In the Galilee region of Northern Israel, the picturesque terrain is dotted by archeological and historical sites, which date back thousands of years. Hikers and pilgrims come to this region to set foot on a 65-kilometer hiking trail that winds through the landscape, and you’ve probably heard of the person who first walked this path: Jesus.
The Jesus Trail takes travelers on an authentic journey by foot to sites that were significant to the life of Jesus, and it’s not only for those interested in a religious pilgrimage or spiritual journey. The Jesus Trail is actually an epic hiking route in the Middle East, where you’ll see forests, ancient olive groves, rugged cliffs, and the stunning Sea of Galilee. For whatever reason you choose to walk The Jesus Trail, there’s something for everyone on this biblical path. The Jesus Trail was created with the intention of fostering understanding between people of all nationalities, cultures and religions, and even seeks to provide economic stimulus to the local communities through grassroots ecotourism. Plus, while the era of COVID-19 has made traveling difficult, The trail (and other outdoor activities) provide you with an incredibly safe option for you to still see incredible sites.
If you want to walk The Jesus Trail while you’re in Israel, here’s everything you need to know.
What Is The Jesus Trail?
While it’s hard to know exactly where Jesus spent his days, the founders of The Jesus Trail turned to the Bible to create this world-class trekking route. The Jesus Trail was created in 2009, and was co-founded by one of the intrepid founders of Abraham Hostel. It connects sites that were notable to the life of Jesus in the Bible, and also winds through other religious and historical sites in the region.
The Jesus Trail is far from any ordinary hike, and since it was created, it has grown to become one of greatest hikes in the world. After it was founded, the trail was quickly approved by Israel’s Society for Protection of Nature, and shortly afterwards was visited by the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI (while the Pope did not hike the trail, he did perform a mass with thousands of congregants).
What You’ll Find Along The Trail
The main hiking route starts in Nazareth, where many travelers choose to spend time at our Fauzi Azar, and it ends in Capernaum, a city nestled along the Sea of Galilee. Here’s some information about those stops, and other incredible places that you’ll pass through on the trail:
- Nazareth: The childhood home of Jesus will be your first stop, and there is much to see and do here. In downtown Nazareth you can visit the Church of the Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East, as well as Saint Joseph’s Church, where Joseph was believed to have had his workshop. Other interesting sites include the White Mosque, El Babour Mill, and the recreation of 1st century life in Nazareth found at Nazareth Village.
- Nebi Shu’eib: The huge mosque-like structure of Nebi Shu’eib may be one of the most unique and impressive sites you pass on The Jesus Trail, and it is significant to those of the Druze religion. The Druze religion dates back to 10th century Egypt, and while Druze are Arab culturally and use the Arabic language, they maintain separation from the mainstream Muslim and Christian Arabs in Israel. Nebi Shu’eib houses the traditional tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, (Exodus 3:1) who is a prophet in the Druze tradition.
- Arbel: The Cliffs of Arbel are a must-see in Israel, and stand 700 feet above the Sea of Galilee. The Jesus Trail will take you on a steep but stunning route down the cliffs, where you can see 17th century cliff dwellings built by the Druze, as well as possible earlier Jewish dwellings. You’ll also spot the modern town of Wadi Hamam at the base of the cliffs.
- Capernaum: Also called Kefar Nachum in Hebrew, Capernaum will be your last stop. This fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee served as Jesus’ home during his ministry in the region. There are many references to Jesus spending time in Capernaum in the New Testament.
Will You Meet Locals?
One of the most incredible things about The Jesus Trail is the opportunity to meet locals along the route, and learn about their unique way of living. The Jesus Trail was created with the intention of being a meeting point for the different communities which represent the Israeli society, such as Israeli-Arabs, Druze, Orthodox Jewish, and more. While you walk The Jesus Trail, you’ll pass through local communities, and have the opportunity to stay in accommodations which are run by locals. Not only will you have the opportunity to meet these people and learn about their way of life, but you’ll be able to directly support these communities through responsible, grassroots eco-tourism.
How Abraham Can Help You Hike The Jesus Trail
As the official operator of The Jesus Trail, Abraham is here to make sure your trek is seamless and enjoyable. As part of your package, Abraham will take care of the details such as accommodation, luggage transfer, meals, and entrance fees to sites that require them. And yes, we’ll even send your equipment and anything you need along to your accommodations as you trek. You can view our different tours and pricing options here.
What’s The Environmental Impact?
The Jesus Trail was founded with a few main principles, and part of the vision for the trail is for it to be an epic hiking route that increases connection to the natural world, which encourages environmental care through a leave-no-trace approach. The greatest challenge facing The Jesus Trail today is unfortunately garbage, but not typically from those who walk the trail. Unregulated dumping is a big issue in many of the towns around The Jesus Trail, but as responsible ecotourists, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to try to remedy this issue. That’s why cleaning and maintaining The Jesus Trail is one of our main goals and concerns. Teams of volunteers often pick up trash along the trail, and trekkers are always encouraged to take a “leave no trace” approach when they walk the trail.
What Insider Tips Do You Have About The Jesus Trail?
If you’re thinking about hiking The Jesus Trail, you probably have a lot of questions about logistics. While many of your questions might be answered here, we wanted to bring up some insider tips that might be helpful for when you decide to hike The Jesus Trail.
- The best time of year: When planning to hike The Jesus Trail, it’s important to plan your trek around the weather. The best season to hike The Jesus Trail is between September and April. Summer months in Israel are typically far too hot to trek.
- Pandemic considerations: As we touched on earlier, outdoor activities such as The Jesus Trail are excellent options if you’re looking to travel but are concerned about COVID-19. By taking a self-guided journey, traveling in your small group, and spending most of your experience outdoors, you’ll be keeping a healthy distance from others, and will be away from big indoor crowds.
- Where to stay: The Jesus Trail has suggestions for accommodation along every stop of the journey, and there are options for different price points and comfort levels. You can expect to pay about 100 shekels ($25US) for dorm accommodations with breakfast. There is also the option to camp, but we do suggest staying in accommodations, which supports the local economies and reduces the impact on nature. If you do choose to camp, you’ll want to ensure that you have the proper gear.
- What to bring: As far as clothing, one of the most important things to bring is a pair of well-worn shoes that are comfortable and sturdy, such as hiking boots. It is also recommended that you bring modest clothing for when you pass through villages and holy sites. Churches will not allow in visitors if they are wearing shorts, for example.
- How much will it cost me to walk The Jesus Trail: Budgeting for The Jesus Trail varies depending on your style of travel. If you stay in less expensive accommodations such as dorms B&B’s, and only eat one meal out a day, your budget will be about $50-100 (€30-70) per day. If you stay in private hotels and eat all of your meals out, your budget might be up to $150 per day.
A Trip Unlike Any Other
Walking The Jesus Trail is not like any ordinary hike. Not only will you be passing back through time and history, but you’ll have the opportunity to positively impact the communities you’re passing through. The Jesus Trail has built up a reputation as a world-renowned trekking route for good reason. This biblical journey is an excellent option for pilgrims and outdoor enthusiasts alike and will help make your trip to Israel unforgettable.