Tag Archives: Hiking

The best 10 hiking trails in Israel

 

Israel is a hiker’s paradise. The country is crisscrossed with trails, including the 580-mile long Israel Trail, which starts in the northern Galilee and winds its way south until it reaches the tip of Eilat. All of Israel’s trails are clearly marked by colors painted on rocks, and you can buy a set of 20 glossy maps (about $25 each) to keep you moving in the right direction.


Jerusalem area

Nahal Katlav (4 hours)Nahal Katlav Nahal Katlav

This lovely four-hour hike starts at the Bar Behar restaurant and ice cream stand, a short drive west from Jerusalem in the Bar Giora area (the restaurant is on the road to Nes Harim). The path descends, winding past a spring until you reach the nahal – Hebrew for a dry riverbed; in Arabic it’s wadi. The walk along the nahal takes less than an hour. While there’s no water anymore, it’s still very shady, a place of beauty and solitude close to the big city.

Eventually, the trail reaches the abandoned Bar Giora train station, a good place to stop and eat lunch as Jerusalem-Tel Aviv trains pass nearby. After the station, the trail climbs steeply, passing an abandoned Arab village, before looping back to the starting point. Nahal Katlav is popular in part because you can look forward to a frozen treat at the end, especially welcome in the hotter months.

The Burma Road (3.5 hours)

Burma Road

The Burma Road is steeped with history. During the War of Independence, the Jordanians blocked the main route into Jerusalem, attempting to starve the city into surrender. Under the cover of night, soldiers from the nascent State of Israel clandestinely built a bypass road, which succeeded in breaking the boycott. You can now hike this road in two parts. For both, you park your car just before the Paz gas station on Highway 38, coming from Route 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. Both segments follow the Israel Trail for some of the way.

Burma Road

The western part of the trail goes along the Burma Road in the direction of Latrun, but you’ll be turning north before then to make a loop back to your starting point. This takes you through a pine forest known as Park Rabin. There is also a bike rental shop as the trail is popular with cyclists.

The eastern flank of the trail across the road kicks off with a very steep ascent until reaching the village of Beit Meir. Along the way are some great views of the highway far below. From the top, you can continue on the Burma Road toward Jerusalem, or descend through the Martyr’s Forest, established by B’nai B’rith to commemorate those lost in the Holocaust. There are various memorials, plaques and even a cave. The trail ends up on Highway 38, where you can catch a shared taxi and take it three stops back to your car.


Dead Sea area

Nahal David
Nahal David

Upper Nahal David (1 hour or 5 hours)

You might find that parts of the hike are challenging but this is a hike that is doable by parents and kids.

Nahal David
Nahal David

Nahal David is the most touristy part of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. You pay an entrance fee of about $5 (discounts for children and soldiers), then make the short 30-minute hike to David’s waterfall for pictures and snacks. More intrepid hikers can extend the hike to nearly five hours by starting at the nearby Ein Gedi Field School.

Nahal David
Nahal David

The first half hour of the hike heads up a tough mountain (including one short segment where you’re climbing straight up without any footholds). The trail then winds around until it reaches a narrow canyon that can only be traversed by hanging on rungs dug into the mountain face (think of it as hiking on monkey bars) and jumping over — or wading into — pools of water of varying depths, depending on the time of year.

Nahal David
Nahal David

The payoff at the end of the canyon (which can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to traverse, depending on how nimble you are) is an opening toward the Dead Sea called the halon (“window”). There’s room here for a medium-sized group to eat lunch and admire the stunning view. You then go back out the way you came, and climb again, before descending to the lovely Ein Gedi spring and a Chalcolithic-era temple. You’ll eventually meet up with the aforementioned short hike through Nahal David. No one’s checking at the entrance, but be nice and pay the entrance fee.

Nahal David
Nahal David

Nahal Dragot

Nahal Dragot

If adventure is your game, the lower part of Nahal Dragot (more popularly known by its Arabic name, Darga) will keep your heart beating. Indeed, the hike is considered somewhat of a rite of passage for Israelis.

