The granite Timna Mountains (whose highest peak is 2,550 feet) are just the beginning of this park's spectacular collection of rock formations and canyons.Millions of years of erosion have sculpted shapes of amazing beauty, such as the red-hued Solomon's Pillars (sandstone columns created by rare patterns of erosion, not by the biblical king) and the 20-foot-high freestanding Mushroom. Late afternoon provides the best light for spectators and photographers alike.
People have also left their mark here. South of the pillars are the remains of a small temple built in white sandstone by Egyptians who worked the mines 3,400 years ago, during the Egyptian New Kingdom (the time of Moses). The temple was dedicated to the cow-eared goddess Hathor. This "Lady of the Rock" was the patroness of miners, as you can discover at the multimedia presentation called Mines of Time. Inside the temple, archaeologists have discovered a snake made of copper (nehushtan in Hebrew)—according
to Numbers 21:4–9, Moses made a serpent in the wilderness to heal people suffering from snake bites, and the snake remains a symbol of healing to this day. Near the temple, a path and stairway lead up to the observation platform overlooking the valley. Above the platform is a rock-cut inscription whose hieroglyph you can see clearly with the aid of a telescope. It shows Ramses III offering a sacrifice to Hathor. You can also explore a life-size replica of the biblical tabernacle.
When you arrive, ask for the explanatory pamphlet, which shows the driving route in red. The park measure 60 square km (23 square miles), so we suggest driving from sight to sight and exploring each on foot. A small building just inside the entrance screens a multimedia video (with a revolving stage and 360-degree screen) detailing humanity's 6,000-year-old relationship with the Timna area. Wall panels explain the valley's fascinating geological makeup.
Experienced hikers can pick up a map detailing various serious hikes that take from 7 to 10 hours to complete. They're best done in winter, as summer daytime temperatures exceed 100 degrees. Watch out for old mine shafts, take adequate water, and be sure to let the staff at the gate know you are going and when you plan to return. You can also rent bikes and paddleboats near the small lake, where you'll find a restaurant serving charred bread cooked in a taboon (traditional oven) with goodies and refreshing drinks for the worn-out traveler.