When it comes to traveling in Israel, most people think of the
ancient sites from world religions. But its location in the Middle
East gives this top travel destination a diverse climate that lends
itself to adventurous sports and activities.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy yourself in the
country, either. Weather you’re a seasoned adventurer or just want to
push outside your comfort zone, these five adventure travel spots will provide a thrill on
your vacation to Israel.
Less than two hours drive from the sprawling stone buildings in the
holy city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea is the Judean Desert. The
desert is marked by “wadis,” or oases, including Ein Gedi Nature
Reserve—a lush spot for hiking and wildlife spotting (keep your eyes
out for the Nubian Ibex!). Another top spot in the Judean Desert is
Masada—an ancient plateau that was used as a fortress dating back to
37 BC. While you can access the top by cable car, don’t miss the
opportunity to hike Masada at sunrise: the views are more than worth
the early morning wake up call. Join a tour, which will start up the
steep Snake Trail in the dark in order to arrive at the top in time
for the sun to reflect off the sea. Bring enough water to get you
through the walk, and bring layers that you can shed as the sun comes
up. A waistpack should be sufficient for the supplies you
need on this short hike.
This coastal city along the Red Sea is often likened to Las Vegas,
perhaps for its similar desert location and flashy hotels, but there’s
more to Eilat than meets the eye. The sea, which starts as the Gulf of
Aqaba, is one of the world’s most unique bodies of water in terms of
tropical sea creatures. Here you’ll find species of fish only found
within the Red Sea, along with colorful coral. If you’re SCUBA dive certified, head out on an excursion
with one of the many dive outfitters in town. Otherwise, borrow a
snorkel and admire the bright blue water from the surface.
Not all Eilat adventures are below the sea. Tour operators run trips
of the desert via dune buggy, ATV, and camel. Cover your eyes and
mouth to avoid getting sand in while traversing the sandy hills
surrounding Eilat, and pack a hat in your daypack to protect you from the sun.
Between Beersheba and Eilat lies the Negev Desert, another one of
Israel’s desolate regions that also happens to be ideal for adventure
sports like hiking and rock climbing. Start at Timna Park,
formerly a copper mine, which offers mountain biking and exploration
of their rock formations.
Makhtesh Ramon, or the Ramon Crater, is at the peak of Mount Negev
and—despite its name—was formed by water erosion over the years rather
than a meteor or volcano. In addition to spotting the dozens of
species of animals not found elsewhere, adventure seekers can go
rappelling down the rock faces for the best views around. Tour
operators also offer Jeep tours, off roading, and sandboarding
excursions in this area.
The region north of Haifa along the Sea of Galilee is the starting
point of the Israel National Trail, a long-distance hike that runs the
entire length of the country over 1,000 miles (1609 kilometers).
Inspired by the Appalachian Trail in the United States, it was first
opened in 1994. The Israel National Trail covers a large amount of
diverse landscapes, from the coastal views to the north to the deserts
to the south. Travelers can stop at kibbutzes along the way for food
or a place to stay. The northern section has the stunning Naftali
Ridge, which has views of the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights, and
Lebanon beyond. Hikers will also find archaeological sites along the
way. You’ll likely want to pack light for this journey with a durable daypack.
This stunning city only an hour north of Tel Aviv is located on the
Mediterranean Sea, making it the ideal location for water sports. It’s
not uncommon to see the colorful arches of kitesurfers and windsurfers
dotting the coastline in this area. You can also surf, scuba dive,
sail, and stand up paddleboard with local outfitters. Just make sure
to leave your valuables locked up if you leave them while in the water.
If you’re seeking out adventure travel in Israel, be prepared to
bring your sense of exploration!
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