Timna Park and The Aravá: Surprise yourself

Head to this incredible southern corner of Israel for other-worldly landscapes and a fascinating insight into traditional Kibbutzim

By Timna
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:53 BST, Updated 30 Dec 2021, 16:49 GMT
Mushroom rock formation, Timna National Park
Mushroom rock formation, Timna National Park
Photograph by Getty

Timna National park

Timna Park is a place of breathtaking beauty. After a short drive from Eilat — the park is just 20 minutes north of the city on Route 90 — you’re in the heart of nature. Covering 15,000 acres in a horseshoe-shaped valley, the site is home to some of the world’s earliest copper mines, plus remains of smelting furnaces dating back to ancient Egypt.

Here, the desert landscape is dominated by awe-inspiring cliffs and rock formations in shades of burnt red, pink and tan. Otherworldly mushroom-shaped rocks seem to billow up from the desert floor, while the towering sandstone columns, Solomon’s Pillar’s, are so perfectly formed it’s difficult to believe they were sculpted by nature.

By the entrance to Timna National Park is a visitor centre, which features a film explaining the history of the area, as well as a museum display, coffee house, restaurant and, useful information to plan your stay at the park. There are 45 hiking, cycling and motoring trails, including the Corkscrew and the picturesque Pink Canyon. There’s also a lake with pedal boats, and, when hunger strikes, head to King Solomon’s Inn, which serves delicious desert fare.

The Aravá

The Aravá can be seen on foot, by bike, car or bus, with stays ranging from hotels to glamping. Here are four highlights:

1. Hai-Bar Wildlife Sanctuary
Hai-Bar aims to reintroduce endangered animals to the Negev. Wildlife here includes oryx, screw horn antelopes, and ostriches. Audio guides are available, and guided tours are given on Saturdays at 11am.

2. Spice Farm Eilat
Located at the crossroads of the Spice Route and the Sea Route, facing the Edom Mountains, this farm cultivates seaweed, clams, shrimps and orchid dottybacks. At the visitor’s centre, expect to be engulfed by the aroma of spices and infusions.

3. Yotvatá Kibbutz
Yotvata is Aravá’s oldest community. Four spaces here tell of desert life: The Creamery explains how desserts are made; The Dairy has details on local cows; The Desert simulates a jeep trek; another area has a renewable energy theme.

4. Neót Smadár Kibbutz
A walking tour through this community takes in an arts centre that houses artisans’ workshops and a gallery where they exhibit and sell their work. The entire centre features beautiful ornamental woodwork crafted by community members.

For more information: parktimna.co.il/en

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