The city is a fascinating human invention, rich and complex. Becoming intimately acquainted with the narrowest alleys and most surprising viewpoints is a challenge even for local residents, not to mention visitors. Traditional urban tourism is based on sightseeing, moving from one place to another, usually with a motor vehicle and sometimes through defined walking tours. Such an experience gives the visitor an opportunity to see some of the "best of", but lacks the overall feeling that defines the essence of the city.
Trekking has been developed as an outdoor activity, usually to encounter wilderness and wildlife, and sometimes combined with a cultural experience in rural settlements. Long treks have been introduced to link sections of the best treks, such as the Great Himalaya Trail and Europe's GR trail. One of the characteristics of a long trek is its diversity – it takes a traveler from one peak to another. These peaks are sometimes physical, and are always mental. Between them is a relaxing stretch, essential for garnering energy for the next thrill.
A long trek presents a continuous and gradual change in landscape and atmosphere, along with goals, which are followed by a great sense of achievement. Above all, a long trek adds value to the mere walk, to what happens between specific attractions. It’s not just sightseeing, it’s seeing sights, and as Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts".
Think of a big city as a microcosm of a larger area. A city full of attractions, rich with communities, religions, spread across hills and along shores. What is the best way to grasp and experience such a complex place?
Haifa is an example of such a city. It is built on Mount Carmel Headland, spread among the hills, by the Mediterranean shores and the Haifa Bay. Its neighborhoods are bisected by steep slopes, rich with vegetation and wildlife. The city is home to different religious groups and fascinating architectural styles. Residents of Haifa are continually surprised by the secrets of their city. Short-time visitors only scratch the surface, and may get frustrated finding their way through the meandering streets.
Haifa is the place and the reason behind the idea of a real, whole, urban trek. Not just a cover phrase for a limited walking tour, but a comprehensive trail, which links the city's various areas, through the shore and the mountain, the wild green wadis and the winding streets and alleys, through religious sites and communities living in coexistence, parks and hanging gardens. The 70-kilometer trail route passes through the city's best museums and academic institutes, enabling an outdoor as well as indoor urban experience. The trail allows trekkers to eat and sleep at established and developing local accommodations along the way, meet residents and experience local hospitality. Providing services to walkers along the trail is economically beneficial to local communities. In addition, it can serve as a focal point for awareness and environmental activities for all ages.
The Haifa Trail started as a personal project dedicated to a city I love. It began with background research followed by an extensive field research, which kept surprising me as the city revealed its layers to me. My academic background, which includes geography, architecture and computer engineering, together with my vast experience traveling in 40 countries, enabled me to develop a methodology for designing the best trail. I believe that every city that wishes to give its visitors added value, grasp its essence, attract visitors and promote tourism can and should create a real urban trail. You are welcome to contact me for information regarding services of urban tourism and trail planning and development.
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”
― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities