Everything You Need To Know To Hike The Jesus Trail

Everything You Need To Know To Hike The Jesus Trail

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) during which you can admire some of the most beautiful landscapes of Galilee, and learn more about the history and the culture of Israel. 

Going from village to village, lost in the nature and often not crossing paths with anybody for an entire day, you will be able to appreciate one of the most unique regions of the country. 

If you enjoy long distance hiking, you are bound to enjoy the Jesus Trail. 

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. Before I do so, however, let me share a bit of background information about the trail itself. 

Jesus Trail

Hiking is a great way to get closer to nature

Some Background Information About The Jesus Trail

Israel is packed with good hiking trails. The most famous one is the Israel Trail, which cuts through the country, all the way from the border with Lebanon to the south, through the Negev desert and to Eilat. 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 – much like I did – for the simple pleasure of walking. It goes through a region of Israel where you can combine beautiful views with interesting cultural and historical aspects of the country.

The Jesus Trail is a 62 km long walk that can be covered in the space of 4 days. It starts in Nazareth, known as 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, thought to be a crossroads of cultures and a gateway for trade since humans have been living there.

Jesus Trail

Following in the footsteps of Jesus – literally

Although it remains to be proved whether or not 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, as it goes through Arab towns, Jewish archeological sites, Muslim shrines and even Crusader battlefields. An added bonus is the landscape of olive groves, hills, nature reserves and at the end of it 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 trail was officially recognized and fully marked with signs – incidentally, the same year Pope Benedict XVI visited Nazareth.

You can easily walk the Jesus Trail alone – though it may require a bit of planning. Alternatively, you can opt for a Jesus Trail pre-packaged tour which you can do with or without a guide. You can even bike it if you want. One thing for sure, I don’t recommend hiking it alone (you can read more about why I think that hiking alone is a bad idea in this post).

I did a self-guided tour which included all accommodation and meal reservations (breakfast and dinner); a Jesus Trail detailed guide book (which literally became our Bible) and updates on the trail (which we soon learned were very much needed); briefing before I actually started and regular support before and during the trail.

Hiking the Jesus Trail was an incredible experience. I am happy to have done it and would recommend it if you love hiking. Continue reading for a detailed itinerary and for tips to make the most of it. 

Jesus Trail

Splendid views along the Jesus Trail

A 5 Day Itinerary To Hike Jesus Trail From Nazareth To The Sea Of Galilee

Day 0 – Tel Aviv to Nazareth

Nazareth is the starting point of the Jesus Trail. It is fairly easy to reach via bus from Tel Aviv old bus station, where there are both direct buses and shared mini vans. It takes around 3 and a half hour to get there. Keep in mind that 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 centre.

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.

Jesus Trail

The Old City of Nazareth is the starting point of the Jesus Trail

The sights

Nazareth is an interesting city, though a bit more chaotic than you’d like. 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 in Nazareth – the most interesting one is the Fauzi Azar, a beautiful traditional Arab home with a gorgeous living room and high ceilings that is currently being used as a guest house. The best part of it is that it also is a hotel!

Other places of interest are the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is the largest church in the Middle East, and Mary’s Well and Ancient Bathhouse. A place I am sure you will love and where you will end up spening hours in is Elbabour: this amazing old mill sells all sorts of spices, teas and coffee, dry fruits and nuts. Make sure to try the za’atar, which is a mixture of herbs (mostly oregano and thyme) that is mixed with olive oil and spread on traditional Arab bread.

Jesus Trail

Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Where to sleep and eat in Nazareth

The best place to stay in Nazareth is the Fauzi Azar Inn. There’s a range of private rooms with private bathroom (though they are not cheap) and of 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.

Having a good kitchen is a plus, considering that there aren’t many good options for food in Nazareth that are budget friendly. I tried Rosemary, a restaurant near Mary’s Well and the food was good and not too pricey. Other options are the various kebab places around the square – cheap and filling.

Day 1 – from Nazareth to Cana

During the first day of the Jesus Trail you will be walking out of Nazareth and (literally) finding the way to Cana. The trail starts in Nazareth 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 that take to a nice viewpoint from where the city can be admired.

Once there, the trail it goes through a suburb of the city to eventually lead to Zippori village and Zippori National Park, Mash’had Village and eventually to Cana. It pretty much feels like an urban hike for almost the entire way.

Jesus Trail

The lovely view of Cana from a distance

The sights

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 the Promenade of Nazareth the view opens up to the rest of the city below.

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. 

TIP: If you are keen to visit Zippori make sure to leave Nazareth really early.

Once past the National Park, the trail goes through a forest until it reaches Mash’had, a small town of around 7000 people, who are mostly Muslim. There, the main point of interest is the Central Mosque.

