Around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea Sights

Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

  • Rte. 90 Map It
  • Ein Gedi
  • Archaeological Site/Ruins
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 05/04/2017

Fodor's Review

This beautiful nature reserve has a number of well-marked trails to explore, all of which are off the main entrance. It is home to Nahal David (David's Stream), and the cave at Nahal David is believed to be the place where David hid while Saul hunted him down 3,000 years ago (I Samuel 24:1–22). Walkers can also visit the canyon of Nahal Arugot and the remains of an ancient synagogue. Get a map from the admission booth and you can spend anywhere from an hour to a day here, depending on your interest in nature and hiking. Reaching Ein Gedi from the north, the first turnoff to the right is the parking lot at the entrance to the reserve.

The clearly marked trail to Nahal David rises past several pools and small waterfalls to the upper waterfall. There are many steps, but it's not too daunting. Allow at least 1¼ hours to include a dip under one of the lower waterfalls. Look out for ibex (wild goats), especially in the afternoon, and for the small, furry hyrax, often seen on tree

branches. Leopards here face extinction because of breeding problems and are seldom seen nowadays.

If you're a serious hiker, don't miss the trail that breaks off to the right 50 yards down the return path from the top waterfall. It passes the remains of Byzantine irrigation systems and has breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. The trail doubles back on itself toward the source of Nahal David. Near the top, a short side path climbs to the remains of a 4th-millennium-BC Chalcolithic temple, the treasures of which can be seen in Jerusalem's Israel Museum. The main path leads on to the streambed, again turns east, and reaches Dudim Cave, formed by boulders and filled with crystal clear spring water. Swimming in "Lover's Cave" is one of the most refreshing and romantic experiences in Israel. Since this trail involves a considerable climb (and hikers invariably take time to bathe in the "cave"), access to the trail is permitted only up to 3½ hours before closing time.

Although not as lush as Nahal David, the deep canyon of Nahal Arugot is perhaps more spectacular. Enormous boulders and slabs of stone on the opposite cliff face seem poised in midcataclysm. The hour-long hike to the Hidden Waterfall (not too difficult) passes by spots where the stream bubbles over rock shelves and shallow pools give relief from the heat. If you're adventurous and have water shoes, you can return through the greenery of the streambed. Experienced hikers can ascend the Tsafit Trail to Mapal Hachalon (translated as "window waterfall"), where there are stunning views over the Dead Sea.

A Jewish community lived in Ein Gedi for more than 1,200 years, beginning in the 7th century BC. In the 3rd century AD, they built a synagogue between Nahal David and Nahal Arugot with a beautiful mosaic floor. The mosaic includes an inscription in Hebrew and Aramaic invoking the wrath of heaven on troublemakers including "whoever reveals the secret of the town." The secret is believed to refer to a method of cultivating a now-extinct balsam tree, which was used to make the prized perfume for which Ein Gedi was once famous.

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Sight Information

Address:

Rte. 90, Ein Gedi, Southern District, 86980, Israel

Map It

Phone:

08-658–4285

Website: www.parks.org.il

Sight Details:

  • NIS 28, NIS 14 synagogue only

Published 05/04/2017

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