Hiking the Jesus Trail in Israel is a fun thing to do – even if you are not religious at all.
This is one of Israel’s most fun trails; a 4 to 7 days hike (depending on how long you walk each day) that will take you through the beautiful landscapes of Galilee, and during which you can learn more about the history and the culture of Israel.
In this post, I highlight everything you should know before walking the Jesus Trail – from the itinerary to a few tips that will help you make the most of it. Let me first share some background information about the trail itself.
Some Basic Facts About The Jesus Trail
Israel is packed with good hiking trails. The most famous one is the Israel Trail, which cuts through the country, from the border with Lebanon in the north through the Negev desert and to Eilat in the south. It takes roughly 8 weeks to walk its full length.
The Jesus Trail is another incredible multi-day hike. You can do it for religious and spiritual reasons or for the simple pleasure of walking. This 62 km trail that can be walked in 4 days. It starts in Nazareth, the city where Jesus grew up, and goes all the way to Capernaum via Zippori, Cana, Kibbutz Lavi, Moshav Arbel and Mount of Beatitudes. It pretty much crosses the entire region of Galilee, a crossroads of cultures and a gateway for trade since humans have been living there.
Although it has yet to be proved whether Jesus actually walked this trail, most of the sites the trail goes through have been identified as places visited by Jesus in the New Testament. What is certain is that Jesus walked this region.
Interestingly though, the Jesus Trail actually goes well beyond Christian holy sites, through Arab towns, Jewish archeological sites, Muslim shrines and even Crusader battlefields; as well as olive groves, hills, nature reserves and the Sea of Galilee.
The idea of the trail was conceived in 2007 and the first group of hikers ventured on the trail in 2008. In 2009, the same year Pope Benedict XVI visited Nazareth – the trail was officially recognized and marked with signs.
The Jesus Trail can be walked (or biked) independently – though it may require a bit of planning. Alternatively, there are Jesus Trail pre-packaged tours which you can do with or without a guide. Just make sure not to hike it alone (here’s why I think that hiking alone is a bad idea in this post).
I did a self-guided tour which included:
- meal reservations (breakfast and dinner);
- a Jesus Trail detailed guide book;
- updates on the trail;
- pre-trek briefing;
- support before and during the hike.
Finally, let me go over the trail.
The Jesus Trail Itinerary
Day 0 – Tel Aviv to Nazareth
The starting point of the Jesus Trail is Nazareth. You can get there by bus or shared minivan from Tel Aviv old bus station. It takes around 3 and a half hour to get there.
The bus doesn’t go to the Old City, so it is a bit of a walk from the final bus stop to hostels located in the center.
Nazareth is the main city in the Galilee region. Around 70000 people live there, and pretty much 100% of the population is Israeli Arab (or rather, Palestinian), divided among Christians and Muslims. Due to its connection to Christianity, Nazareth is a major tourist spot for groups of pilgrims.
The Old City boasts a beautiful market, though most shops have been closed as a result of the renovation works and owners haven’t moved back. There are a few historical homes – the prettiest is Fauzi Azar, a traditional Arab home with a gorgeous living room and high ceilings, currently used as a guest house.
Other places of interest are the Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East, and Mary’s Well and Ancient Bathhouse. Make sure to also visit Elbabour, an amazing old mill that sells all sorts of spices, teas and coffee, dry fruits and nuts. Try the za’atar, a mixture of herbs (mostly oregano and thyme) mixed with olive oil and spread on traditional Arab bread.
Where to sleep and eat in Nazareth
The best place to stay in Nazareth is the Fauzi Azar Inn. They have private rooms with private bathroom and dorms with shared bathrooms. The place is incredibly charming, and quiet. The breakfast is good, the kitchen perfectly equipped and they even do occasional traditional cooking classes.
You will find a few restaurants – I can recommend Rosemary, near Mary’s Well and various kebab places around the square.
Day 1 – from Nazareth to Cana
From Nazareth, you will walk to Cana in what is mostly an urban hike. The trail starts in the Old City, at the Basilica of the Annunciation, and goes through the Market, where it is well marked: it leads to a flight of over 400 steps to a nice viewpoint over the city.
Once there, the trail it goes through a suburb and then to Zippori village and Zippori National Park, Mash’had Village and eventually to Cana.
The views around Nazareth Old City are pretty: narrow alleys with the odd cat walking by, or children playing football; back yards with lemon trees and pouring bouganvillea flowers.
From Zippori National Park (for which there is an entrance fee) you will get access to Old Zippori Village, with excavations of buildings from different time periods and which include a Roman Villa from around 200 CE and various mosaics.
Once past the National Park, the trail goes through a forest until it reaches Mash’had, a small Muslim town of around 7000 people. The main landmark is the Central Mosque.
From Mash’had you will walk to Cana (Kfar Cana), the traditional site of the wedding party where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. The village is also known for ts pomegranates, whose seeds are pressed into a delicious juice or used in various recipes. The main attraction is the Franciscan Wedding Church, where Christian couples often go to renew their vows.
