The oasis in the desert is an enduring image. The serene beauty of clear running water, green plants, and lush shade in the middle of a harsh, arid climate is something dreams are made of. But in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, it’s no dream - it’s reality.
Translated as "the spring of the kid” Ein Gedi is made up of two parallel canyons near the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert. The surrounding area is every bit as dry and sandy as you would expect with vast stretches of empty desert extending in every direction. It’s a landscape where it’s hard to believe anything could survive - all of which just makes the vibrant plant and animal life in the reserve all the more entrancing! The canyons are fed by two separate springs which create waterfalls and streams running along the canyon floors. The water from these streams allows for one of the most beautiful and captivating micro ecologies in the world!
The first spring, Wadi David, is considered the main spring and is one of the most popular hiking spots in the country. As soon as you arrive prepare to be struck with the contrast between the spring and the desert around it. Along the length of the stream are lush green plants growing freely along the banks and walls of the canyon. The breeze is cooled by the water and the tall canyon walls and vegetation provide plenty of shade. It’s truly a respite from the desert surrounding it.
Suitable for people of all hiking skill levels and health (the first section of the trail is even wheelchair accessible), Wadi David provides everyone the chance to witness an oasis in real life. Along the main path (a circular hike that can be completed in about an hour) you’ll come across the beautiful David’s Waterfall and crystal-clear natural pools that you can swim in and enjoy.
For those who are more adventurous and don’t mind some climbing, you can explore the upper section. This is a longer more challenging hike, about three or four hours depending on your pace. Hard work in the heat for sure, but well worth it! This path will take you from David’s Waterfall out into the larger reserve area and along some rocky climbing routes. Along the way you’ll have the change to see even more incredible sights, including Dodim’s cave. This spot has a special reputation with hikers, from the alabaster stone that makes up the entry way to the cave, to the aquamarine pools that form in it, to the waterfall inside, the cave a certain magical quality to it. No doubt this is helped by the relative distance and isolation. While the main trail of the Wadi David is always bustling with visitors, few make it out to Dodim’s cave, making it the perfect spot to relax and take THE picture of your trip to Israel.
The second stream, Wadi Arugot, is also beautiful but features a more challenging path for intermediate hikers. There are two separate paths leading to the hidden waterfall and each offer their own sights. The easier option is the path through the riverbed, so be sure to bring waterproof shoes! Reward your long hike with a swim in the pool of the waterfall and cool off!
The wildlife of Ein Gedi is something to behold. As one of the few permanent sources of drinking water in the area, the streams support an entire localized eco-system. Wild Ibex dot the surrounding area, resting in the sun and preserving their strength. Cute little Hyrax or "rock rabbits” make their home in small tunnels and crevasses in the area, careful to hide away from the foxes, wolves and occasional leopard that also live in the area (don’t worry, those animals are nocturnal and the trails are closed before sundown). An untold variety of frogs, crabs, and birds also call the Reserve home, making it an ideal place for bird watchers and photography enthusiasts looking for something unique.
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is an incredible natural wonder. There is no better place to explore to understand the true beauty and splendor of what Israel has to offer.