Water flowing from Ein Avdat has cut a beautiful, narrow canyon through the area's soft white chalk, forming a marvelous oasis that offers the ideal respite from your desert travels. Walk toward the thickets of rushes and look for ibex tracks, made with pointed hoofs that enable these agile creatures to climb sheer rock faces. It's not easy to spot an ibex—their coats have striped markings that resemble the rock's strata. Rock pigeons, sooty falcons, and Egyptian vultures (black-and-white feathers, bright yellow beak, and long, pinkish legs) nest in the natural holes in the soft rock and in cliff ledges.
The big surprise at Ein Avdat is the Ein Marif pools of ice-cold, spring-fed water, complete with a splashing waterfall. To reach this cool oasis, shaded by the surrounding cliffs, walk carefully along the spring and across the dam toward the waterfall. Swimming and drinking the water are not allowed (you'll not be sorely tempted, though—the water is swarming with tadpoles),
but enjoying the sight and sound of water in the arid Negev certainly is. The trail leads through stands of Euphrates poplars, and by caves inhabited by monks during Byzantine days, and then continues up the cliff side (using ladders and stone steps), but you can't follow it unless your party has two cars and leaves one at the destination. The easier and more common option is to walk along the streambed from the lower entrance to the Ein Marif pools at the foot of the waterfall and then return along the same path.
Rte. 40, Avdat, 84990, Israel