Tag Archives: Dead Sea

National Parks Tour in Northern Israel, 14 days

Tel Dan Nature Reserve
Tel Dan Nature Reserve

This is the tour about the National Parks, but this time we focus on North of Israel. What’s also different in this itinerary is, that I added the link to the Google Maps for each of the parks, because I know that many people simply go by themselves (and why not?).

What is the program for this tour? We will meet one of the first Homo Sapiens at Nahal Me’arot, we see the wild nature at Ein Afek, the ancient city Tel Megiddo, water, waterfalls, streams at Nahal Betzet and Nahal Kziv with castles, Crusaders, grottoes, mountains, forests, cave-fortresses, and much more.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve, Mt. Carmel – Haifa
Day 3 – Ein Afek Nature Reserve, Western Galilee – Haifa
Day 4 – Tel Megiddo National Park, Jezreel Valley – Haifa/Afula
Day 5 – Nahal Betzet, Upper Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 6 – Nahal Kziv, Upper Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 7 – Rosh HaNikra, Western Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 8 – Mount Meron, Upper Galilee – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 9 – Nahal Ayun, Upper Galilee – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 10 – Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, Upper Galilee – Tiberias
Day 11 – Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Upper Galilee – Tiberias
Day 12 – Mount Arbel, Lower Galilee – Tiberias
Day 13 – Mount Tabor, Lower Galilee – Tiberias
Day 14 – Departure

You stay at hotels at the following locations:
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Haifa
Day 3 – Haifa
Day 4 – Haifa/Afula
Day 5 – Nahariyya
Day 6 – Nahariyya
Day 7 – Nahariyya
Day 8 – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 9 – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 10 – Tiberias
Day 11 – Tiberias
Day 12 – Tiberias
Day 13 – Tiberias
Day 14 – Departure

What do you see?

  • Day 1Arrival
  • Day 2Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve – Prehistoric human beings
  • Day 3Ein Afek Nature Reserve – Swamps
  • Day 4Tel Megiddo National Park – Ancient city-state
  • Day 5Nahal Betzet – Stream in the Upper Galilee
  • Day 6Nahal Kziv – Stream and Crusader castle, Montfort
  • Day 7Rosh HaNikra – Spectacular grottoes
  • Day 8Mount Meron – Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel
  • Day 9Nahal Ayun – Streams, waterfalls
  • Day 10Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve – Mountain with beautiful high cliffs
  • Day 11Tel Dan Nature Reserve – Ancient northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel
  • Day 12Mount Arbel – Mountain with deep cliffs, trails, grottoes and cave-fortress
  • Day 13Mount Tabor – Hiking around the mounting
  • Day 14Departure

Day 1 – Arrival

  • For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel.
  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Haifa.

During the drive to your hotel, the bus will stop multiple times if the group requires so. One stop is for stretching your legs and to be fed real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.

Depending when you all arrive at your hotel, we will start this tour with a special dinner, and a special evening tour. This depends on when the group is complete on this day of arrival. But what’s for sure, you are going to meat the guides. If the group is small, you have two guides, otherwise you have four guides.

Active holidayOne word of warning. This is a tour, which focusing itself on visiting parks and reserves and that means hiking. Not extreme hiking, but you walk a lot!

Each day after the breakfast we leave (at about 9 AM) and we are back between late afternoon/ early evening (6-7 PM). Some days you might be earlier back to your hotel, in those cases special evening tours are organized for those who still have the energy.

Lunch is normally served in a restaurant. But many days this is impractical or even impossible. Instead at those days you will be offered a picnic or barbecue. Breakfast is served at the hotel and dinner is served at the hotel or restaurant.

icon day toursSnacks are available in the bus throughout the day (and one of the guides carries always something) (fruit, sweets, chocolates, etc.). Water is being delivered before and during the tour by us. We have many bottles of water for you to take. Hats we have too, because it’s likely that it’ll will be hot! And we have reserve shoes in case your will break during the tour.

Day 2 – Visit the first human a the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Outside the cave is a model of a skeleton illustrating the burial practices of members of Natufian culture, who lived some ten thousand years ago.

