From Ein Zik to the City of Ovdat
Maps: 1:250,000 - Israel, southern section - topographical and geological map.
1:50,000 - Sdeh Boker.
1:50,000 - walking map with path markings - northern Negev, map no. 15.
Path marking: blue, the arrival point is marked in black.
Signposting: the vehicle route to Ein Zik is signposted.
Length of walking route: about 10 km.
Duration of route: about 8 hours.
Recommended age of walkers: 14 and over.
Preferred season: spring, fall, winter.
Essential equipment: map, water, hat, comfortable walking shoes.
Medical assistance: on Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker, at Midreshet Sde Boker.
Vehicle access: the route to Ein Zik is passable by cross country passenger trucks and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Access to the area is strictly forbidden while it is raining. The route will be slippery and impassable. Inquiries should be made at the Sdeh Bokker Field School regarding the condition of the route before leaving.
The journey from Midreshet Sde Boker to Ein Zik takes about 3/4 of an hour.
The collection vehicle will collect walkers from the Ovdat gas station. Which is located on the road to Mitzpeh Ramon about 10 km. south of the Ben-Gurion Academy.

Starting point of the route - the Ein Zik oasis. Finishing point of the route - the ancient city of Ovdat.

Nature preservation - there are springs within the walking route area which provide a means of existence for vegetation and animals. Do not light fires near the springs. Keep the area clean and protect the natural resources and landscape.

Additional information may be obtained from the Sdeh Boker Field School; Tel: 08-6532016

Area of the walking route:
The walking route passes through the northern part of the Ovdat Heights. We will visit the Ein Zik oasis and climb up the Ovdat Heights to a breathtaking observation point overlooking the Negev ridges. We will then descend to upper Ein Akeb - a ?? spring along the Akeb River and we will continue to the Davshon River and end the walk at the Nabatean city of Ovdat.

Along the walking route we will observe the desert springs and their uniqueness as a source of life for vegetation, animal life and human life living in the area. We will encounter remains of ancient agricultural activities and examine man's attempts to inhabit the region.

The walk area - geographical background
The route of the walk passes by the meeting point of the ridges of the northern Negev with the Ovdat Heights.

Four chains of ridges, which lie in a northeast-southwest direction, can be seen in the northern central Negev.

The ridges are asymmetrical. Their southeast section is steep and the northwest section is gently inclined. The ridges are separated by valleys. The Ovdat Heights comprises a sort of ending point for these ridges which "are swallowed" by the heights.

The Ovdat Heights are one the largest continuous heights in Israel with an average height of about 800 meters above sea level. To the north and northeast the heights end at cliffs which face the Tsin Valley. These are the Tsinim cliffs.

The heights are made of intermittent strata of chalk and lime. These are sediment rocks, a remnant of the Thesis Sea which covered the region around 35 million years ago, during the Eocene Era. During this era the ridge tops were islands in the middle of the sea.

How to get to the start of the route:
The area of the route passes to the south of the Ben-Gurion Academy. To reach the starting point, travel along route 40 as far as Kibbutz Sdeh Boker, continue south for about another 3 km. up to an orange sign which reads: "To Maaleh Tsin". Here. Turn left (eastwards) and travel about another 4 km. to the start of the ascent near the landing strip which was used by David Ben-Gurion while he lived at Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker. We follow the oil route down, following signs to Ein Zik and cross the Tsin River, and continue straight ahead for about 4.5 km. until we reach two large tanks. There, we will see a sign directing us to Ein Zik and we turn south with the route an continue on for about another 3 km. The path passes between grayish soft hawwar hills. In the distance we will be able to see palm trees and reeds growing at an oasis. We will leave the vehicles next to the nature reserve sign. Our walk starts here.

Route Description:
Route Description:

  1. Ein Zik to Ein Shaviv
    We continue from the parking lot along the route for about another 300 km. until we see clumps of typical water vegetation:
    tamarisks, palm trees and reeds. This is the spring of Ein Zik (1).
    Further along the way we will find a dense grove of poplars. This is Ein Shaviv (2).

    Ein Shaviv is one of a group of springs along the edges of the Ovdat Heights. The rainwater which falls on the heights partly seep through cracks and horizontal strata of the chalk and lime rocks and flint until they reach the impervious clay stratum. The water flows along this stratum and break through where the stratum is exposed.

    It is worthwhile entering the dense poplar grove to listen to the sounds of life inside - a songbird, the buzz of hornets and the gurgling of the gentle stream of water.

    The poplar is a tall tree which grows on riverbanks and near springs and can tolerate a certain amount of salinity in the ground. The Euphrates poplar has two types of foliage: young long leaves and wider more mature diamond-shaped leaves. This is a deciduous tree which loses its leaves in winter. The leaves have prominent gallnuts, shaped like a white half ball (gallnut means a swelling or growth in the leaf following penetration of a foreign body, such as laid eggs or an insect sting, viral attack or chemical contamination).

    In ancient times, the wood of the poplar was used for construction material. A large amount of beams and wood remains have been discovered at archeological excavations from the Chalcolithic Era, dating to 35,000 BCE.m Currently, several species of poplar trees are grown in Israel for different uses (construction material, as wind breaks, as garden trees etc.).

    The poplars of the Negev are the remains of a wetter climatic era than today. They only survived near two springs - Ein Shaviv and Ein Ovdat.
    There is other water vegetation besides the poplar trees, including: reeds, juncus, salt wort, palms and even fig trees.

    Signs of animals which drink from the spring can be found here: ?? burrows, footsteps of ibexes, wolves and hyenas.
    In the fall, the foliage of the grove is brilliantly colored.

