Shvil Israel: Israeli National Trail
They say a hundred statistics know everything. But they cannot say exactly how many tourist routes there are in the world. And there are a great many of them, and every year more and more are added to them. True, most of these roads are known only to a narrow circle of people in their region. But not every route is awarded worldwide recognition. After all, to become famous, it must hold a specific standard.
Shvil Israel is a hiking route in Israel that crosses the entire country from its northernmost point to the southern one, introducing tourists to almost all the features of the Holy Land. In 2012, National Geographic magazine included Shvil Israel in the list of the best tourist destinations in the world, giving it an honorable 20th place, for Israelis it's a mandatory trip to do to connect yourself to your homeland.
HISTORY OF THE ISRAELI TRAIL
The Israel Trail (this is the literal translation of the expression “Shvil Israel”) appeared thanks to the efforts of two caring people: journalist Avraham Tamir and local historian Uri Dvir. The first is the experienced hiker himself, who walked the Appalachian Trail. The second is also an adventurist and tour guide, one of the founders of the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Israel. These people did a tremendous job before Shvil Israel received official status. The length of this route reaches 1025 km, and there are many remarkable places along the way. The official opening of the trail took place in 1994 with the direct participation of Israeli President Ezer Weizmann.
SHVIL ISRAEL GENERAL INFORMATION
The route begins in the north of the country, in the area of the Tel Dan nature reserve, where the borders of three states meet at once: Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. The extreme southern point of the route is the seaside city of Eilat. The highest point of the route (1024 m) is located in the area of Mount Meron near Safed. The lowest of all, tourists descend to Lake Kinneret (195 m below sea level). Because it is difficult to completely pass the Israel Trail due to its large length, the route is divided into 52 approximately 20-kilometer sections. Each can be passed separately, which is convenient for novice travelers. The most seasoned, and what is important, having enough time, can overcome the entire route, spending one and a half to two months on this, yes this is a long journey but how else can you make it?
Shvil Israel is a continuous footpath that stretches across the country. For the most part, it follows flat surfaces, but in some cases, it goes onto city sidewalks or secondary roads. Throughout its length, the trail is marked with markers inherent only to it - tricolor blue-white-brown stripes. Blue means sea and sky, white means snow, and brown (orange in some places) means desert. Markers draw on suitable surfaces: tree trunks, stones, and specially installed signs. Notably, the brown stripe is wider in the southern part of the route, and white in the northern part.
KEY MILESTONES OF THE ISRAELI TRAIL
The Israel Trail begins in the Upper Galilee, at Kibbutz Dan, which is located next to the Beit Usishkin Museum. The next significant points on it are the Tel Dan Nature Reserve and the Snir National Park. Bypassing the city, the trail takes travelers to the monument of Joseph Trumpeldor. From the hill along which it stretches, the Hula Valley is visible - part of the Great Rift Valley, and the path itself goes to the highest point of the route - Mount Meron, where there is an interesting rock formation called Elijah's Chair. Along the way, the trail passes the archaeological site of Khirbet Shem, the exit to the surface of the pipes of the National Water Pipeline of Israel, then, bypasses the city of Safed, and that's where you finish the Lower Galilee.
The descent to the Lower Galilee is carried out in the direction of the city of Migdal. But it does not lead directly to the Sea of Galilee but turns to Mount Arbel and the Hittim mountains(the famous battle between the Crusaders and Salah A Din), which are interesting because the Battle of Hattin once took place in these places. Only after that the trail returns to the Sea of Galilee, on the coast of which is the city of Tiberias, which gave Lake Kinneret another name - Tiberias. From this famous reservoir, the trail briefly goes to the Jordan River, where Jesus Christ was baptized in the place of Yardenit(this is not the original place but Kaser El Yahud is), after which it turns towards Mount Fabor, on top of which the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord was built. This is followed by a descent and a new ascent to Mount Deborah, where a monument is erected dedicated to the anniversary of the silver wedding of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and Prince Philip. The journey along the Lower Galilee ends with an exit to the natural reserve Nazareth Iris and a visit to the archaeological site of Sepphoris.
From the Lower Galilee, the path turns towards the Mediterranean coast but does not lead there immediately. First, on the way you meet Mount Carmel with Mount Carmel National Park, and then several other mountains in which prehistoric caves are hidden. And only after passing the city of Zikhron-Yaakov, as well as the ancient Roman aqueduct, near the settlement of Jisr-al-Zarqa, it goes to the Mediterranean Sea itself. Here the path turns south, passing by the time-destroyed ancient Roman city of Caesarea Maritima, and through the city of Hadera, leads to the Nahal Alexander National Park. Further advance along the coast leads to the city of Netanya, behind which there are the ruins of another ancient city of Apollonia-Arsuf. The passage along the coast ends with an exit to the mosque of Sidna Ali. After the city of Herzliya, the trail turns east to two of the most important cities in Israel - Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Moving along the Yarkon River, the path passes through two national parks - Yarkon and Yarkon Springs. The further road to Jerusalem is strewn with historical monuments. This is the Roman mausoleum of Khirbat Mazor, the archaeological site of Tel Khalid, the ruins of the Roman settlements of Khirbat Anava and Khirbat Raghav, the monastery of Latrun, and the old Crusader castle. Jerusalem. For some time, the trail follows the makeshift road Burma Road, which was used by the Palmach fighters during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948. And already on the very approach to Jerusalem, it turns to the Bnei Brit cave with a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.
Here in Shvil Israel there is a branch called the Jerusalem Trail. During a two-day trip along it, the hiker gets acquainted with the main sights of Jerusalem. The main trail leads towards the Negev desert. However, the way to it is still not close. Through a range of hills, the trail leads to the historical ruins of Tel Azeka and Tel Goded. After the passage of the Beit Guvrin National Park, a new meeting with history follows in the form of the remains of the ancient cities of Eleutheropolis Tel Maresha and Tel Lachish. The further direction is the Arad plateau, which is the border of the Negev, but the path leads the traveler through the Lahav forest, the largest Yatir forest in Israel and the second highest point of the route, Mount Amasa with a height of 859 meters.
Despite the specificity of the natural conditions of the desert, there are enough sights in the Negev, and Shvil Israel does not pass by them. Through Mount Kina, the trail leads to the river Nahal Kanfan. Ahead is the Roman-era archaeological site of Mezad Tamar and an observation post on the edge of Hamakhtesh Hakatan. Next in line is another monument left by the Romans. This is the Roman border fortress of Mezad Tzafir. After it, following along Nahal-Khatira, the trail leads to the highest dry waterfall in Israel, Hatira, then the turn of the Roman fortress called Meizad Yorkeam again follows.
Further south, the traveler is meeting the mountains Kabolet and Akev, two rivers flow from the latter at once - Ein Akev and Nahal Akev. Through the oasis of Ein Shaviv, the road leads to the Mezad Mahmal fort, which once protected the spice trade route. Then begins a multi-day overcoming of Makhtesh-Ramon - the largest Makhtesh in the world. Then the picturesque canyons of Barak and Vardit, the dunes of Kasui, and the Timna Valley Park with its Mount Timna and the Solomon Pillars hiding in the valley await the traveler. This is the last test on the way. Then the tourist arrives in the seaside city of Eilat - the southernmost point of the Israel Trail.
WHAT ARE THE ISRAEL NATIONAL TRIAL STAGES?
The Israel National Trail (INT), also known as the "Shvil Israel," is a long-distance hiking trail that spans the entire length of Israel, from the northern border with Lebanon to the southern tip of the country at the Red Sea. It covers a distance of approximately 1,100 kilometers (683 miles) and typically takes about 45-60 days to complete. The trail passes through diverse landscapes, including mountains, forests, deserts, and coastal areas, offering hikers a unique experience of Israel's natural and cultural heritage.
The Israel National Trail is divided into approximately 55 stages, which vary in length and difficulty. Here is a general breakdown of the stages along the trail:
- Dan to Kibbutz Dan (Northern Border) - Starting point of the trail at the northern border of Israel.