Members of five prehistoric cultures inhabited the caves at Nahal Me`arot: Acheulian culture (150-200 thousand years ago), Muarian culture (100-150 thousand years ago), Mousterian culture (40-100 thousand years ago), Uriniacian culture (12-40 thousand years ago), and Natufian culture (9-12 thousand years ago). Remnants from the Natufian period were found at the mouth of Stream Cave, where a small village served as a permanent settlement. During this period, people began to hunt and gather in an organized fashion, the precursor to planting crops and domesticating animals. Art objects, such as stone carvings and strings of shells, were produced during this time.

In the spring, the reserve is awash with flowers. Signposted trails from the parking lot lead to a number of exquisite spots on the Carmel Mountain Range. At the reserve`s guidance center, visitors can purchase guidebooks and maps and perhaps ask the wardens about the hikes they would most highly recommend.

We return to our hotel in Haifa.

Day 3 – Look at the amazing and fast disappearing swamps and it’s beautiful nature at the Ein Afek Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)
Crusaders, Water

When the water level rises in the winter, birds flock to the reserve: pelicans, cranes, pygmy cormorants, gray herons, moorhens, European coots, and black-winged stilts, to name just a few. In the winter and spring, the reserve is carpeted with flowers. A fine spot for admiring the blossoms is Tel Afek, situated on a low sandstone hill on the edge of the reserve. On the northern slope of Tel Afek is a two-story fortified building from the Crusader period, where a film about the flora and fauna in the reserve is now screened. A flour mill once operated on the lower floor of the building. The roof affords a magnificent view of the surrounding area.

In April 1991, seven buffalo were brought to the reserve from the Hula Nature Reserve and placed in a pen with electric sensors, to prevent them from wandering into the swamp. From time to time they can be seen grazing or stretching out in the specially dug pond.

The guidance center at the reserve provides information in Hebrew and Arabic to members of the general public, students, and educational institutions about the Land of Israel, ecology, wetlands, and biotopes.

We return to our hotel in Haifa.

Day 4 – Ancient city with thousands of years of history at Tel Megiddo National Park

(Click here for the Google Map)

The site is now protected as Megiddo National Park and is a World Heritage Site.


Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass and trade route connecting Egypt and Assyria. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several historical battles. The site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BCE (the same time as the destruction of the First Israelite Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and subsequent fall of Israelite rule and exile), though the first significant remains date to the Chalcolithic period (4500-3500 BCE). Megiddo’s Early Bronze Age I (3500-3100 BCE) temple has been described by its excavators as “the most monumental single edifice so far uncovered in the EB I Levant and ranks among the largest structures of its time in the Near East.” The first wall was constructed in the Early Bronze Age II or III period. However, the town experienced a decline in the Early Bronze-Age IV period (2300-2000 BCE), but the city was somewhat revived around 2000 BCE. Following massive construction, the town reached its largest size in the Middle Bronze-Age, at 10-12 hectares. Though the city was subjugated by Thutmose III, it still prospered, and a massive and incredibly elaborate palace was constructed in the Late Bronze Age. The city was destroyed around 1150 BCE, and the area was resettled by what some scholars have identified as early Israelites, before being replaced with an unwalled Philistine town. When the Israelites captured it, though, it became an important city, before being destroyed, possibly by Aramaean raiders, and rebuilt, this time as an administrative center for Tiglath-Pileser III’s occupation of Samaria. However, its importance soon dwindled, and it was finally abandoned around 586 BCE. Since that time it has remained uninhabited, preserving ruins pre-dating 586 BCE without settlements ever disturbing them. Instead, the town of Lajjun (not to be confused with the el-Lajjun archaeological site in Jordan) was built up near to the site, but without inhabiting or disturbing its remains.
Megiddo is mentioned in Ancient Egyptian writings because one of Egypt’s mighty kings, Thutmose III, waged war upon the city in 1478 BCE. The battle is described in detail in the hieroglyphics found on the walls of his temple in Upper Egypt.
Mentioned in the Bible as “Derekh HaYam” or “Way of the Sea,” it became an important military artery of the Roman Empire and was known as the Via Maris.

