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Israel is a popular as a hiking destination but camping is completely different from what travellers from other countries are familiar with, especially those from Europe.

The article is intended to give a brief overview of the possibilities and requirements.


A campground in Israel

Campgrounds with an infrastructure as in European countries, are practically unknown in Israel - more than one or two stars in the ADAC camping guide is unlikely to get a place in Israel. Since Israel can hardly be reached from the surrounding countries with your own car, there is hardly any caravan or camper tourism to be found, only very occasionally a WoMos is offered for rent.

Decades ago, camping in Israel, like in Europe, still has the motto "overnight stays in the open air without all the luxuries". As a rule, people camp in Israel with little infrastructure. A simple dome tent, spark-proof grill or gas cooker for coffee and sleeping mats are usually sufficient.

Many young Israelis, sometimes whole families, love to sleep in the desert, admire the starry sky and go hiking at sunrise. Around Friday evening, the simple campgrounds fill up with cars with camping mattresses on the roof, dome tents are set up and in the evenings nature lovers sit together in groups, sing to the guitar and exchange hiking recommendations.

Camping is not only used in military training, schools and youth groups like to spend the night in tents on hiking tours. The support team brings the equipment to the site in an off-roader or truck and whole rows of igloo tents are set up.


A toilet at a campground

In Israel, "wild" camping is allowed in principle; a major limitation is that most of the interesting hiking areas have been included in "National Parks". In these protected areas, you are generally not allowed to harm any plants or animals (which campers are not allowed to do anyway), leave no rubbish behind (an absolute no-go in the desert), light an open fire, and also not stay overnight!

Large green boards with the corresponding symbols indicate the rules that apply in the park area, a "camping ban" must be observed.

Since you are only allowed to stay in protected areas (nature reserves, i.e. nature protection areas and national parks) between sunrise and sunset (after dusk, the park area belongs solely to the animals, which have to come undisturbed to the water points), overnight stays here are only possible in so-called "campgrounds " or "camping areas" that you are not allowed to leave during the night hours.

The campgrounds or camping areas are often only gravel places for setting up the tent, which are separated from the environment with boulders as a barrier for off-roaders. Rubbish may not be left behind (or only in the rubbish bins provided). Open fire is strictly prohibited due to the high risk of forest / bush fires (dead wood also serves as a habitat for animals and must not be burned!); occasionally there are brick barbecue areas, the Israelis bring the wood from home.

In many cases, not only the food but also the drinking / service water for the overnight stay must be brought along. The park administration is increasingly installing dry toilets ("Toi-Toi"), otherwise used toilet paper is said to be buried or burned with a lighter in the desert. But there is also a bad habit in Israel that "behind the bush" you come across toilet paper from the last person who went "behind the bush" with the same intention...

In nature reserves, there are better equipped campgrounds in various places, which are also subject to a fee (30 - 60 NIS/night and person); Toilets, drinking water points and other infrastructure of the nature park can be used by the camp site guests when staying overnight.

In the Negev desert there are campgrounds with niches in which tents can be set up to protect them from the wind, and some with shade roofs to protect against the intense sunlight during the day.

Above all, "wild campers" must expect a visit from the police, who will ask what they are up to, or from nature park rangers. Be careful, areas designated as "Firing Zones" are used for military purposes; It is essential to clarify in advance with the military office whether a hike - possibly with an overnight stay - can be carried out! Marked hiking trails in certain areas may only be walked through on Shabbat!


Due to the fact that cool nights are rare to encounter, a simple igloo/bubble tent, bivy bag or sleeping in a sleeping bag on an insulating mat will do fine. Simple tents can be found in the outdoor shops, supermarkets and petrol station shops that are not uncommon in the cities.

In the desert, the nights can get cold outside of the Israeli winter months, but a sleeping bag for temperatures below freezing is almost never needed. In the dry months and generally in the desert areas in the south, you have to say goodbye to the idea of being able to pitch your tent on soft grassy ground. Soft sleeping mats are recommended for the rocky ground; Steel pegs anchor the dome tent better on the hard ground.

As for hiking, functional clothing is recommended according to the layer principle, in the desert you have to reckon with cold nights after the heat of the day. Rainfall occurs in the winter months (November-April), under no circumstances should you spend the night in a dried-up river valley, as the dreaded floods can occur even with distant rainfall. The areas affected by "Flash Flood" risks are announced in the Israeli weather forecast, the warnings (like the avalanche bulletin in the Alps) are to be taken seriously!

Drinking and service water must be brought to most places; only the campgrounds at nature parks occasionally have drinking water points and toilets. On multi-day tours, hikers sometimes deposit water supplies in advance at places that can be reached by vehicle (e.g. also campgrounds).

You should also bring your own food, Israelis are hospitable and generous and it shouldn't be a surprise to be invited to eat by a campground acquaintance. Since rubbish has to be taken away in the “campgrounds” without infrastructure, there are rubbish bins only on sites with infrastructure in national parks, so take food with little rubbish, fruit, vegetables, dried fruit and nuts with you.

Many Israelis have a simple gas cooker with them so that they can brew a cup of coffee in any situation. Warm meals can be prepared with hot water as ready-to-eat meals, some brick barbecue areas are available, you have to bring wood or charcoal with you. Since it can get pitch black at night, especially on the lonely "campgrounds", LED lights and headlamps are recommended.

Stay safe[edit]

The main dangers come from the weather conditions, in the summer with the intense sunshine you have to ensure you have enough liquids, in the winter months dangerous flash floods can occur in the usually dry river valleys (wadis) and canyons.

See also[edit]

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