Southern Israel is renowned for its stunning natural sites and any visitor who explores the nature parks in the region will find it difficult to disagree. The parks contain streams, sand dunes, historical remains, wadis, trees, craters and incredible desert views. Come down south to escape the noise and bustle of the city and to get back to one's roots in nature.
Nahal Revivim is a forty-six-kilometer-long wadi in the south of Israel. The wadi begins in the area of the lake of Yeruham and finishes at Park Golda. The stream is seasonal and is surrounded by meadow saffron. Birds such as coots, loons and mallards can be spotted in the area. In Arabic, the name of Nahal Revivim is the word for suckle. According to the legend, when Abraham exiled Hagar from his house she left with a camel and her son Ishmael. When she arrived here, her water ran out. She then put Ishmael down in the wadi and the thirsty baby kicked and wherever his heels kicked, water sprang out. Nahal Revivim has about one earthquake every fifty years and the earthquakes rate a strong 6-7 on the Richter Scale.
The Shivta National Park is located in the western Negev, close to the Egyptian border at Nitsana. It is a Nabatean and Christian city in the heart of the desert that unlike other Nabatean cities is not situated on a main commercial route. It is also unusually unwalled which leads to the assumption that it was a large farming village. Shivta was founded in the first century BCE and Roman ruins can be seen today from the same period in the southern part of the town. Most ruins in the town are actually from the Byzantine period. Shivta had no natural water sources and therefore relied on surface runoff. As a result, the city was meticulously planned so that the streets in the northern part of the city would drain into large reservoirs. The Colt House is a main attraction in the park- it is a house that was used by archaeologists in the thirties that displays an ancient Greek inscription over the entrance. The city's main church, smaller churches and monks' cells are also main attractions.
Nitzana was a Nabatean city that was located on the ancient commerce route in the Negev. The settlement was established in the third century CE and reached its peak in the Byzantine period, after the Nabateans had already disappeared. The Nitzana National Park is a less-visited Nabatean city due to its distance from typically classical tourist routes. However, a visit to Nitzana is highl recommended, especially in the early morning or at sunset. The National Park spreads over 2,000 dunams and includes remains of the city, its churches and a Turkish Train Station from the time of World War One, including a tall water tower next to it that served the engines. There is also a monument in the Nitzana National Park for soldiers of the eighth Brigade who fell in 1948 in the Horev Operation.
In the fifties, the KKL planted trees in what is now known as Yeruham Lake Park, located west of the town of Yeruham. In the eighties more trees were added around the lake as well as lawns and a playground. The manmade lake is located in the center of the park. The intention was to use the water for agricultural use but when that failed the site turned into a cesspool due to water from nearby oxidation pools leaking into it. In the early nineties the Yeruham Lake Park was revived with the help of an effluent recycling plant that was constructed on the outskirts of the city of Yeruham. Nowadays, after years of neglect, it is finally a pleasure to visit this manmade lake and the green groves surrounding it. When visiting down south, make sure to take time to visit this out of the way oasis in the hills of the northern Negev. There are picnic tables around the lake and overnight camping sites in the park.
Hawarim Stream in the Negev is a short, easy trail that is perfect for families. The trail includes paths in the stream, a pit in the riverbed used for collecting rain water, a waterfall and white marl hills that allow for night trails, lit up by the light of the moon reflected off the marl. It is recommended to do the trail from west to east.
The En Avdat National Park is simply an oasis in a spectacular canyon, situated in the heart of the Negev. Water flowing from the Avdat Spring cut through the soft white chalk creating a deep, narrow canyon. There is a waterfall that tumbles down from above and around the pools the greenery blossoms. The trail through the park was created in way so as not to damage the landscape. The trail passes by caves that were inhabited by monks in the Byzantine period. There are parts of the trail that include climbing iron rungs on the rock wall when completing the whole trail from the lower to upper entrance. An easier option is to walk along the streambed from the lower entrance, at the foot of the waterfall and to return along the same path. One can purchase a ticket that is good for both the lower and upper entrances. It is also possible to buy a ticket for both the En Avdat National Park and Avdat National Park, which is the site of the former Nabatean city.
Mamshit is a Nabatean city near the modern city of Dimona in the Negev. Mamshit was the city where the Arabian horse was bred and at 10 acres is the smallest of the Nabatean cities in the Negev. It is also the best restored Nabatean city with architectural elements featured that are unknown in other Nabatean cities. After the Roman occupation, trade in Mamshit declined so the inhabitants turned to another means of income and made a successful living raising Arabian steeds. Mamshit was supported by authorities in Byzantine times as a frontier city but after the time of Emperor Justinian the city ceased to exist. Visitors to Mamshit can see the restored streets as well as Nabatean complexes that feature rooms, courtyards and terraces made of stone and supported by strong arches. In addition, two impressive churches were discovered in Mamshit, one featuring a stunning mosaic floor and Greek inscriptions, the other, remnants of a pulpit.
Ein Yorkeam is a large, beautiful spring that is part of the Hatira Stream. Immediately after the spring the canyon aspect of the stream becomes very pronounced. The spring is hidden under a deep dorsum that floods the entire area in the winter. Around the spring is bountiful flora, such as reeds and tamarisks. The route is a tough, long one with two difficult ascents and incredible views throughout. There are waterfalls and streams along the way. Those doing the trail must make sure to bring large amounts of water and it is recommended to start the hike in the early hours of the morning. There is a danger of floods in the winter. The route can be done from either direction. It should be noted that there is a serious problem of thieves breaking into vehicles in the area so a car should not be left unattended. How to get there: From the entrance junction into Dimona, travel east in the direction of Eilat. After eight kilometers you'll get to a right turn to the Rotem factories. Turn right; continue on the winding road for about 12 kilometers until you get to a sign for Ein Yorkeam to the left. There is a camping site here and the footpath begins from here.