Nahal Dragot

Drive along the Dead Sea road and head up to Metzukei Dragot. The Darga is incredibly challenging, with 50-meter-high walls, dry waterfalls and pools of natural water in craters that you have to swim across. Although there are metal stakes hammered into the rocks in some places, you really can’t do this hike without a rope. Or, in some places, skip the rope and jump into the water below. Warning: Don’t do this hike alone!

Nahal Dragot

If ropes aren’t your thing, there are also several tamer routes within the nahal that stick to the upper plains. The views are spectacular and you can tell your friends that you “did” the Darga.

Judean Desert

Wadi Kelt

Wadi Kelt (5-6 hours)

Wadi Kelt is the Arabic name for this area and the one used most often, though it also goes by Ein Prat and Nahal Kelt. It is one of the most popular hiking spots in Israel, with the parks authorities reporting some 60,000 visitors a year. The parking lot is too small for all the cars, so expect to leave your vehicle on the narrow road that winds down to the north from the Jerusalem-Dead Sea Highway (there are clearly marked signs).

Wadi Kelt

From the parking lot, you can hike west through a series of refreshing pools and picnic spots before ascending in the direction of Pisgat Ze’ev – or head east in the direction of Jericho.

Wadi Kelt

The eastern side of the tiyul is the more spectacular, cutting through a deep desert gorge with plenty of water in which to swim. Even in the heat of the summer, the high canyon walls and the water make this a pleasant refuge. Wadi Kelt has gotten a bad rap over the years – four trekkers were murdered in 1995 and 1997 – but there have been no incidents in 14 years. Nevertheless, you might consider hiking on a Friday or during a Jewish holiday when there are more people on the trail.

Wadi Kelt

At the end of the hike is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George; the monastic community here dates back to 420 CE. If you were to continue on, you’d reach Jericho – but you can’t, as Jericho is part of the Palestinian Authority and closed to Israelis. You can double back through the nahal or take a quicker (but less scenic) road that runs along the top of the canyon.

Wadi Kelt

Nahal Og (3 hours)

Nahal Og

Nahal Og is a beautiful walk that winds through a number of white chalk canyons. It’s mostly flat and pleasant except for one part, where it descends through several near-vertical cliffs. To scale these cliffs, you must hold onto rungs drilled into the side of the mountain. Unlike the rungs in the halon section of the Upper Nahal David hike, however, which go along the cliff wall horizontally, these rungs are truly terrifying, as you can’t see where you’re ending up. So for those with less “spatial intelligence,” you might need a guide to tell you where to place your feet.

Nahal Og

This is a one-way tiyul; park one car near the Nebi Musa antiquities spot (there’s a sign as you descend the highway from Jerusalem toward the Dead Sea) and another near the entrance to Kibbutz Almog. As an alternative, you can start at the foot of Nahal Og and climb up – more strenuous but less scary when you get to the rungs. There are no real views, but the canyon more than makes up for it.

Nahal Og

Nahal Og actually extends farther toward the settlement of Kfar Adumim, and you can hike the entire route in about six to seven hours. As with any hike in a nahal (particularly in the Dead Sea and Judean Desert areas), if there is a chance of rain, don’t hike! There can be a flash flood at any time.

Shmuel Browns 052-311-1265

Eilat mountains

Amram’s Pillars/The Black Canyon (4+ hours)

Amram’s Pillars

The start of the hike is off Highway 90; there is a clearly marked turn about 15 minutes north of Eilat. You then drive on a bumpy dirt road for another 15 minutes before parking your car (it’s not a loop, so you have to use two cars and shuttle between; the whole back-and-forth process can take up to an hour, so build that into your total hiking time).

Amram’s Pillars

The hike itself is worth it, though. First, stop at Amram’s Pillars, two natural rock formations at the end of a short canyon. The hike then proceeds up Mount Amir to its peak, where you’ll be treated to some great views. As you descend, you’ll have two options: a mostly flat route that goes along the Israel Trail, and another, more interesting walk through a canyon filled with ancient copper mines and digging shafts.

Amram’s Pillars

At the end of either of the two routes, you will be close to the Black Canyon – if you’re not short on time, don’t miss it. The canyon is filled with gray and sometimes black granite rock formations, white limestone chalk, plus some narrow passageways, which are fun to climb and slide through.

