Tel Dan Nature Reserve is located in Northern Israel, not far from Kiryat Shmona and it has different things to offer. There is water, greenery, and archaeological findings. Let’s begin!
Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays and holidays eve: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
Adults 28 NIS, children 14 NIS, and Students 24 NIS.
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.
As in most other national parks and nature reserves, the entrance is free to subscription members.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated on Nov. 2018. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
Map of the area:
And here is a map and general info sign at the entrance to Tel Dan.
The city of Dan was mentioned in the Bible. It is the northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel, and belonging to the tribe of Dan. And at Tel Dan, remains of the Biblical Dan were found (the Archeological findings include the Ancient Dan with the Israelite and Canaanite gates).
Moreover, each city needs a supply of fresh water. Dan stream, the most significant of the three sources of the Jordan river, has a powerful flow all year round and provided the city with water.
Tel Dan – the remains of a 5000-year-old ancient city. The city reached its height during the Canaanite and Israelite periods. In Canaanite times, it was called Laish or Leshem. The town is mentioned in the Bible, in particular in connection with the capture of the city by the tribe of Dan, which migrated here from its original land in the Judean plains, and changed its name to Dan after the forefather of the clan. Dan was a significant reference point in the unified kingdom – “from Dan to Beersheba.” After the nation was divided Jeroboam, son of Nabat, made Dan one of the two centers of worship in the Kingdom of Israel, at which golden calves were set up. The city decreased in importance with the development of the nearby town of Panias (Banias).
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
Besides, if you get tired from archeology, you can dip in a wading pool. The pools are the reason why families with kids love this nature reserve. And not in all nature reserves entrance to water is allowed. For example, at Banias Nature Reserve the entrance to water is prohibited.
Trails At Tel Dan Nature Reserve
Here is a closeup of the map :
You can choose from several available routes:
- The red route is the shortest one, and it is about 1 hour long. It offers views mostly of the Dan River which is the most important source of the Jordan river. You will also visit flour mill and wading pool.
- The green path is the medium one, and it takes about 1.5 hours. In addition to the POI of the red route, you will visit En Dan and “Paradise Springs.”
- The yellow route is the longer one, and it will take you about 2 hours to complete. It will lead you to the ancient Dan city, including Israelite gate, Canaanite gate, and cultic site.
- At the map above they also offer a yellow-green combination which will take about 2.5 hours. But, since the park is not big, you can choose the POI you want to visit and create a route for yourself.
The yellow-green trails cover almost everything. Thus I will show the highlights of both of them.
Wheelchair Accessible Trail
All routes start together, and at some point, they split. Here are the signs at the split junction:
Tel Dan reserve was upgraded in recent years, and now big parts of the short route are wheelchair and baby strollers accessible.
Hiking trails for people with difficulty walking and families with baby buggies – in the entrance plaza are accessible toilets and accessible picnic benches. Accessible benches can be found throughout the site, alongside the hiking trails. The accessible trail begins at the entrance to the site, follows the first part of the hiking trail, and reaches the wading pool, the Israelite Gate, and the Abraham Gate (the Canaanite Gate). Another short trail goes to a new accessible observation point, looking out over a wooden terrace towards the flowing waters of the Dan Stream.
Dan Forest is one of the “greenest” forests in Israel. That is mostly due to the melting snow from Mount Hermon. And as a result, large quantities of water that pass at Dan stream and make this nature reserve luscious green.
Despite the small size of the nature reserve, it is particularly rich in wildlife species in general, and water- and shade-loving species in particular – different types of fish, amphibians (including the Near Eastern salamander), and many invertebrates. Particularly noteworthy among the mammals are the otter and the wild boar. On rainy days or immediately afterward, visitors to the nature reserve are likely to meet the rare salamanders alongside the trails.
Abraham Gate – Canaanite Gate
One of the most important finds at this site is the ruins of the Canaanite city of Laish, which was captured by the tribe of Dan during the period of the Judges. The Israelite city gate has been restored, as has the Canaanite gate, which perhaps is the earliest constructed arch ever discovered.
Abraham Gate (the Canaanite Gate) – the most impressive find of the Tel Dan excavations is the ancient Canaanite Gate. The gate was built of mud bricks and has three arches that are considered to be the earliest of their kind in the world. The gate has been preserved to its full height of 7 m. Nature and Parks Authority has implemented measures to protect the gate from weather damage.
The Israelite Gate – the remains of the entrance gate to the city of Dan and the fortification walls from the Israelite period. The remains of a palanquin were found at the site, on which the ruler of the city would have been elevated, alongside benches for the elders of the city.
Part of this post title is “The Gate To Paradise,” thus will elaborate on this topic. As, you probably understood by this point, by “Gate” I was referring to Canaanite Gate. And paradise refers to Paradise Springs. If you take the green route, then you will pass through it.
Paradise Springs – calmly babbling brooks creating channels along which a well-developed riverside forest grows. It is the only place in Israel with a “wetland forest” of northern trees – the narrow-leafed ash and bay laurel. This forest is shady throughout the year and is home to many species of climbers. Cool rivulets flow at the foot of the trees, populated by rare salamanders and invertebrates.
The many surveys carried out at the nature reserve indicate that the salamanders are mainly found in the Paradise Springs area, where they have not only shade and water but also stones among which they can conceal themselves.
Ritual site – another unique find is the ritual compound, with a paved platform. This structure recalls the biblical stories of the golden calves.
Is it my association or this tree was created with love?
The flour mill – the remains of some flour mills were found at Tel Dan, which used the strong current of the water to turn the millstones and grind flour. The flour mill that can be seen today along the hiking trail is the latest of them and was in operation until the 1960s. It has been conserved, and work was carried out to stabilize the walls, which were in danger of collapse. The aqueduct bringing water to the mill has also been conserved, and now carries water to a part of the nature reserve where water has not flowed for many years.
And here we are at the Wading pool. Usually, you will find many kids playing there, but since that visit was in the middle of the week, we practically had this place for us.
Wading pool – a shallow pool that is part of the hiking trail. An excellent place to get your feet wet in the cool and refreshing waters of the pool. An accessible path for people with difficulty walking reaches this pool. It has recently been expanded and surrounded by a wooden deck and benches, accessible to people with disabilities. The wading pool is the only place in the nature reserve where it is permitted to paddle in the water. Wading is prohibited in other parts of the nature reserve to protect the natural habitat from matter being stirred up from the bed of the river.
Tel Dan nature reserve has a large variety of wild plants from some different areas, in particular, “northern” plants that grow alongside the cool flowing brooks. One of these, the marsh fern, grows nowhere else in Israel, while for others this is the southernmost point at which they are found. In addition to flowering plants, the reserve also has a great diversity of lichen and algae.
We visited Tel Dan Nature Reserve many times before and will return. It is a lovely place to visit. Besides archaeology, there is plenty of greenery, shade, and water. Thus it can serve as a nice place for hotter days as well. And since this site is not big, you can either cover all of it in several hours or choose a different route each time.
Have you ever visited Tel Dan Nature Reserve? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!