount Yoash to enjoy the wonderful views of the Red Sea in the East, Egypt in the West, and even Saudi Arabia in the South-East. We climbed the steep 734-meter mountain and were lucky to see the beautiful sunrise over the Edom Mountains. We spent about 45 minutes on Mount Yoash before beginning the trail at its base.

Sunrise from Yoash Mountain

The Hike:

The Trail – Part 1

There’s a huge sign saying “שביל ישראל” (“Israel National Trail”) at the head of the trail (1). This sign announces the last part of the Israel National Trail. Look past this sign and you’ll see marks on a stone. All trails in Israel are marked in different colors. The National Trail is marked with a colorful orange-blue-white. We started our way on this trail. Along the trail, keep your eyes out for the orange-blue-white mark.

The Sign at the Head of the Trail

So, we continued on the trail (which is also marked blue) and after a few minutes of hiking through beautiful reddish rocks, got to a beautiful open area, with a wonderful wadi to our left. We kept on walking on this wide path until we got to a trail junction (2) – blue and black marked trails. We continued on the blue trail in the direction of Wadi Gishron.

A few meters afterwards we got to a point where we could see the wonderful Wadi Gishron from above (3). My uncle couldn’t stop saying “Wow!” It is really a wonder. At the bottom of the wadi, we could see the massive border fence that separates Egypt from Israel. This border fence is an interesting story, as it did not exist at all until December 2013. The fence was built originally to try to stop the large number of illegal African migrants that were entering Israel through the Egyptian border. After the dreadful terror attack on road number 12 in 2011, the government decided to make the border more massive, and this is the border fence you’ll see today.

Wow! It’s much more magnificent in live!

So, after seeing the impressive wadi, we continued on the blue marked trail until we got to a steep, slippery descend (4). Luckily, there are long railing bars stuck in the side of the wall here, so we held on to them as we slowly went down. This can be a challenging part for some people, so be careful when going down this part! Afterwards there are a few more places that you need to use some bars to climb down. When we got to the Acacia tree we thought that the descend was over, but no… We continued a few more meters along the blue trail until we got to a 10 meters high dry waterfall (5). There are two ladders here: one solid ladder and one cable ladder.  My aunt and uncle preferred the more stable ladder, while I preferred the more “adventurous” one. It wasn’t so wobbly as I expected.

The Slippery Descend
The Ladders from Above

Then we continued with some more little descends to the bottom of Wadi Gishron and got to another trail junction, where the blue marked trail meets the red marked trail (6). We continued on the blue marked trail towards Gishron Ascent and after about 650 meters got to another trail junction (7). To our left we saw a big pipe going through the rock. The green mark, leading to Tsafra Pass, was painted above it, so we decided to see what’s at the end of the pipe. This isn’t part of the trail, but you can also make your way through the pipe to see what’s on the other side. The pipe looks much shorter than it really is. At the end of it is a trail that goes through a very-very narrow passage through the rocks. I’m quite skinny, so I tried going through the passage, but really had to crawl from underneath to barely pass it. The legend says that the Tsafra Pass is called after a very fat teacher, who came with her students on a field trip and got stuck in the passage. Poor Tsafra. I can understand how she got stuck.

The Pipe Leading to Tsafra Pass

After seeing the other side, we made our way back through the pipe, back to the blue marked trail. After a few hundred meters we got to an asphalt road (8), which we passed. We kept on descanting down the wadi, here and there using some aiding bars in the rocks, until we got to the point where the wadi opened. After about a kilometer on a wide trail, the trail takes a turn left and continues straight until the base of Gishron Ascent (9).  

The Trail – Part 2

When my aunt and uncle saw the ascent, their faces dropped. They weren’t ready for such an ascent, that goes about 120 meters above the wadi. I think we didn’t rest enough at the base of the ascent. They had a tough time climbing and we had to stop a few times on the way. I recommend resting about 5-10 minutes at the base of the ascent before climbing it. It’s a steep climb, but if you don’t stop along the way you can finish it within about 20 minutes. Then you can rest on the top of the ascent and enjoy the beautiful views of the Red Sea and the interesting white hill, called Rehoboam Hill. My uncle was breathless, but my aunt had the air to point at the white hill and say: “It looks like a volcano, doesn’t it?”

The White Hill from the Top of the Ascent

After we gathered some strength, we continued right on the black marked trail, that goes south on top of the mountain.  The trail goes down the mountain and at some point, meets another asphalt road. There’s a huge yellow sign saying something about a border, but we couldn’t see any border ahead. At this point (10), the trail goes along about 300 meters of the road, until it leaves it and turns right on a red marked trail.

The trail continued until it got to the base of another mountain (11). My aunt and uncle looked at it astonished. They weren’t expecting another mountain. But, they climbed it as well. It’s let steep than the Gishron Ascent, but still a long and exhausting climb, especially if you’re already exhausted by the other climb. A family of hikers passed us as they climbed the mountain like ibexes, which didn’t make us feel any better. Then, after a climb that seemed very long, we got to the top of the mountain (which I’m not sure how it’s called). I enjoyed the wonderful views of the Red Sea and Eilat Mountains while my aunt and uncle caught their breath. This is a perfect point for a few minutes of rest or lunch or a coffee / tea break.

Another Mountain…
And The View from Atop

We continued on the black marked trail that makes its way down to Wadi Zefahot. It is important to keep on the black trail in this area, because if you take the wrong trail you might end up at the border with Egypt. It’s a nice trail, that continues down until it arrives at a trail junction, where the black marked trail meets the green marked trail (12). At this point we turned onto the green-marked trail and started making our way to the final mountain – Zefahot. We were getting close to sunset, so my uncle tried to hurry us up, but my aunt was, at this point, almost out of energy. We made it up Mount Zefahot one step at a time. It wasn’t a very steep climb and at the end we could see the sea right beneath us, with buses and cars and civilization.

From Mount Zefahot (with the National Trail mark)

Mount Zefahot is 278 meters high and many people climb it just to enjoy the wonderful view. “Zefahot” in Hebrew means schist stone, but the mountain is mainly built from gneiss stone. On the top, we met a young guy who seemed to be starting his way down the mountain. “How long is it from Eilat?” my uncle asked him, and he replied with a smile: “About 30 minutes.” He made it seem as though the climb down was very easy. We started descending down the mountain on the green marked trail (13) and soon enough understood that the climb down wasn’t that easy. It was a bit steep at times and we needed to climb down some big rocks on the way. The sea was always at our sight, but the way down was more than 30 minutes. When the trail stopped being steep at last, I ran ahead to check how much longer do my aunt and uncle need to hike. When I saw the beautiful sea in front of me and the moderate descent to the Eilat Field School, I was relieved. I headed back to my aunt and uncle and told them the good news. They wanted to see it with their own eyes.

The end of the trail (14) is near the back exit of the Eilat Field School. Road number 90 runs a few steps from the end of the trail, and the bus station isn’t far away. You can catch line number 16 to the city center or get a taxi.

If You See This You Know You’ve Finished

I might have made it sound like a very tough trail, but the truth is that I believe it can be a much less challenging trail. It all depends on who you’re hiking with, how fit are you and how used are you to long distances of hiking. Of course, there are a few challenging points along the trail (some very steep descends and some steep climbs). We – my aunt, uncle and I – made too many stops and stopped while climbing, which is the worst thing to do, in my opinion. Finish your climbs and only afterwards take a few minutes to gather your breath! If you make the right amount of stops for refreshment, drink enough water and keep a good pace, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this beautiful trail

How much time does the trail take? Between 6 to 10 hours, depending on your fitness and pace.

Difficulty: I believe it’s a moderate to hard level trail, but if you’ll ask my aunt and uncle (50+), they’ll tell you it’s the most challenging trail they’ve ever done. So, it depends who you ask, what’s your fitness level and how used are you to hiking.

It’s about a 14-km long trail, starting at Mount Yoash and ending at Mount Zefahot.

When is the best time to hike? During the Spring (April-May), when it isn’t too hot and rainfall is rare.  

I wish you a great hike in the desert!

More hiking trails that might interest you:

Hiking in the Eilat Mountains to Beautiful En Netafim

Hiking Around Eilat: Beautiful Red Canyon

Birds, Agriculture and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat

Hiking Near the Dead Sea: Lower Nahal Og

A Beautiful Hike in Upper Nahal Darga – Dead Sea Area


If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll be glad to get a like, share or comment from you (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

Yours,

Lior

Top Annual Events in Israel – January to June

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Israel is a festive country, full of festivals, events and holidays all year round. In one of my recent posts I’ve given you a list of the main holidays in Israel and tips on how to spend them. Now, just before the new year arrives, here are the top annual festivals and events in Israel from January to June. Even if you aren’t planning to take part in the events, I do recommend you check what events are going on during your dates of travel, so you will be prepared for the crowds or changes in traffic.

Some events are very popular, so you might want to book accommodation a while in advance. Here are links for comparing accommodation prices in the main cities:

Accommodation prices in Jerusalem,

Accommodation prices in Tel Aviv,

 Accommodation prices in Eilat,

Accommodation prices in Tiberias,

Accommodation prices in Haifa.

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Top January Events in Israel:

Sea of Galilee Marathon: The highest quality marathon event in Israel, that starts in the city of Tiberias, goes along the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee and ends in Tiberias. You’re invited to come and cheer the runners.

Watching the event is free.

Where? Tiberias, Sea of Galilee.

When?

Official Site: Tiberias International Winner Marathon.

Israman Eilat: This full and half iron distance triathlon is one of the biggest and most exciting sports event in Israel. The race includes running, cycling, and swimming. You can gather along the Royal Beach area at the Northern part of the Red Sea to see the swimming segment and cheer the competitors.

Watching the event is for free. Because of the event, some roads might be blocked during the event’s weekend (24-27 of January).

Where? All over Eilat. The swimming segment will take place near Royal Beach.

When? 

Official Site: Israman Eilat.

Top February Events in Israel:

International Eilat Chamber Music Festival: A wonderful musical event, hosting international and local chamber music artists. You can also take part in master classes and workshops.

The event requires pre-payed tickets.

Where? Dan Hotel Eilat.

When? This year was in end of January. 

Official Site: International Eilat Chamber Music Festival.

Winter Red Sea Jazz Festival: This musical event is so popular, that it also takes place during summer. During the festival, you will be able to enjoy a variety of jazz concerts and master classes. There are also late-night jam sessions.

The event requires pre-payed tickets.

When? This year between 20-22 of February 2020.

Where? In different venues in Eilat.

Official Site: Winter Red Sea Jazz Festival.

Tel Aviv Marathon: One of the leading sports events in Israel, this multi-course marathon is a great event to watch or participate in. The marathon runs along the beautiful seashore of Tel Aviv and through the main streets of the city. Come and cheer the runners! If you would like to participate in the marathon, you can register through the official website.

Watching the event is for free.

Where? The kick off area is on Rokach Blvd in Tel Aviv.

When? The race will take place this year on 28 February 2020.

Official Site: Tel Aviv Marathon.

Darom Adom Outdoors Festival: “Darom Adom” means “Red South” in Hebrew, because of the colors that the Negev gets during this time of year. Each year after the rainy season, the northern Negev is covered with wonderful scarlet red anemones. This, of course, is a reason to celebrate. For five weekends there are many activities for families travelling to the northern Negev, such as poetry readings, concerts, mountain bike marathons and more. If you won’t get a chance to take part in one of the activities, at least come to see the beautiful flowers.

Where? Throughout the northern Negev.

When? Throughout February.

Official Site: Darom Adom (in Hebrew).

Top March Events in Israel:

International Jerusalem Marathon: One of the biggest marathon events in Jerusalem. During this marathon you’ll see thousands of people running on the streets of Jerusalem, not only as part of the marathon, but also as part of the half marathon and other shorter races. If you aren’t planning on participating in the marathon events as a runner (which is an option if you register beforehand), you’re invited to cheer the runners from the sides of the streets. It’s free.

Because of the event, some roads might be blocked during the different races.

Where? Throughout Jerusalem.

When? The race will take place this year on 20 March 2020.

Official Site: International Jerusalem Marathon.

Tel Aviv Fashion Week: If you’re interested in fashion, you might be interested in participating in this fancy event. To watch the fashion shows, you need to purchase a ticket.

Where? Tel Aviv. Location not yet updated.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Tel Aviv Fashion Week.

Open Restaurants Festival Tel Aviv: A culinary event. For more info, check out the official website: Open Restaurants Festival Tel Aviv.

International Birdwatching Festival in Eilat: If you’re fond of birds, this is a festival for you. A bit north of Eilat stands the Birdwatching Park of Eilat. During March, thousands of birds are supposed to arrive in the area as part of their spring migration. Together with bird lovers from all over the world, you can watch the birds in the park and get professional explanations. On other days, the park stands quite empty and there’s usually no one who give explanations, so you might want to leverage this festival.

The entrance is free.

Where? In the birdwatching park north of Eilat. You can walk to the park (about a 40-minutes’ walk) or you can catch any bus going out of Eilat on road number 90 and ask the driver to get off at the Eilot roundabout. From there, you’ll have about a 20-minutes’ walk.

When?  This year between 22-29 March 2020.

Official Site: Birdwatching Festival.

Sounds of the Old City Festival: This is a magical event, that fills the Old City of Jerusalem with magnificent sounds of traditional music. During the festival, you’ll be able to walk through the four quarters of the Old City, the Armenian, the Jewish, the Muslim and the Christian quarters, and enjoy a whole new experience in each one of them.

The entrance is free.

Where? The Old City of Jerusalem.

When? This year between 24-26 March 2020.

Official Site: Sounds of the Old City Festival.

Top April Events in Israel:

Haifa International Children’s Theater Festival: A nice festival if you’re coming to Israel with your kids. During the festival, you will be able to enjoy colorful open-air performances in the area next to the Haifa Municipal Theatre or purchase a ticket to one of the theatre shows taking place inside the theatre.

Where? Haifa Municipal Theatre on 50 Pebzner Street.

When? This year between the 12-14 of April 2020.

Official Site: Haifa International Children’s Theater Festival.

“Zorba the Buddha” Meditation and Dance Festival: Come and celebrate Zorba in the enchanting and relaxing desert. This is one of the best meditation festivals in the area.

You will need to purchase a ticket to take part in the event.

Where? In Desert Ashram in Shitim settlement, on road number 40. There is an option of a shuttle from Tel Aviv. Check that option on their official website.

When? This year between 12-16 of April 2020.

Official Site: Zorba Festival.

Automotor – International Motor Show: If you’re a car lover, this event might be for you. During the event, you’ll be able to enjoy splendid car shows, displaying a variety of cars and motorbikes, including some very special cars.

This event requires a ticket. You can purchase online.

Where? The Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center in Tel Aviv. Reachable by train.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Automotor.

Top May Events in Israel:

International Museum Day: Like in the rest of the world, we in Israel also celebrate the International Museum Day, with dozens of museums open free to the public. If you’re interested in visiting museums in Israel, you might want to shift your trip towards May.

Where? Throughout Israel.

When? 18th of May.

Menas

Israel Festival: This is a huge interdisciplinary festival known world-wide. The festival includes drama, music and dance performances that require a ticket and free outdoor performances.

You will need to purchase a ticket for the festival.  If you are a student, you get 50% off the ticket, so don’t forget to bring your student ID.

Where? Throughout Jerusalem: at the Jerusalem Theatre (20 Marcus Street), Sultan’s Pool (Derech Hevron St. 1), the Israel Museum (11 Derech Ruppin), the Eden-Tamir Music Center (29 Hama’ayan St) and at Zion Square (25 Shamai Street).

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Israel Festival.

Top June Events in Israel:

Midburn Festival (Israel’s Burning Man): You’re welcome to take part in this 6-days event, during which a temporary city is built from scratch in the Negev Desert. Then, the people live in this city, that allows a communal life style and radical self-expression. This is your chance to experience near-freedom. After 6 days, the city is burned down to the ground, as if it never existed.

You will need to purchase a ticket for the festival.

Where? In the Negev, near the exit from road number 40.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Midburn Festival.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade: Tel Aviv is known for its gay community and every year during June the city comes to life in magnificent colors as the Gay Pride Parade passes through. Come support the gay community and enjoy the wonderful and fun atmosphere.

Where? The parade leaves from Me’ir Park and ends with a great party at Charles Clore beach.

When? This year the parade will take place on 12 June 2020.

Official Site: Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade.

International Student Film Festival: This is one of the top cultural events in Tel Aviv, promoting academic artistry. It is considered one of the three best festivals of its kind in the world. During the festival you’ll be able to see the works of students from the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Film and Television, but also from other schools around the world. The festive week is filled with interesting films, master classes, workshops, exhibitions and parties.

Where? Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Sprinzok Street.

When? This year the festival will take place between 21-27 of June 2020.

Official Site: International Student Film Festival.

Jerusalem International Book Fair: The Jewish people are known as the “People of the Book”, so it is no wonder that the international book fair is so celebrated in Jerusalem. If you love reading, you might want to walk around the fair’s stalls and get inspired by the many books. You can also try to read the Hebrew titles.

The entrance is free.

Where? The First Station in Jerusalem (David Remez Street 4). Can easily be reached by bus.

When? Not set yet.

Official Site: Jerusalem International Book Fair.

White Night Tel Aviv: A great celebration taking place during one night in Tel Aviv, from the early hours of the evening to the next day. Throughout Tel Aviv you’ll find different exhibitions and activities. This is a very popular event, which draws Israelis from all over the state.

Most events are open for free. Some require a payment.

Where? Throughout Tel Aviv.

When? This year the festival will take place on 25 of June 2020.

Jerusalem Opera Festival: This is a grand opera event, set in the outstanding outdoors of the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem.

You will need to purchase a ticket for the festival.

Where? The Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem.

When? Not set yet.

If you know of any more festivals or events from January to June in Israel, please let me know in the comments.


If you liked this post or found it useful, I’ll really appreciate a like, share or comment (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

Looking for a tour guide in Israel? I might be available. Contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

And check out what else you can do in Israel through my app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS.

Yours,

Lior