Amram’s Pillars

Mount Zefachot

Mount Zefachot

This Eilat-area tiyul is easy to find – follow the road that leads to the Egyptian border at Taba, park slightly east of the Eilat Field School and start climbing. Mount Zefachot is not an easy ascent, nor is it a particularly beautiful climb. There are some tricky ups and a few cliffs to keep it interesting. But this hike is all about the payoff, and it’s spectacular.

Mount Zefachot

From the top of the mountain, you get a panoramic view of the entire Red Sea area. You can see four countries from this vantage point: Israel, of course, but also Jordan, Egypt, and the tip of Saudi Arabia. The sea remains a shimmering blue year round, and Eilat’s mild winters make this a perfect hike to break the cold of Israel’s more northern locales.

Mount Zefachot

Once you’ve drunk in the view, there are several options for the descent depending on how much you want to walk. If you take the longest option (about four hours), you’ll end up near Taba; you can then take a public Egged bus or taxi back to your car.

Mount Zefachot

Galilee

Nahal Amud

Nahal Amud (2-5 hours)

Nahal Amud (“pillar canyon”) is the preeminent Galilee hike. It runs from Mount Meron in the west toward the Sea of Galilee in the east. You can walk it in either direction; starting at Meron means more downhill and is generally preferred. The nahal, which parallels the Israel Trail, is gorgeous and shaded, but the highlight is the water – this nahal is not a dry creek. In the summer, the pools are crowded with campers from various youth movements. If you can make it past them, you’ll be treated to a more relaxing walk. There are a number of ancient flour mills along the path.

Nahal Amud

The best place to start is at the parking lot off Highway 89, which connects the mystical town of Safed with Acre on the coast. This is a national park, so you’ll have to pay an entry fee. You start by winding down a steep path before arriving in the nahal. After the pools, you can continue west, or bail early near Safed. There’s a trail that climbs out of the nahal toward the cemetery in Safed. Keep heading up the hill, grab a falafel on the main street to recharge your batteries, then catch a taxi back to your starting point.

Nahal Amud

The other, much shorter alternative is to double back to the parking lot. There’s an upper trail in the nahal that avoids the pools and crowds.

Nahal Amud

Golan Heights

Nahal Yehudiah

Nahal Yehudiah (4-5 hours)

There’s probably no better hike in the heat of summer than Nahal Yehudiah, where the water is so deep, you have no choice but to swim to get to the other side. There are actually some 12 trails in this canyon off Highway 87, just northeast of the Sea of Galilee. But the one that ranks on our top 10 list is “upper” Nahal Yehudiah. The path starts by passing a deserted Syrian village that was built on top of an earlier Jewish town from the Roman-Byzantine period. You’ll pass a cattle-grazing field before heading down into the valley towards the 20-meter high Yehudiah Falls.

Nahal Yehudiah

That’s where the fun starts. There are two cliffs to climb down, using rungs and ladders drilled into the side of the rock – one is four meters long, the second nine meters, which ends in the pool. Make sure your belongings are wrapped up in waterproof bags, or do like some of the more creative hikers who pack small inflatable boats to float their gear across! There’s another pool after that (though you can walk it if you don’t slip). When you’re done swimming, you can backtrack to the start on a dry trail at the top of the nahal.

Nahal Yehudiah

Gorgeous and challenging trails

Fortunately, Israel offers an over-abundance of gorgeous and challenging hikes, from the waterfalls of the Golan Heights to the breathtaking views overlooking the Red Sea. Israel’s trails are clearly marked by colors painted on rocks and tree trunks (the SPNI has a crew of volunteers who regularly check on the markers), and there is a set of 20 glossy maps you can buy (about $25 each) that will keep you moving in the right direction. The maps are available only in Hebrew, but the SPNI is looking for donors to produce English-language versions.

Linking it all together is the 580-mile long Israel Trail, which starts in the northern Galilee and winds its way south until it reaches the tip of Eilat. Inspired by the Appalachian Trail in the US, the Israel Trail was officially marked in 1995 and for the most part follows existing routes. It is indicated by distinctive white-, blue- and orange-striped trail markers (white for the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon, blue for the water and orange for the desert).


At Nahal Yehudiah, hikers climb down cliffs using ladders drilled into the side of the rock.

