Offering commanding views of the Sea of Galilee and the Hula Valley, the volcanic Golan plateau is dry and tan in summer, and lush, green and carpeted with wildflowers in spring. Its fields of basalt boulders – and, on its western edge, deep canyons – are mixed with cattle ranches, orchards, vineyards and small, middle-class communities, both Israeli and Druze.
Israel's control of the Golan Heights has been a source of tension between Israel and Syria since 1967, when the area was captured from Syria. In the bitterly fought 1973 Yom Kippur War, Syrian forces briefly overtook much of the Golan before being pushed back. All around the Golan, you’ll see evidence of these conflicts: abandoned Syrian bunkers along pre-1967 frontlines; old tanks left as memorials near the 1973 battlefields; and Israeli bunkers facing the disengagement 'buffer' zone between the two regions, staffed by the blue-helmeted soldiers of the UN Disengagement Observer Force. In 1981, Israel unilaterally annexed the area – a move which has not been recognised internationally or by the UN – and has developed settlements across it. Despite the ongoing political dispute, the Druze and Israeli communities exist in harmony here, and travellers shouldn't expect to experience any tension on the ground.