7 Beautiful Hikes in the West Bank for Nature Lovers

Wadi Qelt 2 | © Derek Winterburn/Flickr
Wadi Qelt 2 | © Derek Winterburn/Flickr
Photo of Florence Sinclair
27 October 2017

The West Bank, home to rolling, vine-covered hills and lush valleys, as well as the expansive Judean Desert and the eerily serene Dead Sea, make for a huge diversity of nature and wildlife, and a stunning range of hiking routes. Hiking is best done with a guide or experienced local, and spring and autumn-time offer the best walking climates. From half-day hikes to a several weeks of camping, Culture Trip lists something to suit everyone.

Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil: Rummana to Hebron

Masar Ibrahim, meaning Abraham’s path, is said to be the route walked by the Prophet Abraham 4,000 years ago, stretching from Erbil in Iraq, through Southern Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and ending in Mecca. The section of the path that runs through Palestine – from Rummana in the north to the Sanctuary of Abraham in Hebron – is undergoing a regeneration initiative which has made it a popular and accessible walking route for hikers and pilgrims.

The organisation in charge of the project, Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil, works to encourage community-based tourism, as well as cultural exchange and safeguarding of Palestinian heritage. The route from Rummana to Hebron passes through most of the West Bank’s main cities and holy sites, as well as the Dead Sea, and takes around 22 days to walk in its entirety.

However it is made up of 14 shorter sections that can usually be covered in a day or two, and Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil have uploaded detailed information on each section, including a map, on their website. A selection of tour operators and local guides are also provided online, one of the most notable being the Siraj Centre, a co-founder of the initiative, who run tours ranging from one-day walking trips, to a 22-day hike of the full route. Hikers are accommodated in Bedouin camps overnight, making for a truly unforgettable experience.

Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, Old City Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Palestine, +972 2 274 8590

#hiking #masaribrahim #arraba #sanur #sundaywalk #westbank #palestine

A post shared by Thomas van Gool (@thomasvangool) on

The Nativity Trail: Nazareth to Bethlehem

Map View

The Nativity Trail: Nazareth to Bethlehem

Follow in the biblical steps of Mary and Joseph, and make the journey from Nazareth, now a predominantly Christian Arab city in Northern Israel, to Bethlehem, in the southern West Bank. The trail passes through diverse landscapes, from olive-lined mountains in the north, to the vast desert of the south, where the route takes in the ancient city of Jenin and the monumental Mar Saba monastery. Green Olive Tours operates an 11-day guided tour of the trail, which includes tours of cities of Nazareth, Nablus and Jericho. The range of accommodation provided on the tour, consisting of homestays, monasteries, and Bedouin camps, provides the opportunity to get to know and understand the vast range of people who inhabit the West Bank.

Green Olive Tours, King David, Jerusalem, Israel, +972 3 721 9540

Wadi Makhrour: Battir to Beit Jala

For those looking for a shorter but equally stunning route, the Makhrour valley near Bethlehem provides the perfect route for a half-day hike. Due to the ancient terraced water system found in the valley, it has been granted UNESCO world heritage status – which to the delight of nature lovers, environmentalists, and those fighting Israeli occupation, means it cannot be touched by settlements or separation walls. The charming village of Battir lies in the midst of ancient olive groves and vineyards, and provides an excellent starting point for a half-day hike to the town of Beit Jala. Visitpalestine.ps runs guided half-day tours, visiting historical and religious sites such as ancient tombs, a natural spring, and the remnants of the old railway connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem.

Visit Palestine Center, Manger Street, opposite the Central Bus Station, Bethlehem, +970 2 277 1992

Wadi Makhrour from Hosh Yasmin | © Florence Dixon

Wadi Qelt: Ain Fawar to St George’s Monastery

Map View
Wadi Qelt
Wadi Qelt | Wadi Qelt
The Qelt valley hike is known to be one of the most beautiful walks in Palestine, even more so in springtime when the trees are in full bloom and the valley floor is carpeted in flowers. Along with the array of flora and fauna, the route passes through sites of historical interest, such as Ottoman-era buildings and the famous St George’s Monastery. Bawadi Desert Eco-Tourism, a recent Bedouin youth-focused tourism initiative, runs a four-hour guided hike of Wadi Qelt with the option of a traditional Bedouin lunch. Bawadi, made up of Bedouin from the Jahalin tribe who were ousted from the Negev Desert in 1949 by the Israeli Authorities, boasts a range of guided hiking tours along ancient shepherding trails known only to the Bedouin. Tours include traditional meals with Bedouin families, offering them the opportunity to tell their stories and share their heritage, seen as under threat due to the Israeli occupation who increasingly infringe on Palestinian land, restricting the Bedouins’ nomadic way of life and thus their livelihood. Bawadi also offer hikes in the stunning Wadi Mukalak, as well as from Mar Saba Monastery to Tel al-Qamar. Check their website for their current programme.

Wadi Jahir: Ain Jahir to Ain Fusail

For nature lovers, hiking in the Jahir valley provides fantastic opportunities to observe the birds and wildlife native to Palestine. Located in the midst of the Judean desert, the valley is a remote and peaceful spot, perfect for those looking to reconnect with nature after experiencing the bustle and chaos of the region’s cities. Hantourism, a Palestinian community-based tourism platformpromoting sustainable, budget-friendly and independent tourism initiatives, offers half-day treks from Ain Jahir, the valley’s spring, to Ain Fusail. See their website for more details, and to browse their other hiking trips available.

Hantourism, Jericho, Palestine, +970 22778313, +970 568966010

Israel-05967 – Ibex | © Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Sebastia: Donkey Tours

For those keen to try a new mode of transport, Hantourism has recently begun offering donkey tours, as part of a community-based tourism initiative led by students from the town of Sebastia. Dating back to the Roman era, Sebastia is home to beautiful ancient ruins, as well as Palestine’s old Ottoman-era railway. The half-day donkey tour also includes an alfresco picnic at lunchtime, perfect for making the most of the stunning surrounds. See their website for more tours and details.

Hantourism, Jericho, Palestine, +970 22778313, +970 568966010

Donkey Tour in Sebastia | © Courtesy of Hantourism

The Samaritan Walk: Mount Gerizim to Mar Saba Monastery

Run by the Siraj Centre, the eight-day Samaritan Walk is no ordinary holy land tour. Starting in Mount Gerizim, home to the world’s largest Samaritan community, the tour offers the opportunity to meet members of this historical community, before continuing through Nablus, Awarta and the spring of Ain Auja. The walk then leads into the desert, passing through Jericho, the stunning Wadi Qelt, and the village of Nabi Musa, before finishing at the Mar Saba Monastery. The diversity of destinations allows hikers to meet an intriguing cross-section of Palestinian society, as well as enjoying the variety of the landscape and wildlife. See the Siraj Centre website for their current programme and more details.

Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, Old City Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Palestine, +972 2 274 8590

Mar Sabbas – Valle de Kidron | © JJ Merelo/Flickr