The Israel Trail is not a straight shot from north to south, hence its length of nearly double the actual miles from one end of the country to the other. Rather, it winds its way through the country’s most scenic geography, zipping over to the Mediterranean coast and the central Tel Aviv area before snaking up to the hills surrounding Jerusalem, then plunging south into the Negev and Arava deserts.

The SPNI is working with the Jerusalem municipality to mark a 25-mile round trip “spur” from the Israel Trail into Jerusalem, covering both urban and forest areas of the capital city.

The Israel Trail specifically avoids regions still in contention, such as the Golan Heights and the West Bank. It also must avoid army training grounds, which take up about 60 percent of the Negev.

Hiking in Israel is a seasonal activity, best done in the fall and spring. The Israel Trail has become a rite of passage, as a growing number of Israelis choose to hike its entire length over two to three months. While much of the time trekkers don’t have any choice but to pitch their own tents for the night, designated “Trail Angels” along the route provide hospitality – often in their homes – at low rates. Trail Angels can also be found on kibbutzim, and some even have free WiFi connections.

Top Israeli hikes

The SPNI recently finished marking a new route dubbed “The Jesus Trail.” It connects important sites from the life of Jesus, and runs for 40 miles from Nazareth to Capernaum, all in the Galilee region. The idea was initiated by an Israeli entrepreneur who runs a chain of hostels, including the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth.

Among the most popular treks in Israel, hikers can choose from a relatively leisurely route (albeit with a few ups and downs) to death-defying challenges, rappelling down cliffs or jumping past waterfalls.

Here are a few favorites:

The Burma Road is one of the easier routes, and also one steeped in history. During the War of Independence, the Jordanians blocked the main route into Jerusalem, attempting to starve the city into surrender. Under the cover of night, soldiers from the nascent state of Israel clandestinely built a bypass road, which succeeded in breaking the blockade.


The Burma Road

The trail starts just outside of Beit Shemesh. You can hike the western part of the trail in the direction of Latrun. You’ll turn north before then, though, to make a loop back to your starting point. This takes you through a pine forest known as Park Rabin. There is also a bike rental shop, as the trail is popular with cyclists.

The eastern flank of the trail is a bit tougher, and kicks off with a steep ascent until reaching the village of Beit Meir. Along the way are some great views of the highway far below. Both sections follow the Israel Trail for much of the route.

Another pleasant hike goes through Nahal Amud (“nahal” means “dry canyon” in Hebrew; the Arabic “wadi” is often substituted). This trek is in the Galilee area – it runs from Mount Meron in the west toward the Sea of Galilee in the east, passing close to the kabalistic town of Safed. In addition to following the Israel Trail, Nahal Amud is particularly shady, even in the summer.

The highlight of the hike is the water – this nahal is not a dry creek – and the pools are frequently filled with campers from the various youth movements. If you can make it past the crowds, you’ll follow the river, then loop back past ancient flourmills before reaching the spacious parking lot (and an ice cream stand – a nice treat at the end of your day).


The highlight of a Nahal Amud hike is the water.

If adventure is your game, the lower part of Nahal Dragot (more popularly known by its Arabic name, Darga) will keep your heart beating. Located in the Dead Sea area, the Darga is incredibly challenging with 50-meter high walls, dry waterfalls and pools of natural water in craters that you have to swim across. Although there are metal stakes hammered into the rocks in some places, you really can’t do this hike without bringing a rope. Or, in some places, skip the rope and jump into the water instead. Warning: Don’t do this hike without a buddy!

Another challenging hike with rungs and water is in the Golan Heights. In Nahal Yehudiah, the water is so deep you have no choice but to swim to reach the other side. The path starts by passing a deserted Syrian village that was built on top of an earlier Jewish town from the Roman-Byzantine period. Further down the valley is the 20-meter-high Yehudiah Falls.

There are two cliffs to climb down using ladders drilled into the side of the rock – one is four meters (13 feet) long, the second nine meters (29.5 feet), ending in the pool. Make sure your belongings are wrapped up in waterproof bags, or do like some of the more creative hikers who pack small inflatable boats to float their gear across.

Water is also the calling card of Wadi Kelt, by far one of the most popular hiking spots in Israel, with some 60,000 visitors a year. The hike, which parallels the Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway, cuts through a deep desert gorge. Even in the heat of the summer, the high canyon walls and the water make this a pleasant refuge.

