Hamat Gader (Hebrew for “hot springs of Gadara”) is a hot spring site on the Golan Heights about 10km from the tripoint of the Israeli, Syrian and Jordanian borders. Archaeological evidence shows that the hot mineral springs of Hamat Gader were known to man at least 1800 years ago. Today, just like the ancient Romans, people come to Hamat Gader to enjoy the therapeutic waters of the hot mineral springs and other attractions of the area.
History of Hamat Gader
References to Hamat Gader were found in the writings of Strabo, a Greek geographer, historian, and philosopher (c.64BC-c.24AD); Greek writer Origen (c.184AD-c.253AD) and in 1st century Rabbinical texts. The remains of an ancient Roman bath complex were uncovered at Hamat Gader dating back to the 2nd century. The baths would have served Roman soldiers from the nearby army garrison at Gadara. Later during the Muslim period changes were made to the baths and the original Roman structures were extended.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered a Roman theatre from the 3rd century and a 5th-century synagogue. An earthquake destroyed the baths in the 7th century and they were rebuilt by Umayyad Caliph of Damascus only to be damaged again by an earthquake in 749. By the 9th century, the Roman baths of Hamat Gader were abandoned and the ruins eventually became covered in a layer of silt that rose up from the springs.
More recently Hamat Gader was the location of a Palestinian village called Al-Hamma. In 1923 borders were created between French Mandate Syria; British Mandate Palestine and Lebanon placing Al-Hamma within Palestine. Following the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, a demilitarized zone was demarcated along the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel.
From 1949 to 1967 Hamat Gader stood abandoned within the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria. During the 1967 Six-Day War Syria attacked Israel at the Golan Heights but instead of gaining land they were pushed back beyond the demilitarized zone and Israel captured the Golan Heights including Hamat Gader. Since 1967 the Golan Heights, including Hamat Gader, has been in Israeli territory.
Hamat Gader Today
Today the Golan Heights and Hamat Gader are safe, prosperous areas with thriving farms, tourist attractions, cities, and villages. Hamat Gader is a major tourist attraction offering fun and recreation as well as a chance to see the ruins of the original Roman baths. Just as the Romans enjoyed the hot springs of Hamat Gader today tourists can indulge in the mineral pools of the Hamat Gader Spa Complex.
The spa’s natural thermal pools contain a concentration of 4.7% sulfur and a constant temperature of 42°C. The thermo-mineral waters are known for their therapeutic qualities especially for skin conditions and respiratory ailments. At the Hamat Gader Hot Springs, there are several spring water pools of various sizes and temperatures; Jacuzzis and spa treatments are available. The site also has a boutique hotel where you can stay while receiving spa treatments.
Hamat Gader is home to organic fishing ponds where you can go fishing and to excellent restaurants. Hamat Gader Splash Site is a mini-water park where there is a 10m high splash water slide; a large pool; water cannons and a waterfall. Animal World is a natural reserve for 200 crocodiles and a mini-safari where you can see kangaroos, deer, iguanas, raccoons, antelope, and other creatures. Animal World has a petting zoo where you can get up close to domestic and farm animals. During peak seasons there are also parrot shows.