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|Distance: .15km||Time: 1 hour||Difficulty: Easy|
|Ascent: 50m||Trail Map||Terrain View|
In the heat of the Israeli summer, there are few things more appealing than a cool water hike. Even better? If the hike includes time in an underground cave. In Gush Etzion, the Biyar Aqueduct (Amat HaBiyar) offers both of these things and a fascinating deep dive into the Second Temple period.
With the arrival of summer, we’ve been looking for fun and interesting ways to fill up our long afternoons with the kids. Recently, The Biyar Aqueduct underwent some improvements, one of them being that the site is open all summer long – no advance reservation required.
So, on one particularly hot afternoon, equipped with flashlights and water sandals, we headed out to the Biyar Aqueduct. In truth, this adventure wasn’t much of an investment for us. The Biyar Aqueduct is located just a few minutes from our home.
Even so, our whole family had an amazing time on our “hike” through the aqueduct. We were surprised and impressed with the improvements that had been made to the site, including an informative and funny multi-sensory film. The tunnels themselves were similar to those of the popular tourist attraction, City of David (although my husband thought the Biyar Aqueduct was way cooler).
Here’s how we took this afternoon adventure through Amat HaBiyar, the Biyar Aqueduct in Gush Etzion:
There are two options for parking to enter the Biyar Aqueduct. First, we pulled up at the main parking area, just off the highway past the turnoff to the Yishuv of Elazar. When we arrived at 4:00 PM, we were greeted by a locked gate and a number to call. So, we decided to save ourselves a hassle and drive to the other side of the gate, to the other entrance in Efrat.
Once we were there, we found the place deserted. Past a picnic area and vineyards, a little wooden kiosk held churning containers of icy drinks, bags of chips, and a freezer full of popsicles. Despite the silence, it seemed like the place was open for business.
After a minute or two, a man came to the rescue. He welcomed us to the Biyar Aqueduct, took our payment, and escorted us over to the start of the trail.
No Idea What to Expect
We followed him towards the entrance to the aqueduct. He opened the gate and led us down a set of steps into a beautiful cave, towards a large chamber carved out of stone.
In this magical setting, we would be watching a fifteen minute intro film about the aqueduct. We made ourselves comfortable on metal benches and took in our incredible surroundings.
And then the film began. As opposed to many of these types of films, this one was funny, informative, and kept the kids totally captivated. They especially liked the part where water started to pour out of ceiling, filling the room with a gentle mist.
What is the Biyar Aqueduct?
During the film, we learned all about the aqueduct, constructed during the time of the Second Temple to deal with the dwindling water supply in Jerusalem due to a massive influx of pilgrims. To alleviate this shortage, a huge construction project was set into motion.
Using the most innovative technology of the time, they constructed long tunnels along with dams and shafts. With the power of gravity, they channeled freshwater from three different springs along with rainwater towards the main collection area at Solomon’s Pools. This water was then channeled into the Old City of Jerusalem.
The manpower required to complete this incredible waterway was massive. And the system was so effective, that it was in use for thousands of years, until 1967.
After the film, we were ready to get our feet wet – literally! We climbed down a set of steps towards the first, shorter trail, where we would climb through knee deep water towards a spring.
The water was cold and delightful. We climbed along in the darkness through the tunnel, flashlights trained on our feet. Although the water itself was actually quite clean, the walls of the tunnel were covered in a layer of smooth, wet dirt. We weren’t going to be leaving this place clean.
As we proceeded along the tunnel, the ceiling got lower and lower. Soon, we were crawling through the water, holding our flashlights above the surface. Then, we were back out in the opening, following the wet trail all the way to the end of the line.
At the end, we saw water flowing down a smooth and shiny rock wall. It looked almost like the inside of a stalactite cave. We took some pictures and turned back the way we came.
Towards the Source
Our next journey underground would take us towards the nevia, or the source of the spring. We climbed into yet another tunnel.
This one was much taller, and better formed. We followed the chiseled pathway through calf deep water, splashing along through the squishy layer at our feet.
This place was so incredibly cool.
Nearing the End
Although this was the longer of the two water trails, it seemed to go much faster, perhaps because we knew that when we reached the end we wouldn’t have to turn back. We proceeded through the darkness, stopping for a break each time we entered a larger rock chamber, until eventually, we saw outside light flooding the tunnel.
We made it!
We climbed up a really, really tall ladder (maybe this is why this trail is only for kids age 5 and up?) towards the sunlight. Soon, we were back on solid ground and out in the heat. It was hard to believe the temperature difference above ground!
Wet, squishy, and covered with mud, we followed the path back through the vineyards towards the main entrance. Our trip to the Biyar Aqueduct had been so much cooler than we had expected.
This incredible ancient aqueduct trail in Gush Etzion is worth traveling for. We’re lucky that we can enjoy a cool water trek through ancient history so close to home.
Here’s what you need to know to hike this water trail at Amat HaBiyar, the Biyar Aqueduct:
- The Biyar Aqueduct is open on all holidays and throughout the summer. You do not need to make an appointment to come during this time. To visit during other times of year (groups of 10 or more only), please visit this page.
- Not suitable for dogs.
- Great for kids over age 3. The long tunnel is for kids ages 5 and up. 3-5 year olds can climb through the shorter tunnel.
- There is an entrance fee of 20 NIS per person to enter the Biyar Aqueduct.
- Come equipped with a flashlight, water shoes, and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty to hike this trail.
- There are bathrooms, a small store, and a pretty picnic area at the site.
- This hike is located in Judea and Samaria. Please take proper safety precautions when traveling in this area.
Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail!
Trail map from Amud Anan.
Questions? Have you hiked this trail at the Biyar Aqueduct? Let’s hear about it in the comments!