Park Eshkol National Park – Israel

Park Eshkol is one of a series of national parks and nature reserves in the Northern Negev Desert of Israel. Open year round, from 8 am to 5 pm, it can be accessed with a small entrance fee. Travelers keen on staying in the park can find a camping area with showers and barbecue grills.

This area is an ideal one for learning the wonders of the desert.
In Summer it is dry and arid and towards the end of winter and through early spring the area erupts in color.
Starting in December and running through the end of February every plant that has been patiently waiting for rain bursts open in blossoms. The best flowers usually peak in mid-January.

Wildflowers ©Dondi Shcwartz

Park Eshkol is also part of the drainage basin for the Ein Habesor River and as such, throughout the ages has been the site of many cities and settlements from as early as the Bronze Age. A melting pot of cultures and has been the source of many exciting archaeological discoveries. All of the sites are marked on the maps provided and include the remnants of an ancient well that belonged to a Byzantine church at the site.

The park is also popular with bird-watchers and many types of hawks, eagles and migrating birds can been seen there.

The park is open all year round and there is always plenty to see. All of the paths are easy to moderate and clearly marked. I recommend traveling there in January – February for the flowers and weather. Desert nights are surprisingly cold – don’t underestimate them – come well prepared for temperatures close to freezing point. If you plan on traveling in summer, plan your trip so that you are out of the sun by 10 am. In both winter and summer bring plenty of water (probably double your normal amount) with you. It is very dry.

One approach might involve arriving during the day, hiring bicycles at the local club in Kibbutz Beeri and sleeping overnight in the park. The path I chose to do this is called the Habesor Way. It leads  approximately 18 km in the park. This is easy to moderate riding, and can be followed by another 10 km to the Bedouin camp called The Desert Ship along a main but quiet country road. Both are also easily accessible for hiking as well.

Sheep and Bedouin Herder ©Dondi Schwartz

During the winter and early spring Bedouins can be found with their flocks of sheep and goats grazing in this area of the Negev. A local Bedouin has taken the initiative and hosts travelers in his tents which he calls The Desert Ship. You can sleep overnight, experience Bedouin hospitality, food and traditions in this restful spot. Then use the next day to continue travelling with Bedouin guides in the Mashabei Sade area by bicycle or camel, a novel and fitting mode of travel.

In the desert each and every plant has a special purpose and meaning  and many are used by the Bedouins for their healing properties. Be sure to learn some of them as you encounter the Bedouin culture. Make sure to try some Camel milk! Ask questions of your guides, speak with them you’ll discover a wonderful culture and a friendly people eager to explain.

To learn more visit Israel Nature Parks Authority.

Camels in the grasslands ©Dondi Schwartz


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