Don’t Miss These Israel National Parks
You’re probably familiar with Israel’s most famous national parks – Masada, Ein Gedi, Ramon Crater and Caesarea but did you know there over 150 nature reserves and national parks? Some of the lesser known parks and reserves are amazing and offer a completely different insight into this beautiful country.
Birdwatching on Hula Lake. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Gan HaShlosha National Park
Also known as Park Sahne this is an amazing park with lush greenery and a natural warm water spring pool where you can swim and enjoy the natural jacuzzi under the waterfall. Thanks to the warm water this bathing spot stays open year-round and is perfect for family outings. There is a lifeguard on duty, showers, a playground, and shaded areas.
On the edge of the water, there are picnic tables and lawns. You can also see a restored water-powered mill and see a model of Tel Amal, a Jewish tower and stockade settlement built in 1936 under the British Mandate. Here you can see everyday objects from that era, a short film on the 1936-39 Arab Revolt and the restored living quarters and dining hall.
There is also a Mediterranean Archaeological Museum displaying rare tools from ancient Greece, excavated items from Beit Shean, and artifacts uncovered in Israel from ancient Egypt and Persia. The entrance is 40ILS (12,5 USD) for adults and 24ILS (7,5 USD) for children.
Gan Hashlosha (Sahne) National Park. Photo credit: ©Manu Grinspan. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Beit Guvrin National Park
Beit Guvrin is one of the hidden gems of Israel as the most exciting sites within the park are below the ground! The park encompasses the ruins of a First Temple-era town, Maresha-Beit Guvrin National Park itself was an important Roman-era town known as Eleutheropolis. In the park, there are a Roman-Byzantine amphitheater, Roman public baths, mosaics, a Byzantine church, and a network of caves beneath the ground.
There are incredible Sidonian burial caves with vivid paintings on the rocks of animals, birds, and mythical creatures. In the tomb of the musicians, there are paintings of a man playing the flute and a woman playing the harp. Thousands of years ago people started cutting into the limestone rock, quarrying out the rock for construction, and creating spaces for use as storerooms, burial caves, dovecotes, and hideouts.
There are about 800 bell-shaped caves and passageways connecting a group of about 40 caves. Visitors to the park are given a map showing where the entrances to the caves are located and then you set out following well-maintained paths across the countryside to each cave. Each of the caves has been made accessible with railings and stairs where necessary.
See an underground columbarium (dovecote), a cistern system, and the maze cave. Some of the caves are over 18 meters high and these simply have to be seen to believe! Entrance is 29ILs (9 USD) for adults and 15ILS (5 USD) for children.
Bell Cave, Beit Guvrin. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Akhziv National Park
If you’re looking for paradise on a beach this could be it! Here you’ll find sea-pool bathing beaches, rocky crevices, blue bays, lagoons, and 5km of sandy beaches. There are also picnic areas, BBQ areas, and camping areas. Bird watchers can spot the nesting seagulls on Nahli’Feli Island just off the coast. Here loggerhead sea turtles and green sea turtles come to lay their eggs.
Achziv is the site of an ancient port city where there have been numerous archaeological findings. Since the Iron Age Achziv has been inhabited and it is mentioned in the Book of Joshua. During the Mishnah era, it was a thriving city and under the Crusaders it was gifted to one of the knights. When the Mamluks conquered the city they established a fishing village called Az-Zeeb which remained until the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Not far from Akhziv National Park is Akhzivland – a micro-nation founded in 1971 by an innovative Israel war veteran, Eli Avivi. He moved into the remaining buildings of the former fishing village and now has a hostel, camping ground, and museum in the former home of the Az-Zeeb mukhtar.
The story of this unusual mini-country with one self-elected president is fascinating. After years of court battles on charges of “creating a country without permission” the State of Israel leased Avivi the land for 99 years. Entrance to the national park is 35ILS for adults and 21ILS for children.
Akhziv National Park. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Pa’ar Cave Nature Reserve
This is a karstic sinkhole in Upper Galilee. A karstic sinkhole is formed when soft rock beneath the surface of the ground is eroded by constant underground drainage systems so that the waterworks away at the rock until it collapses forming a hole or cave.
The Pa’ar Cave was formed by water flowing from the Pa’ar stream underground. In the winter you can see the water seeping through the rock beneath the ground. The nature reserve covers 3.5 acres and is free. Above ground, the reserve has some rare flora and fauna.
Avshalom National Nature Reserve
Avshalom Cave also known as Soreq Stalactite Cave is a stalactite cave covering 5,000m² on the slopes of Mount Ye’ela in the Judean Hills. The cave was discovered by accident in 1968 following quarry explosions. Today there is a spectacular lighting system that illuminates the stalactite formations and also protects them from erosion. A path takes visitors through the cave past the gorgeous formations.
Some of the stalactites are more than 4 meters long and date back 300,000 years. Some of the formations have been given nicknames according to what they resemble. Above ground, there is an information center, souvenir store, and kiosk. You can also explore the beautiful landscape of the park above ground where there are some beautiful flowers and rare plants. Entrance is 29ILS for adults and 15ILS for children.
Stalactite Cave, Israel. Photo credit: © Daniela Turgeman. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority