Must see attractions in Upper Galilee & Golan

  • Top ChoiceSights in Golan Heights

    Yehudiya Nature Reserve

    Both casual strollers and experienced hikers – especially those who aren’t averse to getting wet – will find plenty to engage and challenge them in this 66-sq-km nature reserve. Mammals you might encounter include gazelles and wild boar, while the cliffs are home to birds of prey as well as songbirds. Swimming is permitted in the reserve's natural pools – hugely refreshing on a hot day. Most of the trails follow three cliff-lined wadis, with year-round water flow, that drain into the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee. Wadi Yehudiya and Wadi Zavitan are both easiest to access from the Yehudiya Parking Lot (Chenyon Yehudiya), which is on Rte 87 midway between Katzrin and the Sea of Galilee. Wadi Meshushim, easiest to get to from the Meshushim Parking Lot, is situated 2.8km along a gravel road from Rte 888, which parallels the Jordan River. The parking lot is 8km northeast of the New Testament site of Bethsaida. The rangers at both entrances to Yehudiya (pronounced yeh-hoo- dee -yah) are extremely knowledgeable and can point you in the right direction, as well as register you, for your own safety. The only map you’ll need is the excellent colour-coded one provided at the ticket booths. Stick to marked trails. People have fallen to their deaths while attempting to negotiate treacherous makeshift trails, and there’s an army firing zone east of Wadi Yehudiya (across Rte 87).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Golan Heights

    Banias Nature Reserve

    The gushing springs, waterfalls and lushly shaded streams of Banias Nature Reserve form one of the most beautiful – and popular – nature spots in the country. The park has two entrances on Rte 99 that are about 3.5km (1½ hours on foot) apart. The name ‘Banias’ derives from Pan, Greek god of the countryside, to whom a temple here was dedicated back in Roman times. Many sections of the park’s four trails (visitors receive a map) are shaded by oak, plane, fig and carob trees. The Suspended Trail, a boardwalk cantilevered out over the rushing, crystal-clear Banias (Hermon) Stream, gives a pretty good idea of how the ancients might have imagined the Garden of Eden. A 15-minute walk upstream is the 10m Banias Waterfall, with its sheer, thundering drop into a deep pool; tempting as it may look, swimming is prohibited here and throughout the reserve. Both sites can be visited on a 45-minute circuit from the Banias Waterfall entrance, which before 1967 was in a demilitarized zone. Near the reserve's Banias Springs entrance, the excavated ruins of a palace complex built by Herod’s grandson, Agrippa II, can be seen on a 45-minute walking circuit. Delicious Druze pitas are usually available at or near both of the reserves' two entrances, which are also both served by Rama bus 58, which links Kiryat Shmona with Majdal Shams.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Golan Heights

    Nimrod Fortress

    Built by Muslims in the 13th century to protect the road from Tyre to Damascus, Nimrod Fortress rises fairy-tale-like on a long, narrow ridge (altitude 815m) on the southwestern slopes of Mt Hermon. The work that went into building such a massive fortification – 420m long and up to 150m wide – on the top of a remote mountain ridge boggles the mind. If you’re going to visit just one Crusader-era fortress during your trip, this should be it. Background on the fortress’ colourful medieval history, including its destruction by the Mongols, can be found in the excellent English map-brochure given out at the ticket booth. Highlights include an intact 13th-century hall, complete with angled archers' slits, in the Northern Tower. The castle, visible from all over the Hula Valley, is protected by near-vertical cliffs and vertiginous canyons on all sides but one. South of Nimrod is Wadi Sa’ar, which divides the Golan’s basalt plateau (to the south) from the limestone flanks of Mt Hermon (to the north). The fortress is served by Rama bus 58 from Kiryat Shmona to Majdal Shams.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Golan Heights

    Golan Archaeological Museum

    A real gem of a museum. Highlights include extraordinary basalt lintels and Aramaic inscriptions from 32 Byzantine-era Golan synagogues; coins minted during the Great Jewish Revolt (66–70 CE); a model of Rujum Al Hiri, a mysterious Stone Age maze 156m across, built some 4500 years ago; and a film (available in nine languages) that brings to life the Roman siege of Gamla. Wheelchair accessible. Situated 100m west of the Merkaz Eitan commercial centre, next to the library.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Gamla Nature Reserve

