This Saturday we decided to visit Gamla Nature Reserve (official site). It is located in the central Golan Heights, and despite its distance from any major cities, it’s a popular site. I guess this is because Gamla can fit the interests of many people. Gamla Nature Reserve is a combination of nature, landscape, and historical remains.

Map of the area:

On the Road

When you drive to Golan Heights, most chances you’ll pass near the Sea of Galilee (AKA Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias). This was a foggy morning, so I got several photos with mist:
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If you interested in additional information about the Sea of Galilee, you can check out Tourist attractions in the Kinneret area post.

Gamla Nature Reserve

Map of the Nature Reserve:
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As you can see there are four routes:

  1. The Vulture trail – Gamla lookout point, vulture observatory, and Deir Qeruh – this is a short (600 m) round trail suitable for wheelchairs.
  2. The ancient trail to Gamla – approximately 1 km each way, but since it’s a steep path it can take about 2 hours.
  3. The Dolmen trail leading to Gamla falls – 1.5 km (approximately 1.5 hours) and it is not difficult walking.
  4. The Daliyot falls trail – 3.5 km (approximately 4 hours).

We were there for a half day and completed the first three trails.

Let’s get started. And we started with The Ancient Trail to Gamla (since I’ve been on the site previously but didn’t walk this trail).

December in Israel:
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The Ancient Trail to Gamla

Approaching Gamla lookout:
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As you can see, the routes are marked well and there is no need for trails map. The map you will receive at the entrance will be enough (no need for a map of this area).

Vulture Lookout

I’ve decided to make a short detour and visit vulture lookout:
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As you can see, there are photographers on guard 😉

Gamla Nature Reserve is home to Israeli’s largest nesting colony of raptors. Over 40 pairs of Griffon vultures nest in Gamla stream cliffs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to photograph them at this visit 🙁 We saw a couple of them while we were at ancient Gamla, but it was too far away.

Olive press dating the Byzantine period next to the lookout:
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Gamla Lookout

From there we continued to Gamla lookout:
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You can see a catapult model pointing at the city. Similar catapults were used by Romans who besieged the city.

View of ancient Gamla:
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The hill of Gamla resembles a camel’s hump (camel riding anybody?), hence the name (“gamal” means camel in Hebrew).

A closer view of the Synagogue and Rounded tower:
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Starting the decline:
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The path:
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Halfway:
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Rock formation reminds Hexagon (Meshushim) pool route, which is by the way not far away:
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The City Gamla

Gamla is described in Talmud as a walled city dating from the time of Joshua (Bronze age). It is assumed the Talmud depicts it this way because a fortified settlement, later destroyed, existed here during early Bronze Age. The ruined city was resettled during the Hellenistic period (mid-second century BCE).

According to Josephus, the city was built on a slope of a very steep hill surrounded by cliffs. It could only be reached from one side and only by one trail, same as today.

Such location was very good from the defense perspective. It was good till catapults were invented. And here you can see a model of a catapult that was used by Romans pointing toward city entrance.
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Gamla joined the revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. Just before the uprising, the inhabitants, led by Josephus, who commanded the rebellion in the Galilee, fortified city walls.

Vespasian at the head of three Roman legions and reinforcements besieged the city. After a month, the Romans the walls for the first time.

The breach in the wall:
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However, the Jewish defenders succeeded in turning the outcome and by killing most of the Roman soldiers. A few days later, during the second attempt to breach the walls, Romans were able to overwhelm the defenders. This victory cost 9,000 Jews – inhabitants of the city and surrounding villages.
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On the left of the breach, you’ll see the entrance to the city. When you enter you’ll see remains of a neighborhood:
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While we were there we saw a pack of cranes. Winter is their migration time. If you want to read more about cranes check out Agamon Hula post.
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Dwelling:
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This is the breach in the wall from the inner side:
גמלא - GamlaIf you look closely you’ll see two walls. This wall has undergone thickening.

Inside the dwelling you can see perpendicular stones which indicate the second floor:
גמלא - GamlaSince the floor was made from wood it hasn’t survived.

We continued the route and after a couple of minutes you reach the Mikveh:
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Ancient Synagogue

And next to it the ancient synagogue:
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The synagogue was built on the edge of the city during early first century CE. And it is one of the oldest temples ever discovered in Israel.

Many catapult arrowheads were found inside the synagogue, testifying the fact that the battle had taken place there as well.

The trails towards the synagogue:
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At the top:
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The round tower and view of the lookout:
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The round tower was built before the city walls. It was built without foundations and collapsed during the Roman attack.

From there we’re heading back towards the lookout. And here is another look at the synagogue:
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After the Romans destroyed Gamla in 67 CE, it was never rebuilt. It was forgotten for 1,900 years till 1968. In that year Gamla was rediscovered Yitzhaki Gal (Nature Reserves Authority).

The trail back to lookout:
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And here we returned to the lookout:
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The Dolmen Trail

Since it still was early we decided to go to The Dolmen trail.
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Dolmens are 4,000 years old structures consisting of stone slabs laid over two upright slabs. About 700 dolmens were found around Gamla. Dolmens were burial edifices from Nomadic tribes that roamed Golan Heights during Bronze Age.

Dolmen in ancient Breton means: stone table.
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From there we continue the trail towards Gamla waterfall.
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You’ll pass a bridge at the top of the waterfall. But since there is a lot of greenery, you won’t be able to see the waterfall. To see it, you need to continue the trail towards watchpoint.

But, before continuing, just after the bridge if you’ll stop and look west you’ll see ancient Gamla in the distance:
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We’ve reached the waterfall lookout, and I didn’t know this is the highest waterfall in Israel, 51 m.
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The waterfall with people at the top and the wooden bridge:
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View of Gamla cliffs, the place where most raptors nest. Thus, going beyond this point is forbidden.
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And from this point, we returned to the parking.

Summary

As I mentioned in the beginning, Gamla Nature Reserve is a quite popular site. If you love wildlife, then The Vulture trail is for you. The ancient trail to Gamla suites archeology lovers. And The Dolmen trail and The Daliyot falls trail are for nature enthusiasts.

As you can see, many people will find what they love in Gamla, and so we did. We enjoyed our visit and will return to The Daliyot falls trail in the future.

 

Have you ever been to Gamla Nature Reserve? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

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

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4 thoughts on “Gamla Nature Reserve”

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