Ein Gedi is a magical Nature Reserve. It has much to offer and it can be hard to choose from its many attractions. In this guide you have all the information, including detailed maps, to plan your perfect visit
Table of contents:
- Ein Gedi Nature Reserve Map.
- Hiking in Ein Gedi Nature reserve (Overview).
- Hiking Nahal David Stream – Long and Short versions (With Map).
- Hiking Nahal Arugot Stream – Long and Short versions (With Map).
- Ein Gedi Day Tour (From Tel Aviv or Jerusalem).
- Reach Ein Gedi after a 4 days Desert Trek.
- Visitor Guide (History, Geography, Sites, Wildlife).
- Ein Gedi Weather and Climate.
- Ein Gedi Lodging Guide.
EIN GEDI NATURE RESERVE MAP
HIKING IN EIN GEDI NATURE RESERVE
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is located in the Judean Desert, on the shore of the Dead Sea. The area features vast differences in elevation over very short distances. The distance from the shore of the Dead Sea at an altitude of 400 m below sea level to the desert plateau at 200 m above sea level is less than one Kilometer. The area is a harsh and barren desert with an annual rainfall of just 40 mm. However, in the tiny area of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, 4 springs are flowing all year round, generating approximately 3 million cubic meters of water a year, making Ein Gedi the largest oasis in the Judean Desert. The combination of the sharp height difference and the magic of water flowing in the desert makes Ein Gedi a paradise for hikers. The springs flow into two deep gorges, the Nahal Arugot and Nahal David streams. (The word “Nahal” in Hebrew means stream ).
The park offers a variety of trails that can be “mixed and matched” to accommodate all kinds of hikers and visitors. Ranging for 2 Km family strolls, up to 10+ Km demanding hikes with some steep ascents. You can go on the “classic” 4 km (out and back) trail in Nahal Arugot or the easier 1.5 Km Nahal David trail. If you are looking for a more exciting and demanding experience, we also provide full information and maps on two longer hikes.
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is one of the most visited reserves in Israel, by both foreigners and locals. The trails running along Nahal Arugot and Nahal David can sometimes get very crowded.
How can you avoid the crowds?
If you plan to walk the short out and back popular trails, sleep at one of the hotels/hostels in Ein Gedi and enter the reserve as it opens at 08:00. If you plan to walk the longer routes (Highly recommended), you will have the desert almost for yourself also on the most crowded days.
HIKING NAHAL DAVID STREAM – LONG AND SHORT VERSION (WITH MAP)
Nahal David Hiking Map
- Distance: 1.5 Kilometers (Out and back)
- Climb: 150 meters
- Level: Very easy
From the Nahal David ticket office walk upstream. The path is very well built with wooden bridges, lookout balconies, and stone staircases. After passing several lovely pools and cascades we reach the last and highest waterfall in the stream, called the “David Waterfall”. The water drops from a height of about 36 meters to a shallow pool. The sight of the water and the abundant vegetation that surrounds it from all sides is impressive and beautiful. Entry to this pool is prohibited due to the risk of falling stones. The way back is on the more comfortable path that bypasses the pools heading directly to the entrance.
- Distance: 6 or 9 Kilometers (Circular)
- Climb: 500 or 550 meters
- Level: Moderate. (With a few steep sections)
- GPS: Download the GPS file for the hike.
- Highlights: “Window” Waterfall, Mount Ishay, Shulamit Spring, David Waterfall, Nahal David
- From the Nahal David ticket office don’t walk into the reserve. Cross the parking lot and walk down to the main road and turn left up the minor paved road that goes to the Ein Gedi Hostel and Ein Gedi field school. After about a kilometer, at the end of the paved road, look for the beginning of the Black-Marked trail.
- Formally you need to purchase a ticket since you will be returning through Nahal David stream. However, nobody is checking you on the way out.
- You must be out of the reserve before the closing time. Start early enough (The park authorities recommend starting not later than 08:00)
- Follow the black trail, now climbing more steeply. After another kilometer, you will reach a junction with a Green marked trail.
- Turn right on the Green trail if you wish to climb to the summit of Mount Ishay. It is an optional detour of 1.5 Km and 150 m climb (Out and back). The extra effort is rewarded with a fantastic panorama on the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, and the Moab mountains.
