Tour Israel: Wild about flowers

Even if you don’t spend much time out in nature, you’ll surely appreciate the special time of year after the rains have begun when many flowers have start blooming all across Israel.

Tour Israel: Wild about flowers (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Tour Israel: Wild about flowers
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Even if you don’t spend much time out in nature, you’ll surely appreciate the special time of year after the rains have begun when many flowers have start blooming all across Israel. In addition to being incredibly fragrant, these flowers are absolutely hypnotic to gaze upon as leaves begin to fall to the ground from trees and migrating birds fly overhead. No matter where you are headed in Israel – south or north – you will certainly happen upon fields of gorgeous color.
The relatively cool weather, light rain and autumn sun provide the perfect conditions for yellow crocuses to thrive throughout the northern Negev. In an effort to enable the Israeli public to enjoy this yellow phenomenon for as long as possible, the tourism authorities in the northern Negev and the KKL-JNF have created a trail in Lahav Forest filled with crocuses.
Within Lahav Forest, you will find a circular trail called Shvil Hazahav (the Golden Path) that winds through the 270-acre forest dense with trees. Follow the yellow trail markers that begin in the parking area. When you get out of your car, look around for the stone wall. There is an opening in the wall that leads to a cave from the Byzantine Period, which was apparently used as living quarters for a family, with a cooking area just outside the entrance of the cave. Later, this cave was used as shelter for sheep until the establishment of the State of Israel. Close by, there are also remains of an ancient wine-press and a stone quarry. All along the path, you will pass by many crocuses.
Directions: Turn east at Dvira Intersection. After you enter Kibbutz Dvir, drive 2.4 kilometers, then turn right onto a dirt path and drive for 1.6 kilometers. Turn left and drive 650 meters until you see a well on your right. This is the Tilla Well from the Byzantine Period.
Next, continue driving another 300 meters until you reach the edge of the forest. Turn south and drive one more kilometer until you reach the small parking lot. There you will find trail markers and signs directing you towards Hurvat Abu Hof.
Northern Israel is also flowering this time of year. The Golan Heights is currently covered with crocuses alongside Belladonna Lilies (aka Naked Ladies). A great place to catch sight of these flowers is at Bashanit Ridge, a beautiful nature reserve in the eastern Golan. In this region, you’ll see lots of flora and fauna that can only be observed in autumn. The forest is full of oak, Syrian pear and plum trees, as well as sumac plants.
It’s worthwhile taking note that the trail in Bashanit Ridge is linear, meaning you’ll need to come with two cars. The trail begins in the parking area. On the right side of the road, you’ll notice a small iron gate, which you should go through. After about 50 meters, you’ll see some rocky terrain that is covered with crocuses and Belladonna Lilies. Continue descending along the path that is shaded by oak trees until you come upon a expansive view of the Golan before you.
Continue descending, pass over a pebbled path, and after about 1 kilometer, the path turns into a road that’s accessible to jeeps. Turn right and then you’ll see that you’ve arrived at the Circassian village of Joeza, which was established in the 19th century and is well-known for its spring flowing through it. The village is a wonderful place to stop for a picnic, and it’s only 500 meters before the end of the trail.
Length/time of linear trail: 3 km/2.5 hours.
Directions: Drive along Road 87. Pass straight through Katzabiya and Hamapalim Junctions. Turn left onto Road 98. Drive 2.5 kilometers and then park one of your cars at the end of the trail. To reach the beginning of the trail in the second car, continue along Road 98 for 2 more kilometers after you pass the entrance to Alonei Habashan. Turn right onto the road that leads to Tel Hazaka. Drive according to the green trail markers until you reach the intersection where the trail begins.
If autumn is your favorite time of year and you love watching the leaves turn yellow and red and drift gently from the tree branches, then I highly recommend you visit Mount Bental in the north-eastern Golan Heights and join a tour led by Hanoch Shenek. Shenek has been involved in agricultural landscaping for over 35 years, and he is particularly knowledgeable about the region surrounding Merom Golan.
Date: Every Friday and Saturday between November 9 and November 30, at 11 a.m.
Price: Adults NIS 50; Children NIS 25.
Details: (04) 696-0267, extension 5.
Another great place to see autumn flowers blooming is Tzipori National Park, where you can join a guided tour that will lead you past endless blossoming flowers, the aqueduct, the ancient synagogue and end with a fun flower workshop for the whole family.
Location: Tzipori National Park
Date: November 16 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Price: No extra charges beyond park entrance fee.
If you happen to be walking along the road that circles the Kinneret, make sure not to miss Section 5, which goes from Arik Bridge to Kfar Nahum. The trail will lead you beneath eucalyptus and olive trees and alongside a dry riverbed and ancient stone buildings. This six-kilometer section of the path is very pleasant and easy to walk.
Directions: Turn south before Arik Bridge (Road 87) and park your car next to the eucalyptus trees. You’ll need to leave a second car at the end of the path.
The pancratium sickenbergeri flowers (Havatzelet Hanegev) are currently blooming all over the central Arava. These white blossoms, which have a faint but intoxicating scent, bloom at from the remains of the previous year’s growth. At this time of year, there are few insects around to assist with pollination and yet, these magnificent flowers manage to flourish even while standing alone in the hot desert.
Tour guide Alon Goldstein recommends driving 15 minutes from Arava Junction. Drive north on Road 90 and turn west onto Road 25. Continue straight at Tzafit Junction for one more kilometer in the direction of Dimona. Slow down and then turn left onto an unmarked road that leads towards an IDF army base. After driving about 100 meters, you should see hundreds of beautiful white flowers covering the brown earth.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.