With the kids
The first nature reserve in Israel offers a wide range of interest: The lake and the marchland, are an important resting and “refueling” place for migrating birds on their annual trip from Europe to Africa and back. Tens of thousands of birds of over 200 species, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants and egrets, stay in the reserve, knowing they can find an abundance of food here and in the Hula Valley in general. The reserve also shelters rare aquatic plants, such as yellow flag, paper reed and white water-lily. Water buffalos graze in certain areas to preserve the open meadow environment. Species that have become extinct in the wild, such as the white-tailed eagle, are also reintroduced in the reserve. There is an observation tower, a floating bridge and herds of buffalos and deer. The reserve has a modern visitor centre with fascinating exhibits, a large playground and a café. A visit to the reserve is suitable for children aged 3 and up, and enjoyable all year round.
This reserve is a unique meeting point between draining into the delta created by few of the Golan Rivers on their way into the Sea of the Galilee. The impressive encounter between the steep slopes and abundance of flowing water makes for a beautiful natural treasure with an intriguing historical and archeological facet. (see more below in historic sites: Tel Bethsaida). The reserve has several wet and dry walking trails, suitable for young children and for competent hikers in the spring, summer and autumn.
The Montfort is a 13th century Crusader fortress built during the times of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The ruins of the fortress is perched majestically on a narrow and steep cliff above the southern bank of Nahal Kziv (Kziv River). The fortress is a fantastic family outing combining striking natural scenery and historical insight.
Unlike many other crusader fortresses in this region, this fortress had not been originally built for military purposes but begun its way as an agricultural farm, prior to its becoming one of the finest examples of fortified building architecture in crusader states.
The fortress is only accessible by foot, but the hike to the fortress is fun and beautiful and does not take very long. The hike is of medium difficulty and suitable for children ages 4+.
Nimrod Fortress is a very important Crusader-era castle, the largest in Israel, built between 1229-1290 AD to defend the route from Damascus to Jerusalem. A mountain-top citadel, impressive in its own right, Nimrod commands fantastic views up to Mount Hermon and down the steep ravines to the Hula valley below. Some 65 dunams in area, the outer walls connect a series of defensive towers, each containing various rooms and halls in which the defending soldiers would have lived and from where they would have fought. A large underground reservoir, fully accessible, would have provided enough water to sustain the castle through a prolonged siege. The central Keep (Donjon), the strategic heart of the castle, likes on the highest point of the castle and offers some of the best views of Nimrod as a whole and of the surrounding landscape. At 800 m above sea level, the site can be pleasantly cool in the heat of mid-Summer, but can therefore be cold in the Autumn and Spring. It is not somewhere to visit in Winter!
The nearby Witches’ Cauldron restaurant is a great place to have a hearty lunch or evening meal, particularly when the weather is cold. The restaurant has magnificent views over the beautiful crater lake of Birkat Ram.
The drive to Nimrod, once you have passed through Kiryat Shimona and start the climb into the Golan Heights, is beautiful. It is well worth taking your time and stopping at the various viewing points along the road. It is also worth considering visiting some of the Druze settlements such as Majdal al-Shams (less than 10 km away) whilst you are in the Heights.
Akko: 55 km, 53 min
Akko, also known historically to Arabs as عكّا (‘Akka) and Westerners as Acre, lies on the northern edge of the coastal valley in the Bay of Acre. Akko possesses a long history of various cultures: Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs. Akko is a holy city in the Bahá’í Faith and has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a site of extraordinary significance to the world’s cultural heritage.
Akko boasts beautiful seashore, a marina and a fishing port. Old Acre, which is situated on a peninsula, is one of the few cities along the shores of the Mediterranean whose surrounding walls have remained intact, aside from two openings that now provide access to motor vehicles.
Akko is our favorite city in the north; there is plenty to see (and hear and taste and smell) above ground and below. Akko also makes a great place to spend a Saturday, as the Old City doesn’t close down and all the sites are open. It is a city brimming with history and bustling multicultural livelihood. One day-trip to Akko may not suffice to enjoy the multiple attraction Akko has to offer, below is a list of our favorite:
- Visit the Hall of the Crusader Knights at the Citadel. Archaeological excavations revealed a complex of halls built and used by the Hospitallers Knights.
- Descend into the Templar Tunnel, which was built by the Knights Templar to provide underground passage between their fortress and the port on the south-eastern side of the city.
- Visit Or Torah synagogue, a Tunisian synagogue, meticulously handcrafted spectacle of stained glass and tile mosaic entirely unique to Akko. (Located a 3-5 minute walk outside the Old City from the Land Gate)
- Shop, eat and linger in the There are very good fishmongers (but arrive early) as well as spices, olives, baklava, soap and fresh loofas from the sea. There are some excellent humus eateries in the market.
- Walk atop the city walls, the section from Weizman St. to the Land Gate at the sea shore dates back from the rule of Ahmed Al-Jazzar, This section also houses the Treasures in the Wall Ethnographic Museum.
- Visit the Turkish Bazaar – Newly renovated bazaar in the old city, where several up-and-coming chefs have opened small restaurants.
- Explore Tel Akko – the remains of the ancient city of Acre before it was resettled on the piece of land currently known as the “Old City”. Tel Akko offers incredible views of the Old City, Haifa and the sea. The hill, or “Tel”, results from multiple ancient cities built on top of each other from the Early Bronze Age to the Hellenistic Period. Excavations are on-going, and since few tourist know about it, is well worth a visit if you’re craving some peace and quiet.
- Swim in fine Mediterranean water and relax on one of Akko beaches adorned with soft, fine sand from the Nile Estuary.
- Marvel and contemplate in the Shrine of Baha’u’llah – the holiest place for the Baha’is. The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh is composed of a central room that has a small garden at its centre.
Akko has excellent fish & seafood restaurants, housed in authentic stone buildings, and some with fine views of the sea or the port. If you are looking for something special try Uri Buri or El-Babour & the Sea (booking advisable).