Banias Nature Reserve (Hermon Stream, Caesarea Philippi) – Full Guide


Banias Nature Reserve (Hermon Stream)

Banias Guide starts with basics (map, trails, explaining all names). And then hike tracks, including Suspended Trail and Banias Waterfall. Let’s begin!

Map

Banias Nature Reserve is located at the Golan Heights. Here is the map of this area:

Directions

If you are driving to this park, then enter its name into the navigation app (see Useful Apps in Useful Information For Tourists To Israel). You can enter “Hermon Stream (Banias) Nature Reserve” into Waze. Also, keep in mind there are two entrances to this national, thus select the required one.

Getting to this Nature Reserve using public transport is inconvenient. For example, reaching from Tel Aviv will require at least three busses, a 1.5 km hike along road #99, and more than four hours. Here is a link to Moovit where the destination is already set. Just enter your origin and arrival date, and you will get the updated directions.

Site Plan

This Nature Reserve is quite big, and it has two entrances (Springs and Waterfall). 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:

Map of Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel
Note: you can click on the map to enlarge it. And in the following sections, you will see parts of this map with trail markings.

Where To Stay

There is a variety of options for a night stay in this area. You can stay in a hotel or rent an apartment in nearby villages and cities (like Kiryat Shmona). To see available places and prices, check out this link to booking.com which is already preset to “The Banias Waterfall.” If you prefer a campsite, then consider Horshat Tal (full list of campsites in National Parks).

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Friday: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.

Entrance Fee

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 in May 2019. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.

Trails

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 trails. 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 trail. If you choose it, then you will need two cars, each one at a different parking lot.

Until today, we never made the long trail, and always made the shorter ones.

The trails are:

  1. Yellow – a 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. Banias - yellow trail
  2. Purple – it is also a 45-minute trail to the Agrippa palace back to the Banias Spring parking (POI on the map: 1-8, 21-26). I wrote about this path below. Banias - purple trail
  3. Blue – a 90-minute trail that leads to the Banias waterfall (POI on the map: 1-8, 31-37). That is the only one-way path. Banias - blue trail
  4. Red – it is also a 45-minute trail 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 path is also described below. Banias - red trail

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, Hermon Stream, Or Caesarea Philippi?

Why it has several 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:

Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream
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.

Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official website.

Do not confuse between Caesarea Philippi, this site, and Caesarea National Park. The later was founded by Herod the Great, and it is located on the seashore of the Middeterenian sea.

What Does Banias Mean?

If I sum up the paragraph above, Banias is how Paneas pronounced in Arabic. And Banias springs is called after the temple to the Greek god Pan which once stood there.

Jesus At Banias

Caesarea Philippi became an important Christian pilgrimage destination as the place where Jesus asked the disciples who people said he was.

Let’s at Mark 8:27-29 (New International Version):

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

As you can see, according to the Gospel of Mark, in Caesarea Philippi, AKA Banias, Peter declared that Jesus is the Messiah.

And now let’s look at Matthew 16:16-19 (New International Version):

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.”

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek word for Peter means rock.
b. Matthew 16:18 That is, the realm of the dead
c. Matthew 16:19 Or will have been
d. Matthew 16:19 Or will have been

Source: biblegateway.com

In response, Jesus renamed Simon to Peter. Peter, which is the Greek word for rock, is the rock upon which the church will be built.

Purple Trail At Banias Nature Reserve

The first three trails start at Banias Springs. And we decided to walk along with the purple trail since it looked more interesting than the yellow path.

Remains of the ancient city Caesarea Philippi:Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream

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.

Remains of the temple of Pan:
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream - temple of Pan
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream

The remnants of the temple of Pan with Pan’s Grotto:
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream

Herod Agrippa 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 Agrippa palace (point #23).

Herod Agrippa II was the grand-grandson of Herod the Great.

Herod Agrippa II (AD 27/28 – c. 92 or 100) officially named Marcus Julius Agrippa and sometimes shortened to Agrippa, was the eighth and last ruler from the Herodian dynasty. He was the fifth member of this dynasty to bear the title of king, but he reigned over territories outside of Judea only as a Roman client. Agrippa was overthrown by his Jewish subjects in 66 and supported the Roman side in the First Jewish–Roman War.

Source: Wikipedia

Palace Of Agrippa II Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream

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 Agrippa II.

Inside the palace:
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream
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.
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream
And this is the most famous waterfall in Israel:
Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream
A closer look:
Banias waterfall

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 trail goes through the suspended track, waterfall and returns to the waterfall parking.

We arrived early and were among the first visitors. Probably because of that, we saw rock badgers.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

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 straight for five minutes, you will reach the first viewpoint. On top of the mountain in the center, you can see Nimrod Fortress.
Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

And on this viewpoint, you can select the trail. We choose the suspended path, i.e. the red trail.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

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 a specific health condition than the walk would be a breeze. But, there are stairs, so it is not suitable for baby strollers.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

Banias Suspended Trail

My first reaction was amazement. It was hard to believe we are still in Israel. Last time we made similar trails was in Switzerland.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

Nature, the water, and silence. As I said, hard to believe.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

The suspended trail is not long, and you can pass this part in 5-10 minutes. But, despite its’ shortness, definitely worth a visit.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

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 exit from the suspended trail and on top can see signs pointing to the waterfall.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

Hiking up:
Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

While walking along the stream, we saw small ponds with fish.
Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

Banias Waterfall

After about twenty minute hike we reached the Banias waterfall. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Israel.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

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.

A wider view of the Banias waterfall:Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

And here we are on our way back. On the left is the trail we came from, and on the right, the stairs, lead back to the waterfall parking.Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

Summary

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!

Stay tuned!

If you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel. And if you are looking for ideas on where to visit, then read Israel Trip Planner, National Parks And Nature Reserves, and Events And Festivals By Season
 

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers:

And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.
 

Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at hi@israel-in-photos.com, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Lev Tsimbler

Lev from israel-in-photos.com. You can contact me at hi@israel-in-photos.com

4 thoughts on “Banias Nature Reserve (Hermon Stream, Caesarea Philippi) – Full Guide

  1. I swam in the pool below the falls in 1978, with a number of Israeli soldiers, during a hot august it was a free secluded site then.

    1. 🙂
      Times changed. Today there is a wooden deck with railing and you can’t get too close to the water.

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