  2. From Ein Shaviv to Upper Ein Akeb
    We will leave the verdant spring area and walk towards the Ovdat Heights. A path with blue markings leads off to the right and we will follow the path up to the top of the cliff. On the way up we will able to observe the strata which comprise the heights - intermittent strata of chalk and lime.

    When we reach the top of the ascent we will draw a breath of refreshing hill air and start walking towards the observation point on nearest hill to the north (4). From here we will be able to see the expanses of the northern and central Negev. The Mountains of Edom can be observed from here when visibility is good. The landscape of the Ovdat heights and its tableau mountains can be seen from the top of the hill. This hill is on the watershed. The Zik River passes to the east and the Akeb River catchment area lies to the west. As we continue westwards we cross the Akeb River catchment basin and thereafter the Davshon River. We will descend along the marked path from the observation point. From here we have two choices: to follow the green markings to lower Ein Akeb, or to follow the blue markings to upper Ein Akeb. We will go to upper Ein Akeb.

    We will follow down the course with blue markings and after about one kilometer we will leave the gorge and climb up the heights again. The transition to the Ovdat Heights is clearly evident from the vegetation type here - arid desert vegetation and, particularly, the bush zygophyllum and reaumuria which can withstand severe aridness. There is a greater variety of vegetation along the rover courses due to the water which collects here when it rains. Large broom bushes are particularly prominent here. At the end of the descent, on the east wall of the gorge, we will be able to see dark rock which contains coin-shaped fossils. These are nomolites (nomola means "coin" in Latin) - tiny, monocellular creatures which became fossilized.

  3. Upper Ein Akeb (3)
    We will follow the drop of the wadi for about another 400 m. En route we will observe the vegetation in the gorge and the vegetation growing along the wadi walls. These are plants which live off the better quality water from the cracks, such as pungent varthemia and the common caperbush. We will see signs of life along the way - animal droppings (mainly, of goats and mules).

    The spring we encounter in the gorge - upper Ein Akeb - derives from a fault which cuts the subterranean direction of the water and forces the water upwards. This is a ?? spring.

    The spring water flow out and collect in different places and attract songbirds, various mammals, such as ibexes, wolves, hyenas and water insects: ??, dragonfly caterpillars, water beetles etc. In the summer, you can hear a sound which resemble the sound of a water sprinkler. This is the tamarisk cicada. The males make this sound to communicate between the sexes. There are many water plants around the water, include the tamarisk and reeds.

  4. From Ein Akeb to the city of Ovdat
    We have two choices from here -we can continue to the city of Ovdat, following the blue markings, or follow the black markings down the riverbed to lower Ein Akeb. We will follow the blue markings to Ovdat.

    We will climb up from the spring along the gorge which opens out to the Akeb River to the west. En route we will see piles of large stones on the right. These are tumuli (singular: tumulus) which are burial structures dated to the middle Bronze Era (2000-1900 BCE). Some have been excavated and human finds, pottery and beads were found.
    At the end of the ascent we arrive at a bend on the watershed which separates the Akeb River from the Davshon River. To the southwest we will be able to see Mt. Nafha and the remains of Ovdat to the west.

    In contrast to the Akeb River, the Davshon River is a wide river filled with silt. This was well utilized in ancient times for agricultural purposes. Today, the Bedouin who live on the Ovdat Heights benefit from the silt. Remains of agricultural activity can be clearly seen in the area: dams, stone fences and direction channels. It is not hard to understand why the Arabs called the Davshon River "Wadi Assal" - the River of Honey.

    We will continue down the gorge which leads to the Davshon River. Along the main gorge we will see a good example of an ancient farm which includes dams, fencing and a farmhouse.

    Desert agriculture is based on maximum usage of surface drainage water which is typically found in the Negev. The collection and channeling of water is achieved by means of channels which descend from the slopes and lead the water to the plots in the gorge. This method enables cultivation of a wide range of crops: grains, vines and fruit trees. Prof. Even-Ari's farm, to the south of Ovdat, is an example of a restored farm. This method of agriculture began in the Nabatean Era (third century BCE) and reached a peak in the Byzantine Era (seventh century CE). The Bedouin use the remains of this method of agriculture to cultivate grains in the winter. The uncultivated plots provide fertile ground for vegetation which prefer loess, such as: ?? and daphne.

    We will cross the catchment basin of the Davshon River and ascend the watershed between the Davshon River and the Rahatz River. The city of Ovdat (4) is located on the watershed. We will approach the city along the vehicle route which we meet from the southeast. This route is part of the ancient Spice Road. The vehicle awaits us at Ovdat. A tour of Ovdat is recommended.
    This database includes a detailed route information sheet.

    We would like to point out that the city of Ovdat is an archeological site operated by the Nature Preservation Authority and the National Parks Authority and an entry fee is charged during visiting hours. Note that a path with black markings branches off from the Davshon River and circumnavigates the city of Ovdat and goes directly to the gas station.

  5. Other possibilities:

    The route can be taken in the opposite direction by going directly to the upper parking lot of the city of Ovdat and walking in an easterly direction. Walk about 100 m. along the vehicle route until you reach blue markings which lead to upper Ein Akeb.
    You can descend from upper Ein Akeb to lower Ein Akeb and continue from there to Maaleh Davshon and Ein Ovdat or collect walkers at lower Ein Akeb.


  1. Ze'ev Rehess, The Geology of the Northern Negev, Sdeh Bokker Academy Publications, 1975.
  2. Avinoam Dannin, Vegetation of the Negev, Sifriat Hapoalim, 1977.
  3. Y. Keidar, Ancient Agriculture on Mt. Negev, Mossad Bialik Publications, Jerusalem, 1967.
  4. The Encyclopedia of Animal Life and Plant Life, volumes 7, 10, 11, Ministry of Defense Publications.