Top Israeli Botanical Gardens
Israel boasts more than a dozen botanical gardens. Here is a selection of just a few of the amazing botanical and regular gardens in Israel which welcome visitors year-round to enjoy the rich flora of the country.
Bright flowers in a botanical garden. Photo by Paul Streltsov on Unsplash
University of Tel Aviv Botanical Gardens, Tel Aviv
The Yehuda Naftali Botanic Garden is perhaps the most “casual” of the botanical gardens listed here. It is situated in the heart of the university campus in Tel Aviv. An almost missable sign sends you down a path to the garden entrance where you are free to wander in and explore the gardens. The gardens cover almost 8.5 acres and include 3,800 species most of which are native plants as well as plants from neighboring nations and an international collection.
Although there are a few signs indicating various routes it is a rather overgrown garden that seems to be left to its own devices. When you look closely you will discover many plant species, unpaved paths through the vegetation, over small bridges, and past picturesque ponds. There is an impressive cactus collection and two indoor areas holding more climate-sensitive plants and trees. You’ll see tropical plants, woodland plants, plants used by humans, medicinal plants, herbs, palms, and succulents.
The Mount Scopus Botanical Garden covers 6 acres just behind the Jerusalem Hebrew University campus. The gardens hold sections representing each of the Israeli plant communities like the Mediterranean and desert grasslands to the arid Arava desert plants and plants of the coastal dunes. In all, there are more than 40% of all Israel’s wild plant species.
Mount Scopus Botanical Garden, Jerusalem
These authentic plant species are preserved in their natural habitats. The gardens are also home to many animals. The gardens hold ancient Second Temple era burial tombs and more recently the tombs of Menachem Ussishkin and Yehuda Leib Pinsker, two prominent Zionist leaders.
Jerusalem overview from Mt. Scopus. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Jerusalem
On the other side of Jerusalem is the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus this botanical garden holds plants from across the world including sections dedicated to the north and South American flora, the Mediterranean, Southern Africa, Europe, and Australia. There is a lake at the heart of the gardens and a café and Visitor Center. There is a bonsai section that holds 150 bonsai trees.
The garden holds a living gene bank of endangered plant species. There is a biblical path that visitors can follow with an audio guide and see up to 70 species of plants mentioned in the Bible. Kids will love the African Savannah grass maze created out of perennial grass which is used for thatched roofs in Africa. Kids can follow a trail to discover a series of plants used by humans for different functions.
Kibbutz Ein Gedi Botanical Garden, Kibbutz Ein GediThis prize-winning botanical garden in Ein Gedi is the only one in the world which integrates residential homes in the gardens. The landscaped grounds of the botanical gardens are in amongst the homes of the kibbutz residents.
The gardens hold more than 900 species of plants from around the world with a focus on indigenous plants of the area like the date palms, desert plants, Sodom apple, Moringa, Tamarisk, and species referred to in the Bible including myrrh and frankincense. The cactus garden includes more than 1,000 species.
Ein Gedi National Park, Israel. Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
Utopia Orchid Park, Kibbutz Bahan
This is a unique botanical garden with a large indoor (and air-conditioned) section as well as an outdoor area. Among the attractions here there are farm animals and peacocks, a musical water fountain, carnivorous plants, orchids; parrots; a plant maze, rose garden, cactus garden, and herb garden.
However, the star attraction is the indoor tropical garden which includes a massive waterfall and dripping vines, and tropical trees and plants. The park covers 10 acres and also has a cafe and garden center where you can buy plants and garden accessories. This is a stunning attraction that is well maintained and has plenty to keep you occupied.
Eilat Botanical Garden and Organic Farm, Eilat
This garden has developed around the local landscape of the Arava and was originally built out of ancient stone terraces on the hills surrounding Eilat. The gardens are a wonder of nature considering the area’s very low annual rainfall. Today there are signposted trails that cross streams, past waterfalls, stone, and wooden buildings.
There are three lookout points across the Red Sea and the Edom Mountains. You can climb the rocky pathways among 1,000 species of trees and plants, herbs, shrubs, and flowers. There is an organic garden where you can buy plants grown without chemicals.
Orchids in a botanical garden. Photo by Fabien BELLANGER on Unsplash
Neot Kedumim Biblical Landscape ReserveCovering 625 acres and home to more than 630 plant species mentioned in the Bible and Talmud this is one of the most fascinating and unique botanical gardens in the country. The gardens of Neot Kedumim are also home to small animals, many birds, and several archaeological remains including an excavated Byzantine village. In the gardens, the natural surroundings and agricultural areas have been recreated to mirror those which would have existed 3,000 years ago during the biblical era.
You can see the seven species of Israel (figs, dates, barley olives, wheat, pomegranates, and grapes) as well as following the 4 self-guided hike paths, seeing ancient olive presses, ritual baths, a water wheel, flour mill, ancient cisterns, and thrashing floors. You can even arrange to have a biblical meal in the gardens and there are regular events, workshops, and activities to teach visitors about biblical life. The hike trails are about 2-2.5 km long and have points of interest and interactive stations along the way.
Botanical Garden at Oranim CollegeThis is the only botanical garden in the northern region of the country; it was established on the campus of Oranim College in 1958 and covers 10 acres with 900 different species of plant. Most of the plants here are non-cultivated and indigenous to Israel. The garden has become a model for urban sustainability and is used for teaching, conservation and research.
Each section of the garden represents a unique habitat or geographical region. There are two fascinating paths through the gardens – the Poetry Path where quotes from famous poems are displayed on signs along the route and the Biomimetic Path which has nine stations where visitors can stop and learn about the plants, animals, and sustainable solutions to everyday problems.
Mount Carmel, Israel. Photo by Ste Ben8 on Unsplash
Other Amazing Gardens in Israel
Israel has several other stunning gardens which are not officially botanical gardens but they do offer gorgeous greenery and horticultural diversity. Among the most beautiful and most famous is the Bahai Gardens in Haifa. These cascading 19 terraces of carefully landscaped plants and flowers are the setting for the Shrine of the Bab; the Bahai faith prophet.
There is also a beautiful memorial garden dedicated to Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv at the southern end of Mount Carmel. Here there are paths and hike trails as well as a kosher dairy café and area where birds of prey are rehabilitated for release back into the wild. If you’re in Jerusalem visit the Wohl Rose Garden, a 19 acre public garden with 15,000 rose bushes.
If you are in Tel Aviv you don’t have to go far to enjoy amazing gardens and parks like Yarkon Park where there are six special gardens. Some are dedicated memorial gardens and others are devoted to a particular kind of plant. There is a Rock Garden, Cactus Garden, Tropical Garden, and Ornamental Garden all within the Yarkon Park.
Bahai Gardens in Haifa, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock