At Ein Avdat National Park, you can enjoy a stunning hike in the desert. The path goes along the Zin stream inside a deep canyon. And the hike lets you appreciate the scenery and the wildlife. Let’s begin exploring!
Note: do not mix between this place and Avdat National Park, located within 10 minutes drive. While Ein Avdat National Park offers marvelous nature, at Avdat National Park, you walk through the remains of a Nabatean city. And due to the closeness, combining both of them can make a lovely half-day trip.
Avdat National Park is located near Midreshet Ben-Gurion, also known as Midreshet Sde Boker.
Map of the area:
And here is the map from the official brochure:
Note: you can click on the image of the map to enlarge it.
Ein means spring in Hebrew, and as you can see from the map, most of the hike will be beside the spring inside the canyon.
Here is an interactive map from israelhiking.osm.org.il with the one-directional trail marked:
There are two options to hike inside Ein Avdat National Park.
|#||Name||Description||Distance (km)||Total climb and descent (meters)||Notes|
|1||The circular route||Starts at the lower parking near Ein Mor. Goes to the last pool and then returns to the parking.||2.3||240|
|2||One-directional path||Begins at the lower parking and goes to the last pool. From there, instead of returning, you climb up along the ladders till you reach the top of the canyon. The Ladder Route is a one-directional route (you cannot go down to the valley from that point).||1.3||201||Requires two cars. One at each entrance to Ein Avdat National Park.|
The preferred way to reach Ein Avdat National Park is by car. And an even better option is to visit with friends so that you will have two cars (see the ladder trail below). And if you drive there, enter “Ein Avdat National Park” into Waze, Google Maps, or another Navigation app.
Reaching this national park by public transport is inconvenient. For example, here are directions from Tel Aviv to Ein Avdat. As you can see, you will need at least three buses and an additional 45 min hike (3.5 km) to reach the beginning of the trail. You can hitchhike, but you cannot be sure that you will find a ride. Thus, I would suggest driving there. If you do not have a car, then you can rent one. Here is a link to rentalcars.com, where you can check the prices.
You can click on this Moovit link and set the starting point to get the updated public transport directions.
When To Visit Ein Avdat?
This National Park is located in the desert. Therefore I would recommend against visiting it in the Summer (temperatures can reach above 40 C). Moreover, it will be hard to visit both Ein Avdat and Avdat in one day. Spring is the best season for a visit. And of course, take plenty of water, hats, and wear sunscreen.
Moreover, do not visit the desert after rain. Floods in the Negev can be dangerous, and unfortunately, there were cases in Israel when people died in desert floods.
Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8:00 – 17:00 (16:00 in winter).
Friday: 8:00 – 16:00 (15:00 in winter).
On holidays eves usually 8:00 – 13:00.
Adult – 28 NIS, child – 14 NIS, and student – 24 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you are going to visit several National Parks, consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves post. Moreover, there is a special combined ticket for both the canyon and the ancient city at the Ein Avdat National Park entrance. I know it exists since the cashier offered to purchase it, but I did not find any reference to it on the official website.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in November 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
David Ben Gurion
Before getting to Ein Avdat, let’s talk about Ben Gurion for a second. David Ben Gurion was the first Prime Minister of Israel. And while most Israeli Prime Ministers and Presidents are buried at Mount Herzl National Cemetery in Jerusalem, Ben Gurion chose to be buried near Sde Boker. He even picked the spot from which you can see the Zin Canyon.
The reason for this selection is: “Ben Gurion loved the desert.” He also believed that the future of Israel is linked to bringing people to the Negev. Moreover, he believed in the economic potential of the desert and its contribution to overall prosperity.
Ben Gurion not only believed but also acted. He and his wife, Paula, joined Kibbutz Sde Boker and lived there when he retired.
Ben Gurion’s Hut
It is a truly incredible story, and Ben Gurion lived in Sde Boker for the remainder of his life, apart from a brief spell in which he returned to politics. He hosted world leaders and many other dignitaries in his home there and worked like the other community members. His passion for developing Israel’s desert and membership of Sde Boker has undoubtedly been of paramount importance in securing investment in infrastructure and creating the thriving communities and industries in the Negev, which continue to flourish.
Visitors travel to Sde Boker to visit the hut in which Ben Gurion lived with his wife and the surrounding gardens and exhibits which pay tribute to him. The hut also houses the Ben Gurion Archive, amazingly modest compared to that of other world leaders. It contains over 5,000 books (the kibbutz built a large building to house the archive and him, but he refused, demanding to be treated like all members). The adjacent hut, which housed Ben Gurion’s bodyguards, is now a museum about Negev’s development and the impact Ben Gurion has had on it.
Ben Gurion Memorial Site – Ben-Gurion’s Tomb National Park
Just before entering Ein Avdat National Park, you will see parking to your left. I suggest stopping there for a short break. After a two-minute walk, you will reach a small park. You can find the burial place of David and Paula in the center of this park. Moreover, from there you can get great views of the Zin Canyon. Like the following one:
This site is also called Ben-Gurion’s Tomb National Park. There are no opening hours, i.e., it is always open, and the entrance is free.
The graves of David and Paula Ben-Gurion overlook a breathtaking view of the Tsin canyon and the Avdat highlands in the heart of the Negev. The path from the parking lot to the tranquil gravesite goes through a garden of carefully nurtured local flora that can thrive in the arid climate and saline conditions of the local soil.
Source: official site
And lastly, there are restrooms nearby.
After a break at Ben Gurion Memorial Site, you need to return to the car and drive to the Ein Avdat National Park entrance. Though the entry is at the upper parking, the trail starts in the canyon. Thus, after entering, you will be driving down along the road (you can see part of it in the photo below) till you reach the bottom parking inside the canyon.
Inside Ein Avdat National Park
I made the Ein Avdat ladder route more than a decade ago. Back then, there were no smartphones. I was not into photography, and I had a first digital camera. Thus, the following photographs are horrible. Nonetheless, I think they will be helpful.
After parking at the lower parking, at Ein Mor, we start walking along the trail, which looks pretty much like this.
These are the Euphrates poplar trees, which grown next to Ein Mor, a small seasonal spring mostly used by the local vegetation and herds of ibexes.
The poplars which grow in the Negev are a remnant of a wetter climatic period than today. They have only survived near two springs – Ein Shaviv and the two groups in the Ein Ovdat Canyon.
The poplar is a tall tree that grows on riverbanks and can tolerate a certain amount of salinity in the ground. The Euphrates poplar has two foliage types: the younger long leaves and wider, more mature diamond-shaped leaves. That is a deciduous tree that loses its leaves in winter. The leaves have prominent gallnuts, shaped like a white half ball (gallnut means a swelling or growth in the leaf following penetration of a foreign body, such as laid eggs or an insect sting). The poplar gallnuts contain pests that secrete a sweet substance off which the ants inside the tree feed.
And hence we mentioned ibexes, here is one that was busy eating at Ein Mor.
It is well worth looking at the cliffs while walking along the gorge. We might be able to spot ibexes. The ibexes, kings of the cliffs, live near sources of water. There is a large number of ibexes in the Ein Ovdat Canyon. They have a brown hide, a robust and muscular body, and their feet’ structure is ideal for the surroundings.
The ibexes live most of the life in separate herds – males in one group and females and kids in another. You can clearly distinguish them from each other: the male is large, heavy, and muscular, the back of the neck is well developed, and the horns are large and bent backward. The male’s horns serve as a means to reduce the number of male rivals. The female is smaller with slender, short horns which curve slightly to the rear.
The sexes meet during the mating season – between September-November – and the largest and strongest male in the herd mates with the females after a long courting period. The pregnant female ibex leaves the herd and gives birth in the spring to one or two kids. The ibexes can be spotted early in the morning and in the afternoon. They descend the cliffs to eat and drink near the spring. In the past, the number of ibexes decreased. Today, due to the enforcement of nature preservation laws, the number of ibexes has increased.
Note: if you want to find additional info about animals and wildlife, check out Zoos and Aquariums in Israel.
Ein Ovdat Canyon
Ein Ovdat Canyon is cut into the Ovdat Heights and exposes the rocks of the heights, the main ones being: chalk, lime, and flint. These rocks were formed in the sea, which covered the region around 50 million years ago. The chalk was formed by the settling of skeletons of microscopic monocellular creatures. The rock is white and soft.
The limestone – formed by the settling of lime skeletons of marine creatures. The parts of these creatures and their reconsolidation give the lime its rigidity. Fossils are frequently found in lime rocks. The lime has a white and hard appearance.
Flint – a dark and hard rock. During the prehistoric era, flint was used as a raw material to prepare tools and light fires. As a result of its sharpness, one of the uses of stone is mentioned in the Bible: “And Joshua wrought narrow swords and circumcised the Children of Israel on the Foreskin Hill (Joshua 4, 3).
The waterfall is 15 meters high, and there is a large 8-meter deep pool at the base of the waterfall. Bathing in the pool is prohibited!
The spring is active all year round, although the flow varies through the seasons. The salinity of the water also changes. The springs area attracts many animals: insects, songbirds, rock doves, birds of prey, and ibexes.
Eagles sometimes use the canyon cliffs as nesting spots. Other birds of prey can also be seen, including vultures, hawks, bustards, etc. There are rising airflows near the cliff’s edge, and the birds of prey use these to climb. Near here, there are nesting places of rock doves and swifts. The area is used by passing waterfowl, such as coots and landfowl like partridges and herons, a wide variety of rodents, dragonflies, etc.
Ein Ovdat is a stratum spring – some of the rainwater which descends from the heights seeps through the fissures in the horizontal strata of the chalk, lime, and flint until they reach an impervious layer. Water flows along with this stratum like groundwater. The water breaks through as a spring in places where the stratum is exposed due to erosion by the river.
Here is a series of images from the park:
Swimming in the pools is not allowed. Moreover, the water is not drinkable. Thus, as I mentioned above, bring plenty of water with you.
At this point, you can either return to Ein Mor parking or continue to the ladder route (if you have a second car waiting at the “back” parking).
The Ladder Trail
Starting the climb.
There is a giant bell-shaped cave at the end of the steps, which contains numerous nesting places used by rock doves. At the end of the route, we can catch a bird’s eye view of Ein Ovdat before turning towards the poplar grove.
The Euphrates Poplar trees will already be familiar to us from the route’s starting point, next to Ein Mor. The path starts to climb from here, leading to quarried steps and two iron ladders.
We will climb the quarried steps and see a narrow path pointing to the north before the first ladder. We can follow this path, which leads to one of the caves cut out of the cliffside. These caves were formed to serve as isolation chambers for Byzantine monks. One of the caves contains a Greek inscription that addresses Theodoros, who was known as the patron of the city of Ovdat, which is located around three kilometers south of this point.
And here is last part of the route from above:
As you can see, though there are several ladders, the trail is not that hard, and older children can comfortably make it.
And here is a short video from Ein Avdat, my Dad prepared after his last visit:
As I mentioned above, swimming in the pools is not allowed and the water is not suitable for drinking.
First, you need to get to Jerusalem’s central bus station. Then take bus #470 – Jerusalem to Be’er Sheva. And from Be’er Sheva you take bus #60 towards Mitzpe Ramon. Then you get off bus #60 at Ben Gurion College and walk the rest of the way. For additional details see the directions section above.
Shortly, it is boiling hot in the summer. Moreover, after rains, there is a danger of floods. Thus spring is the best time for a visit. See the “When To Visit?” section above for additional details.
If you have a car, then this is a five-minute drive along road #40 south.
If you do not have a car, then getting around is problematic. You can find the full answer at Avdat guide.
The round trail at Ein Avdat National Park is about two kilometers long. And since most of the terrain is on level ground, you can make it quite quickly. But if you make stops to enjoy nature and take photos, completing the trail can take up to several hours.
When thinking about the desert, this is not what comes to mind. And, in my opinion, this is one of the most spectacular trails in Israel. That is why I included it in my top ten National Parks And Nature Reserves in Israel.
If you are looking for a half-day trip in the desert, then visiting both Ein Avdat and Avdat National Park can be perfect. The combination of nature and archeology makes the tour exciting and versatile. And the closeness makes it comfortable to travel.
Have you ever been to Ein Avdat National Park? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.