Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve (Soreq cave, Avshalom cave) is a spectacular cave not far from Beit Shemesh.
Table of Contents
- 1 Map
- 2 Opening Hours
- 3 Entrance Fee
- 4 Coupons
- 5 Guided Tours
- 6 Rules of Conduct
- 7 The Discovery of the Stalactite Cave
- 8 Inside Stalactite Cave
- 9 Why is it Named Avshalom Cave?
- 10 Lighting in the Cave
- 11 What is Stalactite?
- 12 What is the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?
- 13 What is it called when a stalagmite and stalactite meet?
- 14 How fast do stalactites and stalagmites grow?
- 15 Summary
Stalactite Cave is located near Beit Shemesh. And if you are reaching this national park by car, type “Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve” into the navigation app.
Reaching by public transport is problematic. As far as I know, there are no buses to the site. You can get to the nearby city of Bet Shemesh either by bus or by train. And take a taxi from there.
Interactive map of the area:
- Hotels, hostels, and apartments in this area:
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:00 – 17:00 (16:00 in winter).
Friday: 8:00 – 16:00 (15:00 in winter).
On holidays eves usually 8:00 – 13:00.
Note: since the pandemic, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has started to limit the number of people in each park. Thus, reservations are recommended through the official site (you can find the link below).
Note: We had to book a tour during our latest visit (August 2022). And there was a tour every fifteen minutes. But it would be best to reach the parking lot at least twenty minutes before the tour start (as there are many stairs).
Adult – 28 NIS, child – 14 NIS, and student – 24 NIS. Free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in August 2022. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
Israel Nature and Parks Authority manage stalactite Cave Nature Reserve. They do not offer coupons. You can purchase an annual membership (Matmon card) or buy a combo ticket to decrease costs. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves.
You cannot enter the cave alone and must join a tour. The tours start at the cave. Thus, you first must go down the stairs (about 160 stairs which take around ten minutes). Then you need to wait for the tour you booked to start.
- There is second parking for disabled people by the entrance to the cave.
- My oldest daughter counted 166 steps.
The tours start with short explanations. Afterward, you see a short movie about the Stalactite Cave and enter the cave.
Rules of Conduct
Here are several of the rules:
- Dogs are not allowed in the cave. And entry to the cave with animals is prohibited.
- Baby carriages are not allowed in the cave.
- Since there is second parking by the cave, disabled people can reach the cave entrance. But since there are stairs within the cave, they will have limited access (only the first section of the route in the cave).
- The pathway in the cave is wet and may be slippery.
- Photography is permitted only without flash.
The Discovery of the Stalactite Cave
The Stalactite Cave parking lot is located higher than the cave itself. You will need to descend about 160 steps to reach the cave’s entrance (there is dedicated disabled parking next to the cave). Also, I should mention that it is not allowed to enter the Stalactite Cave with baby carriages and strollers. So take a baby carrier or a baby sling.
Anyhow, while you go down the stairs, you will see quarries. The quarries were there also back in 1968, and this is how the cave was discovered:
One day in May 1968, the sound of blasting echoed across the western slopes of the Judean mountains. On the face of things, just another blast at the Hartuv quarry that supplies stone for construction, no different than the hundreds that preceded it. But this blast was entirely different: it revealed a small opening into a wondrous world that had been hidden deep within the earth, concealed from the eyes of all living creatures. With that blast, the current chapter in the life of the Stalactite Cave began.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
Inside Stalactite Cave
Compared to other caves in the world, it is not a big one (max length – 91 meters, max width – 80 meters, and max height – 15 meters), but what makes it unique is that it is densely packed with various types of stalactites.
Inside Stalactite Cave, you are walking on a concrete path with fences. You cannot touch the stones since it will ruin delicate chemistry. Once a stalactite is touched, it stops growing. Next to the cave entrance, there is a “pet corner,” where you can feel several stalactites.
The cave’s air temperature is constant year-round at 22 Celsius, and humidity range from 92% to 100%. High humidity, together with light, will create mold. And National Parks Authority does not want the stalactites covered with fungus (installed lights and flashlights used by guides are not regular ones). Thus, you are not allowed to use any lights, including flashes.
Therefore, in my photos, you will rarely see people. While shooting, I kept the ISO low. Thus, the shutter speed was 20-30 seconds (people rarely stand still for long periods). It also means you will need a tripod and drag behind your group to photograph there.
Why is it Named Avshalom Cave?
This cave has three common names. The name Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve is evident. And Soreq is the name of the nearby stream. Thus, the remaining question is who Avshalom was.
The Stalactite Cave is dedicated to the memory of Avshalom Shoham. Shoham was severely injured during his army service in the elite Sayeret Shaked unit. He fought for three years to recover, but on February 4, 1974, he passed away.
Avshalom Shoham loved the land of Israel. He traveled its length and breadth and may have even visited the Stalactite Cave before it was officially opened to the public. As a meaningful way of perpetuating his memory, his family and friends assisted the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in preparing the cave for the opening to the public.
As I mentioned before, the cave is not that big. So if you walk fast, you can cover it in 20 minutes. The round route inside the cave takes 40 – 60 minutes for most people.
The last slide in the movie shows two signs. You can see those signs when you go up (back to the parking), and they tell you how many stairs are left and the approximate amount of calories you will burn. For example, the one on the left: “You still have 126 stairs to climb, which equals 124 calories. It is the approximate amount of calories in a yogurt. Starting to get hungry?” 😉
You can find additional photos from my previous visit to this park at Soreq cave. You will also notice different colors in that post. The change is due to the new lighting system that Nature and Parks Authority installed in 2012.
Lighting in the Cave
The lighting system in the cave changed numerous times. You can see the photos above versus the images in the Soreq cave. Unfortunately, during our latest visit (August 2022), we noticed that the lighting was changed again. And now, it all looks yellow. Here is a photo from our latest visit:
What is Stalactite?
And now, let’s dive into the basics. What is stalactite?
A stalactite from the Greek stalasso, and meaning “that which drips.” It is a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, hot springs, or humanmade structures such as bridges and mines. Any soluble material can be deposited as a colloid, or is in suspension, or is capable of being melted, may form a stalactite. Stalactites may be composed of lava, minerals, mud, peat, pitch, sand, sinter, and amberat (crystallized urine of packrats). A stalactite is not necessarily a speleothem, though speleothems are the most common form of stalactite because of the abundance of limestone caves.
And since we have a basic understanding, let’s answer several other common questions.
What is the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?
Stalactites hang from the ceiling, and stalagmites rise from the cave floor.
What is it called when a stalagmite and stalactite meet?
When stalactites and stalagmites meet and grow together, they form a column. Thus it is called a column or a pillar.
How fast do stalactites and stalagmites grow?
Stalactites and stalagmites grow slowly. The actual speed depends on different factors (like the amount of water reaching the cave). According to encyclopedia.com, they grow 0.00028–0.037 in/yr (0.007–0.929 mm/yr). That is roughly 1 cm in 11 – 1428 years. And during our last tour, our guide mentioned 50 years per one cm.
Stalactite Cave is one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Israel. A visit will not take much time (up to two hours), but it will surely leave an impression. You can visit it on your way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Or you can combine it with Bet Guvrin – Maresha National Park for a full-day trip. In any case, my recommendation would be not to skip this hidden gem.
Have you ever visited Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby, check out Jerusalem.
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.