At the end of the hike is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George; the monastic community here dates back to 420 CE. If you were to continue on, you’d reach Jericho. Instead, Israelis either double back through the nahal or take a quicker (but less scenic) road that runs along the top of the canyon. Better yet, take two cars and park one at each end. That way you can spend more time in the water.

If you prefer to look at water, Mount Zefachot is particularly spectacular. This Eilat-area tiyul starts from the road that leads to the Egyptian border at Taba. There is a steep ascent with some tricky ups and a few cliffs to keep it interesting. But this hike is all about the payoff: From the top of the mountain, you get a panoramic view of the entire Red Sea area. You can see four countries from this vantage point: Israel, of course, but also Jordan, Egypt and the tip of Saudi Arabia. The sea remains a shimmering blue year round, and Eilat’s mild winters make this a perfect hike to break the cold of Israel’s more northern locales.

Abraham Path hiking

The Abraham Path in the Negev currently crosses the northern section of the desert from west to east starting at the city of Beer Sheva, today the ‘capital of the Negev’ and largest city in the south of the country, but known as the place of Abraham’s Well which, according to the Book of Genesis, was dug by Abraham when he entered the city.

The Negev section of the Abraham Path is currently split into seven stages. It’s the first stage or the final two stages which are perhaps the most interesting for those looking for a one or two day hike, although the entire hike, which would take up to 7 days, covers some of Israel’s most spectacular landscapes, and diverse communities. Once developed, the trail will continue south along the Dead Sea, through Sodom and beyond.

Stage 1 – Beer Sheva to Lakiya. Lakiya is a Bedouin village unique in the fact that women lead the development of their community. Recommended as a one day hike.
Stage 2 – Lakiya to Meitar.
Stage 3 – Meitar to Har Amasa. Passing through the Yatir Forest, this forest was fully planted in the last 100 years
Stage 4 – Har Amasa to Tel Arad. Tel Arad is a site important in the creation of modern religion
Stage 5 – Tel Arad to Arad.
Stage 6 – Arad to Kfar Hanokdim. Descending towards the Dead Sea, the day ends at a unique touristic Bedouin village
Stage 7 – Kfar Hanokdim to Masada, Dead Sea. End at the magnificent Masada Fortress, beside the Dead Sea.

Click here for the map.

Abraham Path, Israel 2 Abraham Path, Israel 3 Abraham Path, Israel abraham-path-david-landis-64

Katzrin, Capital of the Golan

Katzrin (Qazrin), ‘capital of the Golan’, with 6,725 people living there, makes an excellent base for exploring the central Golan and stocking up on picnic supplies. Founded in 1977, it is the region’s only real town. The lively little commercial center, Merkaz Eitan, is a classic 1970s complex that was spruced up considerably in 2013 – adding a tile-covered sculpture that is as whimsical as it is colorful. In addition to a bank and some eateries, it has a first-rate museum. Everything closes on Shabbat. Map.

Golan Archaeological Museum (04-696 1350; http://www.mpkatzrin.org.il; Merkaz Eitan; adult/child 19/16NIS, incl Ancient Katzrin Park 28/20NIS; 9am-4pm Sun-Thu, 9am-2pm Fri)

Golan Archaeological Museum in Katzrin
Golan Archaeological Museum in Katzrin

A real gem! Highlights include extraordinary basalt lintels and Aramaic inscriptions from 30 Byzantine-era Golan synagogues; coins minted during the Great Jewish Revolt (66–70 CE); a model of Rujum al-Hiri, a mysterious Stone Age maze 156m across, which was built some 4500 years ago; and a film (available in English) that brings to life the Roman siege of Gamla. Wheelchair accessible. Situated 100m west of the Merkaz Eitan commercial centre, next to the library.

