A beautiful place to hike and boasting thousands of years of history, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve is one of northern Israel’s most spectacular attractions. Located close to the border with Lebanon, the reserve offers hikes, trails, vantage points for views over the Golan Heights and shady greenery, all year round.
At the heart of the reserve is the Dan Stream - the Dan being the largest of the Jordan River’s three sources (and the only one located within Israel’s borders since 1948). Each winter, when the snow that has gathered on Mount Hermon melts, it trickles down to the springs here - which accounts for the crystal-clear water.
Within the reserve, there are three different trails for hiking, one specifically designed for those with walking difficulties and families with young children in buggies. As you hike, you will come across the Paradise Springs - a veritable ‘wetland forest’ which affords shade year-round, as well as the ‘Pooh Bear Tree.’ This old and large narrow-leafed ash is so named since it has a hollow trunk; not surprisingly, it is popular with children.
All trails give visitors the opportunity to enjoy the ‘Wading Pool’ - a place where hikers are permitted to dip their feet in the shallow waters. The remains of a four mill and nearby aqueduct are visible whilst hiking the trails. Although the mill has not been operational for almost 60 years, its walls have been conserved, and the aqueduct has been repaired, letting it deliver water to another part of the reserve.
What also makes the reserve so special is that, along with the lush, green forest area, it boasts archaeological ruins in the form of an ancient city dating back 5,000 years. Back in Canaanite times (and later, during the First Temple period), it was known as ‘Laish’ or ‘’Leshem’ and the Hebrew Bible mentions it as the city captured by the tribe of Dan. The city became a center of worship within Israel and only declined after Banias (a nearby city) began to prosper.
As a result of the excavations at Tel Dan, archaeologists made an impressive finding - the Abraham Gate (also known as the Canaanite Gate). Built out of mud bricks, it has three arches. A subsequent finding was the Israelite Gate - this is what remains of the entrance gate (and the fortification walls) to the ancient city of Dan - and fragments of a palanquin (a large box in which a leader was carried, supported by two horizontal poles held by four or six bearers).
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