From Mash’had it is a shorter walk to Cana (known in Israel as Kfar Cana), the traditional site of the wedding party where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. The main attraction in Cana is the Franciscan Wedding Church, where it often happens that already married Christian couples go renew their vows.

Cana, a tranquil village, is also known for its pomegranates, whose seeds are pressed into a delicious juice or used in various recipes.

Cana

The Franciscan Church is the main sight of Cana

What to expect

The walk from Nazareth to Cana is by far not the longest of the Jesus Trail – it’s only 13.6 km. It shouldn’t even be the most difficult one, because it mostly goes through small cities and villages. Yet, for some reason, it is.

The main difficulty during the first day of the Jesus Trail is in finding the way out of the city. Once on the promenade, the signs to follow are not easily visible and the constant road works imply regular changes to the actual route.

Once you get to the promenade you have to take a left turn. If not, you will end up going around in a circle and found yourself back in the Old City, having to walk up the over 400 steps again. 

The good thing is that the locals you meet on the way are all really friendly.

One thing that I suspect you won’t enjoy so much on the first day of the Jesus Trail is the amount of garbage you’ll on the side of the road on the suburb areas of Nazareth and as you leave the city, and at times thrown right between the bushes and under the trees near Zippori National Park. I am not talking about a plastic bottle here and there. I am talking about literally heaps of garbage, which at times included furniture and even home appliances.

It is really sad to see that a place that would be otherwise beautiful is ruined by garbage.

Jesus Trail

The garbage was one of the bad sights of day 1 of the Jesus Trail

Where to sleep and eat in Cana

There aren’t many sleeping options in Cana. I recommend staying at Cana Wedding Guest House. There are male and female dorms and also 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

On the second day of the Jesus Trail you will be walking from Cana to Ilanya. From the main church in Cana, right by Cana Wedding Guest House, the trail exits the village past a lovely mosque and then goes down on a dirt road with views of the Tur’an Valley and of 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 the lovely and peaceful Ilanya village.

Jesus Trail

Catching my breath after falling on day 2 of the Jesus Trail

The sights

Once leaving Cana, the path at first goes steeply downhill through the countryside. The views of Tur’an and the valley below are very pretty. It is incredibly quiet and peaceful, with nobody in sight. Once at the bottom, it becomes more gentle, with lovely hills and the Beit Keshet forest providing lots of shade.

The ending point of the second day of the Jesus Trail is usually the village of Ilaniya, 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.

Jesus Trail

Solitary walking on the second day of the Jesus Trail

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 it’s not so easy to actually follow the trail as in some parts the signs are missing. Do keep an eye out for them. In any case, Tur’an can always be seen in the distance so it is virtually impossible to get lost.

The good news is that once at the bottom of the hill, the forest offers a lot of shade, hence being a nice break from the strong sun.

Other than in Cana, there are no shops and no water fountains along the trail so buy snacks, lunch and water before you start hiking.

Jesus Trail

Crossing beautiful green fields during the Jesus 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 family run business where they grow organic fruit and vegetables and they have a few goats and sheep that are used to produce milk and cheese. There are even a couple of lovely cats and dogs that roam around the farm.

At Yarok Oz there are some very big huts with beds inside, which are also air conditioned, and they also have places to pitch tents. Toilets and showers are shared and there’s a super equipped common kitchen that guests can use. Alternatively, you can enjoy a cooked vegetarian dinner and breakfast which are both delicious.

Other sleeping and eating options are further along towards Lavi (which is passed on day 3 of the Jesus Trail), in Lavi Forest where there is a free campground where it is possible to pitch a tent, there are picnic tables, water and bathrooms (sometimes locked, however); and at Kibbutz Lavi Hotel.

Day 3 – from Ilaniya to Arbel

The third day of the Jesus Trail is great, despite being by far the longest. You will have to walk from the village of Ilaniya, walking back to the main trail, all the way to Arbel. Walk on the underpass to Road 66 at the Golani Junction, then Road 77 and follow the old Roman Road to pass right behind Kibbutz Lavi.

You will then have to 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.

Jesus Trail

The view of the Horns of Hattin from a distance

The sights

What makes day 3 of the Jesus Trail even better than the rest is the amount of interesting sights that you will see. 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 and a cemetery and 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 on day 3 of the Jesus Trail is Nebi Shu’eib, a building which houses the tomb of Jethro, father in law of Moses and a prophet in the Druze tradition.

Not far from Nebi Shu’eib, there used to be the Palestinian village of Hittin. This was one of the more than 400 Arab towns and villages that were destroyed and abandoned right after the 1948 war. The remains of these villages are not immediately visible – quite often, the abandoned villages have been buried and forests were planted over the ruins.

