Rosh HaNikra – Complete Guide to Stunning Seaside Grottoes

Rosh HaNikra is a geologic formation near the border with Lebanon. Sea activity on white chalk rock formed the grottoes.

Rosh Hanikra

Rosh Hanikra

Map

Rosh HaNikra is located north of Nahariya, north of Achziv National Park, and next to Lebanon’s border. Rosh HaNikra Grottoes is a white chalk cliff face that opens up into spectacular grottoes. The nearby Achziv National Park has one of the most beautiful beaches in Israel. And I am mentioning both nearby attractions since you can combine them into a half-day visit. Also, the Rosh HaNikra village is nearby.

Directions for drivers: Link to Waze and Link to Google Maps
Directions for public transport: Link to Moovit

Interactive map of the area:

Offers:

  • Hotels, hostels, and appartments in this area:
Booking.com

Directions

If you are reaching by car, drive along road #4 to the north. You will drive along the sea till you get to the end. You should see signs directing you to the grottoes as you approach closer.

Reaching by public transport is less convenient but also doable. First, you need to get to Nahariya. You can do this using buses or trains, depending on your location. Then, from Nahariya, you can take a taxi or bus #31. Here are the directions from Tel Aviv to Rosh HaNikra Grottoes using Moovit. You can also update Moovit with your starting point and get the revised instructions.

Parking

There are free parking spaces next to Rosh HaNikra Grottoes. But if you arrive later in the day (for example, after 11 am on a Saturday), there might be no free spaces at the parking lot. You can still park along the leading road, but that will add up to extra walking.

Rosh HaNikra Parking
Rosh HaNikra Parking

Note: As seen in the photo above, restrooms are in the far left corner of the parking lot.

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday: 09:00-18:00 (till 16:00 in the winter)
Friday: 09:00-16:00
Saturday: 09:00-17:00

Entrance Fee

Adult (18+) – 49 NIS.
Child (3 – 18) and pensioner – 39 NIS.
Babies and toddlers (0 – 3) – free.
Audio guide rental – 14 NIS.

There are several types of combined tickets. The first type offers a visit to Rosh HaNikra Grottoes and a bicycle or a golf car drive along the beach. It costs 77 NIS per adult and 69 NIS per child. The second combo ticket offers a combined ticket to Rosh HaNikra Grottoes and various attractions in Old Acre. If you want to visit the Templars Tunnel, Hospitaller Fortress (Knights Halls), Hamam al-Basha, and Treasures In The Walls Museum, it will cost 80 NIS per person.

Note: the combo tickets and the prices change from time to time. Thus check the official site before visiting.

Coupons

If you purchase tickets at the official site, there will be a small discount (43 NIS per adult and 35 NIS per child). And here are additional coupons I found online:

  • 1+1 at MAX (in exchange for a treat)
  • cpnclub.co.il – 44 NIS per adult and 36 NIS per child. It is higher than the prices on the official site.
  • Members of teachers association – 30 NIS per adult and 33 NIS per child.

Notes:

  • Rosh HaNikra is not part of the Israeli National Parks Authority. Thus a Matmon card will not provide any discounts.
  • Opening hours and ticket prices were updated in July 2022. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.

Tours

I just wanted to mention that Rosh HaNikra is a popular touristic site, and many firms offer tours. Usually, these tours include several nearby attractions, and this site is one of them. For example, Old Acre and Rosh HaNikra. If you are short on time or love traveling with tours, consider joining.

What does Rosh HaNikra mean?

In Hebrew, Rosh HaNikra means “the head of the grottoes,” in other words: the best Grottoes.

Entrances

There are two entrances to the site – the main, the upper, and the lower, next to the beach.

We came to the upper entrance. At the top entry, you can find a large parking lot. But since Rosh HaNikra grottoes is a popular site, the parking may be full if you come later in the day.

Here is the view to the south of the beach, Nehariya, and Haifa:

Rosh HaNikra Lookout
Rosh HaNikra Lookout
Panorama from Rosh HaNikra Lookout
Panorama from Rosh HaNikra Lookout
Fishermen
Fishermen

People usually associate crystal clear water with Greece, but some beaches in Israel look very similar to Greece. Achziv Beach and nearby ones are among Israel’s favorite and highest-ranking beaches.