    The site of a thriving Jewish village during the late Second Temple period, Gamla dared to defy the Romans during the Great Jewish Revolt (66–70 CE) and as a result was besieged by Vespasian’s legions. Today, you can visit the ruins, which afford spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. From park HQ, walking down to, and around, ancient Gamla takes two to three hours. Historian Josephus Flavius recorded the Romans' seven-month siege (67 CE), the defenders’ valiant stand and the bloody final battle, and reported a Masada-like mass suicide of thousands of Jews (for which there's no archaeological evidence). After Gamla – perched atop a rocky ridge shaped like a camel’s back ( gamla is the Aramaic word for camel) – was identified in 1968 based on Flavius’ precise descriptions, excavations unearthed an enormous quantity of Roman siege weaponry (some can be seen in Katzrin’s Golan Archaeological Museum) as well as one of the world’s oldest synagogues, believed to date from the 1st century BCE (ie from the time of the Second Temple). Gamla is known for the Griffon vultures (with an astonishing wingspan of 2.7m) that nest in the reserve's cliffs and soar majestically over the valley below. Sadly, they are becoming rarer, victims of high-voltage electrical lines, quadcopters and poisoned carrion that a tiny minority of ranchers set out – illegally – to kill wolves and jackals. Fifteen years ago there were some 200 on the Golan; today only about 15 survive. To help the local population recover, Griffon vultures from Spain have been brought here and released. Half-hour talks on the birds (in Hebrew) generally begin daily at 11am and 1pm at the Vulture Lookout. A remarkable 51m-high waterfall can be seen from the Waterfall Overlook (Tatzpit HaMapal); the trail to get there (1½ hours return) passes a field dotted with dolmens (basalt grave markers) erected by nomads 4000 years ago. On the plateau around the parking lot, the wheelchair-accessible Vulture Path (Shvil HaNesharim; 20 to 30 minutes) affords a fine panorama of the ancient city. Gamla is 20km south of Katzrin.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Quneitra Viewpoint

    From high atop Mt Avital, top-secret Israel Defence Forces' electronics peer deep into Syria, but the Quneitra Viewpoint, on the volcano’s lower flanks, also affords fine views into Israel’s troubled northern neighbour. The site – at which an 'audio explanation station' describes the battles fought here in 1973 – overlooks the ruined town of Quneitra, one-time Syrian 'capital of the Golan', just 2km away. At the end of the Six Day War, Quneitra, at the time a garrison town defending Damascus (60km to the northeast), was abandoned in chaos by the Syrian army after Syrian government radio mistakenly reported that the town had fallen. It changed hands twice during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which Israel began with just 177 tanks against the attacking Syrians’ 1500. Inside the UN buffer zone since 1974, the town has been under the control of Syrian rebel forces since 2014. About 150m north along Rte 98, a Yom Kippur War memorial is marked by the turret of a US-built Israeli tank and an 'audio explanation station'. A path leads down the slope from the viewpoint to the Golan Volcanic Park–Avital, situated in an old quarry whose excavations exposed many layers of the Golan's eventful geological history. Signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The viewpoint and park are on the eastern side of Rte 98, 1.3km north of Zivan Jct.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Umm Al Kanatir Synagogue

    What's truly extraordinary about this 6th-century synagogue is that after it was destroyed in the great earthquake of 749 CE, the site, because of its remoteness, remained almost completely undisturbed until the 21st century. Because none of the basalt blocks were carried away for reuse elsewhere, archaeologists have been able to reassemble the entire splendid structure using the original stones, with the help of 3D laser scanning, microchip labels and a yellow overhead crane. The ark, oriented towards Jerusalem, is richly decorated with spread-winged eagles, grape bunches and Jewish symbols such as the menorah, lulav (palm frond) and etrog (a citrus fruit). An underground visitors centre, with spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee, was under construction at the time of research.

  • Sights in Central Golan

    Pelter Winery

    In 2001, after studying wine-making in Australia, Tal Pelter founded a winery that now turns shiraz and chenin blanc grapes (among others) into 300,000 bottles of reds and whites a year. Free tours (15 to 30 minutes) end with a tasting. A platter with four Pelter goat cheeses (made by Tal's wife Inbar), bread and olive oil costs 25NIS; fresh-baked focaccia (55NIS for two) is available on Fridays and Saturdays.

