Although Israel is a small country in comparison to most places worldwide, it has a larger proportion of protected land than any other Mediterranean countries. Israel has 58 national parks and nature reserves. They span from the most northern tip of the land to the most southern tip. Most travel agents and hotels in Israel carry maps of the country’s national parks and reserves.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) is responsible for maintaining, protecting, and promoting the country’s nature reserves and national parks. To help with promotion, many hotels in Israel offer discounts for entrance fees. During the holidays, parks are packed with tourists and locals, and many offer free admission.
The parks and reserves are divided into six main geographical areas, from north to south. The Nimrod Fortress National Park, situated on the slopes of Israel’s highest mountain, Mount Hermon, is the most northern national park. It’s about an hours drive from any one of the big hotels in Israel. In the 13th century, a sect of Muslims built Nimrod’s Fortress so that they could control the road to Damascus. Looking down from the fortress’s towers, you have the most magnificent view of the whole Golan and Upper Galilee region.
If you’re searching for an unusual Israeli experience, don’t miss the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve, also called Soreq Cave. This stalactite cave, located just outside Beit Shemesh on the foothills of the Judean Mountains, measures 82 meters long and 60 meters wide. Although some of its stalactites are roughly 300 thousand years old, the cave was only recently discovered. When you enter the cave, you’re struck by the sheer immenseness and beauty of the stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Although it’s a few hours drive from the center of the country, you must visit the remarkable Coral Beach Nature Reserve in Eilat. This coral reef reserve has over 650 multi-colored fish and more than 100 different types of coral. You can experience the reef’s beauty first hand when you snorkel its depths and swim amongst the colorful, exotic fish.
Some other key parks and nature reserves to visit are the Gamla Nature Reserve, the Tel Megiddo National Park, and the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. If you want a complete listing, just ask your hotel receptionist as most hotels in Israel carry brochures of the country’s parks and reserves.