Rosh HaNikra is a geologic formation in northern Israel. Sea activity on the white chalk rock formed them. Let’s begin exploring!
Rosh HaNikra is located north to Nahariya, north to Achziv National Park, and next to the border with Lebanon. 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, there is the Rosh HaNikra village nearby.
Map of the area:
If you are reaching by car, then drive along with road #4 in the north direction. You will drive along the sea till you get to the road end. As you will approach closer, you should see signs directing to the grottoes.
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 either 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 updated instructions.
There are free parking spaces next to Rosh HaNikra Grottoes. But if you arrive later in the day (after 11 am), the parking lot at Rosh HaNikra Grottoes might be full. You can still park along the road, but that will add up extra walking.
Sunday – Thursday: 10:00-18:00
Adult (18+) – 48 NIS.
Child (3 – 18) and pensioner – 38 NIS.
Babies and toddlers (0 – 3) – free.
Renting an audio guide – 10 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 (this is the one we took during our recent visit). And it costs 77 NIS per person. 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, Knight-Halls, and Okashi Museum in Old Acre then it will cost 82 NIS for adults and 70 NIS for children. And in case you want to add the Turkish bath in the Old City of Acre, then it will cost 99 NIS for adults and 85 NIS for children.
A quick search shows that there are many coupons online. Several credit companies offer cheap tickets. You can also find discounts at htzone.co.il and cpnclub.co.il. And the discounts range from 12% to 50%.
- 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 September 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
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 in time or love traveling with tours, then consider joining.
What does Rosh HaNikra mean?
In Hebrew, Rosh HaNikra means “the head of the grottoes,” i.e., the best Grottoes.
There are two entrances to the site – the main – the upper one and the lower one that is next to the beach.
We came to the upper entrance. At the top entry, you can find big parking. 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:
People usually associate crystal clear water with Greece, but some beaches in Israel look very similar to the ones in Greece. Achziv Beach and nearby ones are among the favorite and higher ranked beaches in Israel.
Reaching the caves from the top entry is done by the 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 quite small (AFAIR the max capacity is eight people), I would recommend getting to Rosh HaNikrah either early or late. Otherwise, you may get stuck in the queue to the cable car.
Audiovisual Presentation At Rosh HaNikra Grottoes
After getting off the cable car, I would recommend starting with the movie about this place. There is a screening every 15 minutes. And there are displays in different languages.
The film tells the history of this place and the geological history of the Grottoes. Plus the story of British Cairo – Istanbul railway.
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.
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.
Then we went into the Grottoes:
Panorama of the cliffs:
Here is another scene of the white cliffs and the beach. If you take a closer look at the further cliff, then you might think that 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 caves are beautiful, but the trail is not that long. The round trip takes half an hour to an hour at a slow pace.
Driving Electric Golf Car Along Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve
Later using the lower entry/exit, that can be reached through the former railway tunnel, we went to explore Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve.
We did this because we bought a combined ticket. The ticket included 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 in my opinion, the part that is closer to Rosh HaNikra is the lovelier one. Thus, due to the short amount of time and no real reason to go further away, I would recommend not to buy 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.
Another pleasant surprise at Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve were rock badgers.
Since we saw remains of food on the rocks, we guessed that somebody is feeding them. And there were dozens of rock badgers close to the lower entrance.
The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), also called rock badger, rock rabbit, and Cape hyrax is commonly referred to in South African English as the dassie. It is one of the four living species of the order Hyracoidea and the only living species in the genus Procavia. Like all hyraxes, it is a medium-sized terrestrial mammal between 4 kilograms (9 lb) and 5 kilograms (11 lb) in mass, with short ears and tail.
The rock hyrax is found across the entire continent of Africa and the Middle East, at elevations up to 4,200 meters (13,800 ft). It resides in habitats with rock crevices which it uses to escape from predators. It is the only extant terrestrial afrotherian in the Middle East. Hyraxes typically live in groups of 10–80 animals and forage as a group. They have been reported to use sentries: one or more animals take up a position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators.
The rock hyrax has incomplete thermoregulation and is most active in the morning and evening, although its activity pattern varies substantially with season and climate.
Over most of its range, the rock hyrax is not endangered, and in some areas is considered a minor pest. In Ethiopia, Israel and Jordan, it is a reservoir of the leishmaniasis parasite.
Along with other hyrax species and the manatee, this species is the most closely related to the elephant.
The water is crystal clear, and the rock formations are outstanding:
Views from the beach towards Rosh HaNikra with the “elephant’s leg”:
We ended our beach stroll and headed through the lower entrance and back to the cable car. Also, when exiting Rosh HaNikra to the beach, make sure a staff member is putting a stamp on your hand. This way you could reenter the site.
Kayaking At Rosh HaNikra
Different private firms offer Rosh HaNikra kayaking and sailing. Due to the closeness to the Lebanon border, such sails have to 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, which are part of Achziv Nature Reserve. And due to their rich eco-system, 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.
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.
And now let’s skip forward in time and revisit the beach during the golden hour.
Rosh Hanikra Sea Reserve
About two years after the described Rosh HaNikra visit, I decided to return to the beach for a sunset shoot. The rock formations and the crystal blue water were the main reasons for coming back.
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:
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.
During Golden Hour
Last Friday I was there during the golden hour, and today I will show you several of my photos.
One of my first photos, at the beach during sunset:
View towards Rosh HaNikra:
As you can see I was at the part of the beach that is quite close to Rosh HaNikra. And I loved these small ponds of water:
View to the south:
You can see military ship patrolling. That is because it is very close to the Lebanon border.
These small ponds or lagoons are gorgeous. And since they are directly connected to the sea, if you stand there for a while, you will be able to see small fish and small lobsters. At least that’s what I saw.
Rosh HaNikra’s Elephant’s leg:
There were several fishermen on the beach. The one close to me had two fishing rods. When I took this photo he was at the other fishing rod:
Some rocks are covered with greenery, and they are very slippery.
Another look at Rosh HaNikra:
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.
The fisherman decided to pose for me a little 🙂
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.
Though the photos look quite bright (due to the long exposures) in reality it was already very dark, and I could not move without a flashlight.
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:
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” series.
Rosh HaNikra Grottoes is a gorgeous place, and we enjoyed all our visits to this day. The site is not vast, and two hours will be probably more than enough for exploring.
Moreover, though 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 visiting 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. Whether it is the beautiful nearby Achziv National Park, Keshet Cave, or something else. Explore the map at the top of this post to find out more.
Have you ever visited Rosh HaNikra Grottoes? How was your experience? Tell us in the comments below.
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.