By far the most mesmerizing, beautiful, and historical trip I’ve ever done was recently to Jordan and Israel where I “Hiked the Holy Land”, experiencing the sights, sounds, aromas and peoples in a more intimate and real way.
After a long flight, I refreshed and rejuvenated by starting at the Dead Sea in Jordan, I did the obligatory “float” in the salty water of the lowest point on earth. After that, rubbing the Dead Sea mineral packed mud all over myself was therapeutic, albeit messy (and didn’t taste good if you get some in your mouth.)
My adventure then really commenced down the ancient King’s Highway, heading south to Wadi Rum (a.k.a. “the Lawrence of Arabia desert”). On the way, I stopped at the crusader built Kerak Castle for a walk through with a guide. It’s a mix of dark cavernous spaces, and sunlight piercing hallways and rooms via cracks and holes in the ceilings and walls. It was terrific for pictures, optimizing the shadows and lights.
Once down in the Wadi Rum desert, I hired a local Bedouin to take me around in a 4×4 Jeep. Bedouin are the desert nomadic people in the region, going back thousands of years. The landscape of the desert was amazing, and at various points we would stop and visit some of his other Bedouin friends’ tents and have tea. I hiked around a little, and made believe I was “Jack of Arabia”.
Next, it was on to the lost city of Petra in Jordan. This is clearly the highlight of many people’s trip to the region. Made famous in an Indiana Jones movie, it’s a “rose red” city carved into sandstone mountains some 2,000 or so years ago. This place was a hiker’s dream. While some of the structures are visible to anybody just walking through the city, some of the sites are hidden and need to be hiked up to. Breathtaking would be an understatement for this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Crossing over into Israel now, I had an opportunity to meet the co-founder of the Jesus Trail hiking path and manager of a charming Inn in old town Nazareth He picked out a 4 hour section of the 4 day Jesus Trail that runs from Nazareth (Jesus’ home town) to Capernaum (where Jesus practiced his ministry) near Lake Galilee for me to do. It was one of the most peaceful and tranquil hikes I’ve ever done, never seeing another person on the trail that day. It was just me and the incredible surroundings. I stopped and reflected a few times about the path I was walking and the significance of the area. There was a nice breeze blowing, the birds were chirping, and I was “having a moment”.
The next day, heading towards the Dead Sea in Israel, I began the climb up to Masada using the Snake Path route. Masada was one of King Herod’s opulent palaces and hangouts, and was the site of a famous Jewish revolt against the Romans. It was only about an hour up, but it sure kicked my butt. Straight up and no shade! There are options to take a cable car up as well. I was second guessing myself at times, but sure glad I accomplished the hike up.
After touring around the ruins high up on Masada in the heat and sun it was time to come down and head a few miles away to a park called Ein Gedi. This was a true desert oasis. I hiked around to an assortment of small waterfalls and natural pools which were sooooo refreshing to dip into after a hot hike.
After a couple days walking around and exploring the Old City of Jerusalem I was taken to the West Bank, to hike a section of the Battir Trail with a Palestinian guide. This trail was very scenic, and it was located in between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Thousands of untold stories have taken place on this stretch of land indeed.
My two weeks in the Holy Land was perfect. Not a thing went wrong, and everything went right. The hummus, olives, figs, fresh squeezed daily pomegranate juice, Arabian/Muslim and Hebrew/Jewish music, extremely hospitable locals in Jordan, informative and well meaning people in Israel and the West Bank, and the glorious sunrises and sunsets and vistas made this truly an epic trip of a lifetime.
I have decided to share my experience with you, beyond just this article. I will be taking a group to the Holy Land of Jordan and Israel for nature walks and day hikes in late 2015 – early 2016 timeframe. Please let me know if you are interested. I can’t wait to go back. And, I can’t wait to see your excitement and the pleasure of experiencing this section of the world the best way: Literally walking and hiking, close-up through the pages of history.
Special thanks to Catholic Travel Centre , Overseas Travel Jerusalem & Amman, The Jesus Trail and Fauzi Azar Inn, Battir Landscape EcoMusuem and Trail, My driver in Jordan, Hani Nashash , and my driver in Israel and the West Bank, Marwan Bahlwan
* Peru Adventure Trip with Machu Picchu Hike April 16-24, 2015