From the border of Lebanon to the Negev Desert, Israel is a country that boasts breathtaking nature, rare and varied wildlife, and remnants of a rich ancient history. If you’re in the mood for an adventure this weekend, grab your backpack, camera and hiking boots, and head to one of these must-see nature reserves.
Even further south, in the Negev Desert, is the fascinating Ramon Crater, the largest erosion crater in the world. A unique phenomenon, the crater was formed as the waters of an ocean that covered the area over 200 million years ago began to recede. Today it spans 40 kilometers. The view alone is worth the journey, though there are plenty of adventures to embark upon. Hike, cycle or take a jeep tour along the crater to get a closer look at unique rock formations. Observe some of the diverse wildlife, including rare reptiles and vultures. For a one-of-a-kind overnight experience, spend the night under the stars or in a Bedouin hospitality tent in the Be’erot Campground.
Tranquility awaits you at the Banias Nature Reserve, located in the Upper Galilee at the base of Mount Hermon. The Banias is a 3.5 kilometer spring that leads to the largest waterfall in the country, and the surrounding reserve is a display of serene natural beauty with an equally captivating history. Hike through woodlands and discover the Banias Cave, built for the Greek god Pan after whom the spring was named. Explore the nearby ruins of the Roman temple, built by King Herod in tribute to Augustus Caesar, and culminate your journey with some fresh Druze pitas. The best seasons to visit are winter and spring, when the water level is at its highest.
Named in memory of three men from the Jewish National Fund who died surveying the land of Israel in 1938, Gan HaShlosha is a park near the foot of Mount Gilboa, once named by Time Magazine as one of the best natural parks in the world. The Sachne thermal springs are the main attraction – visitors enjoy their waters which remain at 28°C year round. We recommend arriving early in the morning to secure a picnic table, taking a dip in the springs and afterwards visiting the site’s archaeological museum, featuring ancient Greek, Egyptian and Persian artifacts. If you have time, stop by ‘Gan Garoo’, the nearby Australian park, to see kangaroos, koalas and wallabies.
In the heart of the Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee is Agamon Hahula, a bird-lover’s dream. The park, located in the center of the Afro-Syrian rift, the bridge between Africa and Asia, is a major stop on one of the most significant bird migration routes in the world. Over 500 million birds fly over Agamon HaHula every fall and spring, and thousands remain during the winter and summer. Tour the park by foot, bicycle or golf cart, or take a guided tour in a safari wagon. Feeling adventurous? Take the night safari tour and spot bats, owls and even jungle cats on their nocturnal hunt. (Special tours require reservations in advance).
Head west of the Dead Sea shore and behold Ein Gedi, one of Israel’s most popular hiking sites. This oasis is a feast for the eyes, displaying two springs with water flowing year round, incredibly diverse flora, herds of ibex, and if you’re lucky, spotted leopards in the middle of a desert. Ein Gedi was settled by Jews over a thousand years ago, beginning in the 7th century BCE, then known for its dates and perfumes. Remnants of this period can still be seen today, including the mosaic floor of an ancient synagogue and components of old irrigation systems.