In 2022, Amiel launched a partnership with Country Walkers, one of the leading providers of walking adventures worldwide, recognized by National Geographic Traveler’s “50 Tours of a Lifetime” and Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best”. For the agency’s first group traveling to Israel – seniors 60-80 years old – we curated an exciting 7-day hiking tour covering more than 50km of Israel’s landscapes, history and cultural diversity by foot.
When planning this special tour, we wanted to create a tour that explored Israel’s history and diversity first hand, through meeting people and learning about the uniqueness of the country, and its many challenges.
Israel offers magnificent hiking trails in a variety of difficulty levels, starting with the Israel National Trail, (INT, or Shvil Yisrael in Hebrew), a hiking trail that crosses the country from its southern to northern borders, traversing a wide range of landscapes, a rich variety of flora and fauna, and a diversity of cultures.
We started our tour on the INT in the Arab village Jisr A Zarka, heading towards the historical coastal town Caesarea, making stops to meet local communities to discuss and understand the complexity of coexistence between Jews and the Arab population.
From there, a short bus ride took us to Mt. Precipice in Nazareth where we started the Gospel/Jesus Trail, hiking from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. In a 2-day walk on and around this trail, we visited historical and archaeological sites, including the holy Druze site of Nabi Shuayb and continued to learn about life in Israel, making a stop at a Kibbutz to hear what it means to live in a community.
In the Jordan Valley – Dead Sea area, we hiked on some of the most magnificent trails in the country. Reaching the peak of Sartaba, which overlooks the Jordan rift valley, we learned how dates are grown from a local agriculturist who told us all about desert agriculture, then visiting the archeological site of Qumran, and hiking a short distance to the Dead Sea caves. On the next day, a sunrise hike to Masada to explore the top and its stories, an unforgettable experience and an absolute favorite at any age, and after lunch we continued our hike in one of the most beautiful areas in Israel visiting David Creek (Nachal David in Hebrew) in the Ein Gedi Nature reserve, and climbing to the origins of the springs and the ancient synagogue.
On day 5, we embarked on a tour through monasteries hiking in Wadi Qelt from Haritun Monastery to Ein Maboa accompanied by a Palestinian guide, and visited St George Monastery to meet the monks.
In Jerusalem, we explored the Pilgrims’ Trail, hiking from Tel Azeka to Nativ HLH over the Elah Valley to the biblical landscape of David and Goliath story, and took a semi-city walk of Jerusalem Old City (Kidron Valley).
We ended the trip visiting Bethlehem – Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest continuously operating churches worldwide, and the Grotto of the Nativity, the spot that has been honored as the place where Christ was born.
It is not often that a group of seniors chooses to travel Israel by foot. To this end, we made sure that every part of this hiking tour was suitable for the group, and that the length and difficulty level of each path was given in advance. We limited bus rides for transportation from one area to another, and packed in many stops to meet locals and learn about the region.
Accommodations were selected carefully to give a taste of all that Israel has to offer, from a stay at the Ein Gedi Oasis, lunch in a Bedouin tent, a hotel with rooms facing the Sea of Galilee and much more.
The tour was planned in detail, together with Katerina from Country Walkers that tried and tested the entire itinerary on a preparational visit prior to the group’s arrival.