This is a touring route led by specialist local guides which immerses participants in stunning landscapes and invites them to dig a bit deeper into Israeli culture.

Itinerary

Our route takes us off the beaten track through both the Negev desert and Judean mountains, using tracks not accessible to the unguided cyclist, and includes meeting locals who have chosen to live in remote locations. Through this five-day cycle, participants will gain an appreciation for lesser known aspects of the land and people of Israel.

The Challenge

Our route presents a challenging ride for your experienced cyclists. On some days the challenge consists in metres to be climbed, and on others in distance covered. Every challenge is made easier by breath-taking views and landscapes. The route can easily be developed and adapted to incorporate additional challenges for your most experienced and daring cyclists.

Landscapes

Our route is particularly special because participants will experience first-hand Israel’s remarkable geo-diversity. Israel sits at the meeting point of three continents, creating an ecological mishmash extravaganza. Our ride starts in arid desert areas reminiscent of Africa with lone acacia trees and nimble desert ibex, and ends in the emerald Mediterranean forests of the Jerusalem Hills. Our desert route takes us through some of the most breath-taking scenery in all of Israel, including two of Israel’s three maktesh’s (erosion craters), which is a geographical phenomenon unique to the Negev. As we continue North, we will experience the landscape changing into semi-arid conditions, gradually filling out with colour until it metamorphoses into the rich greens of the Jerusalem Hills. The Jerusalem Hills are one of Israel’s most fertile areas, populated with natural forests and planted pine trees and some 100 flowing streams. Full of archaeological remains from millennia of human habitation, we will tour some lesser known Second Temple archaeological remains such as Khirbet Burgin where we will relive the story of the Bar Kochba revolt. At the heart of the Jerusalem Hills lies the holy city of Jerusalem where we end our ride.

People

Along this evolving route we will visit communities and meet individuals deeply committed to their local environment. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, said “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneering vigour of Israel will be tested”. We will meet farmers and winemakers who have risen to Ben Gurion’s challenge and are committed to “making the desert bloom”. With our expert desert guides we will learn about the special farming techniques applicable in this arid landscape, and how people through millennia have overcome the challenges of living in desert areas. We will also be inspired by a visit to an important youth rescue house in the desert. In the area of the Jerusalem Hills we will meet those involved with local industries such as goat cheese farming.

Day 1

Sunday

Arrival and bike fitting

Arrive at Ben Gurion airport where you will be greeted by Pomegranate Travel representatives. A coach will be waiting to take you South into the desert to the town of Mitzpe Ramon – the starting point for tomorrow’s ride. This afternoon you will get settled and be fitted for your bikes. You will be encouraged to take your bikes out for a test ride – cycling along the Ramon Crater offers stunning views. You will meet your crew and receive a detailed overview of the upcoming five days with plenty of opportunity to ask questions. You will then enjoy a good dinner and good night’s sleep, ensuring you are ready for tomorrow’s challenge.

Cyclists’ highlight of the day · Stunning views over the Ramon crater.

Overnight · Mitzpe Ramon Youth Hostel, private rooms.

Meals provided · Dinner at Mitzpe Ramon Youth Hostel

Day 2

Monday · Mitzpe Ramon to Yerucham

Cycle route

Today your challenge officially kicks off! We will begin the day heading West towards the Astronomy centre and then turn on to a good dirt track leading to road 171 which will take us south west up into the desert steppe of Mt Negev. This will provide spectacular views of the Ramon Crater from an unfamiliar angle. After a short stop near Mt Negev we will re-trace our ride on road 171 to the Ruchot Junction, this time heading north east, and proving that the age old saying that “what you see going one way is not the same as you see going the other way”.

We will then turn north on Road 40, next close to the Nafha junction we turn west onto a back road leading to Beit Shanti.

Arriving at the inspiring Beit Shanti, we will tour this amazing facility and meet some of the people behind the project. Beit Shanti is a safe house for youth at risk aged 14 – 21. Many of the young people living here were found homeless, orphaned or were victims of abuse in their own families.

For most, Beit Shanti is the first real home they have ever known, a place of protection and rehabilitation.

Following this visit, we will head north towards Yerucham with a short detour to visit David and Paula Ben Gurion’s tomb. Faced with views which are among the most magnificent in the entire land of Israel, one can well understand why the country’s first prime minister wanted to be buried here.

