Ein Gedi is one of Israel’s premier attractions and should be included on any itinerary to the Holy Land. This beautiful oasis in the middle of an incredibly arid landscape will blow you away. The contrasts here are spectacular and spending a day cooling off in the waterfalls and springs of Ein Gedi is a truly memorable experience.
Ein Gedi is also home to one of our favourite hikes in the whole of Israel.
Here’s what makes Ein Gedi a must for your Israel itinerary.
What to do in Ein Gedi
The main attractions at Ein Gedi are the stunning canyons, waterfalls, pools and natural springs - it is an outdoor adventure lovers’ paradise. It is a pretty small area and the most spectacular bits are the two wadis - Wadi Arugot and Wadi David. These two areas are pretty close together (there is even a walking trail that joins the two).
Wadi Arugot is a very long series of pools and falls you can walk through or past depending on if you choose the wet or dry route, whereas Wadi David is a condensed set of pools and falls which takes about 15 minutes to get from one end to the other.
You will also be constantly surrounded by the stunning Dead Sea. Unfortunately the public beach is currently closed due to sink holes but the views will definitely make up for it.
Further afield you can visit the ancient fortress of Masada which is perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a stunning place for sunrise.
You can easily spend a couple of days in Ein Gedi, so here’s a bit more detail on how to make the most of your time there.
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The best things to do in Ein Gedi
Distance - 3.1 dry route or 4.1km along the wet route to the Upper Pools (one way)
Time taken - Allow a couple of hours for the return walk plus swimming time
Difficulty - Moderate
Type of Walk - Return
Start & end point - Wadi Arugot car park
Wadi Arugot is a stunning spot and one of our favourite experiences in the whole of Israel. It’s a brilliant place to cool off on a hot desert day. If you like a bit of adventure with less crowds, this is the place for you.
The main attraction here is the walk to the Hidden Waterfall and the Upper Pools. The trail follows the Wadi and you can either choose the dry route on the cliffs above, or the much more fun wet route inside the canyon itself.
Hiking through the water is heavenly and all the way along you’ll see deep green trees and bushes by the river backed by huge cliffs and sandstone mountains. The contrast of these desert canyons and the lush wadi make for a truly special place to explore.
We recommend following the blue route until the Hidden Waterfall. Sadly there is only 1/2 - 2/3 of the walk which goes through the water as several sections are now closed off but it’s still a spectacular route. This means you will have to do a decent amount on the red path, but keep looking to those blue signs for the opportunity to hop back in.
After around 40 minutes or so you’ll reach the Hidden Waterfall, a nice enclosed fall, but not really somewhere to swim. Unless there’s been some significant rain, the pool at the bottom is too shallow, so you’ll have to make do with a paddle and admiring the view. Don’t worry though, the upper pools are going to more than make up for it!
Once you’ve left the Hidden Waterfall, follow the red signs to the Upper Pools. This should take about 20-30 minutes (and some more walking through water), before it opens up to this incredible emerald pool. Words struggle to describe just how beautiful this place is. The setting is just magnificent, the most perfect swimming hole completely surrounded by towering yellow mountains, it’s easily one of the best places we have swum anywhere in the world!
There are more pools further on, but nothing quite as beautiful as the first one. Once you’ve had your fill of the cool water in the hot desert, follow the red route along the canyon ridge for the fastest way back to the car park. We warn you, it was bottlenecked with school kids on our return hike, but we’d had so much fun that we didn’t care.
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Time taken - Around 30 minutes total
Difficulty - Easy
Type of Walk - Loop
Start & end point - Wadi David car park
Wadi David is a mixed bag. The falls here are spectacular and there’s no denying that it is incredibly beautiful. We arrived about an hour after opening (9am, opening is at 8) to see families of Ibex careering down the cliffs like something out of an Attenborough documentary, as well as nibbling the trees and scampering around the trails enjoying the early morning peace.
Then after 20 minutes the crowds arrived.
Then it just got worse and worse……
We don’t know if we were unlucky (we were visiting the week after Passover) but out of nowhere Wadi David became a crowded nightmare. The queues were horrendous as people were backed on up walking trails to simply get to the next pool. Others decided to push the wrong way through the one-way system and everything just got messy.
The falls became claustrophic and after 15 minutes with this mass of people we had to get out. Having a look at the car park we’d witnessed it go from a couple of cars when we arrived to buses backed up to the highway outside.
We liked Wadi David, but didn’t feel it was on a level with Wadi Arugot. However, clearly we had a bad experience with crowds, our advice would be to get there the second it opens and appreciate this desert beauty how it truly should be experienced.
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Ein Gedi Spring
Distance - 3.8km including the Wadi David walk above
Time taken - 1 hour 46 but this was due to huge queues, without them it would be much less
Difficulty - Moderate
Type of Walk - Return
Start & end point - Just past Wadi David waterfall
You start this hike just past the largest waterfall at Wadi David. It seems like every bottle of water in Israel originates from Ein Gedi Spring and you can hike up to see this unique place for yourself.
The hike up to Ein Gedi Spring is very steep, with a narrow path that is slippery in sections (on the descent) - we don’t recommend this for people who get very nervy about heights or slippery trails. Don’t let this put you off though, we were able to do this relatively comfortably and we are pretty cautious hikers.
In the more exposed sections there is a hand rail to keep you steady.
The trail takes you up to Shulamit’s Spring and then onto the Ein Gedi Spring, a true oasis. You can relax in the shade in this small patch of greenery which surrounds the spring and that perfectly clear water. Stopping for a while here and listening to the sounds of the running water and birds chirping was a true antidote to the crowds at the waterfalls below.