Jesus Trail

The Horns of Hattin were one of my favorite sights throughout the Jesus Trail

What to expect

The walk from Ilaniya to Moshav Arbel is around 20 km, making it the longest day on the Jesus Trail. The path is a mixture of smooth uphill and downhill. The main difficulty is the long distance and the fact that for most of the trail there is little shade (there’s some at the Horns of Hattin).

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, there’s nothing on the trail and you will hardly meet a soul. So make sure to refill water bottles and get food before getting on the actual trail.

Another difficulty is that the trail isn’t clearly marked in some places. The good thing is that 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.

Where to sleep and eat in Arbel

There are a few sleeping options 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.

Jesus Trail

From Moshav Arbel ancient synagogue there’s a lovely view of Mount Arbel

Day 4 – from Moshav Arbel to the Sea of Galilee

On the fourth day of the Jesus Trail you will have to walk from Moshav Arbel to the Sea of Galilee. The trail actually continues to Capernaum and Mount of Beatitudes, and from it is possible to actually continue to walk around the Sea of Galilee. 

The sights and the views on the fourth day of the trail are amazing. You will visit an ancient synagogue; walk up to Mount Arbel and from there admire the Sea of Galilee, and eventually make it all the way there.

Jesus Trail

The view of the Sea of Galilee from Mount Arbel is simply stunning

The sights

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, the view of Mount Arbel is simply spectacular. You will have to 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 (for which there’s a fee to pay).

The view of the Sea of Galilee and of the valley (including of the village of Wadi Hamam) from the top of Mount Arbel is breathtaking.

Walking from Mount Arbel down to Wadi Hamam, you will pass several ancient cave fortresses – some are actually being used by cows who take advantage of the shade!

Right at the exit of Arbel National Park, a few trees, some bushes and a creek offer a good break from the sun. You will have to eventually cross the road 90 to get to the Sea of Galilee.

Once on the Sea of Galilee, the trail leads to several small beaches where it is possible to relax and swim.

Jesus Trail

Taking in the view of the Sea of Galilee from Mount Arbel

What to expect

On the final day of the Jesus Trail you will have to walk around 13 km. It’s an extra 5 km to get all the way 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 the one that people afraid of heights should not take. It’s also possible to walk back to the main road and follow that to the village.

I walked down a trail that leads all the way to the village. I had to go down an incredibly steep trail (there are some very useful rails to hold on to) until the very narrow path got a bit easier and I could follow it all the way to the bottom where there’s a small creek and from there to the village.

Once down, the path is actually nice and flat until the Sea of Galilee.

GOOD TO KNOW: Please note that from Mount Arbel the Jesus Trail follows the path (and the signs) of the Israeli Trail until the entrance of Nakhal Amud, before Tabgha.

On the final day of the trail, you may actually meet more people – either tourists on Mount Arbel, or other people hiking bits of 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). I had perfect, dry and sunny weather throughout. I would not recommend starting it any later than that, as it does get really hot. The temperature in April is around 24 degrees during the day, and you will definitely sweat a lot between walking and carrying a backpack.

What to pack and what to wear for the Jesus Trail

My packing and clothing tips for the Jesus Trail are meant to be applicable to any multi-day hike.

My first recommendation is to 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. It is also important to make sure that the backpack fits nicely to the body, properly sitting on the hips.

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 (because the weather does get really hot). Kuhl hiking pants and shorts are very comfortable and lightweight – the top choice is the ones that have the zipper so that they can turn into shorts.

T-shirts and tank tops are a must. Kuhl has some light, colorful and comfortable ones. Summer hiking socks keep the feet comfortable and give extra padding which is a good way to obviate the pain that walking for a long time causes. I had a rain proof jacket and a light sweater too, which I only used at night. I also recommend wearing a hat to protect the head and face from the sun and heat.

As for the beauty items, I carried the basics: and toothpaste, soap and shampoo, deodorant and quite importantly so a good sunblock I realized on the second day of the hike that my arms – to which I had forgotten to apply sunblock – were completely sunburnt!

Also make sure to take prescription medicines as needed and, more importantly so, an emergency kit – I wish I had one after my accident. This should have: disinfectant spray, sterile gauzes, medical tape, antibiotic and / or antiseptic ointment and last but by all means not least some steri-strip.

Read my guide on what to pack for long distance hikes. 

Jesus Trail

Comfortably dressed for the Jesus Trail in my Kuhl clothes

Budgeting for the Jesus Trail and other general tips

The Jesus trail 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. It is possible to 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.

Water is free in all of Israel. Whenever there is a tap, the water is drinkable. 