Famous battles include:

  1. Battle of Megiddo (15th century BCE): fought between the armies of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite coalition led by the rulers of Megiddo and Kadesh.
  2. Battle of Megiddo (609 BCE): fought between Egyptian pharaoh Necho II and the Kingdom of Judah, in which King Josiah fell.
  3. Battle of Megiddo (1918): fought during World War I between Allied troops, led by General
  4. Edmund Allenby, and the defending Ottoman army.

Kibbutz Megiddo is nearby, less than 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) to the south. Today, Megiddo Junction is on the main road connecting the center of Israel with lower Galilee and the north. It lies at the northern entrance to Wadi Ara, an important mountain pass connecting the Jezreel Valley with Israel’s coastal plain.
In 1964, during Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land, Megiddo was the site where he met with Israeli dignitaries, including Israeli President Zalman Shazar and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

We return to our hotel in Haifa or Afula.

Day 5 – Beautiful nature and loads of water to hike through at Nahal Betzet

(Click here for the Google Map)
Caves, nature

The Betzet Stream runs through limestone, and is fed by the Karkara springs. The national water company pumps the water from the stream, and in 1999 the stream dried up. Water is being pumped back into the stream, but the ecosystem is being damaged by the poor quality water.
Many caves were formed in the limestone by the stream. These include the Keshet Cave and the Namir stalactite cave, both within the Betzet nature reserve. A few ancient sites can also be found within the nature reserve.
There are a number of hiking trails which run through the reserve. This trail takes you from Granot HaGalil to Moshav Ya’ara, and will take about half a day. The trail is of medium difficulty. The trail is the blue trail, marked 2206 on the trail maps.

The hike begins at the Sarakh stream, which is the main tributary to the Betzet Stream. The Sarach Stream, is named for the Sarach or ferns which adorn the creek walls. The trail passes the De’ne’ilah ruins.  The De’Ne’ilah ruins are the remains of a farm from the Roman and Byzantine periods, from the 1st-7th centuries CE.  A number of oil presses were excavated at the site.

The hike then passes the Sarakh stalactite cave; the cave is closed during the bat hibernation season in the  winter, but is otherwise open to tourists. The Sarach cave is a large karstic cave; the first 10 meters are relatively easy and a stalagmite stands in front of a wall.  If you wish to continue further into the cave, climb the carved stairs in the wall, using the handholds as you climb. At the top of the climb, the left side is closed and reserved for the bats. On the right side is a narrow and steep passage; handholds can be found on the left. This leads to a narrow tunnel where you will need to crawl. This leads to an exit at the top of the cave; head back down to the stream with care.

After the cave, the Sarakh stream leads into the Betzet Stream. A pool of water amongst oleanders signals the Karkara springs. The pumped-in water runs from here until a large pool, which used to overflow with water.
Continue on the trail, past the turn to the Keshet Cave and the turn to Kibbutz Eilon and the Mekorot water pumping station.
The trail leads past the Karkara ruins, a Byzantine period settlement with a restored oil press, and continues on leading to Moshav Ya’ara.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.

Day 6 – Between the amazing nature and water and forests you see the ruins and castle of the old Crusaders at Nahal Kziv

(Click here for the Google Map)

640px-Nahal_KzivMost of the stream is part of a nature reserve that bears its name, and includes the Montfort Castle and other Crusader-period ruins. A stone carving of a man, 1.78 m high can be found near where the Abirim stream empties into Nahal Kziv. The carving is thought to date from the Hellenistic period.
Flora in the area includes Lilium candidum, Rubus sanguineus, Nerium oleander, Platanus orientalis, Artemisia arborescens, and Ferns. Persian fallow deer were brought to the area in 1996, as part of an effort to prevent extinction of the species. Other wildlife belonging to the nature reserve include golden jackals, wolves, wild boar, and the rare striped hyena.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.

