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Most tourists are unaware of Israel’s natural beauty, so I decided to do something about it!

As reported also on these pages, tourism in Israel is booming in recent years. Besides the direct economic influence, tourism is another strong asset in improving PR for Israel. I have not met anyone who visited Israel for the first time, either as a tourist or on business, and did not return home amazed with the country.

Most tourists come to Israel either out of religious sentiment or because of an interest in the country’s historical and cultural sites. Others come to enjoy the beaches and night life of Eilat or Tel Aviv. But aside from these known attractions, Israel is also a unique nature and hiking destination.

The most striking feature of Israel’s landscape is its variety. This small area (smaller than New Jersey) has the Negev desert in the South, the Judea planes and mountains in the center, a long Mediterranean coast line and the Galilee and Golan mountains in the north. Each of these  areas has unique characteristics and climate.

Indeed, the radical change in climate over such a short distance creates an amazing variety. For example, Israel is home to about 2500 wildflowers species, compared with only 1500 species in the British Isles that are more than 10 times larger in area!!

Many of the trails pass through incredible biblical, historical and archaeological sites that blend into the natural surroundings. As you walk along your route, you might see monasteries, ancient ‎synagogues, Crusader fortresses, Nabatean towns, and much more…

Hiking

A group of scouts hike on the Wadi Katlav trail in the Jerusalem Mountains. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel’s Negev is one of the most hiking-friendly deserts in world, definitely the friendliest one close to Europe. It is just 1-2 hours away from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and features many well-marked hiking trails suitable for all levels, from casual walkers to hardcore hikers. For folks from northern countries who have never hiked in a desert before, this would be a unique experience not to be missed!

If you are into serious multi-day hiking, you can choose one of Israel’s well marked epic trails:

The Israel National Trail (INT) is approximately 1100 km long. The trail starts in the north near Kibbutz Dan and ends in the south in Eilat. It was named by National Geographic magazine as one of the world’s 20 best “epic hiking trails”.

The Golan Trail is 125 kilometers long. It begins on the slopes of Mt. Hermon and ends near the Sea of Galilee, crossing the Golan from north to south. The Golan is full of streams, rugged landscapes and wildlife, and is especially beautiful in spring when a large variety of wildflowers blossom.

The Jesus Trail is a 65-kilometer hiking trail in the Galilee region of Israel that connects important sites from the life of Jesus as well as other historical and religious sites.

However, when I hike in Israel, I rarely meet tourists on the trails.

I am a mechanical engineer by profession, but my real passion is nature and outdoors. I live in Israel and love the country and its nature. The fact that most tourists are rarely experiencing our natural gems troubled and saddened me. When I tried to figure out the reason for this situation, my conclusion was that the main reason is an almost total lack of detailed information on the subject in languages other than Hebrew.

Last year I decided to do something about it and began promoting hiking tourism in the country. I created the website “Israel by Foot“, where I try to put all my skill and passion into giving practical, high-quality information on the topic and spreading it to foreign tourists. It’s the least I can do to bring people to this beautiful country!

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Article by Erez Speiser

Erez Speiser, born 1966 in Israel, lives in Rakefet in the Galilee. A mechanical engineer by profession, he is passionate about nature and the outdoors, enjoys hiking, mountain biking and surfing. Erez loves Israel and tries to promote hiking tourism in the country. He is the founder and manager of www.hike-israel.com