What to expect
The walk from Nazareth to Cana is only 13.6 km, but it may take you forever to get to Cana. Finding your way out of Nazareth is easier said than done. Once on the promenade, the signs to follow are not easily visible and road works may force you to take a different (unknown) route. Make sure to turn left! If not, you will end up circling back to the Old City.
If you feel you are getting lost, ask the locals for directions: they are really helpful and friendly.
Let me also warn you to the amount of garbage you’ll see on the side of the road in the suburb areas of Nazareth, as well as in the forest near Zippori National Park.
Where to sleep and eat in Cana
Cana Wedding Guest House is the best place to stay in the village. There are male and female dorms and double rooms. It’s a nice, clean place and the hosts are really caring. They have a small communal kitchen for guests use, and they serve an incredible home cooked dinner for the guests for an additional charge.
Day 2 – from Cana to Ilaniya
From the main church in Cana, right by Cana Wedding Guest House, the trail exits the village past a lovely mosque and goes down on a dirt road with views of the Tur’an Valley and Tur’an town and through the forest of Beit Keshet. It then borders an army base pretty much following the road, and takes a small detour to reach Ilanya village.
The views of Tur’an and the valley below are very pretty. Chances are you won’t meet anyone on the trail, which is exposed to the sun until you reach Beit Keshet forest. Ilaniya, the final point for the day, is a tiny community of no more than 500 people founded originally in 1899 with the name of Sejera.
It was one of the earliest model farms founded by the Jewish Colonization Association during the First Aliyah – the first wave of Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. Ilaniya was briefly home to David Ben Gurion, famous Zionist who later became the first prime minister of Israel.
What to expect
The walk from Cana to Ilaniya is around 11 km, and mostly downhill. Getting out of Cana is easy, but once in the countryside the trail isn’t marked properly, so you have to keep your eyes glued to the map and the signs. Tur’an can always be seen in the distance so it is virtually impossible to get lost.
Other than in Cana, there are no shops and water fountains along the trail: buy snacks, lunch and water before you hit the trail.
Where to sleep and eat in Ilaniya
The best place to stay in Ilaniya is Yarok Oz Ecolodge and Organic Goat Farm. It’s a farm that grows organic fruit and vegetables, and goats and sheep are used for milk and cheese. There are even a couple of lovely cats and dogs.
Accommodation is in the form of large air conditioned huts with beds inside; but you can also pitch a tent. Toilets and showers are shared and there’s a super equipped common kitchen for guest use. Alternatively, you can enjoy a home cooked vegetarian dinner and breakfast.
Other sleeping and eating options are further along towards Lavi, where there is a free campground, picnic tables, water fountains and bathrooms (sometimes locked, however); and at Kibbutz Lavi Hotel.
Day 3 – from Ilaniya to Arbel
The longest day, yet the most interesting. From Ilaniya you’ll walk back to the main trail, all the way to Arbel.
Head to the underpass to Road 66 at the Golani Junction, then Road 77 and follow the old Roman Road to pass right behind Kibbutz Lavi. Follow the trail to the Nebi Shu’eib and to the Horns of Hattin and eventually cross some ancient olive groves to reach the lovely village of Moshav Arbel, where you will spend the night.
Right after the Golani Junction, there are the ruins of an old Roman Road that used to connect Acre to Tiberias.
Close to Kibbutz Lavi there are the remains of ancient wine presses, a cemetery and a holocaust memorial. Pushing further along, the Horns of Hattin can be seen from a distance. It is a double volcanic formation that resembles the horns of a bull and from where there’s a fantastic view of the entire Jesus Trail. The Battle of Hattin took place right below the Horns in 1187: the forces of the Crusader army faced the Muslim ones under Saladin.
Another place of interest is Nebi Shu’eib, where you can see the tomb of Jethro, father in law of Moses and a prophet in the Druze tradition. Not far from it there used to be the Palestinian village of Hittin, one of more than 400 Arab towns and villages destroyed and abandoned right after the 1948 war. The remains are not immediately visible – quite often, the abandoned villages have been buried and forests planted over the ruins.
What to expect
With 20 km, this is the longest day on the Jesus Trail. The path is a mixture of smooth uphill and downhill, with very little shade (there’s some at the Horns of Hattin). The trail isn’t clearly marked in some places, but Moshav Arbel is actually visible from the hills around the Horns of Hattin, so you may cut through the olive groves to reach the village for the night.
The only place to get food and water is at Golani Junction, where there’s a gas station and a small shop, and at a fountain near the ancient wine presses. Other than that, it’s fairly solitary.
Where to sleep and eat in Arbel
Arbel Holiday Homes (Konowitz Family) is likely to be the best stay during the entire Jesus Trail. You can have whole cabin to yourself, with a cozy bedroom, a living room with a huge couch, a well equipped kitchen and a fabulous bathroom with a huge jacuzzi. The owners also serve a fantastic home cooked dinner and breakfast.