Getting down was the trickier part as there were bottlenecks from people coming up and down along the narrow path. Don’t expect a quick descent! If you’ve come to Wadi David at opening hopefully you won’t have such a crowded experience as us.
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Sunrise at Masada Fortress
Distance - 2.5km each way
Time taken - 45 minutes up and 35 down
Difficulty - Moderate
Type of Walk - Return
Start & end point - Masada West Entrance
You couldn’t pick a more picturesque place for a fortress than Masada. Set on the top of an incredibly steep cliff with 360 panoramic Dead Sea views, it is one of the most memorable sunrises we’ve ever seen. Of course getting there for sunrise does mean a bit of a hike in the dark as the cable car doesn’t start running until 8am.
Sunrise is the best time to visit for several reasons: 1) there are very few people up there with you, 2) you get to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea and 3) it is the only time where the temperature is comfortable to hike up this steep cliff unless you’re visiting in winter.
The Snake Path to the top opens an hour before sunrise and even at this time there were a few people around. It wasn’t too busy though which was a relief after Wadi David.
The hike to the top is relentlessly uphill, with very few flat sections for relief. However, we were able to make it to the top in 45 minutes, despite being sleep deprived and only surviving on a nature valley bar for breakfast! We read online that they advise 1 - 1.5 hours, but the majority of people walked it quicker than us. However, there are heaps of rocks along the way to stop and have a rest on, which I did several times!
At the top there are long walls, platforms and vantage points to set up and take in the stunning view of the valley below. There is plenty of space up there so you’d be unlucky to feel crowded. Then you can go round and explore the ruins of Masada, a true feat of engineering.
Getting to Masada from Ein Gedi
Masada is 19 km south of Ein Gedi and should take about 20 minutes to drive to. There is a large car park at the entrance to the Snake Path, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting a space.
Tickets must be purchased at the booth before you go through the turnstile, and cost 29 Shekels (around US $8.15).
Ein Gedi Dead Sea Public Beach
The stony public beach at Ein Gedi is free to float and also has dead sea mud for free too.
Unfortunately it is currently closed due to sink holes.
Tips for organising your Ein Gedi Trip
Timing is everything
The biggest drawback of Ein Gedi is that it is incredibly popular with school trips and tourist groups. Both Wadi David and Wadi Arugot have fairly narrow hiking trails, meaning it doesn’t take too much for it to feel crowded. Wadi David in particular starts to feel like Disneyland: noisy, crowded and with the rudeness that comes from too many people vying to see the same thing.
The key is to go early or late. The tour groups arrive from about 9am, so you can get a head start if you arrive at opening time (8am).
Best time to arrive for Wadi Arugot
Luckily, Wadi Arugot is a lot less crowded than Wadi David, and the majority of people stop at the Hidden Waterfall. Arriving at 8am will mean you can get a headstart on the crowds and maybe you’ll get the Hidden Waterfall to yourself as we did.
The real gem (the upper pools) were blissfully quiet when we visited as most people simply turn around at the Hidden Waterfall or choose to stay there. It isn’t as important to arrive early for the Upper Pools, but you’ll have them all to yourself with an early start. As we began our return hike at around 1.30pm a few small groups were just beginning to arrive.
Best time to arrive for Wadi David
Wadi David is a tricky one. This is the most popular place for school trips with the famous Ein Gedi Spring and several small waterfalls. Even arriving at opening time will not guarantee that you will avoid the crowds completely but it should help.
From around 10am every trail had queues (including the steep climb to the Ein Gedi Spring) and the waterfalls were rammed. In the early morning we saw Ibex and there were a few people around, but within 30 minutes - 1 hour the place was unbearable. We can imagine the end of the day being better than the middle hours, but it is a gamble to try anything but opening time.
Entrance Fees for Ein Gedi
Masada, Wadi David and Wadi Arugot all require 29 Shekel (approx US $8.15) tickets for entry. You can reduce the cost by buying an Israeli pass, there are three different ones available depending on how many national parks you plan to visit.
Blue tickets - 3 sites, 78 Shekels (approx US $21.85)
Green tickets - 6 sites, 110 Shekels (approx US $30.75)
Orange tickets - 65 sites, 150 Shekels (approx US $42)
Whilst Masada is separate, your entry to Ein Gedi will cover both Wadi David and Wadi Arugot as long as you go on the same day. Otherwise you’ll have to pay twice. We chose to pay twice as we wanted early starts for both to avoid the crowds.
Getting to Ein Gedi
Ein Gedi is 30 km from Ein Bokek and should take about 30 minutes to drive to. If you are coming directly from Tel Aviv it should take about 2.5 hours if you want to avoid driving through Palestine (few car hire companies will insure you if you go through Palestine).
There are plenty of buses that go between Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi as well.
Where to stay in Ein Gedi
Unfortunately the accommodation in Ein Gedi is both few and far between and expensive.
HL Ein Gedi Hostel
We chose to stay in a private ensuite room at the HL Ein Gedi Hostel. Unfortunately it was a mistake, remember those school groups we saw at Wadi David? They were all staying at the hostel and shouted and played boom boxes until after midnight… each night one group left and was replaced by another who did the same thing. We’ve since read this is common.
If you still want to stay, we can tell you the rooms are basic but large and cleanish and have fantastic views. Note that’s it’s not a hostel in the traditional sense, there is no common room, kitchen or laundry.
Ein Gedi Kibbutz
Ein Gedi Kibbutz looks like a huge step up but it is also a huge leap in cost too. There is a swimming pool and again fantastic views.
Ein Gedi Family Apartment
There is also Ein Gedi Family Apartment which was not available during our stay but looks like a reasonable basic apartment and would hopefully be a lot quieter : )
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Are you planning a trip to the Dead Sea? Where is your favourite part of Ein Gedi? Let us know in the comments below.