The volcanic trail in the Golan

As part of the Syrian-African rift, Israel stands right above a giant strip of volcanic geologic activity.

Mount Bental. (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Mount Bental.
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
As part of the Syrian-African rift, Israel stands right above a giant strip of volcanic geologic activity. Plan a weekend or a midweek outing for two or three days in the northern Golan, where many of the volcanic phenomena shows their mark in some surprising ways.
As your first stop and general base, go to the new visitors’ center at Ha’amir (Wasset) Junction where roads 978 and 959 cross. Handmade local ceramics that connect the visitor to the land and a fully stocked spice shop, as well as the restaurants, make this a spot to keep returning to while you are exploring the area.
To set out on the volcanic trail, drive a bit east on Route 959 until you see the green sign on your left that indicates Golan Volcanic Park. Leave your car in the parking lot and walk to the paleomagnetic rock site. This rock is unique because of its iron particles (magnetite minerals), which after the volcanic eruption cooled and froze in the direction of that moment’s magnetic north.
Although now, after tens of thousands of years, magnetic north is different, this volcanic rock remembers its original north. You can test this phenomenon with your own compass.
Whenever the compass gets close to the paleomagnetic rock, the compass will move and point to the north from volcanic times.
Return to your car and drive north on Road 978 to the Odem Forest. The Juba is a large crater, 250 meters in diameter and 60 meters deep, in the middle of an oak forest. It was formed in a violent volcanic explosion that spewed hot gases and molten lava into the surroundings, leaving a huge round hole in the ground.
Next on the trail is Mount Bental, a small extinct volcano that rises 1,170 meters above sea level.
You can ascend it with your car for a magnificent 360-degree view from its lookout over Kibbutz Merom Golan. Bental is one of a series of small inactive volcanoes found in this area.
Between Mount Bental and Mount Avital you will find another volcanic crater with basalt soil, which enables the cultivation of fine vineyards that produce award-winning wines. In addition to the scenic drive, even on a foggy day, driving along that volcano mouth’s narrow road will lead you to the main and newest part of the volcanic trail, Avital Volcanic Park. This park on Road 98, situated just north of Kibbutz Ein Zivan, opened to visitors a few months ago. The volcanic park is unique not only in Israel but also in the world. Located inside an old quarry, its walls are exposed layers of geological and volcanic events. It is as if hundreds of thousands of years of volcanic eruptions and other geological activity were “written” on the wall.
The park offers guided tours explaining the subject of volcanoes. In the evening, the park puts on light shows, which use colors and illumination to produce impressive lighting effects that highlight the miniature volcanic mountains. Groups must arrange the visit and payment in advance, but it is definitely worth seeing. In the winter, the park is open from Thursday to Saturday.
At the end of a satisfying day of touring, the perfect spot to stay for a night or two is Kibbutz Ein Zivan, one kilometer from the volcanic park.
The kibbutz offers accommodation for couples and families with up to four children.
While you are in the area, visit the De Karina chocolate factory, which offers kosher high-quality, handmade chocolate, as well as workshops for all ages.
For dinner or breakfast, drive back to the visitors’ center at Wasset Junction. The kosher Asado burger bar has a delicious chef’s menu. And for breakfast and evening entertainment, there is the K bar café. As the visitors’ center continues to develop, it serves as a good starting and returning point for the volcanic trail or other trips in the Golan.
For wine lovers, there is plenty on offer in the Golan. On your way to or from your trip, stop in at the Bazelet Winery, situated in the central Golan at Kidmat Zvi. This is a refreshing opportunity to taste some Golan wines.