Five great hikes through Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine for those who prefer walking socks to winding souks
Plan your adventure in the undiscovered Middle East, from day walks to to ruin roaming. Thought the Middle East was all desert? In one day you might wander through lush hills, olive groves, and fields of wildflowers, sustained by a belly full of delicious local food.
How long? 80km, 6 days
Why go? Ditch the tour bus and reach the Rose-Red city through the back door. This unmarked trail pioneered by Wanderlust award-winning guide Yamaan Safady may not be luxurious – you’ll sleep in Bedouin tents and have to forgo showers if there’s not been enough rain to fill the canyon waterfalls – but arriving at Petra via hillsides in desert bloom instead of the modern township of Wadi Musa is priceless.
Best bits: Little Petra – with its carved facades and rock-cut interiors, it’s a foretaste of Petra proper, minus the crowds.
More information: www.walksworldwide.com
How long? 440km, 1 month
Why go? Snow-capped mountains, views over the Mediterranean, Ottoman castles and Byzantine churches… this trail launched in April 2009 is a veritable showcase of Lebanon’s diverse natural beauty and cultural heritage. Each of the sections can be hiked in a day so you can cover as much of the trail as you fancy. But with charming old stone guesthouses and monasteries offering accommodation all along the route, you’ll be tempted to trek it all.
Best bits: The Tannourine Cedar Forest Nature Reserve, and the village of Ehden, home to the country’s oldest Maronite churches.
More information: www.lebanontrail.org
How long? 65km, 4 days
Why go? Not just one for pilgrims! This trail takes in historical sites important to all of the region’s major religions – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze – and is itself a venture in mutual understanding, established by an Israeli entrepreneur in partnership with local Arab guesthouse owners and Jewish kibbutzim. Whether you go with a group or alone with a GPS, the vista as you look out over the sea of Galilee is spectacular.
Best bits: Cana (of water-into wine renown) and the tomb of Jethro (Moses’s father-in-law).
More information: www.jesustrail.com
How long? 9km, 1 day
Why go? Trekking in Oman is a serious undertaking – in summer the mercury can rise to 50°c; in winter, daytime temperatures rarely drop below 25°c. But the sublime, rocky scenery in the Western Hajar mountains more than rewards the effort. There are myriad hiking trails in the region, but our pick is the relatively easy 1000m climb up Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest peak (2,997m), which offers dizzying views over Wadi Mukhtar – ‘Oman’s Grand Canyon’ – and the craggy peaks that surround it.
Best bits: As well as the breath-taking vistas, you’ll discover the abandoned village of Sap Bani Khamis where rainwater still collects in the ancient stone cistern.
More information: Adventure Trekking in Oman (Cordee)
How long? 1,200km
Why go? The grand-daddy of Middle Eastern walks is an epic, work-in-progress ‘path for peace’ which aims to trace the journeys of the prophet Abraham. Starting in the Turkish town of Harran, where Abraham heard the word of God, the planned route heads to Aleppo and Damascus in Syria, traverses northern Jordan and visits Jerusalem before finishing at Abraham’s tomb in Hebron, Palestine.
Best bits: The Jordanian section is currently the best-developed: the 12km Al-Ayoun trail offers lush hills, wildflowers and village homestays. Palestine offers a 55km trail from Nablus to Taybeh, winding through Canaanite, Roman and Byzantine ruins, and culminating in the country’s only brewery.
More information: http://www.abrahampath.org