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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Find out what you need to know to hike the Jesus Trail - via @clautavani