Banias has a rich history and magnificent nature. And you can enjoy Banias waterfall, Caesarea Philippi, and many other points of interest using four trails. Let’s begin exploring!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Map
- 2 Trails
- 3 Opening Hours
- 4 Entrance Fee
- 5 Swimming
- 6 Lodging
- 7 Banias Nature Reserve, Hermon Stream, Or Caesarea Philippi?
- 8 What Does Banias Mean?
- 9 Jesus At Banias
- 10 Banias Springs
- 11 Yellow, Purple, and Blue Trails – The Beginning
- 12 Water Powered Flour Mill
- 13 The Yellow Trail
- 14 The Purple Trail
- 15 Banias Waterfall
- 16 Banias Suspended Trail – The Red Trail
- 17 Summary
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Banias Nature Reserve is located at the Golan Heights. It has two entrances, and on the following map, I marked them.
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:
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.
If you are driving to this park, enter its name into the navigation app (wondering which app to use, then 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 nature reserve. 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 buses, a 1.5 km walk along road #99, and more than four hours. Here is a link to Moovit, where the destination is already set. Just enter your starting position, and you will get the updated directions.
In the site plan above, you can see two main areas: Banias Spring (#1 on the chart) and Banias waterfall (#37 on the diagram). Near each area, there is an entrance and a parking lot.
As you can see from the photo of the map, 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, one at each parking lot.
The trails are:
- Yellow – a 45-minute walking trail to the Crusaders city and back to the Banias Spring parking (points of interest on the map: 1-8, 11-17).
Note: I drew the lines with the arrows. I 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 trail to the Agrippa palace back to the Banias Spring parking (points of interest on the map: 1-8, 21-26).
Note: you can combine the yellow and the purple trails. See my suggestion below.
- Blue – a 90-minute trail that leads to the Banias waterfall (points of interest on the map: 1-8, 31-37). That is the only one-way path.
- Red – also a 45-minute trail that starts at the Banias waterfall parking and leads to the waterfall via the Suspended Trail (points of interest on the map: 35-37, 41-43).
Note: the trail marking across this nature reserve is clear, and you do not need any extra maps besides the one you get in the booklet.
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:00 – 17:00 (16:00 during winter).
Friday: 8:00 – 16:00 (15:00 during winter).
On holidays usually 8:00 – 13:00.
Adult – 28 NIS, child – 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 July 2021. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
Entering into the water at Banias Nature Reserve is forbidden. If you want a place where kids can play in the water, check out the nearby Tel Dan Nature Reserve.
There is a variety of options for lodging 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 map from booking.com.
If you prefer camping, consider Horshat Tal (full list of campsites in National Parks).
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:
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 latter 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 is pronounced in Arabic. And Banias springs are 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, also known as 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.”
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
In response, Jesus renamed Simon to Peter. Peter, the Greek word for rock, is the rock upon which the church will be built.
The first three trails start at Banias Springs. So let’s visit this area and then head to the trails.
When you enter the Banias springs area, you will see the springs and the cliffs.
We will follow the trail to points of interest #3 – The Temple of Pan.
At the bottom of the photo above, you can see where the Temple of Pan once stood. And here is a picture of the proposed reconstruction of this site.
When the Greeks arrived at Banias, they were impressed by nature and especially by the cave with the springs. Thus they decided to dedicate this cave to Pan (among others god of nature).
There are signs in this area telling shortly about each building. Here is one of them.
And here is the view of this area from the other side:
Also, while in this area, if you go to the side, towards the greenery, you might spot rock badgers (Rock hyrax).
Yellow, Purple, and Blue Trails – The Beginning
If you follow the water, then not far from the restrooms, you will see the beginning point of the three trails.
Since the Yellow, Purple, and Blue trails have a shared part, we will start with it and then take each trail separately.
The Roman Bridge
We will continue until we reach the Roman bridge (#6 on the map). Near the bridge, you can see the meeting point of Govta and Hermon streams. And during the winter, the water flow here is impressive.
