If you have a love of the outdoors, want to experience Israel from a different perspective and don’t particularly like riding around in tour buses with tinted windows, there’s a tour waiting for you. Especially if you’re not afraid of working up a sweat.
Even if you’ve never crossed a desert wadi or swam in a cool spring in the Galilee, you’d probably recognize the logo of the Society for the Protection of Israel, the country’s oldest and largest environmental organization. The society organizes tours that will take you to places most comfy tourists wouldn’t dream of visiting, like hiking through canyons in the Negev or tubing down rivers in the north. During the summer, a few tours are offered in English, but joining a tour at other times of the years is a great way to see the country and pick up some Hebrew at the same time. http://bit.ly/ecoisr8
“Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries.” That’s the slogan of Israel’s International Center for the Study of Bird Migration in Latrun, Israel – located at the junction of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa – has long been known as a birder’s paradise. You can track the patterns of birds migrating through Israel, watch a video of lesser kestrels, and get details about the second International Hula Valley Bird Festival coming up in November. http://bit.ly/ecoisr11 For more on where to perch yourself to get the best view, check out Birding In Israel. http://bit.ly/ecoisr12
Care to see Israel on two wheels? The Arava Institute and Hazon offer a weeklong ride. It includes orientation, five cycling days and a day off for Shabbat. Hazon (vision) is an organization that promotes outdoor physical challenge and creates programs that look at food from a Jewish and contemporary context. Now’s the time to get in shape for the October 2012 ride. http://bit.ly/ecoisr13 If you can’t wait, you can ride along vicariously with Elahn Zetlin, who donned a helmet-cam last year and documented the thrilling and panoramic trek from Jerusalem on to Eilat. http://bit.ly/ecoisr14
If you don’t want to bother with a bike, there’s always your own two feet. If those feet are connected to a body that’s in good shape and is ready for a challenge, the Israel National Trail awaits. The trail “winds its way nearly 1,000 kilometres across Israel, from the Lebanese border in the north to the Red Sea in the south.” If you are up to it, walking the entire trail should take about 30 to 45 days. The English language website is very good with plenty of practical information (don’t hike the Negev in the summer!) and a lively discussion board for hikers considering setting foot. http://bit.ly/ecoisr15
As you bike, hike, wander and even slog your way around the country, you will eventually end up in some of the country’s national parks. Israel has 296 national parks and nature reserves from the Galilee’s Iyon Stream with its waterfalls and flour mills to Eilat’s Coral Beach and underwater garden in the south. http://bit.ly/ecoisr16
And just when you thought you’d seen it all, VirtualTourist.com offers an incredible resource of hundreds of “Israel Off the Beaten Path” recommendations. http://bit.ly/ecoisr17
Happy Israeli trails to you.