- Kibbutz Dan to Yesha Junction
- Yesha Junction to Meron
- Meron to Amiad
- Amiad to Tiberias
- Tiberias to Kfar Kama
- Kfar Kama to Yavne'el
- Yavne'el to Beit Shean
- Beit She'an to Yardenit
- Yardenit to Degania Alef
- Degania Alef to Kibbutz Afik
- Kibbutz Afik to Arbel
- Arbel to Wadi Hamam
- Wadi Hamam to Nazareth
- Nazareth to Kafr Kanna
- Kafr Kanna to Mashhad
- Mashhad to Yokneam
- Yokneam to Megiddo
- Megiddo to Kibbutz Ein Hashofet
- Kibbutz Ein Hashofet to Zichron Yaakov
- Zichron Yaakov to Caesarea
- Caesarea to Netanya
- Netanya to Herzliya
- Herzliya to Tel Aviv
- Tel Aviv to Bat Yam
- Bat Yam to Ashdod
- Ashdod to Beit Guvrin
- Beit Guvrin to Mitzpe Ramon
- Mitzpe Ramon to Sde Boker
- Sde Boker to Tzin Valley
- Tzin Valley to Kmehin
- Kmehin to Zin Valley
- Zin Valley to Kmehin
- Kmehin to Sde Boker
- Sde Boker to Mitzpe Ramon
- Mitzpe Ramon to Ovda
- Ovda to Sde Boker
- Sde Boker to Arava Crossing
- Arava Crossing to Arava Junction
- Arava Junction to Yotvata
- Yotvata to Paran
- Paran to Hatzeva
- Hatzeva to Zofar
- Zofar to Sapir
- Sapir to Ein Yahav
- Ein Yahav to Yotvata
- Yotvata to Eilat Mountains
- Eilat Mountains to Taba Border Crossing (Southern Border)
WHAT IS THE DIFFICULTY OF ISRAEL'S NATIONAL TRAIL?
Due to its length, varied terrain, and unpredictable weather, the Israel National Trail (INT) is regarded as a difficult hiking trail. Depending on your prior hiking experience, level of physical fitness, and the time of year you hike, the difficulty level can change. Here are some elements that add to the INT's overall difficulty:
1. Length: From Israel's northern border to its southernmost point, the trail travels 1,100 kilometers (683 miles). Such a long hike calls for strong stamina and endurance.
2. The INT travels through a variety of landscapes, such as mountains, forests, deserts, and coastal regions. Rugged terrain, rocky paths, sandy patches, and steep ascents and descents await hikers. This challenging terrain calls for the right hiking techniques and can be physically taxing.
3. Weather: The trail's weather conditions may make it more difficult. Israel has hot, dry summers that can be difficult for hikers, especially in the desert areas. It's crucial to plan your hike around the seasons and to take safety measures, like bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, and protective clothing.
4. Navigation: Although the INT is marked with trail markers, some sections might call for knowledge of maps and navigation techniques. To prevent getting lost, it's critical to have a thorough understanding of the trail's layout and to carry a dependable map or GPS device.
5. Water and Resupply: Particularly in the desert regions of the trail, there may not be as many water sources and resupply points as there are in other places. Between resupply points, hikers must carry and plan for enough food and water to last for longer distances.
6. Planning logistics, including lodging, transportation, and permits, can be difficult, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the region or don't speak Hebrew. To guarantee a smooth and safe hiking experience, careful planning and research are essential.
WHERE ARE THE BEST CAMPING POINTS IN SHVIL ISRAEL?
The Israel National Trail (INT) offers several fantastic camping points along its route, allowing hikers to experience the beauty of Israel's landscapes and spend the night immersed in nature. Here are some popular camping points along the INT:
Mount Meron: Located in the Upper Galilee region, Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel and offers stunning panoramic views. There are designated camping areas around the mountain where hikers can pitch their tents and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret): The shores of the Sea of Galilee provide picturesque camping spots. You can find camping facilities and campsites in towns such as Tiberias and Ein Gev, allowing you to combine a night under the stars with the tranquility of the lake.
Zavitan River: This scenic river, located in the Golan Heights, is an ideal camping spot. The area offers beautiful waterfalls and lush vegetation, creating a serene atmosphere for hikers to set up camp.
Ein Gedi: Situated in the Judean Desert, Ein Gedi is an oasis with natural springs and waterfalls. The area has camping facilities and is a great place to spend a night surrounded by the desert's unique beauty.
Makhtesh Ramon: Located in the Negev Desert, Makhtesh Ramon is a breathtaking geological formation. The area provides camping opportunities near the edge of the crater, where you can witness stunning sunsets and stargaze in the vast desert sky.
Timna Park: Situated in southern Israel, Timna Park is known for its stunning desert landscapes and rock formations. The park has designated camping areas, allowing hikers to explore the area's natural beauty and spend the night in a peaceful setting.
It's important to note that camping regulations and facilities may vary at different locations along the trail. Some camping areas require reservations, while others may have restrictions due to environmental conservation efforts.
WOULD YOU HIKE SHVIL ISRAEL?