This station (#7 on the map) supplied electricity to the nearby villages till 1967.
Water Powered Flour Mill
The trail continued until we reach the point of interest #8, the Water Powered Flour Mill.
There are three milling wheels in the watermill, and one of them is still operational. And here is a schema describing its operation.
Usually, during weekends, when there are many visitors, you can buy a Druze Pita bread with fillings in a nearby building.
After the watermill, the trails split. If you are short in time, then take the purple trail to the Palace of Agrippa. And if you want to make a longer hike, then take the yellow trail, and towards the end (near point of interest #16), do not exit the one-way gate. Instead, continue the purple trail towards the Palace of Agrippa. This way, you will see both these trails.
And lastly, if you are here for nature, and have a car in each parking lot, take the blue trail.
The Yellow Trail
After the watermill, you will choose the trail. This section will go over the yellow trail and then do the same thing with the purple one.
As you continue along the yellow path, you will pass under the bridge of road #99. You will also see there a demolished bridge. It is the destroyed Syrian bridge (marked as #11 on the map), which was demolished by the Syrians during the Six-day war when they retrieved their forces.
As we continue walking along the Saar stream (we are not far from Saar falls), we will see some stairs and a building. That is the Mamluke Gate (marked as #12 on the map).
These are the most impressive remains of the middle ages. It is a big room, and its height is seven meters. The thickness of its walls is about two meters, and it has two openings. One leads inside the fortress and the other outside. There was a bridge above Saar stream, but it was destroyed during the 19th century.
The trail continues along the Crusader city wall (#14), and it will lead you through the dry moat (#15).
Soon you will reach the Corner Tower (marked as #16 on the map).
In the northern corner of Crusader city, you can see the remains of a Syrian house built on top of the corner house. And on the following sign, you can see that this structure has parts of five different periods.
From the Corner Tower, you can either follow the yellow trail and return to Banias springs or take the purple path back to the Palace of Agrippa.
The Purple Trail
If you choose the purple trail after the water-powered flour mill, then you will soon reach the Palace of Agrippa (marked as #24).
Who was Herod Agrippa II?
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.
Palace Of Agrippa II
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.
Source: official site
If you take a closer look at the photo above, you can see Nimrod Fortress on top of the right mountain.
And here is how it probably looked like:
Inside the Palace Of Agrippa II, you can find the remains of an old Synagogue.
The purple trail will lead you back to the Banias springs, and just as you pass the entry gate, you will see excavation area B to your left.
In excavation area B (marked as #17), you can see the remains of a Byzantine church.
And this is how it looked with the “Miracle of the Bleeding Woman” relief.
And now, let’s drive 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 either hike the red trail or go straight down to the waterfall. If you go directly to the waterfall, then it will take approximately 20 minutes to reach it.
Banias Suspended Trail – The Red Trail
The suspended trail was constructed recently. And if you have not visited Banias for more than five years, then you probably have not been there yet. It is about an hour-long trail starting at 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.
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.
And on this viewpoint, you can select the trail. We choose the suspended path.
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, then the walk would be a breeze. But, this part has stairs, so it is not suitable for baby strollers.
My first reaction was amazement. It was hard to believe we are still in Israel. Last time we saw similar views, was in Switzerland.
Nature, the water, and silence. As I said, hard to believe.
The suspended trail is not long, and you can pass this part in 5-10 minutes. But, despite its’ shortness, definitely worth a visit.
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.
At the exit from the suspended trail and on the top of the photo, you can see signs pointing to the waterfall.
While walking along the stream, we saw small ponds with fish.
After about an extra twenty-minute hike, we reached the Banias waterfall. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in 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:
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.
Note: if you love waterfalls, then check out the nearby Saar Falls.
Banias – Hermon Stream Nature Reserve is among the most beloved nature reserves 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 all 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!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.