I drove to Timna Park in southern Israel from Eilat for a day trip. Timna Park is the oldest copper mine in the world where you can learn how copper was made by the Egyptians thousands of years ago.
The drive took less than half an hour – I decided to stop off here on my way to Mitzpe Ramon at the heart of the Negev Desert.
You can buy your ticket at the main entrance and from here you can drive to the lake and the restaurant area. The lake is 10 kilometres from the main entrance driving at 40 km/h.
Timna Park Itinerary
- Drive to the cafe and have breakfast, or get a cup of free tea and a present.
- Head out to Solomon’s Pillars, which is a nice viewpoint at the center of the park.
- The old Temple of Hathor is also nearby – they built it in honour of the Egyptian Queen Hathor.
- Go to the Arches and then visit the old paintings and rock carvings.
- Visit The Mushroom, which is natural mushroom shaped rock.
- Check out the smelting demonstration point and the mine shafts, plus the climb at the Arches.
Driving Around Timna Park
Timna Park is huge, so you will most likely need a car if you are only here for a day. You can also cycle around or walk, but I would recommend spending at least a long weekend here if you want to do that.
Solomon’s Pillars and Hathor’s Temple
Solomon’s Pillars are natural rock formations in one of the hillsides – apparently, they named this place completely wrong because King Solomon had nothing to do with this mine.
Hathor’s Temple was also very nice, just next to Solomon’s Pillars. The only problem is that in the summer heat it is a bit of an effort to climb to the top. If you do climb the views will definitely compensate for all the effort.
Timna Valley Viewpoint & The Mushroom
From Hathor’s Temple I drove on towards the Timna Valley Viewpoint where the views of the valley are pretty spectacular. The Mushroom was another stop on my journey, followed by the Smelting Camp demonstration point.
Related: Read various articles I have written about my two week road trip around Israel here
The Smelting Camp
At the smelting camp you can actually try out what it was like pumping air into these ancient furnaces. After all that pumping the crushed ore in the furnace would start to melt at 1,000 degree heat and then the slag would end up out at the front with the end result being a copper rod or roll.
It was quite fascinating to see that they pretty much used the same technology we use today, only at a much smaller scale.
The Arches Viewpoint
Following the smelting camp I went to look at the rock carvings and to climb up to the Arches, which is a fascinating rock formation in the hillside.
The views from here are breathtaking, allowing you to see the entire valley. Here I could imagine what it must have been like working and living here in the sweltering heat, busting your gut to make copper for the Egyptian Pharaoh.
You will need to use several ladders and stairs to get to the top, so only try it if you feel fit enough in the scorching heat!
I found it pretty amazing walking between the narrow gaps and I ended up spending a good couple of hours just contemplating the scenery and taking it easy, soaking in the sun and enjoying the views.
The Ancient Mine Shafts
From the Arches I drove to the ancient mine shafts where you can actually climb underground to experience what it was like to dig holes and mine the copper ore.
It was pretty amazing in the mine shafts – you can go down into the real mine shafts that were used by the ancient people. Here, you can still see how the copper colours the rocks green, meaning you could still mine here if you wanted to.
I spent maybe an hour in the shaft discovering the various tunnels and trying my hand at breaking up some of the rocks then headed up north towards Mitzpe Ramon for the next two days.