Cable Car

Cable Car at Rosh HaNikra Grottoes
Cable Car

Reaching the caves from the top entry is done by cable car. They say it is the steepest cable car in the world (gradient of 60 degrees). But, it is probably also one of the shortest ones. The ride takes about two minutes.

Also, since it is tiny (as far as I remember, the max capacity is eight people), I recommend getting to Rosh HaNikrah either early or late. Otherwise, you may get stuck in the queue for the cable car.

As you get off the cable car, you will see the following sign:

Sign
Sign

I suggest starting with the audiovisual presentation. To reach it, you turn left and go till the end.

Audiovisual Presentation at Rosh HaNikra Grottoes

After getting off the cable car, I recommend starting with the movie about this place. There is a screening every 15 minutes. And there are displays in different languages.

Audiovisual Presentation at Rosh HaNikra Grottoes
Audiovisual Presentation at Rosh HaNikra Grottoes

The film tells the history of this place and the geological history of the Grottoes. Plus, the story of the British Cairo – Istanbul railway.

History

The Book of Joshua mentions “Misraphot Mayim” as a place south of Rosh HaNikra that was the border of the Israelite tribes of the time. In the First Book of the Maccabees, it is referred to as the place that Shimon HaHashmonai was responsible for in 144BCE (1 Maccabees 11:59). Josephus Flavius also describes Rosh Hanikra as the northern border of the city of Acre, Israel. (The Jewish War 2, 10, 2). The archaeological tell is today situated within the kibbutz.

In the Jewish apocryphal First Book of Maccabees (1 Macc 11:59), a cape in this region is referred to as “The Ladder of Tyre.” The author could have meant either the cliffs at Rosh HaNikra or one of two other capes jutting out into the sea slightly north or south of them. The site was later named an-Nawakir (“The Grottoes”) by the Arabs.

Cairo-Istanbul Train

The Bridge and the Railway Tunnel at Rosh Hanikra
The Bridge and the Railway Tunnel at Rosh Hanikra

Rosh HaNikra has served as a passage point for trade caravans and armies between Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Africa. During the Second World War, South African forces blasted railway tunnels through the nearby rocks for trains running along the Cairo-Istanbul line. The Haganah spared the railway bridge at Rosh HaNikra during the 1946 Night of the Bridges operation. But following a late-1947 British announcement that it would withdraw from Palestine months ahead of schedule, the bridge was destroyed by the 21st Battalion under the Palmach in late February 1948 to hinder Lebanese arms shipments to Arab forces opposing the UN Partition Plan. As repairs were prohibitively expensive, the tunnels were later wholly sealed. The Lebanese railways have been dismantled mainly while the Coastal Railway in Israel currently ends near Nahariya, several kilometers to the south.

Rosh Hanikra was the location where Israeli and Lebanese officials negotiated and concluded an armistice agreement in 1949, which ended the Lebanese-Israeli component of the 1948 War of Israeli Independence. A border passage across the Blue Line into Lebanon at the site is sometimes used by UNIFIL personnel.

Source: Wikipedia

Haifa - Beirut - Tripoli line in 1945
Haifa – Beirut – Tripoli line in 1945

The Grottoes

Our next stop will be the grottoes.

Entrance to the Grottoes
Entrance to the Grottoes

Keep in mind that the stones might be wet and slippery. Thus walk cautiously and use rails when needed.

Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
Rosh Hanikra Grottoes

The Big Grotto

When stormy, huge waves enter the grotto, pounding and powerful. They close off the opening, compressing the air within and causing momentary darkness… until the powerful breaking wave rocks the cliff foundation and partly floods the path before you. Grotto height – 16 meters. At its top live fruit bats, feeding off fragrant ripe fruit growing here. The bats live in colonies, enjoying a life expectancy of about twenty years. The fruit bat has good intact vision, and unlike widely believed, it doesn’t become entangled in people’s hair. On quiet days you can hear the bats screaming and chirping.

Source: sign

The Big Grotto
The Big Grotto
Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
The Passage in Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
The Passage in Rosh Hanikra Grottoes

The path in the caves is not very long. It took us about fifteen minutes (including taking photos) till we reached the pigeon bridge (the end of the underground route).

Pigeon Bridge – Lucky Bridge?

In the giant rock cleft above us, the rock pigeon makes its nest. The place provides a refuge from the weather, allowing it to nest in peace. Watch out for the pigeon’s droppings, but know this… It brings good luck!! From the observatory overlooking the sea, you can see the flat coarse sand rocks – the work of the sea waves and winds constantly polishing the rock surface smooth.

Source: sign

Panorama from Pigeon Bridge
Panorama from Pigeon Bridge

The Elephant’s Leg

Here is another scene of the white cliffs and the beach. If you take a closer look at the other ridge, you might think it resembles an elephant due to the right part that looks like a trunk or a leg. Thus, some people refer to this stone under the name: elephant’s leg.

The Elephant's Leg
The Elephant’s Leg

The never-ending encounter of sea and mountain created a natural stone sculpture shaped like an elephant leg. This is the edge of the cliff at the only point in Israel where the mountain descends into the sea without a sandy seashore. Glancing south, you can see the three islands. “Pale Blue” – mostly covered by water, “Seagull,” and “Wagtail.”

The islands have been declared a nature reserve, as birds nest there. Silver seagulls, sea terns, white wagtails. The islands are the peaks of the western coarse sand ridge of Galilee’s coastal plain. When visibility is good, you can even see Haifa and the Carmel. Looking north, you can see the border buoys marking the Israel-Lebanon border and the Israeli Navy vessels, permanently moored here and protecting the northern coastline.

Source: sign

The caves are beautiful, but the trail is not that long. The Grottoes loop path takes around half an hour at a slow pace.

Driving Electric Golf Car at Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve

You can use the lower entry/exit (which can be reached through the former railway tunnel) to explore Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve.

Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve
Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve

On one of our visits, we purchased a combined ticket. The ticket included an entrance to Rosh HaNikra and an electric car ride along the beach at Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve.

The ride on the electric car was limited by time. We got the car for a half-hour. The beach is not that long, and I think the part closer to Rosh HaNikra is the lovelier one. Thus, due to the short time and no real reason to go further away, I recommend not purchasing the combined tickets that include the electric car or bicycle rental. We enjoyed the walk along the beach (after returning the electric car) more than the ride in the car.

Rock hyrax

Another pleasant surprise at Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve was hyraxes.

Since we saw food remains on the rocks, we guessed somebody was feeding them. And there were dozens of rock hyraxes close to the lower entrance.

The water is crystal clear, and the rock formations are outstanding:

Rosh HaNikra

Views from the beach towards Rosh HaNikra with the “elephant’s leg”:

The Elephant's Leg
The Elephant’s Leg

We ended our beach stroll, headed through the lower entrance, and back to the cable car. Also, when exiting Rosh HaNikra to the beach, ensure a staff member is putting a stamp on your hand. This way, you could reenter the site.

The Cable Car
The Cable Car

Kayaking at Rosh HaNikra

Different private firms offer Rosh HaNikra kayaking and sailing. Due to the closeness to the Lebanon border, such sails must be coordinated with the Israeli Navy. Thus you can not kayak there by yourself.

I have not attended this activity yet, so I can not share my experience. However, if you are interested, here are several links to kayaking firms:

Rosh HaNikra Islands

Rosh HaNikra Islands are a group of four small islands in Achziv Nature Reserve. And due to their rich ecosystem, they cannot be visited.

The Rosh Hanikra Islands are part of an ancient coastline submerged by the sea. Only their peaks, a series of wind-blasted, perforated rocks – the largest of which is not much larger than the size of two tennis courts – are currently above sea level.

Nonetheless, they are home to a surprisingly rich eco-system, and as such are protected by the authorities.

Source: jpost.com

The Rosh HaNikra Islands are a group of three Israeli islands in the Mediterranean Sea, named Shahaf, Nahalieli, and T’chelet. The islands are located approximately 800 meters offshore, near Rosh HaNikra. These islands are a single geological unit with the Achziv Islands that are further south. The depth of the seawater around them is approximately between 7 and 9 meters. The Rosh HaNikra Islands are characterized by many natural pools that provide a natural habitat for various life forms.

The Rosh HaNikra Islands are a part of a natural reserve, and boarding these islands is prohibited. These islands are the only place in Israel where certain rare birds nest: the White wagtail, The European herring gull, and the Common tern. The waters surrounding these islands contain a wide variety of marine life.

In ancient days, these islands had a certain economic and commercial significance as they were a natural habitat for the sea snail from which Tyrian purple dye was produced.

Source: Wikipedia

And now, let’s revisit the beach during the golden hour.

Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve

In this section, I will show several photos from my visit to the beach for a sunset shoot. The rock formations and the crystal blue water were the main reasons for returning.

Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve has an open beach (the one near the lower entrance), and you can enter at any hour. But, since I mentioned it, here is some basic info:

Achziv National Park

Akhziv Beach National Park, located about five kilometers north of Nahariya, features a rocky shoreline, inlets, and lagoons, and a natural and an artificial sea-water pool–a deep one as well as a shallow one suitable for children. There are also broad lawns and antiquities. In short, everything you need to enjoy hours of Israeli sunshine.

Akhziv is unique for the sea anemones, sea urchins, and small octopi that can often be seen hiding among the rocks. And in July and August, the sea turtles that lay eggs on the beach. Small islands, where seagulls nest in summer, are nature reserves in their own right, remnants of once-landlocked calcareous limestone (kurkar) ridges. Remains can also be seen of the ancient settlement of Akhziv, mentioned in the Bible as a city of the tribe of Asher, and an essential Jewish town in Talmudic times. A mainstay of Akhziv’s ancient economy was the production of purple dye from particular snails collected on the beach.

In Crusader times Akhziv was called Castel Humbert, ruins of which can still be seen. In 1271 it was conquered by the Mamluk Sultan Baibars. Most of the remains you see today are from the abandoned Arab village of Az-Ziv.

Source: Israel Nature and Parks Authority

I have a dedicated post to this national park. And you can find additional information at Achziv National Park.

Photos of the Beach at Sunset

Last Friday, I was there during the golden hour, and today I will show you several of my photos.

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel
Sunset on Achziv Beach

View towards Rosh HaNikra:

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

As you can see, I was at the beach close to Rosh HaNikra. And I loved these small ponds of water:

Small Ponds near the Beach
Small Ponds near the Beach
View to the south
View to the south

You can see military ships patrolling. That is because it is very close to the Lebanon border.

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

These small ponds or lagoons are gorgeous. And since they are directly connected to the sea, you can see small fish and small lobsters if you stand there for a while. At least, that is what I saw.

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel
Elephant's leg at Rosh HaNikra
Elephant’s leg at Rosh HaNikra

There were several anglers on the beach. The one close to me had two fishing rods. When I took this photo, the fisherman was at the other fishing rod:

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

Some rocks are covered with greenery, and they are very slippery.

Another look at Rosh HaNikra:

View of Rosh Hanikra from Achziv Beach, Israel
View of Rosh Hanikra from Achziv Beach

Just after the sun sets is my favorite shooting time. The skies become more vibrant and exciting, and I start getting longer exposures, which means smoother water.

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

The fisherman decided to pose for me a little 🙂

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel
Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

To portray the feeling: the photo above is a 15-second exposure, and during those 15 seconds, the fisherman barely moved. So I guess he also thought that it was a beautiful sunset.

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

Though the photos look pretty bright (due to the long exposures), it was already very dark, and I could not move without a flashlight.

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel
View of Rosh Hanikra from Achziv Beach, Israel

Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve is quite far away from the big cities, and there is not a lot of light pollution (besides Haifa on the far left). Thus, you can see many stars:

Sunset on Achziv Beach, Israel

And this is a combo of two photos. One just as the sun reached the horizon, and another well after the sunset (you can even notice some stars). It is my latest addition to the Day To Night.

Summary

Rosh HaNikra is a gorgeous place, and we have enjoyed all our visits. The site is not vast, and two hours will probably be more than enough for exploring the grottoes and the lookout.

Because there are no limitations to the number of people that can visit this site at any point in time, during rush hours, you will spend a lot of time waiting (for the cable car, presentation, parking, and so on). Thus, I would advise coming early. The second best option is to visit later in the afternoon. And skip the golf car and bicycles.

Since it is a relatively short attraction, you can combine it with other places in this area – for example, the beautiful nearby Achziv National Park or Keshet Cave. You can use the interactive map at the top of this post to find nearby attractions.

Have you ever visited Rosh HaNikra Grottoes? How was your experience? Tell us in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I will 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? Leave a comment below, 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

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