The Jesus Trail isn’t a strenuous hike. Provided that you pay attention at the sign and properly read the map  it’s easy to follow and can even be done alone. There aren’t many people on the trail. So this certainly isn’t the kind of thing you should do if you are keen on meeting other people should do.

More information on the Jesus Trail is available on the Jesus Trail official website.

Further readings about Israel and Jordan

Finally, here’s a few more readings for you:

Have you hiked the Jesus Trail? What was your experience?

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.

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A 3 Day Itinerary For The Jordan Trail

A 3 Day Itinerary For The Jordan Trail

Hiking the Jordan Trail is an incredible experience.

If you love hiking, enjoy the physical fatigue, the puffing, sweating, and even the cursing until you reach the final point of the hike, you will enjoy the Jordan Trail.

If you appreciate being close to nature; admiring the views along the way; stopping to catch your breath; having a packed lunch in the middle of nowhere and taking out a stove and making coffee; appreciate the power naps in the shade under a tree, before you start walking again, and think that the hot shower at the end of the day is pure bliss, hiking is definitely your thing.

To me, all hikes are good – whether I get mountain views, sea views, or I walk through the forest or in the desert. But put an archeological site at the end of a strenuous hike, and my sense of achievement will be completely fulfilled. That’s why I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, in Peru and why I plan to hike to the Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. And that’s what drove me to hike the Jordan Trail.

To read more about the Inca Trail, check my post “Inca Trail dos and donts.”

In this post, I highlight a 3 day itinerary that is part of the Jordan Trail and share some practical tips that will help you plan your hike.

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Taking in the gorgeous views on the Jordan Trail

Some Background Information About The Jordan Trail

If you are traveling to Jordan as part of a longer trip to the Middle East, you may find out about the Jordan Trail. This is a hike that requires over 5 weeks of walking. It starts in the North of the country, in Um Qais, and goes all the way South, to the Red Sea, crossing places such as the tiny village of Dana and Dana Nature Reserve, and the more famous Petra and Wadi Rum.

If you have no time to hike the entire trail, you will be happy to know that you can walk the most exciting section: the 76 km walk from Dana to Petra, which takes 5 full days.

You can walk parts of this 5 days trail by yourself, and sleep in guest houses and lodges along the way. But for other bits a guide is required, as there is no real trail to follow, and the weather conditions may change suddenly causing flooding and requiring change of itineraries.

The only company that does guided hikes in this part of the country is the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan, an NGO whose work strives to protect the local environment and to help the local communities. If you are planning a trip to Jordan, and walk to walk the Jordan Trail from Dana to Petra, make sure to get in touch with them.

Hiking the Jordan Trail is an overall great experience. Unfortunately for me, an accident along the way cut my adventure short and I had to change my plans. Hoping that other people who wish to hike the Jordan Trail from Dana to Petra don’t go through my same ordeal, I have decided to share some tips to plan your hike and a detailed itinerary.

Jordan Trail

The Jordan Trail is only for expert hikers and real adventure lovers

A 3 Day Itinerary For Hiking The Jordan Trail From Dana To Petra

Day 0 – from Amman to Dana

The starting point of this portion of the Jordan Trail is Dana, a small village at about 3 hours drive from Amman. Dana was founded in the 15th century and it is nowadays virtually abandoned. Only 3 families still live there, while the rest of its inhabitants have moved to the nearby Tafila.

There are very few foreign visitors there – most tourists are local students on a school trip, families who gather in the picnic area at weekends. You can safely assume that during the week there are even less people.

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Dana village is one of the wonderful sightings along the Jordan Trail

The sights

Dana is a lovely village, despite the fact that most of the buildings there have collapsed as a result of time and complete lack of maintenance. The only ongoing project to restore it to its original splendor is run by USAID.

It won’t take you long to explore the village. After climbing some collapsed fences, you can get to viewpoint from where you can admire the valley. That’s Dana Nature Reserve. No more than 50 Bedouin families still live there: they can only herd their livestock in certain times of year, so that the vegetation in the area can recover.

You will also spot a very steep dirt road that goes along the edge of the mountain. It seems to be the only way to the valley: that’s where you will be hiking the following day.

TIP: Make sure to go to Dana Guesthouse in time for sunset. The views are stunning!

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Perks of the Jordan Trail: fabulous sunsets like the one I saw in Dana

Where to sleep and eat in Dana

There are three hotels in Dana. I stayed at Dana Guesthouse, which is run by the RSCN. It is a gorgeous structure, and all rooms have a balcony and views over the valley. It’s reviews are spot on. There are standard rooms, which are simple but cozy, with shared bathrooms; and superior rooms, which are incredibly large and comfortable, and have a private bathroom with a shower with a view.