Day 7 – Unbelievable beautiful grottoes hidden between breathtaking nature at Rosh HaNikra

(Click here for the Google Map)

The Rosh HaNikra grottos are cavernous tunnels formed by sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 metres. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments. In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. Today a cable car takes visitors down to see the grottos. A kibbutz, also named Rosh HaNikra, is located nearby. The Israeli city Nahariya is located about 10 km (6 miles) south of Rosh HaNikra.

The former British Cairo-Istanbul railway tunnel photographed in 1964.
The Book of Joshua mentions “Misraphot Mayim” as a place south of Rosh HaNikra that was the border of the Israelite tribes of the time (13:6). Jewish sages referred to the cliff as “The Ladder of Tyre” (Hebrew: sullam Tzor?). The site was later renamed A-Nawakir (“the grottos”) after an Arab conquest. The present name, Rosh HaNikra, is Hebrew for the later Arabic name “Ras-an-Nakura”.
Throughout human history, Rosh HaNikra served as a passage point for trade caravans and armies between Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Africa. During World War II, British Commonwealth forces blasted railway tunnels through the nearby rocks for trains running along the Cairo-Istanbul line. A railway bridge was destroyed by Jewish underground fighters prior to 1948 during the Night of the bridges operation. The tunnel portal leading to Lebanon has since been sealed. Nowadays all the railways on the Lebanese side of the border have been dismantled while the Coastal Railway in Israel currently ends near Nahariya, several kilometers to the south.
Rosh Hanikra was the location where Israeli and Lebanese officials negotiated and concluded an armistice agreement in 1949 which ended the Lebanese-Israeli component of the 1948 War of Israeli Independence. A border passage across the Blue Line into Lebanon at the site is sometimes used by UNIFIL personnel.

Nature reserves and national park

The area around Rosh HaNikra includes a number of nature reserves:

  • The Rosh HaNikra islands – 311 dunams declared in 1965
    The Rosh HaNikra reserve – 500 dunams declared in 1969, and an additional 765 dunams in 1996.
    Rosh HaNikra beach – 230 dunams, declared in 2003
  • The Rosh HaNikra national park also has jurisdiction of 220 dunams in the area.

Cable car
The Rosh HaNikra cable car is a cable car serving tourists wishing to visit the grottoes The Cable car is situated very close to the Lebanese border. The site is popular with tourists, and is one of the facilities available for tourists in Kibbutz Rosh HaNikra. The cable car was manufactured by Austrian manufacturer Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, and claims to be the steepest cable car in the world, ascending at a gradient of 60 degrees. Due to its lower base station being located on the sea, the cable car is occasionally affected by stormy weather.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.

Day 8 – The highest peak in Israel at Mount Meron

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount Meron is a mountain in Israel. It has special significance in Jewish religious tradition and parts of it have been declared a nature reserve.
At 1,208 metres (3,963 ft) above sea level, Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel, though many peaks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are higher.
In 1965, an 84000-dunam nature reserve was declared. An additional 1199 dunams were declared part of the reserve in 2005. It is the highest reserve in Israel, at an altitude of 1208 meters above sea level, and the largest reserve in the north of the country.

Religious significance
The village of Meron and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai are on Mount Meron. Leading up to the anniversary of his death on Lag B’Omer, thousands of people camp out along the slopes near the tomb, and on Lag B’Omer itself, hundreds of thousands make pilgrimages to celebrate the occasion.

Hiking paths
The mountain has a strong undergrowth and it cannot be walked up from every direction. The main path starts at the north west side of the Meron village. There is a gate next to the road, with a color-marked path of about 10 km. There is also a path on the west side of the mountain.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias or Nahariyya.

Day 9 – Waterfalls, streams and all of that between the forests, mountains at Nahal Ayun

(Click here for the Google Map)

Nature Reserve Eshed Fall

Differences in elevation form waterfalls in the streams course. During the rainy winter months, the water-flow is strongest. During the summer months, water is diverted, closer to the stream’s sources, for crop irrigation. These falls were declared a nature reserve, and include:

  1. Ayun waterfall, 9.2 m
  2. Tahana waterfall (=flourmill), 21 m
  3. Eshed waterfall, with two steps, 5 m and 9 m
  4. Tanur waterfall, 30 m

We return to our hotel in Tiberias or Nahariyya.

Day 10 – The most amazing cliffs to watch the whole northern Israel at the Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount-ArbelThere are four villages on the mountain: Kfar Zeitim, Arbel, Kfar Hittim, and Mitzpa. The peak, at 181 metres above sea level (380 metres above the surrounding area), dominates the surroundings (much of the area is below sea level) and from the lookout atop the mountain, almost all of the Galilee into the Golan Heights including Safed, Tiberias and most of the Sea of Galilee, is visible.

Nature reserve and national park
The area was declared a nature reserve in 1967, covering 1400 dunams. The national park (8509 dunams) includes most of Nahal Arbel, that begins near Eilabun and empties into the Sea of Galilee near Migdal. The reserve covers the immediate area around the cliff.
Mount Arbel from Nof Ginnosar.jpg
On the south side of the cliff, there is a gradual prolonged climb through agricultural and pasture land and from the peak there is a steep 400 meters drop. From here there are metal handholds driven into the rock to aid those who want to make the climb down to the valley below. Below that are a series of switchbacks that eventually lead to the Bedouin village of Hamaam.
Mt. Arbel, with its 110 metre vertical drop, is the only known mountain in Israel to serve as a base jumping site. A hike to the top of Mount Arbel from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, and an approach from the west is part of the Jesus Trail; the trails converge temporarily at the peak.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.

Day 11 – Ancient city in the old Kingdom of Israel at Tel Dan Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Tel Dan Nature ReserveHistory and archaeology
According to the archaeological excavations at the site, the town was originally occupied in the late Neolithic era (c 4500 BCE), although at some time in the fourth millennium BC it was abandoned, for almost 1,000 years.

Tel Dan nature reserve
Tel Dan Nature Reserve3The Tel Dan reserve was first declared on 391 dunams surrounding the tel in 1974. 90 dunams were added to the reserve in 1989. The Dan River is one of the three water sources of the Jordan River that meet in the northern part of the Hula Valley.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.

Day 12 – Find the mountain with deep cliffs, trails, grottoes and cave-fortress at Mount Arbel

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount Arbel2There are four villages on the mountain: Kfar Zeitim, Arbel, Kfar Hittim, and Mitzpa. The peak, at 181 metres above sea level (380 metres above the surrounding area), dominates the surroundings (much of the area is below sea level) and from the lookout atop the mountain, almost all of the Galilee into the Golan Heights including Safed, Tiberias and most of the Sea of Galilee, is visible.

The area was declared a nature reserve in 1967, covering 1400 dunams. The national park (8509 dunams) includes most of Nahal Arbel, that begins near Eilabun and empties into the Sea of Galilee near Migdal. The reserve covers the immediate area around the cliff.
On the south side of the cliff, there is a gradual prolonged climb through agricultural and pasture land and from the peak there is a steep 400 meters drop. From here there are metal handholds driven into the rock to aid those who want to make the climb down to the valley below. Below that are a series of switchbacks that eventually lead to the Bedouin village of Hamaam.
Mt. Arbel, with its 110 metre vertical drop, is the only known mountain in Israel to serve as a base jumping site.  A hike to the top of Mount Arbel from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, and an approach from the west is part of the Jesus Trail; the trails converge temporarily at the peak.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.

Day 13 – This is hiking around this mountain at Mount Tabor

(Click here for the Google Map)

There are two paths: the long track, which starts from the Bedouin village Shibli, which length is about five kilometers long and a short nature track of about 2.5 kilometers at the summit.
Mount TaborThe track which surrounds the mountain passes in well-developed Mediterranean woodlands. the color marking alternates to green at the eastern part of the track. Behind the monastery its possible to see remnants from the First Jewish-Roman War. In the path there is a view of the Jezreel Valley, Mount Gilboa, Samaria mountains, Mount Carmel, the Golan Heights, Gilead, the Lower Galilee and the Upper Galilee. On days with good visibility one could also see the Mount Hermon.
Israel National Trail goes up the mountain from mount Tabor the Gazit junction and the Shibli village, surrounding the summit and descends across the Arab village of Daburiyya towards the Nazareth mountains.

