By Hadassah Levy
Israelis love to hike, and for good reason. There is so much natural beauty in Israel that it’s a shame to miss out on it when touring the country. Israel has more than 6,000 miles of marked trails, from easy to challenging, so there’s something for everyone. When traveling with kids, it’s best to choose a hike which is not too difficult and has an extra bonus that keeps kids interested in getting to the end. Check out these five hikes for an exciting and entertaining experience.
This hidden gem is located in the Jerusalem hillside, not far from Ein Karem, Mevasseret Zion and Kibbutz Zova. The trail follows a series of man-made terraces built originally 4,500 years ago and reconstructed in modern times to recreate ancient agricultural practices. Along the terraces are olive trees, grape vines and various fruit trees. The trees were watered in ancient times with spring water which flowed from terrace to terrace. About halfway through the hike you’ll come across a pool of water which originates inside a cave. Kids will enjoy crawling through the cave’s tunnel and coming out just a little bit wet.
The Banias Waterfall, near the foot of Mount Hermon, is Israel’s strongest waterfall. It gushes from 10 meters high and makes a tremendous noise as it flows into a pool surrounded by lush vegetation. The suspended bridge above the water is wheelchair and stroller accessible, but if you want to hike all the way to the waterfall, you’ll have to leave your stroller behind. Park regulations don’t allow swimming in the pool or streams but if you stand close enough to the waterfall you will definitely get splashed. The longer hike is about an hour and a half long and passes by a pagan temple constructed by Herod and a flour mill which is still operational.
Ein Gedi’s Nahal David
Ein Gedi is a beautiful oasis in the Judean Desert and is frequently visited by Israeli schoolchildren and tourists alike. The shorter hike is called Nahal David and features a bunch of pools and waterfalls to cool off in as you walk. Since Ein Gedi is a nature reserve, you may be lucky enough to spot ibex and horax climbing the rocky hills above you. The hike is about an hour long (a bit longer if you linger at the pools) and food is not allowed in the reserve. Carry lots of water and take time to enjoy an ice cream at the end of the hike.
Another hour-long hike is the Majrasa near the Sea of Galilee. The hike is shaded and cool and most of walk is inside water which may reach small children’s waists. If your kids can’t swim bring floatation devices and/or carry them in a carrier for some of the time. The riverbed is rocky so you do need shoes; however, Crocs or water sandals should be good enough. In addition to the rich vegetation, you can spot river crabs, water turtles, waterfowl and fish. The Majrasa is a refreshing summer hike, which you can follow with a swim in the Sea of Galilee or a walk along the path which surrounds it.
This underground tunnel is a quarter of a mile long and is a small section of an elaborate aqueduct system which provided drinking and farming water to the city of Caesarea during the Second Temple period. Kids will love walking through this dark tunnel filled with water which can reach up to waist high. Flashlights will make you feel more secure and add to the fun for your children. Don’t miss the film at Mei Kedem, which tells the story of the history and archaeology of the tunnels.
When you come to Israel with kids, a family-friendly hike is a great addition to your itinerary. Tunnels, waterfalls, aqueducts, pools and streams are thrilling for children and enjoyable for adults as well. Don’t forget hiking boots or good sneakers, water shoes, hats, sunscreen (even in the winter) and plenty of water.
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