Type of Hike:
Wadi Darga next to the Dead Sea
Difficult (Only for physically fit individuals)
Early Spring (Pesach)
Adults only (Children 13+)
Do 50-meter high stone walls, dry waterfalls and refreshing pools of natural water in cisterns that you have to swim across peak your interest?
How about an all day hike from 300 feet above sea level down to the Dead Sea at 423 meters (or 1,388 feet) below sea level traversing rocky paths and rappelling down the sides of craters up to 10 meters high?
If you haven’t left this page yet and your heart is thumping wanting to hear more, then this “rite of passage” may be just for you.
Wadi Darga or Nahal Dargot as it is commonly referred to is considered to be one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in Israel. It is a true test of endurance and physical stamina for most Israeli hikers and visitors alike. A Wadi in Hebrew is a dry riverbed and a Nahal is a stream so the trail is more often referred to as a Wadi as it is relatively free of flowing water through much of the year except after a significant rainfall. But the best part is the natural pools of water in the cisterns almost year round.
Located next to the Dead Sea along route 90 just south of Mitzpe Shalem and close to Ein Gedi, this hike is an all day affair that will leave you exhausted but exhilarated. For those 40+, you will feel this one for a few days afterwards. But don’t let that discourage you, it is well worth it.
This is the best private tour I have ever experienced. Period..
Our First Dip into the Natural Pools
We started off with a relatively relaxing hike along well groomed paths at the beginning of the trail and the morning sun was already started to warm up our bodies in preparation for what was to come.
Our first cold dip!
We descended down a small canyon and much to our delight encountered a pool of light green water that required a short swim to continue on our journey. Don’t worry the water is clean enough to swim but I would not recommend a drink.
Be prepared to swim as the water is deeper than it looks.
Descending into the Canyon
At each point of descent along the trail, you will find a numbered plaque starting at 30 counting down with a metal loop embedded into the rock for your rope if needed. At each point there is a set of metal stakes or ladder (sulam in Hebrew) embedded into the rocks in order to aid in your descent.
Note: The wet trail ends at marker 7. From this point there is an additional 1.5 km that will take you an additional hour until you reach the end of the hike.
If you double loop the rope, then you can release it from below plus it makes for a firmer grip without the use of gloves. Not being an experienced rock climber or rappeller myself, I found the rope quite convenient and easy to manage.
Sometimes a simple backslide is the way to go with a cool dip at the end.
Wadi Darga Inside the Canyon
The natural beauty of the white desert rock combined with the local fauna set against the brilliant blue sky was simply breathtaking.
Meeting other groups along the way was part of the fun. There was one young woman from southern California in Israel on a one year visa. I asked her if this was a challenge for her. Her reply; “I am an experienced rock climber plus I did Mt. Everest base camp”. So, I guess the answer is not really…..
Top Tips and Recommendations
This is a serious trail and requires experienced hikers with the proper equipment:
- Set your GPS or Waze to Mitzpe Shalem or מצפה שלם
- Experienced Guide – Definitely take an experienced guide with you for this one. I recommend my friend Atar at Israelwild.
- Hiking shoes – No open toed sandals or tennis shoes – Waterproof will be a big plus and keep you comfortable all day.
- Water – Minimum 3-4 Liters per person or 1 Gallon. My wife took a 1.5 liter bottle and ran out. Good thing we had more for her. I used my Camelback and it was perfect.
- Waterproof everything – You will need to swim across pools of water and everything will get wet. I wore a bathing suit and a Dry lock shirt and put my phone in a waterproof zip-lock bag. There will be no cellular service in the canyon.
- Sun Hat – The beginning and end of the trail will be very hot and sunny.
- Food – Sorry no McDonalds along the way and you will get hungry.
- Trail markers – Watch them carefully so you do not stray.
- Toilet Paper – No bathrooms either
- Sunglasses or Eyeglass holders to keep them on your head.
- First Aid Kit – You probably will get a few minor nicks and bruises.
- Start Early – We started early (about 8:30) as you cannot start any later than 9:00.
Note: Only 200 people are allowed on the trail at a time. On weekends and holidays the quota is filled by 8:00 AM.
Friendly Warning: You will not be allowed to enter the trail if you do not have the proper equipment and experienced guide.
We met our guide in the parking lot at the bottom of the trail marked Nahal Darga. You will see it on the west side of Route 90 along the Dead Sea. It is located a short .5 km. North of Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem.
The winding road entrance is located just before the Southern security checkpoint heading south along Route 90.
The remaining 1.5km hike left is all dry relatively flat terrain.
An extra option at the end of this trip could be a shopping trip to the Ahava outlet store at Mitzpe Shalem and/or a trip to the famous Ein Gedi Spa. See more at Dead Sea Spas.