Practical Information for Walking/Hiking Tour Participants
Climate and weather
Palestine’s climate is essentially Mediterranean, with hot summers, cold winters and a mild spring and autumn. Temperatures can reach 40 degrees centigrade midday in midsummer, but the nights are cool in the mountains and desert. There is no rainfall in the summer (June – Sept), but winter brings rain as well as snow to the mountains.
The best times of the year for hiking are March to May and September to November. Early spring brings plentiful wildflowers; in late autumn, families are out harvesting olives, and you may well be invited to sit and drink tea with them. If you do visit in the summer, the weather will be very hot, so you will start hiking earlier in the day and take plenty of rest stops.
In Jerusalem and Bethlehem you will be staying in hotels or simple guest houses with private rooms and facilities. During the hiking tour, you will be staying in family homes in Palestinian villages, meeting the children, grandparents and extended families, and sharing their fresh, home-cooked traditional food.
The Palestinian homes you will stay in all have electricity and running water. However, Palestine is among the most water-challenged countries in the world, so you should use water with great care. You will be able to have a quick shower or wash after each walk. There will always be plenty of bottled drinking water.
Men and women usually sleep separately on mattresses on the floor of the family’s main living space. Don’t expect a private bedroom, although some families may be able to provide one for older married couples. If this is important to you, please make this known at the time of enquiry, so that you can get appropriate advice. It is advisable to bring your own cotton sleeping-bag liner.
Eating and drinking
You will be eating traditional Middle Eastern food. In the villages, this means home cooking, freshly prepared and local. Meals (breakfast, too) usually consist of flat bread, cheese, yoghurt, humus, olives and salads. Dinner will include a typical Palestinian cooked dish, often including rice with chicken or meat. The walking tours usually include one or two very simple picnics of bread, cheese, and salad.
Palestine is primarily a Muslim country, so alcohol is hard to find and will not be offered during the walking tour. Be prepared for endless tiny glasses of sweet black tea, often served with mint, and for grainy, delicious Turkish-style coffee after meals.
In Jerusalem and in Bethlehem, you can find wine and beer in many restaurants. Some walking trails pass through Taybeh, home to Palestine’s first brewery. Here you can sample a high-quality, organic lager beer brewed in accordance with the German purity laws of 1516! If you pass through in September or October, you might find the Taybeh version of Bavaria’s legendary Oktoberfest in full swing – two days of Palestinian celebration, music and culture.
Traveling to Israel and Palestine is fairly straightforward for European and US travellers. Several airlines offer flights from Europe and the US to Tel-Aviv (Ben Gurion International Airport), which is about a one-hour bus or shared taxi (sheroot) ride away from Jerusalem. If you are arriving from other parts of the Middle East, you will need to check on specific border crossings and routes. Our tour operators can provide advice on the journey and on where to meet.
What to wear
For the walking tour, you will need sturdy, comfortable hiking/walking shoes and light-weight, quick-drying clothing. Sandals may be acceptable when not hiking, but be sure that they are adequate to navigate sometimes-uneven stone paths. It helps to have the capacity to layer your clothing, since the temperature on a single day can move from cool to hot and back again to cool, depending on the season. Because your itinerary will take you to more rural or conservative areas, both women and men are advised to dress accordingly to show respect to these communities. We ask that both women and men avoid wearing shorts or other clothing which exposes knees and/or shoulders. Three-quarter or full-length pants are appropriate. Please avoid low-cut shirts, tank tops, T-shirts with provocative images, or sheer clothing. Although women are not required to cover their heads except in mosques and other holy places, we advise that women always travel with a scarf to be prepared to cover shoulders, arms, or head as needed. Occasionally, women are not allowed into holy sites if they are wearing pants. Because of this possibility, it is advised that women bring at least one skirt. All travelers should consider a hat for protection from the sun and a scarf or bandanna to cover the back of the neck to protect it from sunburn.
Looking after your health
Before you travel, be sure to refer carefully to the information provided here by the Israeli Ministry of Health for the most current COVID-19-related protocols.
With the exception of current COVID-19 guidelines, there are no special inoculations required for travel in Palestine, though it is recommended that you be up to date with immunizations against hepatitis A, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever. The greatest risks are from heat stroke/exhaustion, sunburn, dehydration and traveler’s diarrhea. All travelers should take the usual health precautions, carry water at all times, ensure that they drink only bottled water, protect themselves from the sun, and carry a small personal first aid kit.
Safety and security
Palestinians are a friendly and hospitable people with legendary respect for guests and visitors to their land. The walking route in Palestine was established in 2006, and since then, several hundred people from many countries, including the USA and UK, have hiked all or part of the route without safety or security incidents of any kind. You will be hiking in rural areas and will be accompanied at all times by a professional Palestinian guide who knows, and is held in great respect and affection by, the communities along the route.
Despite the increase in security in the West Bank in recent years, it is clearly not possible for the Siraj Center to guarantee the personal safety of every traveler to Palestine. There is still an element of political tension and instability. Travelers are advised to visit the website of their home government for detailed and up-to-date information about the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (see below for relevant web links).
Petty travel-related crime – theft or pick pocketing - is extremely rare in Palestine, and unknown along the walking trail. Travelers should exercise normal caution and use common sense in the larger towns and cities.
For more details, refer to “Safety and Security" Guidelines and Protocols" click here.
Travel insurance is your responsibility and you are strongly advised to take out adequate travel insurance before you travel, including emergency health care and repatriation coverage.
Street markets abound in all the major towns, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to sweets, toys, and small jewelry. Every village offers a roadside shop for drinks, food and snacks.
Carrying your gear
The lighter and more efficiently you are able to pack, the more easily your luggage can be transferred during the course of your travels. Baggage transfer between villages can be arranged, so you do not need to carry all your gear while you are walking. Bring a small day-pack to carry with you during the day, to hold essentials like a reusable water bottle, hat, sunscreen, camera, etc. We recommend that you keep the weight of the pack to not more than 10-15% of your body weight, plus your water bottle and water.
To enhance your travel experience, be sure to refer also to “Helpful Travel, Health, and Cultural Information for All Visitors to the Region.” https://sirajcenter.org/index.php/en/your-journey/practical-info