Ancient Katzrin Park (04-696 2412; http://parkqatzrin.org.il; adult/child 26/18NIS, incl Golan Archaeological Museum adult/child 28/20NIS; 9am-4pm Sun-Thu, 9am-2pm Fri, 10am-4pm Sat, closes 1hr later in Aug )

To get a sense of life during the Talmudic period (3rd to 6th centuries), when the Golan had dozens of Jewish villages, drop by this partly restored Byzantine-era village, whose highlights include a basalt synagogue and an audiovisual presentation on Talmudic luminaries (not shown on Saturday). On Jewish holidays such as Passover and Sukkot and in August, there are reenactments by actors in period costumes. Situated 1.6km east of Merkaz Eitan.

Kesem Hagolan (Golan Magic; 04-696 3625; http://www.magic-golan.co.il; Hutzot HaGolan Mall, Katzrin Industrial Zone; adult/child 25.50/20.50NIS; screenings 9am-5pm Sat-Thu, 9am-4pm Fri )

An excellent introduction to the Golan, this center takes you on a half-hour virtual journey around the region, projected on a 180-degree panoramic screen (in English hourly on the half hour). Also has a 1:5000-scale topographic model of the Golan. Situated in the shopping mall 2km east of Merkaz Eitan, next to the Industrial Zone.

Golan Heights Winery (04-696 8435, 04-696 8409; http://www.golanwines.co.il; Katzrin Industrial Park; tasting 10NIS, incl tour 20NIS; 8.30am-at least 5.30pm Sun-Thu, 8.30am-2.30 or 3.30pm Fri, last tour 4pm or 5pm Sun-Thu, 1.30pm or 2pm Fri )

Golan Heights Winery
Golan Heights Winery

Winner of many international awards, this outstanding winery offers guided cellar tours (advance reservations highly recommended) and wine-tasting. The shop sells more than 40 wines bottled under its Yarden, Gamla (Gilgal), Hermon and Galil Mountain labels. All wines are kosher but, mercifully, not mevushal (flash pasteurised).

Sleeping

Golan Garden Hostel (072-230 3565; http://www.golangarden.com; 13 Hofit St; dm 100NIS, d without bathroom 285NIS)

Golan Garden Hostel
Golan Garden Hostel

Katzrin finally has a hostel. Opened in 2013, this place – run by super-friendly Alon and Milou – has a chill-out lounge with bean-bag chairs, dorm rooms with four or six beds, a hammock on the back terrace, and guitars and drums for guests to play. Situated 1km southeast of Merkaz Eitan – take Si’on and then Gilabon St. Laundry costs 15NIS, including drying. Rents out camping equipment (eg a sleeping bag for 15NIS a day).

SPNI Golan Field School (04-696 1234; http://www.natureisrael.org; 2 Zavitan St; r 438-504NIS, additional adult 140-164NIS, child 98-114NIS )

SPNI Golan Field School
SPNI Golan Field School

Housed in an unpretentious, 1970s complex on the edge of town. The 33 simple rooms, all with fridge, can sleep up to nine and so are a good option for families and groups of friends. Does not rent individual dorm beds. Sometimes (eg on Jewish holidays) offers free group hikes. Situated 1km from Merkaz Eitan – head down Daliyot St and then turn left on Zavitan St; follow the signs to ‘Field School’.

Eating & Drinking

Fast food (hummus, shwarma, bad pizza and the like) is available in Merkaz Eitan – except on Shabbat, when your eating options shrink to two restaurants 2km or 3km east of Merkaz Eitan in the Industrial Zone.

Co-op Shop (Lev Katzrin Mall; h8am-9pm Sun-Thu, 7am-2.30pm or 4pm Fri )
Picnic supplies for a hike or Shabbat.

Golan Brewhouse (04-696 1311; http://www.beergolan.co.il; Hutzot HaGolan Mall, Katzrin Industrial Zone; mains 49-126NIS; 11.30am-11pm daily)

Golan Brewhouse
Golan Brewhouse

This pub-restaurant, with a circular wooden bar and panoramic windows, serves red meat, chicken, fish, soup, salad, veggie mains and some damn fine microbrews.The  brewhouse Beer Sampler (14NIS) gets you a whisky tumbler of each of the  Brewhouse’s four beers (an amber ale, a pilsner, a Doppelbock and a wheat beer), brewed in the copper vats in the corner. For 48NIS you can sample 200mL of each and munch on olives and sauerkraut.

Meatshos (04-696 3334; http://www.meatshos.co.il; Katzrin Industrial Zone; mains 65-169NIS, 15% off Mon-Thu ; noon-11pm Mon-Sat)
Renowned for its flavorsome steaks, chops, kebabs and hamburgers (400g to 750g),  all made with Golan-raised, kosher-slaughtered (but not certified) 1½-year-old calf and lamb. Also serves Salokiya boutique wine (red/white per glass 42/32NIS), made right on the premises. Situated at the far northern end of the Industrial Zone next to the fire station, 1km past the Golan Heights Winery.

Pub Savta (Ancient Katzrin Park; h9pm-2am or later Sat-Thu)
Inside the archaeological site, this beer pub is popular with both locals and young Israeli travellers.

Information

Information Center (04-696 2885; http://www.tourgolan.org.il; h9am-4pm Sun-Thu)
Run by the regional council, this tourist information office has brochures and free maps in Hebrew, English and Russian, and can supply information on accommodation, hiking and winery visits. Situated in the shopping center 2km east of Merkaz Eitan, behind the round fountain next to Kesem HaGolan.

SPNI Hiking Information (04-696 5030; http://www.teva.org.il; SPNI Golan Field School, 2 Zavitan St; h8.30am-5pm Sun-Thu)
Free consultations with experienced SPNI guides about Golan hiking options. You can also phone with questions.

Transport

Katzrin is the Golan’s public transit hub. Rama buses (1 900 721 111;  http://www.bus.co.il) head to virtually every part of the Golan, as well as to Tiberias, Hatzor HaGlilit (near Rosh Pina) and Kiryat Shmona.
Bus 57 follows the Sea of Galilee’s eastern and southwestern coasts (eg Kursi) on its way to Tiberias; bus 52 goes to Tiberias via the lake’s northwestern coast (eg Capernaum). To get to Neve Ativ, Majdal Shams and other places near Mt Hermon, you have to change in Kiryat Shmona. Egged bus 843 (49.50NIS, four hours, one or two daily) links Katzrin with Tel Aviv. On weekdays there are departures from Katzrin early in the morning and from Tel Aviv at 4pm.

Hiking

The southern Golan – the area between Katzrin and the Sea of Galilee and the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee from the east – has some excellent hiking.

Yehudiya Nature Reserve

One of the most popular hiking areas in all of northern Israel, the 66-sq-km Yehudiya Nature Reserve (Meshushim entrance 04-682 0238, Yehudiya entrance 04-696 2817; adult/child 22/10NIS; h7am-4pm or 5pm Sat-Thu, 7am-3pm or 4pm Fri ) offers walks suitable for casual strollers as well as experienced hikers, especially those who aren’t averse to getting wet. Mammals you might encounter include  gazelles and wild boar; its cliffs are home to birds of prey as well as songbirds.Most  of the trails follow three cliff-lined wadis, with year-round water flow, that drain  into the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee. Wadi Yehudiya and Wadi Zavitan are both easiest to access from the Yehudiya Parking Lot (Chenyon Yehudiya), which is on Rte 87 midway between Katzrin and the Sea of Galilee.

Wadi Meshushim, easiest to get to from the Meshushim Parking Lot, is situated 2.8km along a gravel road from Rte 888, which parallels the Jordan River. The parking lot is 8km northeast of the New Testament site of Bethsaida. The rangers at both entrances to Yehudiya (pronounced ‘yeh-hoo-dee-yah’) are extremely knowledgeable and can point you in the right direction, as well as register you, for your own safety.

The only map you’ll need is the excellent color-coded one provided at ticket booths. At both entrances, snack counters sell sandwiches and ice cream. Stick to marked trails – people have fallen to their deaths while attempting to negotiate treacherous makeshift trails, and there’s an army firing zone east of Wadi Yehudiya (across Rte 87).

New Upper Yehudiya Canyon Trail

New Upper Yehudiya Canyon Trail
New Upper Yehudiya Canyon Trail

This new circuit, which replaces a trail closed by a cliff collapse, takes 2½ to three hours. Blazes are red, then black. The trail begins at the basalt ruins of the pre-1967 Syrian settlement of Yehudiya, built – as its Arabic name hints – on the remains of a 3rd- and 4th-century Jewish village. To get there from the Yehudiya Parking Lot, cross the highway via the tunnel in the lot’s southern corner.

