If you’re looking to explore some of Israel’s amazing desert sights and sounds, then a stopover at Ein Gedi is a must!
Nestled between the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea, this desert oasis is one of the most fascinating places to visit due to its biblical references, historical roots stretching back over 5,000 years, and the Dead Sea itself.
Ein Gedi successfully mixes modern tourism with the exciting historical surroundings to provide any tourist with a truly unique desert adventure. Ein Gedi is one of the most visited places in Israel and with so many things to add to your must-see list, we’d recommend taking some time in this neck of the desert…
Ein Gedi: some history
Ein Gedi dates back some 5,000 years to the first settlers who came to the area; archaeological remains from that time can still be found throughout the area and further afield.
In Biblical times Ein Gedi was a fishing town and an important source of balsam. It was also named in Joshua 15:62 as one of the cities of the Tribe of Judah. Other Biblical mentions include King David, who once took refuge there from King Saul, and Songs 1:14 mentions the vineyards of Ein Gedi.
Over 5000 years of history in one of the world’s most amazing locations…
Things to see and do in Ein Gedi
With so much to see and do it can be difficult knowing where to start, but we’ve come up with the biggies you’ll want to check out and experience…
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve (+972-8-6584285): One of the must sees in the Ein Gedi area, this nature reserve is home to two great mini-treks: Nakhal David and Nakhal Arugot. Remember to bring your hiking shoes and prepare to be amazed at the natural beauty of the place, as you walk through canyons and caves, past springs and waterfalls.
Nakhal David (also known as David Stream) has several waterfalls that cascade out from the desert hills and offers several walking tracks to explore. You can take the lower route which is a 1.5 hour trek to the beautiful waterfalls and back. A middle route allows you to explore the fascinating Dudim cave at the top adding another 1.5 hours on to your walk, or you can choose the longer 5-hour walk to the dry canyon, Ein Gedi Springs and back down alongside the streams. A great way to experience first hand the nature and spectacular scenery of the area!
Nakhal Arugot is adjacent to Nakhal David and offers the visitor many shallow pools to bathe, rest and wash those weary feet. It’s a 4km circular hike to get there, but well worth it.
Hiking and trekking: There are some other great walking trails in the area, but it might be the better solution to arrange a tour with someone who knows the area well. We’d recommend visiting Kibbutz Ein Gedi (see below) and asking around; renowned local Benny Rambo will be more than happy to take you on a fun trekking expedition in his 4-wheel drive jeep. Benny’s a fun and knowledge guy who’ll regale you with history and enthuse you with an infectious appreciation of the local desert hot-spots.
Masada and Qumran Caves: If you’re in the area, a quick trip to Masada, the mountain top fortress (especially worth seeing at sunrise), and the Qumran caves (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered) is very highly recommended. Both are a short drive from Ein Gedi.
Kibbutz Ein Gedi: Founded in 1953, one of Israel’s nicest kibbutzes is located on a nearby hilltop overlooking the area. The kibbutz has a botanical garden with plants and trees from all over the world. If you walk among the houses in the evening you can view the flowering cacti and baobab tress, as well as other unique plants. Visitors to the area can lodge in the attractive kibbutz guest house, in the nearby field school, or camp out on the shore of the Dead Sea.
Float in the Dead Sea: A must do when visiting Ein Gedi is to try floating in the Dead Sea at the public beach (now closed unfortunately due to the rapidly lowering water levels – for an alternative, try heading down to the hotel strip at Ein Bokek). There’s no other place like the Dead Sea in the world! You could also enjoy a black-mud body wrap during your visit, known to cleanse and stimulate the skin as well as relieve muscle tension.
Shopping and hotels: There aren’t too many shopping malls in the area :-) but there are a number of outlets offering locally produced Dead Sea products if you’re looking to take back home something memorable, and healthy!
Nightlife: In terms of nightlife, you won’t be able to strut your stuff too often, unless you manage to catch a party at the kibbutz pub, or you’re staying at one of the fancy hotels on the Ein Bokek hotel strip. There are a few restaurants dotted around in the area, including at the kibbutz, to replenish those parts after an exhausting day trekking or floating in the Dead Sea.
Location, opening hours and accessibility
Ein Gedi is located on Road 90 in the Judean Desert on the western shore of the Dead Sea, and is easy to reach by bus from Jerusalem (Line 486) or from Tel Aviv (Line 421).
The Nakhal David and Nakhal Arugot trails are open daily seven days per week from 8:00 to 16:00/17:00 depending on the season.
Have a great trip!