Israeli Nature – A visit to the National Parks

A good place to get a good impression of Israeli’s nature is by visiting the country’s national parks. In Israel it is not an easy task to choose which park to visit while on your journey, you would be truly amazed to learn that despite its relatively small size, Israel is home to over 300 parks and reserves. Most of Israel’s parks are well mapped, organized, and can be enjoyed by all types, from hikers to nature enthusiasts. The typical Israeli loves to spend his or her weekend traveling, and it is a common site to see scores of Israelis enjoying the national parks. Here is a list of 10 parks which can offer you with many days of enjoyment and fun. Most of the nature parks representative of the diverse regions of Israel’s and the conditions specific to each region.

1. Almog beach reserve

The Almog beach reserve is a unique and magical place, situated to the south of Eilat on the shores of the Red Sea. It offers divers an opportunity to get up close with many unique and beautiful coral formations that create colorful “gardens” beneath the waves. This area is resplendent with hosts of colorful tropical fish, Crinoids, Giant clams and much more. In the heart of the reserve lies a 1200 meter long coral reef which is one of the densest reefs in the world, and the only one in Israel. You can pre book guided snorkeling excursions and view the wonders through the marine park – Eilat’s underwater observatory.

2. Uvdat National Park - The Incense Route

A site situated in the Negev, in the southern part of Israel which is an acclaimed UNCSCO World Heritage Site and includes the remains of some of the oldest and most famous Nabataean structures along the Incense route, a route that served camels bringing incense, perfumes and spices from the lands of Arabia to the ports of the Mediterranean. Little remains of the ancient Nabataean temple the “Acropolis of Uvdat” but this local ruin offers a unique view onto the Uvdat plain. One can also visit the Even Ari farm where you can see a demonstration of the agricultural methods of the Byzantine era. Other attractions include a Roman period bathe house, a guard tower replete with an inscription from the third century AD, a burial cave with 21 separate burial chambers, and a still usable wine press from the Byzantine era and various churches from the fourth century.

3. Machtesh Ramon National Park

This is the world’s largest fresh water jungle island group. Consisting of 370 small islands, this natural wonderland was the favourite place of famed naturalist Jacques Cousteau. The unique ecological value of the area is what interested him scientifically but it was the pristine beauty that made it his favourite.

4. Ein Gedi – A Reserve and National park

To the west of the Dead Sea, in the Judean hills we find Ein Gedi been known since ancient times for its production of perfume and as a the place where King David hid from Saul in a cave around the year 1000 BC. The area is home to four different springs, a diversity of vegetation, mammals such as mountain goats, rabbits, foxes, wolves, hyenas and even leopards.. The remnants of a human habitation including a temple dated 3000bc, a third century synagogue, fully restored mosaic floor and an ancient irrigation system. Three main trails offer differing difficulty levels, passing through the water falls, the pools, canyons and caves all the while granting a view of the breathtaking landscape of the Dead Sea and the Moab Mountains.

5. Caesarea National Park

Originally a small Mediterranean Phoenician town, the place was first settled during the third century BC of the Hellenistic period. The place is well known thanks to its structures dating back to the year 22 BC. At the bequest of the great King Herod, an elaborate port, warehouses, wide streets, bath houses, temples and an amphitheater housing Gladiator and sports events were built, many that continue to stand today. Visitors can tour the ancient harbor, the ruins of the hippodrome and the King’s palace Thanks to modern technology on can travel back in time via a multimedia presentation that recreates the city as it was throughout the ages. Two halls offer the visitors a virtual big screen tour and present the city as it was. The national park includes a marine park for divers, anold fishing pier built in the 1950s and an artist colony.

6. Mount Carmel National Park

Inside this park you will find the story of the human civilization, from prehistoric times until today. Here it is told that the prophet Elijah visited and rained fire from the sky, and it is here that the origin of the Carmelite Catholic order began. Although the park suffered significant damage as a result of a great fire that consumed it in 2010 you can still find a wide variety of plants and animals coupled with breathtaking viewing stands, treks through archeological sites in an area that is larger than 2100 hectares, and is dedicated to the preservation of Mediterranean nature. The park also offers camping and resting grounds many of which are accessible to the handicapped.

7. Banias River Natural Reserve

The Banias falls aremost likely the most impressive waterfalls in Israis here is where the Banias spring emanates at the foothills of Mount Hermon and completes its rapid journey through the canyon. A stepped pathway leads to the Banias cave, and nearby five niches carved into the rock are the remains of an ancient temple devoted to the god Pan after which the river is named (“Panias” is pronounced as “Banias” in Arabic). Across from the cave are the remains of a temple from the times of Herod. This area has become a pilgrimage site for Christians since it is believed that this is the site where Christ had made an oath to build his church. A winding 45 minute path passes though sites dating to the Roman and Crusader periods, while the 90 minute trail passes through a hydroelectric water plant, the reconstructed flourmill where you can enjoy a Druze Pita bread with local Labane cheese, and typical Mediterranean goat’s cheese.