Dead Sea Israel: Day Trips from Ein Bokek or Ein Gedi to Arad Shuk, Nuchal David and the Judean Desert
If you are spending some time at the Dead Sea at an Ein Bokek hotel in southern Israel you will probably be looking for something to do apart from lounging around with mud all over you and floating in the salty water. So here are a few ideas of activities that you can do in the Ein Bokek/Ein Gedi area.
The Arad Shuk
Although this is not the biggest or best of the Israeli markets you will find items here that you may not see in the bigger markets. Among the generic stands of cheap clothes you will find Russian immigrants selling second hand items which they have brought with them from the old country. You can also pick up some bargain goods at one of the stalls where everything is 10 shekels.
Apart from the clothing, hardware, costume jewelry, textiles and toys you can also find food produce at the Arad market. There are fresh vegetables, a cheese stall and also a huge selection of sweets and snack foods.
The Arad market is open only on a Monday and it is best to go in the morning to get bargains. The market is under cover and open whatever the weather. As you enter Arad from the main road from Ein Bokek, the market is on your left. Just ask someone the way to the shuk and they will point you in the right direction.
The Ein Gedi National Park has done an excellent job of providing trails into the desert which lead to small fresh springs and waterfalls in the middle of the desert. There is an entrance fee to these trails but with that you get other facilities, including toilets, a small kiosk at the entrance and a map of the trails. The best in my opinion is the Nachul David route especially if you are traveling with children or on your first outing in this area. Before you are even on the trail you will see the desert wildlife in amongst the trees along the path. An incredible amount of animals can be seen here including mountain deer, Ibex and desert foxes, bird watches will not be disappointed either. Once you reach the waterfalls and springs you can have a swim and rest before returning down the path.
There are several entrance points each one leading to a different spring and each suited to a different level of physical fitness. Ask at one of the entrance points for an explanation and recommendation as to which trail will best suit your group. The Nuchal David hike takes about an hour not including a dip in the water and is suitable for families and kids. Take with you plenty of water, a snack or picnic lunch, bathing suits and hats. It is best to go in the morning as the parks close in the late afternoon (around 15:30 depending on which trail you take). Check for details on the Ein Gedi National Park website.
Entrance to the Nuchal David hike trail is opposite the Ein Gedi beach and is open 08:00-16:00 in winter and 08:00-17:00 in summer.
4X4 paths into the desert
From Ein Bokek take the road to Arad and all along the road you will see signs and small dirt roads leading into the desert. If you are in a jeep (4X4) you can take one of these paths into the desert, but don't attempt it in a vehicle that is not meant for off-road driving. The paths are well sign posted just follow the colored strips along the side of the dirt road. You can drive into the desert just to get a feel of the expanse of emptiness that the desert wilderness provides. You may find yourself coming out at Masada (another great place to visit near Ein Bokek and don't miss the Masada Sound and Light Show), or you can reach the edge of the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea and get a great view of the sea below. There are steep dirt roads descending all the way to the Dead Sea, but to follow one of these you will need a lot of courage! If possible ask at your hotel on a recommended route, and if you can take along a local that would be even better. Your hotel will also have information about guides and 4X4 tours into the desert.