- From the junction, walk left on the Green-marked trail until an intersection with a Red-Marked trail. Turn left on the Red markers and start walking down the gorge.
- After a short while, the Red-marked trail climbs out of the gorge on its south bank. Ignore it and continue downstream. In this short section, you cross several pools. Some inside the water (Up to waist height, depending on recent rainfall), and others going around with the aid of metal handles. After the last pool, you finally reach the “Window” waterfall — a real “Wow” spot.
- In front of you, the Dead Sea is seen through a natural window in the rocks, behind you is a charming pool, and below a steep drop of a dry waterfall into the David gorge.
- Retrace your steps back to the red markers and climb out of the wadi to meet the Green marked trail again.
- Turn left and follow the green markers for 650 meters. Pay attention to an unmarked trail on your left. Turn left on the unmarked trail, leading you to the Chalcolithic temple.
- Continue on this well maintained but unmarked path down into Nahal David. (Passing on the way the Shulamit spring).
- Once you arrive to Nahal David, turn left to visit the David waterfall and afterward walk downstream back to the ticket office. (Detailed description of this section appears in the short hike described above)
HIKING NAHAL ARUGOT STREAM – LONG AND SHORT VERSION (WITH MAP)
Nahal Arugot Hiking Map
- Distance: 4 Kilometers (Out and back)
- Climb: 150 meters
- Level: Easy
From the Nahal Arugot ticket office walk upstream along the Red Trail. After about 1.5 km, watch out for a junction with a Blue Trail. Branch left on the Blue Trail. It is the best part of the walk. The trail goes inside the gorge, near the stream, and sometimes inside it. In some sections, you will have to wade in shallow water and be careful if you insist on keeping your feet dry. After about half a Kilometer of fun, you will reach the “Hidden” waterfall. It’s a magical spot. The 10 Meter waterfall drops into a beautiful deep pool where you can take a swim and even take a shower under the waterfall. For those who prefer to stay dry, there is plenty of shade to relax beside the water. If you feel more energetic, you can continue an additional Kilometer upstream to explore also the “upper pools”. Walk back to the entrance the same way, or on the higher (and dry) Red Trail.
- Distance: 8 Kilometers (Circular)
- Climb: 500 meters
- Level: Moderate. (With a few steep sections)
- GPS: Download the GPS file for the hike.
- Highlights: Ein Gedi spring, Ein Gedi ancient ascent, amazing views on the Dead Sea, impressive view from above on the deep Arugot gorge, the “hidden” waterfall and Arugot stream.
- From the Nahal Arugot ticket office do not head upstream, cross the parking lot and head down the paved road until Tel Goren (the location of ancient Ein Gedi) where the Black-marked trail is staring.
- Formally you need to purchase a ticket since you will be returning through Nahal Arugot. However, nobody is checking you on the way out.
- You must be out of the reserve before the closing time. Start early enough (The park authorities recommend to start not later than 08:00)
- Take this Black Trail up the hill. After about a Kilometer of a moderate ascent, you will reach the Ein Gedi Spring. A delightful picnic spot with shade and a pool of fresh spring water.
- A few meters past the spring, the trail is passing near the remains of a Chalcolithic temple, dating to 3,500 BCE. There is not much to see here, but the spot has archeological importance.
- From here starts the “Ein Gedi Ascent”. The ancient path elegantly negotiates the steep cliff. (it is associated with the Cliff of Ziz 2 Chronicles 20:16.)
- The trail gets steeper and rougher as it gets closer to the summit. From midway and further up, you get amazing views on the Dead Sea below.
- Continue following the Black trail on the flat landscape of the desert plateau for about 1.5 Km. Make a short detour on the Red-marked trail to the Ein Gedi lookout at the edge of the cliff.
- Continue on the plateau until you are at the top of Nahal Arugot Canyon (Another great viewpoint).
- Descend carefully the very steep trail down to the bottom of the canyon where you meet a Red-marked path.
- Turn right and walk about half a kilometer upstream to the famous “hidden” waterfall. After a chilling dip in the pool, walk downstream back to the park entrance on the Red marked trail. (Detailed description of this section appears in the short hike described above).
EIN GEDI DAY TOUR (FROM TEL AVIV OR JERUSALEM)
THE MOST CONVENIENT WAY TO VISIT EIN GEDI!