You can eat your meals at Dana Guesthouse. Dinner and breakfast are served buffet style and there is an incredibly wide selection of meat and vegetable dishes – so perfect even for vegetarians and vegans. Dana Guesthouse also provides packed lunches for guests who are hiking.

things to do in Jordan

The only people I met on my hike from Dana to Feynan, along the Jordan Trail

Day 1 – from Dana to Feynan

You will start walking this portion of the Jordan Trail in Dana, from where you will head towards Feynan, along Dana Nature Reserve, considered to be one of Jordan’s hidden jem. This is the largest reserve in the country. The altitude here varies from the 1500 meters above sea level of Dana, where it actually gets quite chilly at night, to the 50 meters below sea level in Wadi Araba.

Dana Nature Reserve is home to some 600 species of plants, 180 species of birds and over 45 species of mammals. It is scattered with archaeological sites, such as the Copper Mines.

Feynan is a Bedouin village, with camps that get moved along the valley depending on the season, and no more than a handful of houses scattered around the school. It has a lovely, peaceful atmosphere and the surroundings are gorgeous.

The sights

The views along the walk from Dana to Feynan are stunning. Picture mountains all around, scattered with vegetation that is thicker in some areas, and sparser in others, when walking more into the desert. There are virtually no trees on the first part of the hike, but then more start appearing.

The silence is occasionally broken by the growling of a camel, by a donkey and by the bells of goats left free to herd. Towards the end of the hike, there are a few Bedouin camps. Children run after the visitors, to welcome them: they are always keen to pose for pictures.

A short hike from Feynan village takes to a viewpoint from where to enjoy one of the most amazing sunsets one could imagine. The setting is gorgeous too: imagine a local bedouin guide preparing a fragrant mint tea, and sipping this while the sun sets.

And at night, if the sky is clear, since it is so dark it is possible to go star gazing.

The sunset from Feynan, along the Jordan Trail, was stunning

The sunset from Feynan, along the Jordan Trail, was stunning

What to expect

The walk from Dana to Feynan is around 14 km, that can be covered in roughly 4 to 5 hours. The time you take really depends on how often you stop for photos and breaks.

The walk would qualify as easy, though to be fair it is not nearly as easy as it looks and by the end of the day most people wish they had worn thicker socks. For the first hour or so, it is a steep downhill following a dirt road, and it then becomes a bit more gentle. There is virtually no shade along the way – so wearing a hat, sunblock and drinking lots of water is vital. The weather is very dry and the sun unforgiving.

If you are lucky you may be able to see lots of lizards, some of them turning blue during mating season.

You won’t really meet many people on this portion of the hike. I met two shepherds right outside of Dana, and nobody else until I was getting close to Feynan and crossed a few Bedouin camps.

Where to sleep and eat in Feynan

The only accommodation option in Feynan is Feynan Ecolodge. This is run by the RSCN, and it lives up to its name: only solar power is used to warm the water used for the showers, and no electricity is available in the beautiful, stylish rooms – just in the showers and in the reception area. When it gets dark, candles are lit to illuminate the passageways, the rooms and the beautiful dining room.

Dinner is served buffet style, and it is only vegetarian – meat needs to be refrigerated and this would take too much electricity, which is against the sustainability mission of the ecolodge. No alcohol is served on the property, so don’t hope for a beer at the end of a day of hiking. But there is plenty of good cold water and delicious lemonade and ginger.

Feynan also provides packed lunches for those hiking.

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Worth the trip: Feynan Ecolodge is one of the places to visit in Jordan and a real jem along the Jordan Trail

Day 2 – from Feynan to Al Bustan

If you read a little bit about the Jordan Trail you will see that the second day of hiking will be a tough one. At times, people have to take alternative trails to the Wadi Al Nakheel Trail one, that don’t go through the canyon – that’s done to avoid floods when it rains heavily. I had to do that – as per the guide instructions – and the trail we followed was hard. The fact that I injured myself certainly did not help. 

The alternative trail isn’t much of a trail at all. You will walk along the side of the river, cross it to find places where it is easier to walk, climb over boulders, and all of this for a steady 8 hours. 

Jordan Trail

The Jordan Trail became truly hard on my second day of hiking – there was no trail at all

Keep in mind that there is no phone reception at all in this part of the trail, so you need to go properly prepared, including with some first aid kit and skills (read this post by Bemused Backpacker for more). There is no way of calling for help if anything happens – which is why you absolutely have to go with someone, possibly a guide. 

The finishing point for this trail is Al Bustan camp, which is close to Shobak – a lovely small town with a beautiful castle. The camp is very basic. All you get is a mattress and blankets to sleep on. No toilet, no sink and no way of even washing your hands. 

