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Backpacker Magazine – March 2012

The Jesus Trail: Hiking from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee

Every hike is a pilgrimage, but this new path from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee is holier than most. Literally following in His footsteps, the 40-mile route immerses hikers in biblical history.

by: Dennis Lewon; Photos by Jason Florio

The author climbing the Arbel Cliffs
The author climbing the Arbel Cliffs
Traverse of the Horns of Hittim
Traverse of the Horns of Hittim
Dintaman and Landis
Dintaman and Landis
Capernaum, Jesus's home during his ministry
Capernaum, Jesus's home during his ministry
The author walking off in the Sea of Galilee
The author walking off in the Sea of Galilee

Trip Planner

Itinerary Allow four days of hiking for the 40-mile route, and spend at least one full day in Nazareth before you start. Go in spring or fall.
Accommodations It’s possible to camp along the Jesus Trail, but you’ll get more out of the experience (and can carry a light pack) by staying in towns. Most guesthouses have bunkroom accommodations for as little as 100 NIS (about $25 in new Israeli shekels) per night.
Guidebook/map/info Obtain everything—including lodging reservations, shuttles for you and/or gear, GPS data, and more—at Order Landis and Dintaman’s guidebook, Hiking the Jesus Trail ($25), on the site, and get a 25-percent discount by using the code "Backpacker.”

“That’s a first-century smell,” says anna dintaman,  stepping around a blood-soaked sheepskin. We’re on the outskirts of Nazareth, almost two miles into the first day’s walk on the Jesus Trail, but I’ve yet to see anything resembling an actual trail. We’re striding along a dirt road, and the rotting hide appears not long after we pass a pile of garbage—construction and household detritus—dumped near a half-finished apartment building. I would have doubted we were even on the right path, but Dintaman, along with her husband David Landis, literally wrote the guidebook on the Jesus Trail. When Landis first scouted the route in 2007, he says, “the hardest challenge was getting out of Nazareth—I came over the hill and saw the garbage and a burning cow.”

We’ll see some other rough spots along the way, including places that are disturbing in other ways, like a trailside Holocaust memorial, and the modern ruins where Arab villages stood before the fighting that broke out after Israel was established in 1948. But rather than casting a pall over the hike, I find these sights are also part of its appeal. The Jesus Trail affords an unvarnished look at the Galilee, stitching together a patchwork of roads, dirt tracks, and trails that alternate between the stunning Mediterranean landscape and some of the ugly truths of earthly existence. You don’t have to be a Jesus expert to know he saw both—and didn’t turn away from the latter.

We follow the Jesus Trail’s painted orange blazes out of Nazareth’s old city, then traverse the urban border that’s caused Landis such a route-planning headache. But once we clear the garbage-and-carcass zone, it’s easy to see why he persevered. We look down on broad valleys and rolling hills, an area quilted by olive groves, wheat and barley fields, and wildflowers like Egyptian honesty and daisies in yellow, purple, and white. Hello, land of milk and honey.

I join Landis, 29, and Dintaman, 30, in March 2011, less than two years after Landis and his Israeli partner, Maoz Inon, cofounded the trail. Landis doesn’t seem like an obvious candidate to establish a new trail in the Middle East. He’s from Pennsylvania, a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University who doesn’t speak Hebrew and is learning Arabic on the fly. He met Inon, 37, while thru-hiking the 620-mile Israel National Trail. They became friends, and shared a vision for a path that revolved around the Galilee’s rich history. But they also saw the trek more broadly: It would help local communities that had been bypassed by the bus-tour crowd, and break down barriers between Arabs and Jews, who inhabit the Galilee in roughly equal numbers. They imagined a historical and cultural tour that has Nazareth’s hometown hero at its center. The result: a route that connects biblical sites, but also Arab and Jewish towns, kibbutz wheat fields, national parks, Crusader and Roman and Byzantine ruins, a Druze cliff-side fortress, a Bedouin village, and more.
“I see travel as a kind of art,” says Landis. “I wanted to create something new.”

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Star Star Star Star Star
Jul 07, 2014

Thank you for this fascinating article. I found it researching next Sunday's sermon. I like to make my congregation "see" the Bible.

Star Star Star Star Star
Jan 13, 2014

Been to parts of this as a Seminary student. But man, if I could have done this by hiking, WOW. I want to go back again. If you ever get the chance to do a hike like this, do it. Your faith will soar. There is no other place like it on earth.

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

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May 22, 2012

Awesome article... it's inspired me to write a tract about the gospel of Christ to share with others I meet along my hikes. Thanks again!

Apr 13, 2012

Apr 09, 2012

We hiked parts of the Jesus Trail. Twice! We are a German family of 4 and having lived all over Asia, parts of the US, Italy and Germany, we did an enourmous amount of travel....enjoying famous places, sightseeing, but mainly trying to find unique and off-the-beaten-path moments. In Israel we only spent a short amount of time near the traditional sightseeing places (Jerusalem etc) but really slowed down to soak up the Galilee. Its lush green hills in March, the solitude of the trail, wildflowers cheerful in their colors, Capernaum with its message: "Jesus lived here", the lake where his friends made their living as fishermen, everything in this remarkable landscape spoke to our souls. We made this journey as a pilgrimage. Our daughters (9 and 12 years old) read our favorite bible passages out loud at the places where the stories took place. No Sunday school lesson, no classroom experience could rival this hike and what each of us is learning along the way. The Jesus Trail is no mainstream tourist destination, it is a very personal trail, offering its charms and multi-layered message to those willing to get off the bus and spend a week walking, or even just a day.

Apr 07, 2012

Thank you so much for having the courage to write about this holy trail. God Bless you...I am very excited about hopefully doing this trek someday!

Apr 07, 2012

Excellent article covering so many important aspects of travel in this land (I'm in Israel)! I also work in the tourism industry and this is really one of the most well-rounded, interesting features I've read on Israel.

Doc Edgar
Apr 06, 2012

Fantastic news. The Jesus trail really excites me. The insights to this story is very stimulating makes a good read.

Apr 06, 2012

God blessed me beyond what I could ever hope for as I'm going to be taking this trek in May............... Praise God.......

Apr 06, 2012

Has anyone given any thought to the political implications of hiking through an occupied territory?

karla from colorado
Apr 06, 2012

Thanks for this information and for not being afraid of the "No religion allowed" naysayers!!!! I would love to be able to do this someday!! :)

Apr 06, 2012

This has been added to my hiking bucket list. Thank you. For posting this story and the information about making the trip. No matter what your beliefs, it is sure to be a truely inspirational walk.

Apr 06, 2012

Thanks for sharing. I would never of imagined making this trek without reading about it. How refreshing.

Apr 06, 2012

Sounds like a wonderful hike... good for you for sharing.

Apr 06, 2012

Thank you for sharing this insight. I never look at my husband's hiking magazine but the topic caught my attention. I like the nice history lesson as well as the attention to detail of how the local people are working together. I like the note on the landscape. Thank you.

Apr 05, 2012

Like the article - would love to add this to the top of the bucket list!

Apr 05, 2012

Great timing to re-run this article (tomorrow is Good Friday, 2012). Makes me really want to walk this trail. Thanks for the article.

Feb 20, 2012

There are two guides about the Jesus Trail. The second one is by Jacob Saar: Jesus Trail and Jeruslem. One should look for bothj guides.


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