Day 4 – from Moshav Arbel to the Sea of Galilee
You will walk from Moshav Arbel to the Sea of Galilee. The trail actually continues to Capernaum and Mount of Beatitudes, and from there it goes around the Sea of Galilee.
Right outside the village of Moshav Arbel there are the ruins of an ancient synagogue which dates back to the 4th century. It’s a beautiful site, and not many people visit so you will have the place to yourself.
From the synagogue, you will enjoy great views of Mount Arbel. Exit the site from the back entrance, and from the parking lot take the paved road that goes steeply uphill until it reaches Arbel National Park. Pay the small fee so you can explore the site and take in the view of the Sea of Galilee and of the valley (including of the village of Wadi Hamam).
Walking from Mount Arbel down to Wadi Hamam, you will pass several ancient cave fortresses – some used by cows who take advantage of the shade!
Once you exit the park, you will have to eventually cross the road 90 to get to the Sea of Galilee, where the trail leads to several small beaches where you can relax and swim.
What to expect
You will walk around 13 km plus an added 5 km to get to Mount of Beatitudes. The walk from Moshav Arbel to Arbel National Park is a short but steep uphill, and from there to Wadi Hamam a steep and somewhat difficult downhill.
There are several paths to get down from Mount Arbel to Wadi Hamam. The shortest one is very steep and not ideal if you are afraid of heights. You can also walk back to the main road and follow that to the village.
From Mount Arbel the Jesus Trail goes along the Israeli Trail until the entrance of Nakhal Amud, before Tabgha.
This is a more touristy part of Galilee, so expect to meet people on Mount Arbel and on the trail, and depending on the season even families spending the day at the Sea of Galilee.
Where to sleep and eat around Tiberias
Once down from Mount Arbel and past Wadi Hamam, the trail goes right by a village called Migdal. Right on the main trail there is a convenience store that sells snacks, drinks and meals such as schnitzel or falafel sandwiches and fries and salads. There are plenty of accommodation options in Ginosar Village, Tabgha, Capernaum and Tiberias.
General Tips For Hiking The Jesus Trail
When to hike the Jesus Trail
I hiked the Jesus Trail in mid April, right after Pessach (Passover), and enjoyed dry and sunny weather throughout, with temperatures of around 24 degrees during the day. Don’t walk it between May and October as the weather will be too hot! January is not an ideal month either, as there are higher chances of rain.
What to pack and what to wear for the Jesus Trail
Pack as light as possible. Anything over 30 liters and more than 5 kg is going to be heavy to carry around, bound to cause back and leg pain in the long run.
Essential items for the Jesus Trail are:
- Good hiking boots with proper ankle support.
- A pair of hiking pants (or anyways, comfortable pants), and a pair of shorts. Kuhl hiking pants and shorts are very comfortable and lightweight.
- T-shirts and tank tops.
- Summer hiking socks to keep the feet comfortable and give extra padding
- A rain proof jacket and a light sweater to use at night.
- A hat to protect the head and face from the sun and heat.
- Basic toiletries: toothpaste, soap and shampoo, deodorant and sunblock.
- Prescription medicines as needed and an emergency kit with disinfectant spray, sterile gauzes, medical tape, antibiotic and / or antiseptic and some steri-strip.
Budgeting and other general tips
The Jesus trail is not a strenuous hike, and it is completely doable without a guide – but you will need to read maps, use a GPS, and rely on the very few locals you’ll encounter for directions. You can sleep in local guest houses or camping grounds and eat at local eateries or take advantage of the food cooked by the hosts of the guest houses for a small fee.
Tap water is safe to drink in Israel.
More information is available on the Jesus Trail official website.
Finally, here’s a few more readings for you:
- 33 Tips For Traveling To Israel
- 21 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Tel Aviv
- 29 Things To Do In Jerusalem You Can’t Miss
- What You Need To Know About Shabbat In Jerusalem
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of Jerusalem
- What You Must Know Before Visiting Temple Mount And Dome Of The Rock
- How To Plan The Perfect Trip To Israel
- The Best Places To Visit In Israel
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Haifa, Israel
- 17 Unmissable Things To Do In Eilat, Israel
- Why I took a Dual Narrative Tour of Hebron
- Tel Aviv Vegan Food Guide – The Best Vegan Restaurants In Tel Aviv
- A Complete Guide To Israeli Food
- Masada Sunrise Guide: Hiking The Masada Snake Path
- The Best Airbnbs In Tel Aviv
- The 13 Best Day Trips From Tel Aviv
- 9 Fantastic Day Trips From Jerusalem
- A 3 Day Itinerary For The Jordan Trail
- 11 Things to Know Before Visiting Petra, Jordan
Legal disclaimer: I was a guest of Abraham Tours throughout my Jesus Trail. They kindly provided accommodation and meals during the 4 days hike, and offered the incredibly useful Hiking The Jesus Trail book. Eyal and I hiked completely alone and all the views expressed are my own.