Timna Park is located close to Eilat in the Negev Desert and is one of largest attractions in the south of Israel.
The park is known for it’s natural landscape including the red mushroom and Solomon’s pillars as well as hiking and biking trails.
However, it is also home to the world’s first copper-mines which are over 6,000 years old, include includes thousands of mineshafts and the remains of smelting furnaces.
Hiking and Activities at Timna Park
In Timna Park are hiking trails short and long, for all levels of experience.
From these, you can see the nature, and ancient man in the mines, as well as the wildlife, plants, and trees.
There is also a 54 kilometers biking trail and with paths several levels, from casual to extreme tracks.
Riders can come with their bikes or rent bikes instead.
King Solomon’s Mines
In the 1930s, the copper mining at Timna were attributed, in their most developed stage, to King Solomon.
He linked the site with King Solomon and his kingdom, because of the appropriate date, and they became known as “King Solomon’s Mines.”
However, about 30 years later archaeologist found Egyptian temple and other remains from the Late Bronze Age at the site and attributed the mining to the Ancient Egyptians.
It turned out though, that the elaborate mining shafts, which were attributed to Egypt were not Egyptian at all, and no similar mining shaft was discovered in Eygpt.
The sophisticated copper smelting furnaces, attributed to Egypt though there haven’t been discoveries of similar furnaces Egypt, have all been dated to the Early Islamic period.
In fact, it seems that it was all done by the desert tribes.
Archaeological evidence was discovered more recently, which indicate that this area was being mined by Edomites and do date back to the time of King Solomon.
Solomon’s Pillars are among formation in Timna Valley.
The pillars were naturally formed by centuries of water erosion through fractures in the sandstone cliff until it became a series of distinct, pillar-shaped structures.
An archaeologist in the 1930’s caused a surge of attention for the pillars when he claimed that they were related to King Solomon and gave them their name.
The name stuck and the claim gave the valley the attention that helped bring about the excavations and current national park.
These pillars are the backdrop for evening concerts and dance performances the park presents in the summer.
The Mushroom is an unusual monolithic, mushroom-shaped, red sandstone rock formation known as a hoodoo.
The mushroom shape was caused by wind, humidity, and water erosion over centuries.
It is surrounded by copper ore smelting sites from between the 14th and 12th centuries BCE.
The Arches are natural arches formed by erosion, as well, and can be seen along the western cliff of the valley.
They are remains of the world’s oldest copper mines are found nearby.
The walking trail that goes to the Arches also goes past the copper mine shafts.
Shrine of Hathor
A small Egyptian temple dedicated to Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of mining, was discovered at the base of Solomon’s Pillars.
However, the temple was not originally Egyptian, but a place of worship of the desert tribes, which existed before the arrival of the Egyptians.
However, an additional section was added and dedicated to Hathor.
The shrine housed an open courtyard with an inner chamber with an area cut into the rock, presumably, to house a statue of the pagan goddess.
Earthquake damage caused the temple to be rebuilt during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II, with a larger courtyard and more elaborate walls and floors.
The hieroglyphics, sculptures, and jewelry found in the temple totaled several thousand artifacts, have provided a lot of important information for archaeologists.
A rock carving of Ramses III with Hathor is located at the top of a flight of step carved into the stone next to the shrine.
When the Egyptians left the area the Midianites continued using the temple.
The temple was turned into a tented desert shrine and filled it with Midianite pottery and metal jewelry.
There was also a bronze serpent found near the sanctuary.
Many rock drawings are found throughout the valley that were contributed by different ruling empires over time.
The Egyptians carved the most famous drawing, Chariots, consisting of Egyptians warriors holding axes and shields while driving ox-drawn chariots.
Archaeologists used the carvings to learn about the rituals and lifestyles of the various cultures that once ruled the area.
They also provide information about the plants and animals of the area, in addition to the life and work of the people.
Gazelles and ibex still roam the area, but an image of these animals with ostriches found on a high ridge of sand suggests that ostriches once lived here, as well.
Within the park, is a small artificial lake and pedal boats.
Earthen embankments were created to protect the new Timna mines from floods in Nahal Nehushtan.
As a result, the water in a small lake developed at the foot of the embankment.
Now, tables and benches, a restaurant, a buffet, and a Bedouin tent have been built next to it.
Various activities for kids are also available such as camel riding, a playground, bottle filling activity in colored sand, an minting “King Solomon’s coins” out of copper.
Visitors can also rest on wooden pallets, mattresses, or mats as they watch the activity on the lake.
There is also campgrounds which have well-equipped facilities including large overnight tents, mats, mattresses, hot showers, bathrooms, and perimeter lighting.
Visiting Timna Park
If you are coming from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, driving is your best option since it is not easy to reach by bus.
Timna Park is about 15 minute drive from Eilat.
There is the Timna Safari Shuttle, which is an affordable as a private tour, incorporating transportation to the site.
For visiting hours, entrance fees, and other information see the Timna Park website.