Upon arrival at tonight’s accommodation your bags will be waiting for you in your rooms.

(Approximately 107 kms, ascent 850m (with plenty of downhill too).

Cyclists’ highlight of the day · Tour at Beit Shanti.

Overnight · Beyachad, Yeruham

Meals provided · Breakfast at Har HaNegev Field School, picnic lunch, dinner at Beyachad.

Day 3

Tuesday · Yerucham to Arad

Cycle route

Today begins with a gentle ascent to Mt Avnun which offers a breath taking view of the Big Makhtesh (actually smaller than the Ramon Makhtesh but more on that at the Avnun look out!).

The Big Maktesh is situated in a national park reserve spread over nearly 40,000 dunams of sand, hills, ridges and various colours rock formations, and will leave you gaping and marvelling at the views. After a short explanation about the crater we descend the switch backs that will guide us to and then across the floor of the Big Makhtesh and the out through its only drainage point on the eastern side.

The following section of the ride takes us north to route 25, then east along route 25, and on to route 258, which crosses the valleys that score the region as they drain east. Should you wish to provide participants with standard and more challenging options, this will be an excellent point for participants to choose between such alternatives. The route will continue along route 258 as it climbs towards route 31 and the Hatrorim junction. The day ends on a particularly challenging but rewarding note as we turn onto dirt tracks leading to a scenic off-road detour high above Israel’s ‘Grand canyon’. Here the views are simply stunning – it really is a question of ‘seeing is believing’.

This path then joins the paved road of route 31 just 100 meters above sea level leaving a cruel 550m, 18 km, climb to Arad. This part of the ride is a challenge with a capital C! (Approx 85 km and 850 meters of ascent).

Arriving at the hotel, your bags will be waiting for you in your rooms. You will have a chance to relax in the hotel’s pool!

Cyclists’ highlight of the day · The Big Machtesh and the ‘fossil garden’ in it.

Overnight · Inbar Hotel, Arad

Meals provided · Breakfast at Beyachad, picnic lunch, dinner at Inbar Hotel.

Day 4

Wednesday · Arad to Galon

Cycle route

Today’s epic ride takes us from the Judean Desert up into the cooler and milder climate of the hills south of Hebron, and then on to the Yehuda Plains west of Jerusalem. Today of all days we will truly experience the dramatically changing landscape from desert to fertile plains. The ride is long but the experience, views and scenery will be what participants most remember.

Leaving Arad we ride West on the road 31 before turning north on route 80 for a long climb off the plains to the foot hills of Hebron (please note that the ride at no point crosses into the ‘disputed territories’ remaining in areas internationally regarded as Israel by all parties).

We then cycle around the West Bank with lowland views on our left and high hills on our right creating panoramic views. After several days of desert colours, we will enjoy the magical experience of riding through the Yatir Forest – Israel’s largest planted, green forest, a project of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The undulating ride uses good dirt tracks and minor tarmac roads.

We will stop for a picnic lunch in the shade of the forest. The Yatir forest is also close to Yatir Winery – one of Israel’s leading boutique wine makers: the wine is so good that it is stocked in Selfridges!

As the group will be too large to visit Yatir Winery (or any boutique winery!), we are bringing Yatir to the group!

A member of Yatir’s winery will come to meet us in the forest and will tell us the story of the winery while we are eating lunch. She will of course be brining wine with her and inviting us to a very special wine tasting set up especially for us in the forest!

Next we will visit a lesser known, hidden gem archaeological site buried deep in the Yatir Forest – Khurbat Yatir – an ancient Hebrew Levite city which sat in the land belonging to the tribe of Judea.

As the day continues we descend towards the Yehuda Plains crossing from arid to semi-arid to Mediterranean climes with the scenery evolving to rich agricultural land including some of the country’s most expansive vineyards. It is hard to believe that one can see so much variation in one day’s ride! Arriving at the hotel, your bags will be waiting for you in your rooms. (Approx km: 90 kms, but worth every drop of sweat and kilojoule of energy!).

Cyclists’ highlight of the day · Visit to Khurbat Yatir archaeological site and visit from Yatir Winery.

Overnight · Kibbutz Galon.

Meals provided · Breakfast at Inbar Hotel, picnic lunch with Yatir winery wine tasting, dinner at Galon kibbutz.

Day 5

Thursday · Galon to Nes Harim

Cycle route

This morning we depart Galon and begin our day along a quiet country road passing the Luzit Bell Caves and several Bar Kochba era ruins. This gentle road, interlaced with fields and forests, ends at Adulam Reserve where we will bike along a secluded park access road. We will stop at Khirbet Burgin, a lesser known but expansive Second Temple period archaeological site where the ancient Jewish village of Bish once stood.

We will tour the uncovered Roman burial caves, and underground cavities in which Jews hid during the rebellion against the Romans more than 2000 years ago, and hear the dramatic story of the Bar Kochba revolt. Following our tour, we will continue to a small goat cheese farm in the area of the Tzora forest.

The route is challenging and off road and awards impressive views of the coastal plain. We will continue via the ‘sculpture route’ which will challenge us with its very steep ascent. At the goat cheese farm we will meet a local goat cheese farmer who will personally serve a delicious goat cheese lunch! As we eat, we will hear his personal story and a description of the local, organic goat cheese farming process.Following lunch we continue along the historic Derech Burma and then through the Nahal Dolev forest, surrounded by rich greenery.

We will spend the night in the JNF Forest Field School, tucked away on a mountaintop above Nes Harim, with stunning views all around. Upon arrival at tonight’s accommodation your bags will be waiting for you in your rooms. (Approx 70 km with 800m of ascent).

Cyclists’ highlight of the day · Archaeological and gastronomic treats at Khirbet Burgin.

Overnight · JNF Forest Field School, private cabins for up to six.

Meals provided · Breakfast at Galon kibbutz, local goat cheese lunch provided by organic farmer, dinner at JNF Field School.

Day 6

Friday / Sunday

We would be delighted to provide either of the following two options for the final day of the challenge and the Shabbat weekend. Option B is available for a supplement of £100 per person.

Option A · Nes Harim to Jerusalem

Our final day’s ride will challenge us with steep descents and ascents, including a final and dramatic ascent into the holy city of Jerusalem. Setting out from Nes Harim we re-enter the Nahal Dolev forest and continue down to Shar HaGai, and then up through Kesalon. We then begin a long and challenging climb up a magnificently scenic ridge where we will stop to view the Air Force Lookout Point, the central memorial site of the Israel Air Force. The site consists of the propeller engine of a 1948 airplane mounted on a stone column together with four columns in which the names of fallen air force men are inscribed in glass and commemorates members of the IAF who lost their lives fighting for the country’s independence. At the end of the ascent we reach the Sataf springs and ancient agricultural park – a site of immense natural beauty.

Our final stretch takes us down into the Beit Zayit Valley and onto Mount Herzl military cemetery, a site of major national importance for Israel and the Jewish people, where the nation’s great leaders are buried. From Mount Herzl we will have our first views of both the new and old cities of Jerusalem, and from here we will continue our ascent to the eternal city of Jerusalem itself. We will cycle into our final destination, the beautiful Mount Zion Hotel. Upon arrival your bags will be waiting for you in your rooms. (Approx 55km with 750m of ascent).

Cyclists’ highlight of the day · Arrival at Mount Zion Hotel and start of your relaxing weekend!

Overnight · Mount Zion Hotel

Meals provided · Breakfast at JNF Field School, packed lunch, Shabbat dinner at Mount Zion Hotel.

 

Shabbat

Today we have a free day to relax in the comfort of this stunning hotel.

Overnight · Mount Zion Hotel

Meals provided · Breakfast, and dinner at either Mount Zion Hotel or a nearby restaurant (microphone will be provided).

Sunday

Following breakfast, your coach will arrive to transfer you to the airport. (A tour of the Old City of Jerusalem with expert guides can be added to the itinerary should your flight time allow for it).

Meals provided · Breakfast at Mount Zion Hotel.

 

Thank you so much for the best bike ride we have ever experienced. This is my 6th ride and Russell’s 12th! We all as a group felt so well looked after and you could not have been more helpful.

Marcia M, London

I impressed upon Pomegranate at the outset that I wanted the very best ground crew. They passed with flying colours. They turned out to be the best team I’ve worked with in 22 years and I’ve been all round the world. They were all very professional at what they did.Paul T, London

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