Banias Nature Reserve, also known as Hermon Stream is one of the most popular Nature Reserves in Israel. And today we are going to find out why. Let’s begin!
Banias Nature Reserve (official site) is located at the Golan Heights. Here is the map of this area:
This Nature Reserve is quite big, and it has two entrances. Over the years we visited it many times, and this post is a combination of those visits to two different areas of the Banias. Let’s start with the map of this National Park:
Sun. – Thu. And Shabbat: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.
Adults 28 NIS, children 14 NIS, and Students 24 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you are going to visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves post.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated on Oct. 2018. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
In the plan above you can see two main areas: Banias Spring (#1 on the chart) and Banias waterfall (#34 on the diagram). Near each area, there is an entrance and a parking lot.
As you can see from the map’s photo, there are four routes. The trails allow visiting each area separately. Three of them are cyclic. And the blue way that leads from the springs to the waterfall is a one-way route. If you choose it, then you will need two cars, each one at a different parking lot.
Until today, we never did the long route, and always made the shorter ones.
The routes are:
- Yellow – 45-minute walking trail to the Crusaders city and back to the Banias Spring parking (POI on the map: 1-8, 11-17).
Note: I drew the lines with the arrows. Hope this will make it clearer. And if you want to see the full map, check the photo above.
- Purple – it is also a 45-minute route to the Agrippa palace back to the Banias Spring parking (POI on the map: 1-8, 21-26). I wrote about this route below.
- Blue – a 90-minute route that leads to the Banias waterfall (POI on the map: 1-8, 31-37). That is the only one-way route.
- Red – it is also a 45-minute route that starts at the Banias waterfall parking and leads to the waterfall via the Suspended Trail (POI on the map: 35-37, 41-43). This route is also described below.
Note: entering into water is forbidden at Banias Nature Reserve. If you want a place where kids can play in the water, then check out the nearby Tel Dan Nature Reserve.
Banias Nature Reserve or Hermon Stream?
Why it has two names? Banias spring emerges at the foot of Mount Hermon. It flows through a canyon for 3.5 km, which leads to the most impressive waterfall in Israel. Nine kilometers from its source, the Hermon stream meets the Dan River, and together they form the Jordan river.
The paragraph above explains the Hermon Stream name. Where does the name Banias come from? This photo may give you a hint:
Water gives life and people settle next to water resources. Near the spring, archaeologists found remains of the temple to Pan, which gave the site its name: Paneas or Pameas (pronounced Banias in Arabic).
Remains of a temple built by Herod the Great stand in front of the cave. After Herod’s death, his son Philip inherited this area, and in 2 BCE Philip founded his capital near the Banias Spring, calling it Caesarea Philippi.
Caesarea Philippi became an important Christian pilgrimage destination as the place where Jesus asked the disciples who people said he was. The New Testament records that Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then blessed Simon, saying: “you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:16-19).
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official website.
Purple Route At Banias Nature Reserve
The first three routes start at Banias Springs. And we decided to walk along the purple route since it looked more interesting than the yellow path.
During this visit, we chose the trail from the springs parking (next to the temple) to the Crusader city and back. That took us around 45 min.
Palace Of Agrippas II
From that point, we took the purple trail. The trail is quite nice. It is mostly shady and has several attractions along. The biggest of them can be found towards the end. You will reach the remains of the Agrippas palace (point #23).
Archaeology buffs will also find interest in the Crusader remains at Banyas, containing the castle, the city gate, the moat and a corner of the wall, as well as in the site of the vaults, which is, in fact, a street from the Roman period, and shops from the Crusader period. Recently, as part of its effort to conserve archaeological sites within Nature and Parks Authority sites, preservation works have been performed by the Antiquities Authority. It included stabilization of the internal walls of the southern Crusader gatehouse and the internal entrance gate, as well as blocking the external gate passage towards the south and preservation of the western room facade.
A public building that was built at the beginning of the first century BC was also uncovered at the archaeological site. The building covered more than 2,000 sq.m. and was one of the largest and most magnificent in Israel. Researchers believe that it was the palace of Agrippas II.
Inside the palace:
And then we drove to the waterfall parking. You can enter the site with the same ticket (that you already purchased at the Springs entrance). If you want to see the waterfall, you can do either the red trail or go straight down to the waterfall. On that occasion, we went straight, and it took us approximately 25 min.
And this is the most famous waterfall in Israel:
A closer look:
Banias Suspended Trail And Waterfall (Red Trail)
The visit to Banias Springs was in 2012. In 2017, we returned Banias. Since I heard so much about the newly constructed Suspended Trail, we decided to visit it. It is about an hour long trail starting from Banias Waterfall parking. This round route goes through the suspended track, waterfall and returns to the waterfall parking.
I did not expect to find rock badgers there. Usually, I see them in Ein Gedi and Rosh HaNikra grottoes.
As you enter the waterfall gate and go for straight for five minutes, you will reach the first viewpoint. On the top of the mountain in the center, you can see Nimrod Fortress.
The suspended trail starts with a light flat walk, and then you start going down towards the stream. The down part is also not hard, and if you do not have relevant health condition than the walk would be a breeze. But, there are stairs, so it is not suitable for baby strollers.
Banias Suspended Trail
The Hanging Trail – the Nature and Parks Authority has made part of the stream accessible by means of the “hanging trail”, 100 meters long, along which you can walk close to the rushing waters.
The Banyas Waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Israel – it falls 10 meters with enormous force and noise into a beautiful pool surrounded by vegetation. You can view the waterfall (and get wet from the splashing water) from the well-built wooden boardwalk. The noise of the flowing water and the spectacular sight make this a most enjoyable experience.
Banias Nature Reserve is among the most beloved National Parks in Israel. And I think there are several reasons for its popularity. First of all, there is water including the waterfall. Secondly, there is a lot of greenery. Both these facts make the trails not only beautiful but shaded (and cooler) as well. And thirdly, at Banias springs you can find significant archeological remains. That makes the site versatile, and whether you love nature or archeology, it is worth a visit! We enjoyed our trips. What about you?
Have you ever visited the Banias Nature Reserve? What is your favorite trail? Tell us in the comments below about your experience.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!