Top 10 National Parks, Nature Reserves & the Israel National Trail
Hebrew: פארקים וגנים לאומיים
Israel boasts some wonderful national parks. The KKL – Keren Kayemet LeYisrael or JNF – The Jewish National Fund who develop and preserve the national parks ensure that they preserve the environment and preserve our natural and cultural heritage.
KKL-JNF have a very economical membership card called the MATMON. It’s a yearly pass which gives you free entry to about 60 national parks and nature reserves for as many times you wish to enter for a period of one year.
KKL-JNF also offer multi-site tickets valid for a two week period. This is an ideal solution for tourists visiting Israel for a limited time. The mutli-site tickets cost between 80 NIS – 100 NIS.
Foreign tourists purchasing the Israel Travel Pass (a public transport card) also receive free entrance to some of Israel’s national parks.
1. The Hermon National Park (Banyas)
From the foot of Mt. Hermon (Har Hermon), the Banyas spring rushes with great force. A basalt canyon hiking trail leads to the largest waterfall in Israel alongside the remains of an ancient city. You can also walk along the river, visit an old flour mill and watch tourists being baptized.
2. The Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve
In the heart of the Golan Heights, there are magnificent hiking trails running along rivers, natural pools and waterfalls. There are short family trains and more difficult all day hikes. At the end of the trail you will reach the Hexagonal Pools named after the shape of the hexagonal basalt columns that make up its walls. This geological formation was created by the slow cooling of layers of lava flows over a long period. When the lava cooled it was split into polygonal shapes due to its contraction.
3. The Zippori National Park
Zippori a.k.a Sepphoris is a village and an archeological site located in the central Galilee region of Israel. The site holds a rich and diverse historical and architectural legacy that includes Hellenistic, Jewish, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, Arabic and Ottoman influences. Remains of a synagogue dated to the first half of the fifth century were discovered on the northern side of town.
Hundreds of fragments belonging to frescoes from the Roman period in Zippori have been discovered. The fragments contain figurative images, floral patterns and geometric motifs, shed light on life in Zippori which was an important urban center for the Jews of the Galilee in early times.
4. Caesarea National Park
This ancient port city was considered, in its time, as one of the most modern ports in the world. Caesarea boasts a magnificent beach as well.
A 3,500 seat theater remains from Roman times and live concerts of Israel’s best artists and performers are held here regularly. The theater structure is impressive and stands at the southern edge of the national park. People from the all walks of life came here to enjoy dramas and comedies. The shape of the theater is semi-circlular. There are also underground rooms and dressing compartments for the performers.
5. City of David
Stroll on the walls of The City of David overlooking Biblical Jerusalem or brave the deep, underground water tunnels to the ancient spring. The Shiloah Pool was the major water drawing source in biblical times. The Herodian Road was the ancient thoroughfare that led pilgrims north to the Temple.
Recently a “Beka” weight from the First Temple period was discovered in the Emek Tzurim sifting project in Jerusalem. The weight, which was found in the archaeological soil originating from the Western Wall foundations, north of the City of David, features an inscription in ancient Hebrew script and was used to weigh the half-shekel brought to the Temple.
6. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is one of the most beautiful places in Israel. En Gedi, near the Dead Sea, is the biggest oasis in Israel. It has four springs and waterfalls and flowing brooks at the foot of the cliffs, home to ibexes and rock hyraxesa and a diversity of other fauna and flora.
7. Masada National Park
Masada National Park is a mountain top fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada was the site of a three year siege by Roman soldiers, pivotal in Jewish history and which led to the mass suicide of its Jewish fugitives. Watch our one minute videos of favorite attractions in Israel. UNESCO has declared Masada National Park a World Heritage Site.
8. Advat National Park
Ein Advat is a canyon in the Negev Desert near Kibbutz Sde Boker. Archaeological evidence shows that Ein Avdat was inhabited by Nabateans and Catholic monks. Numerous springs at the southern opening of the canyon empty into deep pools in a series of waterfalls. The water emerges from the rock layers.
This old Nabatean town was on the ancient incense and spice route from south Arabia to the Mediterranean.
9. Ramon Park
Breathtaking views from the Ramon Crater (Maktesh) and geological site in the Negev Desert, about 85km from Beer Sheva. Ramon Crater is not an impact crater from a meteor nor a volcanic crater formed by a volcanic eruption, but rather is the world’s largest “erosion cirque”. The Bio Ramon Information Center displays and explains the unique fauna and flora of the surrounding desert.
10. Coral Beach Eilat
The coral reef at Eilat’s Coral Beach nature reserve is a snorkeler’s paradise offering a fantastic glimpse of the coral reef of Eilat. It covers 1.2 kilometers of shore, and is the northernmost shallow water coral reef in the world.
And, we cannot omit the Israel National Trail
The Israel National Trail (INT) is one of the only trails of its kind in the world. The 920 kilometer trail from the north to the south of the country, is an amazing way to see Israel. The trail transverses forests, mountain ranges, urban areas and deserts before ending at the southernmost point on the Red Sea. Along the way it passes Arab & Jewish villages, Roman relics, Crusader ruins and Druze and Christian holy sites. The trail can be done in stages, a few days at a time, or more challenging to hike the whole trail in one go.