Unfortunately, due to my injury this is where I had to stop my hike – I spent the night Shobak, which by the way is one of the nicest places to visit in Jordan, and got some much needed rest at Montreal Hotel. I then sought medical help in Jerusalem a few days later.

To read more about what to visit in Jordan, check my post “All the places to visit in Jordan.”

Jordan Trail

Shobak represented the end of my Jordan Trail

After visiting Shobak and resting for a couple of days, I made my way to Petra, where I hiked the entire site.

To read more about Petra, check my post “11 things to know before visiting Petra.”

The sights

The views along the (alternative) Wadi Al Nakheel Trail are beautiful. The first part of the walk is pretty much in the desert, and nobody is in sight except the odd Bedouin and a herd of sheep. 

Eventually, the desert gives way to a creek that runs through a canyon, and the vegetation becomes a bit thicker: bushes, trees, palm trees and some very interesting rock formation.

Towards the end of the hike, there are some hot springs. They are incredibly difficult to reach, so hardly anybody goes. There were maybe two persons when I was there. 

visit Jordan

Dana Nature Reserve is a gorgeous place to visit along the Jordan Trail

What to expect

I can only speak for the alternative trail, and not for the Wadi Al Nakheel Trail I was meant to follow. I don’t hike every single day of my life, but hiking is quite a thing in Sardinia, where I am from, and I have done several hikes, a few multi-day ones, and some very technical ones, where the issue wasn’t the altitude or the actual drop (which I can actually endure), but the terrain. I am quite fit (I swim 4 times per week and I take every opportunity to exercise) and I don’t mind physical fatigue.

Having said so, I found this to be one of the most challenging hikes I have ever done. The lack of an actual trail, the constant change of terrain – from rocky, to sandy, to actually having to cross the river and walk inside a creek; the steep uphill and downhill: I won’t deny that it was hard.

Where to sleep and eat

There literally is nowhere in terms of accommodation and food along this portion of the Jordan Trail. I carried a packed lunch and lots of water (I recommend a minimum of two liters) with me from Feynan and I had planned to sleep in Al Bustan, a Bedouin style camp that was put up for the occasion.

The setting is quite simple: a large tent, with blankets and carpets being used as walls and thus creating 3 smaller “rooms;” each of them had a mattress on the floor and blankets for the night. The camp has no facilities – no toilet and no sink.

A fire is been lit to boil water and cook the meals.

General Tips For Hiking The Jordan Trail

When to hike the Jordan Trail

With cold winters and incredibly hot summers, there is no doubt that the best time to hike the Jordan Trail – or at least the portions of it that I did – is in the spring time. I walked it at the beginning of April, and the days were dry, if only a bit overcast.

In terms of temperatures, at that time of year they are pleasant during the day – although obviously, walking and working out, the body does feel warmer than it would otherwise. The temperatures drop at night, especially in Dana which is at around 1500 meters above sea level, and in Shobak.

Guided treks from Dana to Petra

There aren’t many reliable companies that run the entire Jordan Trail. If you are interested in walking the portion from Dana to Petra – which is the one I have described here and the most interesting one in my opinion – you may join the tour led by Monkeys and Mountains. You can find more information and book it here.

What to pack and what to wear for the Jordan Trail

Once again, I can only speak for those parts of the Jordan Trail I actually hiked, but the tips I am about to provide will generally be applicable to any multi-day hike.

The first recommendation I have if you are hiking the Dana to Petra portion of the Jordan Trail is to pack as light as possible. Don’t carry any backpack over 30 liters, and even then make sure that the backpack – which has to fit nicely to the body – doesn’t weight more than 4 or 5 kgs, including the water for the hike.

Essential items for this portion of the Jordan Trail are: good hiking boots that hold the ankles properly; a good pair of hiking pants, and a pair of shorts, just in case the weather gets really hot. I find that Kuhl hiking pants and shorts are incredibly comfortable, performing and lightweight. I also recommend taking a couple of t-shirts.

places to visit in Jordan

Dressing comfortably is key on the Jordan Trail

Kuhl cotton shirts are light, colorful and comfortable. I would take a thermal t-shirt too, which helps keep the body temperature even when sweaty. Hiking socks are necessary: with all the walking, keeping the feet comfortable and having that extra padding is important. Finally, a wind and rain proof jacket and a light sweater (it does get chilly at night) and a hat against the sun and heat are a must.

Other than the basic toothbrush and toothpaste, make sure to carry some laundry soap which can be used to wash clothes (whenever water is available) and to shower; a good sunblock is fundamental unless planning to get sunburnt.

