1. Zaki Trail water hike for the whole family
Popular with families with small children this 3 hour walk inside the Zaki river with cool refreshing water is a great day trip for those visiting or staying in the north. The ideal time for this hike is in the hot summer months. The entrance to the hike is at the north end of the Kinneret. If you are coming from route 92 (east side of the Kinneret) then you will be turning left exactly opposite Ma’aleh Gamla junction (the turning to route 869 that heads up to the Golan to your right). If you are coming along route 87 (west side of the Kinneret) then you will need to turn right at the Yehudiya junction on to route 92 and then turn right opposite the Ma’ale Gamla junction to the Bet Zayda Valley. Israelis love the water, and the Zaki trail is no exception. The hike takes you through water throughout the trail, mostly up to your knees, but with several deep pools along the way. You will be walking on smooth rocks of all sizes, just watch your step as some are extremely slippery. The hardest part of this hike is staying on your feet – so much so that we hold family competitions for the person to slip the most.
2. Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee
Located in beautiful northern Israel between the steep slopes of the Golan Heights to the East and the Naftali mountains of the Upper Galileeto the west, this truly magical spot has been a migration route for millions of birds from Europe to Africa and Asia for thousands of years. It’s for the hikers and bikers under us.
The Hula Valley is an agricultural region in northern Israel with abundant fresh water. It is a major stopover for birds migrating along the Syrian-African Rift Valley between Africa, Europe, and Asia. The marshland around Lake Hula, a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying malaria, was drained in the 1950s. A small section of the valley was later reflooded in an attempt to revive a nearly extinct ecosystem. An estimated 500 million migrating birds now pass through the Hula Lake Park every year.
The Hula Valley lies within the northern part of the Syrian-African Rift Valley at an elevation of about 70 meters above sea level, and covers an area of 177 square kilometers (25 km by 6–8 km). On both sides of the valley are steep slopes: the Golan Heights to the east and the Upper Galilee’s Naftali mountains to the west rise to 400 to 900 meters above sea level. Basalt hills of about 200 meters above sea level along the southern side of the valley intercept the Jordan River, and are commonly referred to as the basalt “plug” (actually a temporary geologic base level), as they restrict water drainage downstream into the Sea of Galilee.
The Hula Valley has a Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and cool rainy winters, although its enclosure within two mountain ranges leads to more extreme seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations than in coastal areas. Annual rainfall varies greatly between different parts of the valley and ranges from about 400 millimeters in the south of the valley, to up to 800 millimeters in the north of the valley. More than 1,500 millimeters of precipitation falls on the Hermon mountain range, only a few kilometers north of the valley, mostly in the form of snow, feeding underground springs, including the sources of the Jordan River, all eventually flowing through the valley. The wind regime is dominated by regional patterns in the winter with occasional strong north-easterly wind storms known in Arabic as Sharkiyah.
3. Bet Guvrin National Park – The Land of a Thousand Caves
A visit to Bet Guvrin National Park is a great family day out for all ages. The park is located 13km east of Kiryat Gat and covers a large area , 1,250 acres, that include the ancient ruins of the town Maresha from the time of the first Temple era. The entrance fee is NIS 29, children NIS 15 and it’s open from 8 AM till 5 PM.
The earliest written record of Maresha was as a city in ancient Judah (Joshua 15:44). The Hebrew Bible mentions among other episodes that Rehoboam fortified it against Egyptian attack. After the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah the city of Maresha became part of the Edomite kingdom. In the late Persian period a Sidonian community settled in Maresha, and the city is mentioned in the Zenon Papyri (259 BC). During the Maccabean Revolt, Maresha was a base for attacks against Judea and suffered retaliation from the Maccabees. After Hasmonean king, John Hyrcanus I captured and destroyed Maresha in 112 BCE, the region of Idumea remained under Hasmonean control. In 40 BC the Parthians devastated completely the “strong city”, after which it was never rebuilt.
Beit Guvrin succeeded Maresha as the main town of the area. Conquered by the Roman general Vespasian during the Jewish War (68 CE) and again suffering due to the Bar Kochba revolt (132–135 CE), it was re-established as a Roman colony and in the year 200 it received the title of a city and the ius italicum, under the new name of “Eleutheropolis”, ‘city of freemen’. Sources from the Byzantine Period mention both Christian and Jewish personalities living in the city.
4. Dead Sea
The Dead Sea at 423 metres (or 1,388 feet) below sea level, is the lowest point on the earth and is known in Hebrew as Yam Hamelach or the Sea of Salt due to its high saline concentration. In fact, it is the deepest hyper-saline lake in the world. The Dead Sea isn’t actually a sea but a large saltwater lake, is three million years old, you can’t sink and the guide almost managed to drown.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. In the Bible, it is a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world’s first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.
5. Akko (or Acre)
The old city of Akko offers many things, but for the reader it might be interesting to note that there are several walking tours. There is the Jewish walking tour, the Walls & Wars route, the Cross-Acre route, the Napoleon route, the Khan & Palace route, the Ottoman-Crusader route and finally the classic route.