Activities on Mount Tabor
In April each year, the regional council of Lower Galilee holds a 12 kilometer race around Mount Tabor in memory of Yitzhak Sadeh, the first commander of the Palmach and one of the founders of the Israel Defense Forces at the time of the State of Israel’s independence.
By obtaining a game permit issued by the Ministry of the Interior, hunting of small animals is allowed in certain designated seasons.
The churches located on the mountain allow visits at specific hours. (Modest attire required).
Approximately three quarters of the way up the mountain, a path circles it entirely and is accessible for private vehicles as well (four-wheel drive advised).
The mountain serves as one of Israel’s preferred locales for hang gliding.

Church of the Transfiguration
Between 1919 until 1924 an impressive Roman Catholic church of the Franciscan order named “Church of the Transfiguration” was built on the peak of Mount Tabor. The architect who designed the church, as well as other churches in Israel, was Antonio Barluzzi. The church was built upon the ruins of a Byzantine church from the fifth or sixth century and a Crusader church from the 12th century, which was built in honor of Tancred, Prince of Galilee. The friars of the church live next to the church in a monastery established in 1873.

The Eastern Orthodox sanctuary
Bell tower of the Eastern Orthodox monastery.
On the northeast side of the Church of the Transfiguration there is the more modest Orthodox Church which was built in 1862 with funds from Romania. The church was dedicated to Elijah the prophet and was the first religious structure built by Romanian Christians in the Holy Land.
On the northwest side of the church there is a cave named after Melchizedek the King of Salem. According to the Christian tradition, this cave was the place where Abraham met the king of Salem. The cave was known to pilgrims and Christians during the Middle Ages. With an increase in pilgrimages, the church is now open to the public (though it closes for a few hours at noon).
An All-Night Vigil is held at the Eastern Orthodox church every year on the Orthodox Feast of the Transfiguration (August 19, which is August 6 according to the Julian Calendar).

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.

Day 14 – Departure



Before you leave, some breakfast first. And this is honestly not some breakfast, it’s a breakfast feast!

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.

Mineral Beach at the Dead Sea

Run by Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, this is one of the nicest of the Dead Sea beaches (02-994 4888; http://www.dead-sea.co.il; adult/child 50/30NIS, on Sat 60/35NIS; h9am-5pm or 6pm Sun-Fri, opens 8am Sat).

Mineral Beach
Mineral Beach

After having a float and glopping black mud onto your skin, you can soak in naturally sulphurous spring water (39°C) or indulge in a Tibetan or Swedish massage. Lockers and towels each cost 10NIS (plus a 10NIS deposit). Has a cafeteria and transport down to the receding water line. Wheelchair accessible. Camping is not permitted. Had you dropped by here on 18 September 2011, you would have seen more than a thousand completely nude Israelis being photographed by the artist Spencer Tunick.

Ein Bokek Day Tour

Ein Bokek
Ein Bokek

Sandwiched between the turquoise waters of the southern Dead Sea and a dramatic tan bluff, Ein Bokek’s strip of luxury hotels is the region’s main tourist zone. Ein Bokek has the area’s nicest free beaches, and is the Dead Sea’s main center for treating ailments such as psoriasis, arthritis and respiratory conditions with naturally occurring minerals and compounds.

Map of the Dead Sea and Ein Bokek
Map of the Dead Sea and Ein Bokek

The three most commonly heard languages here are Hebrew, Arabic and Russian – the area is hugely popular both with Israelis (Jews and Arabs) and Russians (immigrants and tourists).
Unlike beaches further north, Ein Bokek fronts evaporation pools (kept full by Dead Sea Works pumps) rather than the open sea, which is why its lake shore is not receding. There are no left-luggage facilities at Ein Bokek.