Also make sure to take prescription medicines as needed and, more importantly so, an emergency kit – I wish I had one after my accident. This should have: disinfectant spray, sterile gauzes, medical tape, antibiotic and / or antiseptic ointment and last but by all means not least some steri-strip.

To find out more about what’s in my backpack, read my post “My ultimate packing list.”

Read my guide on what to pack for long distance hikes. 

Final tips for hiking the Jordan Trail

Hiking the Jordan Trail isn’t a walk in the park. If you plan to walk it, make sure to research as much as possible about it, and plan it carefully. It requires a good sense of adventure and an even better willingness to adapt to the sometimes harsh conditions and to the physical fatigue.

My recommendation is to also not do it alone. I don’t just mean to hire the services of a guide: that goes without saying, because some of the trails are virtually impossible to find, and there is no phone network and no way to talk to anybody if lost.

What I do mean, is to plan to hike the Jordan Trail in a small group of friends, for companionship, and to have someone to talk to and entertain each other, and to support one another during the hardest bits. In any case, I hardly recommend hiking alone anywhere (you can read more about it in this post).

Have you hiked the Jordan Trail? What was your experience?

Legal Disclaimer: This article is written in partnership with The Jordan Tourism Board, of whom I was a guest. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

 

 

Inca Trail dos and donts: tips and tricks for trips to Peru

Inca Trail dos and donts: tips and tricks for trips to Peru

How to make the most of your Machu Picchu Inca Trail

There is no better, more adventurous way to fully experience the ancient Inca culture of Peru other than doing the official Inca trail. This is the only way through which you will be able to walk on the sacred Inca ground, to visit sites that are otherwise not accessible to travellers, and to view the sunrise on Machu Picchu from the Inti Punku. The other hikes may be great, hard, you may get to see amazing landscapes too. But nothing can compare to the experience you will have when puffing and struggling on the only real Camino Inca to Machu Picchu. This is definitely among the best things to do in Peru.

Best things to do in Peru - viewing Machu Picchu from the Inti Punku

Best things to do in Peru – viewing Machu Picchu from the Inti Punku

Places to visit in Peru: one of the many hidden sites, only accessible via the official Inca Trail

Places to visit in Peru: one of the many hidden sites, only accessible via the official Inca Trail

Doing the Inca trail is no easy thing, so here are a few tips to fully enjoy it.

DOs

Do your research: Various companies can organise your trekking to Machu Picchu. Among the most recommended ones there are Llama Path  and SAS. A Lima based agency which is also highly recommended is Peru Tourist Information, whose chief is a real superstar. Prices vary, depending the company you pick and on what you want to include in your trail. They can vary from 450 US dollars for the vary basic, to 800 US dollars for the most pricey company and including a number of extra services.

Do plan ahead: there is no such thing as showing up at an agency in Cusco and asking to do the official Camino Inca. The most it will be able to offer you are alternative routes, such as the very challenging 5 to 7 days Salcantay Trek, or the 3 days Jungle Trek. If you think hiking the Inca Trail is one of the things to do in Peru, you should know that the official Inca Trail permits are issued by the Peruvian government each January, and they are sold out very fast. Only 180 visitors per day are admitted, so if you think this is an experience you want to live, plan ahead, make your reservations well in advance. To give you an idea, I did my trail in April and I had it booked by the end of December. In April, everything was sold out until October.

Top things to do in Peru: hike the Camino Inka-Inka Trail

Top things to do in Peru: hike the Camino Inka-Inka Trail

Do pick a date and stick to it: Inca Trail permits are not refundable – once you pick a date, you have to stick to it and arrange the rest of your travel itinerary accordingly. So, think well before deciding. What I can say is that, no matter the season, you will at some point get the typical inca train weather: rain and extreme chill. April and May are the best months for nature lovers – flowers (especially orchids); September to November are less crowded and December to March rainy, and the trail may be very slippery (but, really, it does rain in any season).

Lush nature on the Inca Trail

Lush nature on the Inca Trail

Do arrive fit: the Inca trek is challenging for anybody. The altitude, the long walks, the fatigue and the little rest you may be able to get sleeping in a tent will eventually hit anybody. So, do train yourself by exercising and eating healthy food well before you embark on this adventure.

Do arrive in Cusco a few days before the starting date: this will allow you to get adjusted to the altitude. Cusco is located at 3300 meters above sea level and the trail starts at around 2800 meters. Being adjusted to the altitude will give you a good advantage. Not to mention, Cusco is a lovely city to hang out, there are numerous interesting sites to see and things to do in Cusco and in its surroundings, great restaurants and an amazing vibe.

