Banias – Hermon Stream Nature Reserve – Full Guide


Banias Nature Reserve (Hermon Stream)

Hermon Stream (Banias, Caesarea Philippi) has a rich history and beautiful nature. And you can enjoy it using four trails. Let’s begin!

Map

Banias Nature Reserve is located at the Golan Heights. It has two entrances and on the following map I marked them.

Note: if you are looking for a map of the nature reserve, then see the Site Plan section below.

Directions

If you are driving to this park, then enter its name into the navigation app (if you are 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 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 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.

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 - Hermon Stream Nature Reserve
Map of Banias – Hermon Stream Nature Reserve

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 camp, then consider Horshat Tal (full list of campsites in National Parks).

Opening Hours

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.

Entrance Fee

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 August 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.

Swimming

Entering into the water at Banias Nature Reserve is forbidden. If you want a place where kids can play in the water, then check out the nearby Tel Dan Nature Reserve.

Trails

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 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, one at each parking lot.

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. I hope this will make it clearer. And if you want to see the full map, check the photo above.
    Banias Nature Reserve - 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).
    Note: you can combine the yellow and the purple trails. See my suggestion below.
    Banias Nature Reserve - 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 Nature Reserve - 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).
    Banias Nature Reserve - Red Trail

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.

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 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, 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.

Banias Springs

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.

Banias Springs
Banias Springs

We will follow the trail to POI #3 – The Temple of Pan.

The Cave of the Temple of Pan
The Cave of the Temple of Pan

At the bottom of the photo above, you can see the place where the Temple of Pan once stood. And here is a picture of the proposed reconstruction of this site.

Sanctuary of Pan
Sanctuary of Pan

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).

View across Banias Springs area
View across Banias Springs area
The Court of Pan & The Nypmphs
The Court of Pan & The Nypmphs

There are signs in this area telling shortly about each building. Here is one of them.

The Court of Pan & The Nypmphs
The Court of Pan & The Nypmphs

And here is view of this area from the other side:

Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream

Also, while in this area, if you go to the side, towards the greenery, you might spot rock badgers (Rock hyrax).

Rock badger
Rock badger

The Beginning of Yellow, Purple, and Blue Trails

If you follow the water, then not far from the restrooms you will see the beginning point of the three trails.

Banias Trails
Banias 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.

The Roman Bridge
The Roman Bridge

Hydroelectric Station

This station (#7 on the map) supplied electricity to the nearby villages till 1967.

Hydroelectric Station
Hydroelectric Station
The trail at Banias Nature Reserve
The trail at Banias Nature Reserve

Water Powered Flour Mill

The trail continued until we reach POI #8, the Water Powered Flour Mill.

Approaching Water Powered Flour Mill
Approaching Water Powered Flour Mill
Inside Water Powered Flour Mill
Inside 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.

Water Powered Flour Mill

Usually, during weekends, when there are a lot of visitors, in a nearby building, you can buy a Druze Pita bread with fillings.

Druze Pita bread in the making
Druze Pita bread in the making

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 POI #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, then take the blue trail.

Trails sign at Banias Nature Reserve
Trails sign

The Yellow Trail

After the watermill, you will choose the trail. In this section, we 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.

Mamluke Gate

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).

Mamluke Gate
Mamluke Gate

This is 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.

Mamluke Gate
Mamluke Gate

The trail continues along the Crusader city wall (#14), and it will lead you through the dry moat (#15).

Crusader city wall
Crusader city wall

Corner Tower

Soon you will reach the Corner Tower (marked as #16 on the map).

The Corner Tower at Banias
The Corner Tower at Banias

In the northern corner of the Crusader city, you can see the remains of a Syrian house that was built on top of the corner house. And on the following sign, you can see that this structure has parts of five different periods.

Banias Nature Reserve

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.

Source: Wikipedia

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

Palace Of Agrippa II panorama
Palace Of Agrippa panorama
Palace Of Agrippa II from viewpoint (#23)
Palace Of Agrippa II from viewpoint (#23)

If you take a closer look at the photo above, then you can see Nimrod Fortress on top of the right mountain.

And here is how it probably looked like:

Palace Of Agrippa II
Palace Of Agrippa II

Inside Palace Of Agrippa II you can find remains of an old Synagogue.

Banias Nature Reserve - Hermon Stream
Synagogue in Palace Of Agrippa II

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.

Byzantine Church

In the excavation area B (marked as #17), you can see remains of a Byzantine church.

excavation area B
Excavation area B

And this how it looked with the “Miracle of the Bleeding Woman” relief.

Byzantine Church
Byzantine Church

Banias Waterfall

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 do either 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 Waterfall
Banias Waterfall
Near Banias Waterfall
Near Banias Waterfall

The Red Trail – Banias Suspended Trail And Waterfall

The suspended trail was constructed recently. And if you have not visited Banias for more then five years, then you probably have not been there yes. 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.

Rock badger
Rock badger

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
Viewpoint

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 red trail at Banias
The red trail

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.

Banias Suspended Trail

Banias Suspended Trail
Banias Suspended Trail

My first reaction was amazement. It was hard to believe we are still in Israel. Last time we similar similar views, was in Switzerland.

Banias Suspended Trail
Banias Suspended Trail

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.

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 the top of the photo, you can see signs pointing to the waterfall.

Banias Suspended Trail
Banias Suspended Trail
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

The Waterfall

After about extra twenty minute hike, we reached the Banias waterfall. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Israel.

Banias waterfall
Banias waterfall

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:

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.

Visiting Banias Nature Reserve in Northern Israel

Summary

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!

Stay tuned!

   

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 [email protected], and I will do my best to answer your questions.

11 thoughts on “Banias – Hermon Stream Nature Reserve – 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.

      1. a little below the waterfall ends the territory of the reserve, which is actually only a small section of Banias, there is still a Syrian tank that fell into the gorge, and there is completely free entrance and swimming. This is my favorite site, it goes from Kibbutz Snir to Shear Ishuv. the trail has markings, red and white stripes and black and white, very beautiful and a lot of greenery.

  2. Pingback: Las puertas del Hades no prevalecerán contra la iglesia – Llegó el tiempo de DIOS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Content