Achziv to Rosh Hanikra

"You will notice an abundance of charming coves, archeological finds, secluded romantic niches and stone quarries."

Idyllic lagoons are so peaceful, they could be in Thailand (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Idyllic lagoons are so peaceful, they could be in Thailand
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Now that Israel has switched to winter time, the outdoor swimming season has officially ended. The changing of seasons leaves some people in a state of uncertainty. It’s not really cold out, yet the thought of jumping into a natural spring at the end of a hike is no longer so tantalizing. So now that the beaches have emptied out for the most part, it’s the best time of year to go for a hike in northern Israel.
The relatively short trail I’m going to lead you on today starts in Achziv and goes north to Rosh Hanikra. You can follow it either by foot or by car. Along the way, you will notice an abundance of charming coves, archeological finds, secluded romantic niches and stone quarries.
The first hike I ever took in this region was with a tour guide named Amnon Gofer, a member of a grassroots organization called Western Galilee Now, which comprises 35 tourism providers making a tremendous effort to promote quality tourism in the Western Galilee. Too frequently, when people catch a glimpse of the crystal-clear sea, they become oblivious to the other interesting things in the area. I owe my love for the quaint beaches of northern Israel and its local history (which I only discovered recently) to Gofer.
I recommend beginning the hike in Achziv and finishing at Rosh Hanikra. If you’re planning on going by foot, I suggest you leave a second car at the end point.
People who reach the Achziv coast tend to drive along the paved road until they reach the main beach, but if you drive slowly and pay close attention after you turn toward the beach, you’ll see a number of coves along the coastline.
Since the road is so high up, most people don’t notice the coves. But if you stop your car along the way and walk down toward the water, you’ll enjoy a topography that is very different from that of central Israel – you will almost feel as though you were momentarily transported to Thailand! While you’re standing there, take a deep breath of the salty air and feel the breeze. Once you are completely refreshed, go back to your car and continue to Achziv Beach National Park. Tel Achziv is an ancient settlement where numerous archeological remains have been found from a time when Achziv was an important stop on the international trade route.
From here, go north towards the famous bridges and you will experience an amazing view. Stop at the Memorial to the Fourteen monument. This moving memorial is dedicated to the members of the Palmah unit who attempted to destroy the Achziv bridge in the Night of the Bridges Operation on June 16, 1946. It was part of a collaborative effort in which all the Jewish resistance underground movements sent troops to blow up eleven bridges linking Israel to its Arab neighbors. The 14 fighters, led by Yehiam Weitz, were killed during the operation, and the bridge was later rebuilt in their memory. Just one kilometer after the entrance to Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, there’s an explanation that details this tragic explosion and other related operations.
Continue going north on the paved road near the water that runs parallel to the main road. Next, you’ll see a monument in memory of Jews who attempted to enter Israel during the British Mandate years when it was illegal. The monument, by Yehiel Shemi from Kibbutz Kabri, shows a shipwreck with a locked door, which of course represents the locked door so many Jews faced during those difficult years when they were trying desperately to make it to the Holy Land.
Near the monument, you can also see remains of an ancient winepress. Unfortunately, the winepress isn’t preserved well and is often covered with plastic bags and garbage that visitors leave there.
Just north of the monument, you will find quarries and coves along the coast all the way to Rosh Hanikra. In addition, if you look out to sea, you will see three small, charming islands. People are not allowed to visit the islands, since they are a nature reserve, but it’s wonderful to gaze out at them. And as you walk along the water, look closely and you will spot the old Haifa-Beirut railway tracks that were blown up almost 70 years ago.
Later on in the hike, when you reach the square, you will see a marked hiking trail that passes by ancient quarries as it descends towards the sea. At this time of year, an amazing festival of vegetation is in bloom, including lavender and pink bottle brush. Hyraxes and other animals can be spotted hopping through the shrubbery.
A few hundred meters before you reach Rosh Hanikra, look closely to your left and you’ll see stairs that lead up to a fantastic observation point from which you can look out over Rosh Hanikra and the coves. This is also a great place to stop for a picnic, and if you happen to be there around sunset, you’ve really hit the jackpot.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.