Among all my days hiking in Israel, the most stunning place I visited was for sure the Ein Gedi Nature reserve. This spectacular oasis in the Judaean Dessert by the Dead Sea should be a must on your adventures backpacking in Israel!
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When my friends in Jerusalem mentioned about this place and showed me some pics I didn’t have to think it twice to get on a bus there on the following day!
Starting close to the lowest point on Earth at 423 meters below sea level and going up to 200 meters above sea level, the sheer cliffs of Ein Gedi are a magnificent work of art courtesy of our beautiful planet!
On this post I’ll give you my tips and everything you need to know for an incredible day hiking in Ein Gedi!
How to get there
The cheapest way to go from Jerusalem to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is by public bus, they depart every hour from Jerusalem Central Station and the return ticket is 40 ILS (this is actually a day-pass so you can use it for more journeys if you need to)
TIP: wake up early and catch up the bus at either 7:00 or 8:00 am to have plenty of hiking time, I was not aware of all the trails and made it to the nature reserve quite late…do not make that mistake!
The bus journey takes almost 90 minutes, try to get a seat on the left side of the bus so you enjoy the beautiful views of the Dead Sea!
The entry fee for the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is 28 ILS. The park opens at 8 AM and closes at 5 PM or 4 PM (summer/winter). Check in advance on their site as it also closes an hour earlier on Fridays and Holidays.
If you drive, you could also make it to Qunram National Park (30 min away) and Masada National Park (15 min away), although you can surely hike all day long in Ein Gedi!
Where to stay
This is easily a one-day trip from Jerusalem but if you decide to explore longer the Ein Gedi Youth Hostel is located by the reserve entrance. I didn’t stay there so I cannot give you my feedback on it.
In Jerusalem I had a mix of days between couchsurfing and staying at the Cinema Hostel which was a really cool place to stay.
It is forbidden to camp in Ein Gedi, do not attempt to do this as there are leopards, hyenas, wolves, foxes and snakes around!
What to take to go Hiking in Ein Gedi
Being in the dessert, you can expect hot days even on winter time, I actually had a wonderful day with perfect conditions when I was hiking there in February but it felt a bit hot at times.
As for any hike, make sure to take some snacks/fruits and plenty of water. There’s a water fountain at the main entrance of the park so you can fill up your water bottles and/or reservoir there for free. Once you’re inside the park you will not find places to buy water or food so prepare for this in advance.
The hikes can be strenuous at times and the terrain can be tough so a good pair of hiking boots/shoes are a big plus.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Sunglasses and sunscreen also needed.
You can take a bath in the springs so bring a quick dry towel and spare clothes for a refreshing bath!
Hiking in Ein Gedi
There are 9 different trails in Ein Gedi, some more transited than others and some of them steep and simply awesome!
The trails are well signalled and maintained, it’s pretty impossible to get lost there.
At the entrance they will give you a map with all of them and some info about the area.
As usual, I found the hiking times on the map quite on the (very) generous side if you’re a fast hiker. According to the official times, the hikes take between 30 min and up to 9 hours to complete (I’d actually put that 9 hours timeframe closer to 3-5 hours in case you’re wondering how fast you could actually do it)
There are three starting points for different hikes: from the main visitor centre, by the Kibbutz Ein Gedi and by the Ein Gedi Field School.
The bus from Jerusalem will stop by the visitor centre. To go walking to the other two entrances will take about 30-45 minutes.
Starting to Hike in Ein Gedi
I arrived pretty late (at noon!) because I thought this was going to be just a walk in the park as my friends didn’t mention all the trails that you can hike in Ein Gedi…
To be honest, at first I thought this was going to be a terrible place as there were lots of large school groups so it was pretty crowded at the entrance. Luckily, after 15 minutes you will leave the crowds behind and most of the day I was completely on my own!
TIP: the crowds will normally gather by the waterfalls, so try to avoid these areas if what you’re looking to do is some serious hiking! 🙂
By the visitor center entrance, you start hiking the Wadi David towards the David’s Waterfall, this is the most crowded sector of all, sometimes I had to wait to continue walking as there are narrow stretches. This trail is a loop but you can leave it a little bit after passing the half way point.
Here you’ll find the first steepish trail that will take you to Dodim Cave. On this trail you will already get the first glimpses of amazing beauty of the valley with the Dead Sea in the background. The trail to Dodim Cave is mostly flat and then you go down a little bit.
This was not my favourite trail, but it was a good start. As this is an out-and-back hike you will have to retrace your steps back towards the Chalcolithic Temple.
This was where the adventure properly started!
Taking the trail up towards the Ein Gedi Ascent you will have a steady climb on a rocky terrain. As I started late in the day I rushed this climb, from the entry gate to the Ein Gedi lookout it took me 1 hour 15 min (including the initial crowded sector)
Once at the lookout you get rewarded by the most incredible views of the valley and the Dead Sea and the terrain there is flattish. Between admiring this gift of nature and following a short trail I stayed almost an hour at the top of the canyon.
The very best part of the day came on the way down via the Bene Hamoshavim Ascent!
There’s a warning sign mentioning that this trail is very dangerous and only for advanced hikers. On this trail is where good hiking boots will be most useful.
There were some areas where the loose rocks made it more technical but in many sectors of this trail I actually went down at full speed on some proper trail running focus exercise!
After the super cool way down, which included a few more stops to enjoy the views as well!, I ended by the intersection of the Bene Hamoshavim Ascent Trail and the Hidden Waterfall Trail in Wadi Arugot.
As the closing time for the nature reserve was approaching fast I just made my way towards the exit as I could see crowds coming from the waterfall and I didn’t want to end my hike among so many people.
From this trail junction it’s still a 25 min walk to the Tel Goren exit and then some 20 more minutes to the bus stop.
All in all I only hiked for about 3.5 hours, it was pretty awesome and super scenic but when you go, aim to go early as I’d have liked to hike the Mount Yishay and Mount Tsruya.
I don’t think it’s possible to do the three summits in one day (without stopping to enjoy the views) so if you go early you could do two of them for sure if you’re a fast hiker and know what you’re doing.
If you finish your hike early, you can take a bus or hitch a ride to one of the swimming areas in the Dead Sea for a full-on adventure day!
Ready to go hiking in Ein Gedi?
Go! this was my favourite place in Israel! these incredible rock formations together with the background of the Dead Sea make it one of those magical places on Earth!
Check out the rest of my posts about my time backpacking in Israel for more inspiration on your next adventure and feel free to drop any comments or questions below! 🙂