Spring in the Galilee

The Western Galilee coastline offers spectacular scenery, historical attractions and lots of fun.

Spring in the Galilee (photo credit: www.goisrael.com)
Spring in the Galilee
(photo credit: www.goisrael.com)
If you haven’t been stuck in cyberspace for the last couple of months or so, it probably has not escaped your notice that this winter has been a particularly good one in terms of the amount of precipitation we have had. Besides bringing traffic to a standstill on the Ayalon Freeway in Tel Aviv and causing flooding in other parts of the country, it also means we are likely to have a wonderful florally blessed spring. That means it will soon be time to hit the road and head for the verdant expanses of the North, and you could do a lot worse than go to the Western Galilee to grab a few lungfuls of fresh air and some eyefuls of Mother Nature’s precious seasonal gifts.
Actually, the said region has plenty to offer in terms of fun and interesting tourist attractions, even without the pleasing amount of rain of the last few weeks. Consider, for example, the spectacular aesthetics to be had at and around Rosh Hanikra at the northernmost part of our coastline.
The eponymous grottoes are a good a place as any to kick-start your Western Galilee jaunt. The cavernous geological formation is located at the foot of steep cliffs, where the sea has eroded the soft chalk rock and created a tunnel-like structure that meanders and stretches a full 200 meters into the cliff side. Access to the grottoes is by cable car, which is one of the world’s steepest. The interior of the cave can also be viewed from closer quarters in rented kayaks. There is also an impressive sound and light show on offer, and bicycles – including the electric variety – can be rented for trundling along the coastline.
While you’re in the neighborhood, you may want to pop along to Goren Park, in the Nahal Kziv Nature Reserve, which takes in a delightful forested area of oak trees and offers plenty of hiking and biking trails. One of the most striking features of the nature reserve is the Montfort Castle, which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century and was subsequently renovated and extended by the Teutonic Knights. The fortress is an ideal spot for viewing the rolling hills of the Galilee and the Golan Heights, and even the snowy cap of Mount Hermon.
There is more rustic scenery to be had a little farther south at Moshav Ben-Ami, where you can rent mountain bicycles, and all manner of accessories thereof for cycling trips around the area. Guided bike tours for families and groups are also available, and there are tricycles and tandems for rent as well.
There are also plenty of attractions for art lovers and fans of cultural endeavors. For starters, there’s the Davidson Sculpture Garden and Gallery at Kibbutz Eilon. The outdoor exhibition facility incorporates some 300 works of art, from sculptures and mosaics to masks and totem poles of all shapes, colors and sizes. The indoor gallery is housed in the home of Ruth and Meirka Davidson – the latter was a member of the Palmah – and serves as a reminder of kibbutz life in years gone by.
Meanwhile, if modern dance is your thing and you fancy getting a better handle on what makes dancers tick and what it takes to put a production together, you can go to Kibbutz Ga’aton, the home of the Kibbutz Dance Company. The visitors’ package includes a guided tour of the dance village on the kibbutz, a glimpse of the company’s rehearsals, a show and an informal session with some of the dancers and the company director. The more adventurous, or body movement inclined, can avail themselves of a workshop with one of the dancers.
The kibbutz also run the Ga’aton Fruitwines enterprise, which manufactures and sells liqueurs with a wide range of flavors and raw materials, including kiwi, lychee, almonds, dates and pomegranate. The store also sells citrus honey and honey and apple-flavored wine.
Over at Abirim, the Cheers Winery sells all sorts of fruit-based wines and preserves. All Cheers products are made by traditional methods and contain no chemicals. The winery has a small visitors’ center.
The Achziv Winery, at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, also has some quality wines on offer, and visitors can also enjoy some wine tasting and get explanations about the production process.
All that sightseeing, cycling, walking and wine tasting, not to mention modern dancing, will surely work up a hearty appetite, and there is an abundance of good eateries around the region. There’s Arnold’s kosher restaurant, at Kibbutz Netiv Hashayara, which serves a bistro menu, with some added French and Middle Eastern touches, in addition to locally brewed beer. And if you fancy some homemade pastries, along with an eclectic gastronomic selection, the Banahala restaurant nestled in Nahariya’s leafy old quarter, provides that aplenty.
Meanwhile, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot offers plenty of insight into the Holocaust at the history museum there. The kibbutz also runs the Bayit Vekayit restaurant, which is famed for its brunches, as well as bed-and-breakfast accommodation.
There is a wide range of accommodation in the Western Galilee for visitors planning to spend a few days in the region, from luxury hotels to more rustic style accommodation. The former includes Acre’s Hof Hatmarim (Date Beach) Hotel, which comes complete with swimming pool, private beach, spa and entertainment, while just up the coast there is the comfortably furnished Carlton Hotel in Nahariya. Kibbutz Yehiam’s Teva Beyehiam-Countryside hotel treads the fine line between luxury accommodation and rural beauty, with Crusader-style rooms, as well as more rustically designed suites. More basic places for sack time include the Travelers’ Hotel at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv, and Kibbutz Shomrat has some welcoming rustic-style rooms.
If it’s history, culture and impressive aesthetic surroundings you’re looking for, Acre has that in buckets. For starters, there’s the Hospitaller Fortress and its spectacular Knights’ Halls, with its arches and masonry that simply reek of Crusader history. Bathhouses were an important part of daily life in the Middle East in days of yore, and Acre houses the beautifully preserved Hamam al-Basha, which was built in the late 18th century. The 350-meter long Templars’ Tunnel is also well worth a visit, as is the recently renovated 18th-century Ramhal Synagogue. Acre is also one of the holiest places for followers of the Baha’i faith, and the local Baha’i Gardens are a veritable oasis of man-made beauty and tranquility. There are also plenty of walking tours around Acre, such as the Jewish Route, the Walls & Wars Route, the Napoleon Route and the Classic Route.
So whether it’s urban historic treasures, trekking, culture or rustic sightseeing, the Western Galilee has plenty of offer to suit all pockets, interests and tastes.Contact informationRosh Hanikra grottoes – 073-271-0100Rosh Hanikra kayaks – 052-379-8610Ben-Ami Bicycle Rental and Tours – 054-444-1587Davidson Sculpture Garden and Gallery – 052-366-4609Kibbutz Gaaton dance village – (04) 985-9730/7Gaaton Potions – (04) 875-9873 and 052-241-4845 Cheers Winery – 050-470-3818 Achziv Winery – 050-771-3687 Arnold’s restaurant – (04) 952-2211 and 050-322-5544 Banachala – (04) 951-2074 Bayit Vekayit – (04) 993-3271 Hof Hatmarim Hotel – (04) 987-7777
Carlton Hotel – (04) 900-5555 Teva Beyehiam-Countryside hotel – (04) 985-6057
Travelers’ Hotel – (04) 995-8568 Kibbutz Shomrat – (04) 985-4897 Acre – www.akko.org.il – B.D.
For more information, go to www.gogalil.org and www.goisrael.gov.il The article was made possible with the help of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.