National Parks of Northern Israel
Israel's North offers visitors some of Israel's most stunning scenery. The National Park Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature are responsible for maintaining many of these historical landmarks, archeological sites, nature trails and preservation areas. Some of the most popular and beautiful of Northern Israel's parks are:
Nimrod's castle was originally a Crusader castle, perched high on a top peak of Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights. The castle was constructed in order to control the main highway between Damascus and the Mediterranean coastline. The castle was conquered by the Muslim armies in the 12th century, and they held the site for many years, gazing out at the Hula valley, the Golan Heights, the Lebanese mountains and the hills of the Galilee below. Throughout the decades of the Crusader wars, the Christians and Muslims struggled for control of the fortress, and towers, spiraling stairs, hidden passageways, watchtowers, water holes and even a prison attest to the intrigues and continued conflicts of the times. Visitors can wander through the castle independently - signs explain the history, story and details of the various areas of the fortress. Nimrod's castle can be accessed by the road which runs east from Kiryat Shmoneh and climbs into the Golan Heights.
Originally known as "Panias" in celebration of the Greek god Pan, the Banias nature reserve is a maze of rivers, streams, and small pools which are fed by the Hermon River, one of the three sources of the Jordan River. The woody area has several trails, ranging from half an hour walk to two hours, which wind their way around the reserve. In the midst of the trails are the archeological ruins of the city of Panias, the monument to Pan, and ruins from the Christian, Crusader and Moslem periods. The trails, even the "hard" one, are relatively easy, though the stones that a hiker will be stepping on can be a bit slippery. The wading pools which dot the trails don't get any deeper than knee-high for an adult and the water is calm and pleasant for anyone who wants to take a break and cool off while walking the trails. Access to the Banias reserve is from the road which runs east from Kiryat Shmoneh - road signs clearly mark the entrance.
Tel Dan, the archeological site of the ancient Israelite city of Dan, is close to the Banias, and accessible by the same road. Yet while the city of Panias/Banias was completely Greek, Dan, next to it, was an Israelite city, built by the Tribe of Dan when they conquered the area during the Philistine era. The Dan River runs through the park, fed by the melting snows of Mt. Hermon, and the trail culminates at the Dan waterfall. Three different trails options are open for walkers, and though they vary in length, they all pass by the archeological remains of the ancient city of Dan - signposts explain the significance of each site. Even during the hottest day, walking under the trees and through the waters of Tel Dan is akin to walking through an air-conditioned room, and together with Tel Dan's beauty, this makes the Tel Dan Nature Reserve one of Israel's favorites.