Located in Israel’s Negev desert, Ein Avdat is a deep and narrow canyon surrounded by springs and pools. Set within the Ein Avdat National Park, and deep in the middle of the Zin Valley, it is an extremely popular hiking spot in Israel because of its unique flora and fauna and sheer natural beauty. In Hebrew, ‘ein’ means ‘spring’ and the name Avdat comes from Ovdat, the site of a ruined Nabatean city, located on the ancient Incense Route and used by traders between 1 BCE and 7 CE.
White Rocks and Byzantine Caves
There are two entrances to Ein Avdat, the main one being close to Kibbutz Sde Boker, the home (and burial place) of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion. Walking past the entrance, visitors will immediately notice huge walls of white rock towering above them, surrounded by Euphrates poplar trees. All around is stark scenery and stillness, save for occasional bird sound.
Ein Avdat is also home to a series of caves, that can be seen along the trail - historically, they were places of isolation for monks in the Byzantine era. The area is also home to ibex and birds of prey, particularly griffon vultures, soaring high above.
Waterfall and Springs
About 20 minutes' walk from the entrance, an extraordinary sight comes into view - a huge waterfall, almost 15 meters high. Pouring down through the canyon, the water settles into a large pool of water, which is 8 meters deep.
This large pool (which is also reflective and therefore an excellent spot for photo-taking) is surrounded by rocks made of chalk, lime, and lint. A long piece of rock also divides the pool in half, letting hikers walk through. Swimming in the pools is prohibited, however, in order to protect the delicate eco-system.
For those more adventurous, there is a more difficult trail named the Ladder Route. To access it, hikers need to climb some steep ladders, along a path cut into the rocks, leading up to the top of the waterfall. This is Ein Mor (in Hebrew, ‘mor’ means ‘myrrh’) and the climb affords wonderful views. However, hikers should note that this cliff path is one-way only, which means you will exit at Ein Avdat’s southern entrance. (There are buses running nearby, or hikers can take two cars, and leave one at each entrance). Ein Avdat is best visited in the spring or autumn - in the summer, temperatures can be unbearably hot and in the winter, heavy rains can cause flash floods, which can be extremely dangerous. Entrance to the park is 29 NIS and opening hours are 08.00 to 17.00