One most popular multi-day hiking treks in Israel is the “Yam le Yam” trek.
Yam in Hebrew means sea. The route takes you from the shore of the Mediterranean Sea on the west, across the Galilee ridge and down to the Sea of Galilee in the East.
Back in the days when almost all Israeli teens were members of a Youth movement, it was the traditional journey towards the end of high school.
Decades later, it still keeps its popularity among local hikers.
The total length of the trail is about 70 kilometers (45 miles) and takes three to five days, depending on your pace and fitness.
Most of the ascent is along the Kziv Stream, reaching at the end of the climb the summit of Mount Meron at 1,200 meters above sea level (the highest point of the trek), then going down to the Sea of Galilee along the Amud Stream.
When to Go
The trail can be walked anytime between October and May.
The period between June and September is dry and very hot.
October and November are almost free from rainfall, but the landscape is still arid, and the vegetation is yellow and withered from the long summer.
December, January, and February are the rainier periods (about 40 percent of rainy days).
Temperatures are excellent for hiking, and the air is fresh. If you are not afraid of the rain, it's a great season.
The best period is from March to April. The chance for rain is much lower, and the landscape is green and dotted with carpets of colorful wildflowers.
If you love flowers come in March, if you want to further reduce the chance for, but still enjoy the green landscape, come in April.
Who you meet on the trail
Except for fellow hikers that you will meet along the way, the Yam le Yam also gives you the chance to meet several unique Israeli communities.
You can just pass through, but it is recommended to spend the nights as these settlements which are located ideally along the trail.
See also: The Golan Trail – Hiking in Northern Israel
Christian village of Fasuta (population 3,000)
Ninety-three percent of the Arab population in Israel are Muslims. Seven percent are Christians, and most of them belong to the Greek Orthodox church.
The residents of Fasuta are different. They belong to the Melkite Catholic Church that originated from Damascus, Syria.
The Melkites history is traced to the early Christians of Antioch, formerly part of Syria and now in Turkey.
You can enjoy delicious Arab food at local restaurants and learn about the unique history of the people.
The village is ideally located above the Kizv stream and is an excellent choice for your first overnight.
Druze village of Hurfeish (population 5,000)
The Druze people are the smallest religion minority in Israel (140,000 people, about 1.6 percent of the population).
They are a unique religious and ethnic minority that separated from Islam around the 10th century in Egypt.
Hurfeish is the northernmost Druze village in the Galilee, Situated in an altitude of 650-800 m ASL. The settlement dates back to the Byzantine period.
The origin of the village is Christian, and the mix of the population shifted gradually throughout history (today only four percent of the residents are Christians).
Hurfeish is a perfect location for the 2nd overnight of the trek. If you stay there, don't miss their famous local dish called Sambusak (A pastry filled with local cheese or ground meat).
The town of Safed (population 35,000)
Safed's history dates back to the 2nd temple period. It is rich in Jewish history.
Safed is one of five towns in the land of Israel where Jews lived continuously for more than 2,000 years.
Today it’s a big town with many residential neighborhoods, but the old quarter with its picturesque narrow alleys, small synagogues, and art galleries is an excellent stop along the trail.
The town is about a 2 Km diversion from the path in a good location for the 3rd overnight.
See also: Backpacking Israel – When to Visit and What to See
The first two days are spent mostly along the Kziv Stream.
It is the longest stream in the Galilee that flows from the ridge westwards to the Mediterranean Sea.
It used to be a perennial stream. However, the Israeli national water company pumps most of the water from its more significant springs.
During the summer and fall, only short sections have flowing water.
During winter and spring (and especially after heavy rainfall), water flow is much stronger and flows all along.
There are several springs with attractive nature water pools that make fantastic places to rest along the way.
Another attraction along the stream is the Monfort Crusader Fortress.
The third day starts with a climb to the summit of Mount Meron, the highest point in the Galilee, with great views to all of northern Israel.
After the descend to the other side of the mountain, the trail enters the Amud stream and we walk in its upper section.
This stream is even more beautiful than the Kziv. In addition to the freshwater flow, you encounter ancient ruins from human activities in the forms of Aquaducts, flour mills, and wool factories that were operated with the water power.
The last day continues along the Amud stream until the sea of Galilee. What can be a better ending than a swim in the famous lake?
For more details check out Israel by Foot.
This is not a “formal trail”, and as such it does not have its own unique markings.
However, all the way is along well-marked local trails and is very easy to follow.
Because the trail passes nearby the villages mentioned above (and a few more), the logistics are easy.
There are enough settlements along the path where you can get supplies and lodging.
It is also possible to make the journey by camping with your tent.
However, except for one campsite near the summit of Mount Meron, you will have to camp “wild” without any facilities.
It is more recommended to use lodges in the villages and small towns along the way.
Erez Speiser is the founder of Israel By Foot which was developed to enable the independent tourist to easily “spice-up” a “standard” tour in Israel with real nature & hiking experiences.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.