Do wear appropriate gear: good hiking shoes, technical pants, and a good rain coat are a must; carry along some thermic sweaters and t-shirts against the chill. Paths get slippery because of the rain, and you will surely want to avoid slipping down and breaking a leg: hiking shoes give you extra support; plain running shoes may be comfortable but are not geared to support your feet and ankles in hard conditions. The same goes for the rain coat: it does rain at some point or another and the last thing you want is getting wet and catch a cold, as it would ruin your experience. A good sleeping bag will save you from the freezing night of day 2, when you reach the highest point on the trail.

The Inca tunnel

The Inca tunnel

Inca weather at the back!

Inca weather at the back!

Do carry medications, especially prescriptions: there is no easy way out once you are on the trail. You can walk back after day 1; from day 2, the closest emergency centre would be in Aguas Calientes, and if you do get sick you will have to be carried by porters along the trail and down to the village (this actually happened to somebody in my group). It is definitely not pleasant to be sick while there, and not pleasant for the porters either. Remember that helicopters can’t access the trail as there is no landing point.

Do pack light: whether you decide to carry your own stuff or hire the services of half a porter, do not carry more than 7 kg. Should you chose to give your stuff to the porters, your bag will be weighted. If you want to carry your own stuff, you will want to keep the weight to a minimum. Days are long, and carrying around a heavy backpack will increase your fatigue, especially on day 2 when you will have to walk uphill most of the day and reach the peak of 4200 meters above sea level. All you need is a small bag with a change of clothes, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, a small towel, prescription medications and a headlamp

Read my guide on what to pack for long distance hikes. 

Do carry some snacks: food is provided on the trail. You will have 3 main meals per day, plus two snacks. However, you will need some extra energy and having that bar of chocolate or that bag of peanuts will help you to keep walking.

Do carry some cash: you will use it to buy drinks on day one and two of the trail, and to tip the porters at the end of the trail. This is a sort of tradition: remember those porters are the last part of the chain and any extra help matters to them; besides you will want to reward them for their help!

Do be prepared for the “rustic” accommodation: tents are comfortable but they still are tents, and even if you have a mattress, you will still feel like you are sleeping on the floor. Dining tents are tight: you will be sitting elbow to elbow with your companions. Bathrooms are challenging, to say the least: expect filth, terrible smell, and freezing cold water.

Campsite on day 2

Campsite on day 2

Do expext amazing views and spectacular sites: mountains, glaciars, nature, waterfalls, clouds, flowers, jungle and hidden sites you didn’t even know existed. You will get to see all of this, and much more.

Glaciar views on day 3

Glaciar views on day 3

Could it be any better?

Could it be any better?

Another breathtaking view from the Inca Trail

Another breathtaking view from the Inca Trail

Do make new friends: this is a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world, share anecdotes, cheer each other up when it is really hard to walk, when the food is not as good as you would have wanted and when all you want is to rest.

Tired but happy, we reached the Inti Punku just in time to see the sunrise!

Tired but happy, we reached the Inti Punku just in time to see the sunrise!

Do consider your extra options: you can add an extra hike to Huayna Picchu, and enjoy yet another spectacular view of Machu Picchu. You have to book this in advance too, as only 180 visitors are admitted, twice per day.

Do book a dorm bed in Aguas Calientes for the day when you terminate the trek: you will be exhausted and the last thing you will want will be to walk around looking for a place to stay. Denny’s House has decent bed and great showers.

Tired but happy, I finally reached Huayna Picchu

Tired but happy, I finally reached Huayna Picchu

DONts

Don’t forget your camera: you most certainly want to take pictures of the views, of the sites, and with your new friends.

Don’t underestimate the difficulty: it is hard, really hard. While day one is relatively easy (you will be rested after having slept on a proper bed in your hostel), day two is challenging as you will reach extreme altitude and will be going uphill most of the day. Day three is the longest day – 16 km: guides will tell you that you will be going through “inca planes”, which, you will discover, consist of continuous going up and downhill. By day four, you will be exhausted. This is when you will have to wake up at 3 to start walking towards Machu Picchu to get to see the sunrise from the Inti Punku.

Intipunku is reached before dawn on day 4 of the hike

Intipunku is reached before dawn on day 4 of the hike

The highest peak, reached on day 2

The highest peak, reached on day 2

By all means, do not despair if it seems too hard: following my advice, you will make it till the end and will feel a huge sense of achievement.

Don’t worry if you stink on the trail: everybody eventually will stink. You will sweat just like anybody else!

Don’t expect to shower: Showers are out of the equation until day two, but don’t get too excited: they are only cold, freezing cold. Do not shower unless you are ready to risk pneumonia.

Don’t forget to have fun: this is a once in a lifetime experience, and you must fully enjoy it!

If you are interested to find out about more things to do in Peru, click here.

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Find out some tips on how to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - via @clautavani