One section of the New Upper Yehudiya Canyon Trail involves 20 to 40 minutes of walking in water 50cm to 1m deep. A variant is the Yehudiya Waterfall Trail (red blazes; 45 minutes one-way from park HQ).

Upper Zavitan Canyon Trail

Upper Zavitan Canyon Trail
Upper Zavitan Canyon Trail

This three-hour circuit offers great views of 27m-high Zavitan Waterfall, spectacular in the rainy season. The descent begins at the ruins of the Arab village of Sheikh Hussein, northeast of the Yehudiya Parking Lot. An easy trail with blue, then black, then red, then blue blazes, the path heads downstream to link with the Lower Zavitan Canyon Trail and, eventually, Meshushim (Hexagons) Pool.

If you begin hiking after 11am, don’t plan on making it all the way to the pool. Branches of the Upper Zavitan Canyon Trail can be picked up near Katzrin and on Rte 9088 between Katzrin and Katzrin Darom Junction.

Meshushim (Hexagons) Pool

Meshushim Pool
Meshushim Pool

Surrounded by extraordinary, six-sided basalt pillars (thus the name), this chilly (19°C), 7m-deep pool makes for a refreshing dip. Getting there from the Meshushim Parking Lot, which has changing rooms, requires a delightful, 20-minute downhill walk; getting back up takes 30 to 40 minutes. The Stream Trail (Shvil HaNahal), which hits Wadi Meshushim further upstream (and has a 3m cliff ladder), takes 20 to 30 minutes downhill. Begin these routes before 2pm (3pm during daylight savings).

At the pool, remember that there is no lifeguard – and jumping and diving are absolutely forbidden (people have died here from hitting their heads). It’s possible to hike down to Meshushim Pool from the Yehudiya Parking Lot (four to six hours, depending on your route) but transiting from Wadi Zavitan to Wadi Meshushim involves a steep ascent and then an equally steep descent; and getting back up to your car (assuming you have one and parked it at Yehudiya) could be a problem. This route cannot be started, in either direction, after 11am.

Sleeping

Yehudiya Camping Ground (Orchan Laila; 04-696 2817; http://www.campingil.org.il; Yehudiya Parking Lot; per person incl next-day park admission 50NIS; 24hr)

Yehudiya Camping Ground
Yehudiya Camping Ground

Open year-round, this well-lit camping area is securely fenced (against wild boars and jackals) and has hot showers, barbecue pits and shade constructions. If there’s no one around, just make yourself at home and pay in the morning. Bags can be left at the information desk (when it’s open); nearby there are lockers (10NIS) for valuables.

Transport

Rama buses 52 and 57 (10 daily Sunday to Thursday, six on Friday), which connect Katzrin with Tiberias, stop at the Yehudiya Parking Lot (20 minutes from Katzrin). Egged bus 843, linking Katzrin with Tel Aviv, also passes the Yehudiya Parking Lot.A bus schedule is posted to the right of the Yehudiya snack counter.

Wadi Daraja

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

One of the more difficult hikes in the area, this steep canyon descent (five to six hours not including stops), known in Hebrew as Nahal Darga, requires you to climb down about two dozen waterfalls (30m climbing rope required) and swim across year-round pools up to 4m deep – all your kit will get wet so leave those mobile phones and cameras somewhere safe. Map.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Wear proper shoes (ones you don’t mind getting wet), not sandals. The minimum age is 10 years.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has an information booth (www.parks.org.il; Fri, Sat & Jewish holidays Sep-Jun, daily Jul & Aug ) right outside Metzukei Dragot, which is 1.5km from the trail-head; schematic maps are available there or at the Metzukei Dragot reception desk.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Begin this hike no later than 9am (10am during daylight savings) – and don’t begin it at all if there’s any chance of rain in the Judean Desert. The bottom of the trail intersects Rte 90 near Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Several circular, family-friendly hikes (which don’t require you to get soaked) start at the same point. These include the Wadi Tekoa Circuit (five hours) and the Mashash-Murba’at Circuit (three hours), which passes caves in which letters personally signed by Bar Kochba (leader of the  Bar Kochba Rebellion of 132 to 135 CE) were found in 1952.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja