Israel: hiking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Holy Land. Images of Israel in modern day media paint the scene of a war-torn region, full of danger and hardship. Anyone who sees past the drama on the news and actually plans a visit to Israel is probably expecting to tour holy sites and explore the history of Israel, not hike.
But Israeli locals have a secret: Israel is a hiker’s paradise. In Israel, hiking is practically a national pastime – it’s something that every child experiences on school trips from young age. Israel hiking trails are varied and vast. They cover an expanse of beautiful terrain: from hills, to woodlands, to deserts, and to lush waterfalls. There are day hikes and multi day adventures like Sea to Sea, the stunning trail that leads from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee along mountains, forests and streams.
In Israel, hiking isn’t restricted to just one pleasant season. Because of the country’s temperate climate, the great outdoors is welcoming year-round. This is an asset, because tourists flock to the country year-round too. In Israel, even in December time, there are plenty of wonderful hiking options out there. You just have to know where to go.
This beginners guide will take you through a few important tips you need to get started hiking in Israel. Read through these 4 tips, then plan the trip of a lifetime: filled with holy sites, history, and great natural beauty.
Start with National Parks
For such a small country, Israel sure does have a lot of National Parks. There are National Parks and Nature Reserves in Jerusalem and outside of Tel Aviv. Dozens of parks stretch across Northern Israel, along the coastline, and even down south in the desert.
And that’s a good thing. Because National Parks are the best places to get started with your Israel hiking trip. In Israel, the Parks Authority ensures that Nature Reserves are clean, well-marked, and user friendly. At any park with an entrance fee, visitors receive maps in English upon entry, along with a complete explanation of the trails given by a friendly guide.
As it just so happens, the National Parks also cover some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country, from a desert oasis at Ein Gedi to crashing waterfalls at the Banias. Start with these trails, and you’ll begin to get a sense of the varied types of beauty the country has to offer.
Pay Attention to the Season
Israel is a country with a temperate climate. It never gets incredibly cold. And in coastal or mountainous regions, it doesn’t get too hot, even in the summertime. That said, it’s important to pay attention to the season before planning your Israel hiking trip.
Spring is probably the easiest time of year to hike. No matter where you go, it’s bound to be beautiful. Flowers are blooming, rivers are gushing – nature is a happy place to be. Spring is Israel hiking at its finest.
In the summer, stick to water hikes (there are many!) and shady forests. And stay away from the desert trails.
In the fall, it starts to cool down again. But the country hasn’t seen rain in many months. So, don’t hike in lowlands and flower fields – they’ll be dry and brown rather than green and colorful. Stick to forest hikes, water hikes, and cave hikes.
Once winter comes, desert hiking is back on the table. Just remember to check the weather report for rain before you go! (Desert +rain = flash floods.). Israel becomes green and beautiful with the winter rainfall, and full of flowers. Come February, it’s time to head to the flower fields for a blossom filled hiking adventure.
What Goes Down Must Come Up
Yes, I know that’s backwards. But when hiking in Israel, this is one rule you’ll want to pay attention to.
Israel is a hilly place. If you’re planning a water hike, chances are you’ll be hiking down to a waterfall/spring/river. It’s just the way things are laid out in this Land. If you don’t mind some tough descents and ascents, then you’re ready for any Israel hiking adventure.
If ascents are not your thing, stick to coastal hikes, lowland hikes, and desert hikes. Some forest trails are relatively flat as well. Just make sure to check whether the plan includes a desert mountain or a deep valley before you set out for the day.
Too Hot, Cold, Rainy to Hike? You’re in Luck!
Funny thing about Israel: the temperature where you wake up for the day can be as much as 20 degrees higher or lower only an hour’s drive away. For example, I live in the mountains right near Jerusalem. It tends to be cold and foggy here in the winter. But on the worst winter days, I just drive 25 minutes to the lowlands around Beit Shemesh to experience an entirely different climate.
This Israel hiking rule is very handy at all seasons. On hot days, just drive on over to mountainous regions (Carmel Mountains, Jerusalem Mountains, Hermon or Bental in the Golan) for a hike you can handle. In the winter, you can spend one day hiking around the Dead Sea in shorts and a tank top, then drive on over to the Galilee for a sweater weather hike the next day.
Keep in mind that Israel is a tiny country. If you’re around Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, a dramatic change in temperature really can’t be more than a two hour drive away.
Don’t let the weather outside your window discourage you. I promise you that if you get up and go, you can escape that bad hiking weather. We do it all winter long.
Israel: Hiking through Paradise
Follow these 4 rules and you’re on your way to experiencing the very best of Israel hiking.
This country is more than big cities, history, and holy sites. Israel is a paradise for hiking and backpacking. It’s a land of lush green mountains and magical desert oases. Israel is the place where waterfalls, forests, and flower covered hills come together to create a world of incredible natural beauty.