The Israel National Trail stretches through the entire country of Israel - from the northern border with Lebanon, and down to the southernmost city of Eilat. The trail is famous worldwide for its combination of ancient biblical landscapes, as well as traversing through modern Israeli features. The difficulty of the trail is considered to be moderate overall, but can be more accurately divided into two sections. The northern half of the trail passes through the lush hills of the Golan, continues southward to the coastline near Tel Aviv, and follows the Green Line around the area of Jerusalem. This portion of the trail is pleasant and of relatively easy difficulty. However, the southern section of the trail goes into the more extreme desert conditions of the Negev, whose heat, terrain, and lack of water, make hiking significantly more difficult.
The northern section route goes through smaller mountains, hills, and forests, along with sections near the famous Sea of Galilee and the western coast. The terrain in this section is not particularly difficult, and is a great way to start the trail and become acclimated to the hiking environment. The desert region has some difficult terrain because of the sand, and some deep gorges, but the difficulty lies more so in the heat and lack of water.
There are numerous water sources for most of the trail - both in the form of natural streams, and towns along the trail. The issues arise in the desert section where there are no water sources at all (for up to six days at a time), and so some logistical planning is required to ensure availability of water. Some hikers will plant water caches ahead of time, though there is some risk that these will be stolen. Another option is to pay friends or services to bring water to specific places - which is more expensive, but also more reliable.
Similar to the water situation - there are ample opportunities for food and equipment resupply in the north. However, the Negev portion of the trail is very isolated, and hikers will need to arrange logistical planning ahead of time to have enough food in between resupply points. Therefore, it is crucial to plan the hiking itinerary for this section in advance.
During the two main hiking season, the weather is usually very pleasant, but you will need to plan the schedule out to avoid the rains in the north and the extreme heat in the south. The north will have heavier rains closer to the ends of the season, and the south will be hotter towards the start of the season. Because of this, it typically makes the most sense to start in the north and hike southward for optimal weather conditions. In the desert, sometimes it may be worthwhile to alter the sleeping schedule to take an afternoon nap during the hottest part of the day, and hike in the cooler mornings and evenings.
The INT is well-marked with a three-colored post of orange, blue, and white. Like most trails, certain areas may be difficult to navigate, especially in poor weather conditions in remote regions. Therefore, it is most prudent to have additional navigational equipment such as a map, compass, guidebook, and/or GPS. There is only one trail guidebook that is published in English, and white it is expensive, it almost certainly worth the high cost.
The most significant hazards are related to hiking the isolated desert sections with little access to water or supplies. These risks can easily be mitigated with proper advance planning. The entire trail is within the area of Israel that excludes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Therefore, it does not pass through any politically disputed areas, and the risk of politically-motivated violence is quite low along the trail. The southern region is populated with poorer Bedouin communities, where the crime rate is relatively high, which is why water caches may be stolen. It is important not to diverge too far from the trail, as there are some areas in the north with minefields (these areas are clearly marked with large warning signs). Additionally, there are some smaller animals and that pose a minor threat.
Israel has a large tourism industry, and the Israel National Trail is especially popular as a destination for more adventurous hikers looking for a mix of history, modernity, and nature. National Geographic has dubbed it one of the best hikes in the world. For these reasons, the trail is fairly popular, but more so among day-hikers and section-hikers. There are much fewer hikers that attempt a complete thru-hike, especially through the Negev desert.
Transportation to the trailheads is very straightforward. From Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, there are bus lines that extend to Dan in the north, and to Eilat in the south. Along the trail in the north, public transportation is easily accessible when passing through local towns. However, the southern desert region is much more isolated, with few options for transportation.
The northern section of the trail has some accommodation available in the towns. Additionally, there are "trail angels" which are ordinary Israelis who offer supplies, food, or accommodation to hikers on the trail. As with other factors of the INT, accommodation is scarce in the Negev desert. Hikers will need to carry some form of shelter to take with them when developed accommodation is unavailable.