You can join this exciting day of main attractions in the Dead Sea area. Hop on the bus at Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem. Visit Masada, Hike in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, and for dessert chill out and float on the Dead Sea. The tour is Self-Guided. You will be provided with printed and digital information. There are 2 variations:
- Starting at 03:00 – 04:00 (changes seasonally) – Hiking to Masada summit (on foot) to view the sunrise.
- Staring at 07:00 – Going up to Masada with the cable car.
- The rest of the tour is similar for both options.
- Price: from 70 USD / person.
EIN GEDI 4 DAYS DESERT TREKKING
The ultimate Hiking experience:
- Start at the desert town of Arad.
- Hike through the mighty Zeelim Canyon.
- Climb to Masada in an unconventional way.
- Reach Ein Gedi after 4 days of desert hiking.
EIN GEDI NATURE RESERVE – VISITOR GUIDE
Table of contents
- Basic Information
- Getting to Ein Gedi by Bus
- Main Sites of the Natural Reserve
- “Hidden” waterfall
- Essenes Pools
- David Waterfall
- “Window” Waterfall
- Mount Ishay
- Ancient synagogue
- Chalcolithic Temple
- Location: Near the Dead Sea. Google-Maps / Waze
- Opening Times:
Summer hours: 08:00 – 17:00, Friday and holiday eves: 08:00-16:00
Winter hours: 08:00 – 16:00, Friday and holiday eves: 08:00-15:00
- Admission fee: Adult 29 NIS, Child 15 NIS.
- There are 2 ticket offices. On at the entrance to Nahal David and another at the entrance to Nahal Arugot. The ticket is valid for both as long as you enter on the same day.
- A ticket is needed only if to enter into Nahal Argut or Nahal David streams. The other sights and trails in the reserve are free of charge.
GETTING TO EIN GEDI BY BUS
Ein Gedi is served very well by Eged public buses from Jerusalem.
- To/From Jerusalem: direct Eged Bus #486 and #444 departs 1-2 times per hour roughly between 08:00 and 17:00. The bus lets you off near the main Park Entrance at Nahal David.
- There is no direct bus from Tel-Aviv. You have to change buses in Jerusalem.
The abundance of water at Ein Gedi drew settlers since early times, especially settlements focusing on agriculture. The most well-known ancient crop grown at Ein Gedi was the Biblical persimmon (Apharsemon in Hebrew), an ancient perfume and medical oil, which gained a wide reputation. The mosaic uncovered in the excavations of the ancient synagogue shows a curse imposed on those who dare to discover “the secret of the town”. Most researchers believe it is referring to the secret of making persimmon oil.
The first settlement at Ein Gedi had been in the Chalcolithic period, about 5,000 years ago. A significant temple was found and excavated. Strangely no remains of any permanent settlement were found around the temple, and this fact is still a mystery today. Ein Gedi was an ancient settlement on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The remains of the sixth-century ancient synagogue with its impressive mosaic, testify to the Jewish settlement in the area. Jews inhabited Ein Gedi continuously from the 7th century BCE until the 6th century AD.
Ein Gedi has many mentions in the Bible, and the original name was preserved until the modern era. The first mention of Ein Gedi in the Bible is the description of the desert towns of the tribe of Judah. Joshua 15:62 “And Nibshan, and the city of Salt, and Engedi; six cities with their villages.” It was also the setting where David was hiding when he fled from King Saul around 1000 BCE (Hence the name “Nahal David Stream”). 1 Samuel 23:29: “And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strongholds at Engedi“. It has numerous additional mentions in the books of Ezekiel, Chronicles, and Songs of Solomon (Shir Hashirim).
During the middle of the 6th century CE, the Jewish settlement of Ein Gedi was destroyed by fire and abandoned. (Further reading in Wikipedia).
In March 1949, after 1500 years, Jewish settlers returned to Ein Gedi (In the area that is today the Ein Gedi field school), and in 1956 Kibbutz Ein Gedi was established.
The water in Ein Gedi is a “magnet” for the desert animals. Although the list is very long, the ordinary visitor will not be able to see most of them. We will highlight here two that are very easy to spot and interesting to watch.
NUBIAN IBEX: The Nubian Ibex (Yael in Hebrew) is a desert mammal found in rough mountainous areas of northern Africa and the Middle East. Israel had been a friendly environment for the Ibex since Biblical times. Psalm 104:18: “ The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.” (The text in English is not accurate. In Hebrew, the animal is referred by the name “Yealim”, plural of “Yael”!).
The British Mandate in the land of Israel (1917-1948) provided sudden availability of rifles that enabled the Bedouins to hunt them to near extinction. One of the most impressive achievements of the nature protection movement in Israel was the rescue of the ibex population. 1,200 Ibexes were counted in the Judean desert at the end of the 20th century. You have a good chance to encounter an Ibex during a hike in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. The best chance to see it is to come as early as possible, before the crowds, or take one of longer hikes that go on more secluded trails. On occasions, you have the chance to witness herds, sometimes at close distance. A delightful experience!
ROCK HYRAX: The Rock hyrax (also called rock rabbits) live in rock cracks or boulder areas. They live in colonies, sometimes up to 50 individuals, sharing sleeping areas and looking for food together, and like the ibex, are excellent climbers. Although they are mammals, their body temperature is not constant, changing according to the ambient temperature. Therefore, they can be easily spotted especially in the early morning, when they can be seen sunbathing on the rocks absorbing the heat.
DESERT LEOPARD: Unfrortantly, you will not be able to spot a leopard since they are now totally extinct. Until the 1980s, about 10-15 leopards lived in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, a considerable quantity for such a small area. A combination of several factors led to the gradual decline of the leopard population, until its final extinction. The last time a desert leopard had been spotted in the Judean Desert was 2007. The main factors were: Invasive research, road accidents, and hunting. The desert Leopard is the smallest in the Leopard family, its length reaching only 160-180 cm and weighs around 30 Kg. Until the 1990s, on numerous occasions, leopards penetrated Kibbutz Ein Gedi, eating cats and other small animals.
MAIN SITES IN EIN GEDI NATURE RESERVE“HIDDEN” WATERFALL: One of the most beautiful spots in Nahal Arugot. A 10 meters waterfall drops into a pool of 10 m X 5 m. The water depth reaches 1.5 m. It’s especially fun to swim to the waterfall and “take a shower”. The spot was nicknamed “Hidden” because you cannot see the waterfall until you are standing on the edge of the pool. There is plenty of shade beneath the cliffs, a big bonus on hot days. The trail leading to the waterfall is about 2 Km long.
EIN GEDI WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Ein Gedi is one of the hottest and driest places in Israel.
During the summer 40°C is a typical figure, and 45° will not surprise the locals. Winter daytime temperatures are mild and would typically be around 20° C.
The average annual rainfall is around 40 mm spread over a few days. Pouring rain is scarce. However, the reserve gets shut down several times each year due to flash floods that run through the Nahal Arugot. The floods occur after heavy rain falling on the mountains west of Ein Gedi. It could be warm and sunny at Ein Gedi when the flash flood hits. In case of even a slight chance for a flood, the reserve authorities will close all or some of the trails. In case of a rainy forecast for the Jerusalem area, it is recommended to call the reserve and check before hitting the road. Phone: +97286584285
EIN GEDI LODGING GUIDE
There are two recommended accommodations at Ein Gedi with a very different character and pricing:
How do I get to Ein-Gedi by bus?
There is a frequent public bus service from Jerusalem. (Eged lines #486 and #444). There is no direct service from Tel Aviv.
What happened at Ein-Gedi?
King Saul leading a force of 3000 soldiers, chases the young David. He is jealous of Davids’s popularity among the people, following David’s victory over Goliath. At night, David sneaks behind King Saul and cuts off with his sword a piece from Sauls coat. The next morning David confronts the King and proves to him he could have killed him but chose to spare his life. (1 Samuel 24). The story unfolds in the cliffs above Ein Gedi. Because of this fact, several landmarks in the area are named after David and his family. (David stream, David waterfall, Mount Ishay, and Mount Tzruia)
What is there to do in Ein Gedi?
Ein Gedi is a paradise for hikers. It’s a great walk for families with kids to enjoy the waterfalls and the pools. But it also offers tough trails for more serious hikers. In addition to hiking, you can visit the Ein-Gedi ancient synagogue, the Chacalutic temple and relax in the SPA or float on the Dead Sea
What is the best time of year to visit Ein-Gedi?
The best season to visit Ein-Gedi is the winter. Daytime temperatures are mild around 20° C. The summer is extremely hot, with temperature levels above 40° C, not being a rare occasion.