  • Sights in Mt Meron

    Adir Winery

    Adir has built a reputation for producing outstanding wines and equally good goat cheeses and for serving great dairy meals. Sampling three wines, four cheeses and the sublime goat's milk frozen yoghurt costs 35NIS. Serves breakfast (75/135NIS for one/two), brunch (150NIS for two) and lunch (quiche or a cheese platter) on a lovely patio until 2pm; reserve ahead. Adir produces about 200,000 bottles a year.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Ancient Katzrin Park

    To get a sense of life during the Talmudic period (3rd to 6th centuries) when the Golan had dozens of Jewish villages, drop by this partly reconstructed Byzantine-era village. In August and on Jewish holidays such as Passover and Sukkot, there are re-enactments by actors in period costumes. Fresh pitas are often available at the beit lehem (bread house). Wheelchair accessible. Situated 1.6km east of the Merkaz Eitan commercial centre. Highlights include a basalt synagogue, a working olive-oil press, an audiovisual presentation (with air-con!) on the deliberations of Talmudic luminaries (not shown on Saturday) and free-range peacocks.

  • Sights in Mt Meron

    Dalton Winery

    Dalton produces some excellent, award-winning wines. Three or four of them can be sampled for 20NIS in a log-cabin-style tasting centre (the modern production facilities are across the car park). Forty-minute tours start at 10.30am, noon and 2pm; call ahead if you can. Out back, each row of the tiny vineyard produces a different kind of grape. Using grape varieties ranging from shiraz (syrah) to zinfandel and viognier to semillon, this estate winery produces more than 1.2 million bottles a year under the Dalton, Kna'an and Alma labels.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Sha'al Fruit Picking

    The orchards here grow four kinds of cherries, three kinds of plums and five kinds of mulberries as well as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and white and black currants. While plucking, you can eat as much as you want; pay by the kilo for what you take with you. Call Ravit to find out what's ripe. The farm also has play areas for kids. Sleeping here in a basic Sinai-style hut, with shared bathrooms, costs 80NIS per person; bring your own sleeping bag or sheets. Open from mid-March to October.

  • Sights in Central Golan

    Bahat Winery

    A true boutique operation, Bahat – housed in a one-time plastic-sandal factory – produces just 20,000 bottles of wine a year, including port (first sold in 2017) and an interesting blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Short tours of the one-room production facilities, in Hebrew and English, leave every half-hour and end with a tasting session. Edibles on offer include cheese platters, pizza and salads. Kids can make their own labelled bottle of professionally corked grape juice (25NIS).

  • Sights in Galilee Panhandle

    Open Museum of Photography

    Temporary exhibitions, by renowned Israeli and international photographers, change twice a year. An interactive section for kids explores the principles of photography and includes a walk-in camera obscura and a camera lucida. Signs are in Hebrew and Arabic but docents can explain in English. From central Kiryat Shmona, head north on Rte 90 for 3km and follow the signs to ‘Photography’.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Golan Heights Winery

    Winner of many international awards, this highly regarded winery (total annual production: 5.5 million bottles) offers guided cellar tours (advance reservations recommended) and wine-tasting. The shop sells more than 50 wines bottled under its Yarden, Gamla (Gilgal in the US), Hermon and Galil Mountain labels. All wines are kosher but, happily, not mevushal (flash pasteurised).

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Golan Volcanic Park–Avital

    Quarrying into the base of Mt Avital, an extinct volcano, to extract gravel created an ugly scar on the landscape. It also exposed layers of volcanic debris that have been turned into a geological park with a lot to tell us about the Golan's eventful volcanic history. Signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

  • Sights in Central Golan

    Ya’ar HaAyalim

    Kids will love this gravelly tree-shaded hillside, home to three species of deer (from Northern Europe, the Himalayas and Japan), ibexes, 85cm-high mini-ponies that children can ride on, a petting zoo, pedal cars, five trampolines and a rope park with a 15m zipline.

  • Sights in Central Golan

    De Karina Chocolatier

    An artisanal chocolate maker that offers tours (25 minutes) and chocolate-making workshops. Reservations are a must. If the chocolate doesn't tempt you, the homemade ice creams just might.

  • Sights in Golan Heights

    Kesem Hagolan

    An excellent introduction to the Golan, this centre takes you on a half-hour virtual journey around the region, projected on a 180-degree panoramic screen (in English hourly on the half hour). Also has a 1:5000-scale topographic model of the Golan. Situated in the shopping mall 2km east of Merkaz Eitan commercial centre, next to the Industrial Zone.