The Haifa region is one of the most beautiful in the country; it is blessed with forest covered mountains, valleys, rivers, the sea and vibrant cities. Here is an idea for a fun family outing to get a taste of Israel’s countryside and have an adventure. If you are coming from the Tel Aviv drive up the coastal road (route #2) passed Herzliya, Nataniya and Caesarea. All the way you will have be gorgeous Mediterranean Sea on your left and farmlands on your right. Turn onto route 70 at the Zikhron Ya’aqov Interchange; at the Fureidis junction connect with route 4 traveling north. After about 20 minutes you will see Nahal HaMe’arot on your right.
Nahal HaMe’arot Nature Reserve is in the Mount Carmel Reserve. As you approach you will see cliffs and mountains looming up above you in a continuous ridge. From the foot of the mountains you can look up and see several caves in the cliffs. These caves were once inhabited by prehistoric man. Remains have been found from approximately a million years ago proving that people used these caves as homes. The prehistoric people were hunter gatherers; they would move from place to place making their home in vacant caves until moving on. Back in 1929 an all-female archaeological team uncovered the remains of a female Neanderthal; the first to ever be discovered outside of Europe. These caves are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors start at the park ranger’s office where you can get a map and explanation about the sites. There are also toilets, a souvenir store and light refreshments.
Following the map visitors follow an easy hike route up the slope of the mountainside in a circular route passed three caves. The first is the Tanur Cave (Oven Cave) named for the chimney-looking natural opening in the ceiling. From here there is a look-out point across the banana farms below and out to the sea. The next cave is the Camel Cave where mannequins and props have been used to recreate a prehistoric scene with drying animal hides, primitive tools and cavemen and women. At the entrance to the last and largest of the caves, the Nahal Cave (River Cave) you can see 65,000,000 year old mollusk fossil impressions in the cave walls. The cave is 70 meters deep and visitors can enter following an audio voiceover telling the story of the caves as different sections of the cave are dramatically lit up. Once you reach the end of the cave there is a short film showing the dramatized life of a family of prehistoric cave dwellers. Just outside the Nahal Cave you can see where one of 84 buried prehistoric skeletons was found. Next to the entrance of each cave there is an information board with illustrations showing how the caves were formed and explanations in English and Hebrew.
When you have enjoyed the fresh mountain air and views from the mountain slopes it is time to continue the day’s adventure. Continue north on route 4 until route 721 takes you east up in to the Carmel Mountains. You’ll be surrounded by greenery as you wend your way along narrow roads clinging to the mountainsides. This route takes you through the Mount Carmel National Park.
In 1989 a massive forest fire swept across the Carmel Mountains destroying 790 acres of natural forest. Again in 2010 a forest fire erupted across Mount Carmel and raged for 4 days claiming the lives of 44 people. 17,000 people were evacuated and 9,900 acres of forest were destroyed. Since then major projects have been initiated to replant trees across the Carmel. A drive through this area; through the heart of the disaster area will show you that the forests are again thriving. Look out along the way for the mountain top memorial to those who lost their lives in the fire. The monument is a beautiful sculpture which can be seen from far away. Turn onto route 672 which takes you passed the Haifa University campus and make a sharp right onto route 705 which will bring you to the JNF Eagle Park or KKL Nesher Park.
Nesher Park – The Hanging Bridges
Kids will love this short hike which takes you down a level footpath through the vegetation along the edge of a wadi (dry river gully). Looking up you can see the tall university building; the tallest building on the Carmel Mountain which looks down over Haifa. The footpath brings you to a 70 meter steel cable suspended bridge crossing the gully of Nahal Katia. The gully flows with water during the winter. Cross the bridge and then decide if you want to descend into the gully for a longer route or make a circular route crossing another suspension bridge a little further along to bring you back to where you started. In the gully there is a quaint stone bridge which takes you further down to a woodland area where there are benches, picnic spots and lookout points. The whole route takes about an hour to complete.
Continuing on your day trip return to route 672 and wend your way down the mountain side into the city of Haifa. Route 672 reaches a fork in the road where you take the right-hand route 23 along Bikurim Street, HaAsif Street and then left onto Sderot Kish which becomes Yefe Nof Street. Park your car on Yefe Nof when you see signs to the Ba’ha Gardens and follow the path downwards.
Ba’hai Gardens, Haifa
The Ba’hai Gardens were built as a setting for the shrines of the founders of the Ba’hai faith. The Ba’hai faith is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of the Bab and Bah’a’u’llah; prophets who received revelations from God. The Ba’hai accept the validity of other faiths and have a unique world view. There are 450 plant species in the gardens which stretch for 1km on the northern slope of Mount Carmel in the heart of Haifa. From the top to the bottom of the 19 garden terraces it is 225 meters and at its widest point the gardens are 400 meters wide. There are three access points to the Ba’hai Garden – from Yefe Nof Street above the upper gardens and shrine; from Hatzionut Avenue which is on the same level as the Shrine or from the bottom of the gardens at the plaza on the junction of Ben Gurion Ave and Hagefen Street in the German Colony. At 61 Yefe Nof Street there is a viewing balcony where you can have a panoramic view of the terraced gardens and the bay of Haifa. Descending along paved paths through the gardens from the crest of Mount Carmel towards the Shrine of the Bab you will see the amazing terraces of formal and informal gardens. Halfway down the garden is the Shrine of the Bab a solemn holy site and a symbol of Haifa. The small Grecian-style shrine has a distinctive gold dome and white walls. Below the shrine the garden terraces continue flanked by twin streams of cascading water, bridges and steps.
More Sites along the Way
If that is not enough for one day or if you want to swap one of these sites for another there are many other great attractions in the area. You could visit the former British detainee camp in Atlit; the artists’ village of Ein Hod; the Haifa Science Museum or spend time on one of Haifa’s beaches. You could also follow this itinerary in reverse order.
Admission: Adult 22ILS, child 10ILS, student 19ILS, senior 11ILS.
Open Hours: Sun-Thurs 8am-5pm; Friday and holiday Eves 8am-4pm. Closure an hour earlier in winter.
Information: 04 9841750/2
Open Hours: Visit in daylight hours.
Open Hours: Outer Gardens 9am-5pm daily; Shrine and Inner Gardens 9am-noon. There are walk-in tours in English at noon every day except Wednesdays and also at 1:30pm on Saturdays. Other tours in Hebrew, Russian and Arabic are held at 10am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm and 2pm daily except on Wednesdays. The site is closed on Ba’hai holidays and temporarily in rainy weather.
Note: As a religious site please dress modestly and act with respect at the Ba’hai Shrine.