A 3km-long pedestrian promenade and occasional buses (5.80NIS) link Ein Bokek’s two hotel zones, Ein Bokek (the main, northern one) and Neve Hamei Zohar.

Ein Bokek Beach

Ein Bokek
Ein Bokek

This broad, clean beach, in the middle of Ein Bokek’s main (northern) hotel zone, is gloriously sandy. It has lifeguards, shade shelters, beach showers, changing rooms and bathrooms (closed at night).
Camping is permitted – this is a much more comfortable option than Ein Gedi Beach. Wheelchair accessible.
As of 2014, the entirety of the Ein Bokek beachfront, including areas that once belonged to specific hotels, is open to the public, with access along a lovely, shaded promenade. Facilities such as beach chairs are still reserved for paying guests.

Wadi Bokek

This is one of just three wadis on the Dead Sea’s western shore that are fed year-round by spring water (the other two are at Ein Gedi). The narrow gorges, lush vegetation and waterholes make for an easy and refreshing hour-long hike. Access is through a tunnel under Rte 90, between the David and Leonardo Inn Hotels – or you can park at the trail head.

Day Spas

Ein Bokek Spa
Ein Bokek Spa

Almost every Ein Bokek hotel boasts a spa with swimming pools, saunas, spa baths, a long menu of treatments and an army of predominantly Russian therapists. Most places charge non-guests 100NIS to 260NIS to use their facilities for the day, including beach chairs but not including special treatments. Some deals include lunch.

Warning swimming in the Dead Sea

Ein Bokek
Ein Bokek

Staying safe while bobbing and paddling requires a bit more caution than at the sea shore.

  • Do not under any circumstances dunk your head! If water gets in your eyes, it will sting horribly and temporarily blind you. Do not thrash around – calmly get out of the water and ask someone to help you rinse your eyes under a tap or shower.
  • A Swallowing just a few gulps of sea water – or inhaling it – is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention (from lifeguards) if this happens.
  • Drink lots of potable water – not only will the heat dry you out, but the water of the Dead Sea is so saturated with minerals that it will suck out your body’s fluids like a thousand leeches. Remember what happened in high school physics class when you learned about osmosis by putting a slice of potato in saltwater?
  • The Dead Sea can be so relaxing that some people don’t notice when westerly winds gently blow them out towards the middle of the lake (towards Jordan). Broadsheet readers are in special danger – a newspaper makes an excellent sail!
  • The waters of the Dead Sea contain 20 times as much bromine, 15 times more magnesium and 10 times as much iodine as the ocean. Bromine, a component of many sedatives, relaxes the nerves; magnesium counteracts skin allergies and clears the bronchial passages; and iodine has a beneficial effect on certain
    glandular functions – or so it’s claimed.
  • If this were not enough, the Dead Sea’s extremely dense air – the area has the world’s highest barometric pressure – has 10% more oxygen than sea-level air. Other healthful properties, especially for people with breathing problems, include high temperatures, low rainfall, low humidity and pollen-free air.
  • The Dead Sea Medical Research Centre (www.deadsea-health.org), affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, conducts scientific analyses of the sea’s health benefits.


This is a day tour, but I visited Ein Bokek with my wife and I was forced to stay there 3 days. So, here are your options:

Unless you camp on the beach (free), there’s no budget or even mid-range accommodation in Ein Bokek’s two hotel zones. But if you’re up for a splurge there are loads of options – the area’s dozen hotels offer crisply air-conditioned facilities (a life-saver during the summer), gorgeous swimming pools, state-of-the-art spas and buffet bonanzas. Some offer direct beach access. All the hotels, except two of the four places branded as Leonardo (www.fattal.co.il) and Herod’s, are in Ein
Bokek’s lively northern zone.

Ein Bokek
Ein Bokek

Many hotels charge high-season prices from April to mid-June and from September to mid-November. Significant discounts are often available on the web, especially in the off-season.
About 1.5m south of Ein Bokek’s southern hotel zone, the charmless row houses of beachless Neve Zohar (Newe Zohar) shelter some of the Dead Sea’s cheapest B&Bs – we’re talking 350NIS to 500NIS per room. For phone numbers, see www.deadsea.co.il (click ‘Zimmers’ under ‘Accommodation’).

Tsell Harim

Tsell Harim
Tsell Harim

(972-08-668 8124; www.holitel.co.il; with half-pension from 690NIS)
One of Ein Bokek’s least expensive options, this modest, low-rise complex, built in 1979, was renovated in 2014. Has 160 rooms, direct beach access, a freshwater pool, a pool with Dead Sea water and a sauna.

Hod HaMidbar

Hod HaMidbar
Hod HaMidbar

(972-8-668-8222; www.hodhotel.co.il; incl half-pension US$280-340)
Right on the waterfront, this 213-room hotel is known for its high-quality service. The swimming pool overlooks the sea, while downstairs the glass-enclosed spa offers sulphur pools and saunas. Offers free use of bicycles and free international phone calls.

Crowne Plaza

Crowne Plaza
Crowne Plaza

(972-8-659-1919; www.h-i.co.il; US$250-$450)
Highlights include a doughnut-shaped freshwater swimming pool, a kiddie pool, a pool with Dead Sea water, a luxurious spa and lots of activities for adults and kids. Some of the 304 spacious rooms can sleep two adults and two children. Has two floors just for couples.

Eating and Drinking

Most of Ein Bokek’s restaurants are inside hotels and cannot be described as inexpensive. Budget options in the northern zone include cafes that serve sandwiches and, in the Petra Shopping Centre, a McDonald’s (open daily from 11am to 9pm or 10pm). Both Sky Blue Mall and Petra Shopping Center have mini-markets with a small selection of proper food. Ein Bokek doesn’t have much nightlife.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

(972-57-650-6502; mains 35-119NIS; noon-midnight daily)
Completely unconnected with anything Indian, this non-aircon restaurant – in a Bedouin tent outfitted with rugs, pillows and low couches – serves Middle Eastern grilled meats, nargilehs (water pipes; 35NIS) and East Jerusalem baklava (25NIS).

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

A belly dancer gyrates on Friday from 10pm. Situated on the grounds of the Leonardo Inn Hotel, at the end facing Isrotel Ganim.


Sky Blue Mall
Sky Blue Mall

The Sky Blue Mall (Kanyonit Ein HaT’chelet) in the northern zone is the best place in Israel to buy Dead Sea beauty products. Shops also sell beach supplies, including flip-flops.

Dead Sea

Known in the Bible as the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Arabah,” this inland body of water is appropriately named because its high mineral content allows nothing to live in its waters. Map.

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

Other post-biblical names for the Dead Sea include the “Sea of Sodom,” the “Sea of Lot,” the “Sea of Asphalt” and the “Stinking Sea.” In the Crusader period, it was sometimes called the “Devil’s Sea.”

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

All of these names reflect something of the nature of this lake. The Dead Sea is located in the Syro-African Rift, a 4000-mile fault line in the earth’s crust. The lowest point of dry land on earth is the shoreline of the Dead Sea at 1300 feet below sea level. That the lake is at the lowest point means that water does not drain from this lake.

Daily 7 million tons of water evaporate but the minerals remain, causing the salt content to increase. Figures for the Dead Sea’s salinity today range from 26-35%. Nearly ten times as salty as the world’s oceans and twice as saline as the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the Dead Sea is rich with minerals.

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

The Dead Sea Works company on the southwest side of the lake employs 1600 people around the clock to harvest the valuable minerals from the water. Potash is the most valuable of those extracted today and is used in the manufacture of fertilizer. The best article on the minerals in the Dead Sea is in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

The unique concentration of the Dead Sea waters has long been known to have medicinal value. Aristotle, Queen of Sheba, King Solomon and Cleopatra were all familiar with this and modern doctors as well often prescribe patients with skin ailments to soak in the waters of the Dead Sea. Because of the dropping level of the Dead Sea, the southern end is no longer under water, except for that which is channeled by aqueducts for the purpose of extracting minerals.

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