The historical region of northern Israel is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible. It is believed that here passed the childhood of Jesus Christ – which is why a visit to Galilee is an obligatory item on the program of any pilgrimage tour.
In addition to the ruins of the biblical period in the north of Israel, there are many religious sites, hiking trails through nature reserves and well-maintained beaches. And in recent years in the Galilee is gaining popularity and agricultural tourism.
Galilee is located in the northern part of Israel. The region is bounded by the state border with Lebanon in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Isreel Valley in the south and the Jordan Valley in the east.
Galilee is divided into Upper, Lower and Western Galilee. The Upper Galilee has a concentration of natural attractions, the holy city of Safed and some picturesque villages. In the Lower – concentrated biblical sites, including Lake Kinneret, and the Western Galilee is located on the Mediterranean coast.
In the Upper Galilee mountain range is located Meron, the highest point of which is the eponymous mountain. Its height is 1208 m, several other peaks reach 1000 – 1100 m. This is the rainiest region of Israel – it is characterized by excess moisture, which leads to unwanted consequences.
The mountains of the Lower Galilee are much lower. The highest peaks are Kamon (598 m), Tavor (588 m), Yodfat (548 m). The mountain ranges are separated by fertile valleys.
Now Galilee is one of the main areas of eco-tourism in Israel.
The climate of Galilee
The climate of Galilee is heterogeneous – in this area are concentrated mountains, hills, sea coast and areas below sea level. That is why the Galilee is characterized by significant variations in temperature and humidity characteristics of the air. The Northern Galilee is the rainiest region of Israel: in the winter season it may rain up to 1000 mm, including snow.
The rainy season in the Galilee ends in February, and in early April the weather becomes dry and warm. The hottest months are August and September, but the heat is easily tolerated because of the topography. The water temperature in the Mediterranean Sea varies from +17 ° C to +31 ° C throughout the year. The minimum temperature, comfortable for swimming for most people is +24 ° C.
In the first half of November in the Galilee towns it gets cooler, but this time is great for long walks.
In general, the climate of the Galilee is temperate and mild compared with the center and south of the country.
What to see
There are so many things to see in Galilee that it is impossible to see them all. Those who are going to the north of Israel for the first time, should definitely see Acre, Nazareth, Tiberias and Safed. But if you have time, you can visit nature reserves, archaeological parks and small towns with a special atmosphere.
Grottoes of Rosh HaNikra
Right on the border with Lebanon there is yet another “eighth wonder of the world” – a karst cave formed by leaching of rock from a chalk cliff. The grottoes filled with bright turquoise sea water are an incredibly beautiful sight. The total length of the cave is about 200 m.
Once there was a tunnel inside the rock, dug by Alexander the Great to connect the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon with Palestine. Later, caravan routes and troops passed along this road. During the British Mandate a highway was built here and a customs office established. In 1942, the railroad connecting Palestine and Lebanon was built over the rock. After the Israeli War of Independence, the tunnel was blown up to prevent an invasion of troops from Lebanon. Soon the Grottoes of Rosh Ha-Nikra became a tourist attraction and were incorporated into the Sullam-Tzor reserve.
In 1968 a 400 m long lookout gallery was built in the rock face allowing a close up view of the fascinating caves. Visitors are taken to the caves by a cable car, which is the shortest in the world (just over 70 m) and one of the steepest.
Near the grottoes are the ruins of an ancient Phoenician city and the border crossing between Israel and Lebanon, which has not functioned since 1948.
Lake Tiberias (Kinneret)
Lake Kinneret (other names include Lake Tiberias, Sea of Galilee) is a freshwater lake located in the east of Upper Galilee. It is the main source of water for the country’s water system and is also an important tourist destination.
Lake Kinneret is home to over 20 species of fish, so its shores are home to many fish restaurants of different price ranges. In each restaurant the fish is prepared according to a special recipe, so vacationing on the shores of the lake is sure to please fans of gastronomic delights.
Both pilgrims and Christian tourists should visit the churches and shrines on the western shore of the lake, associated with biblical stories.
For those who like to swim and sunbathe, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee there are several paid landscaped beaches with sun loungers, umbrellas and lifeguards. There are also wild beaches for those who do not want to pay.
Those wishing to improve their health should go to the national park of Tiberias where there are hot springs. Their healing properties were known to the Egyptians in the XIII century BC.
And of course, the Kinneret will not leave indifferent the lovers of history and architectural monuments of antiquity. On the shore is a rich in attractions Tiberias – one of the four holy cities of the Jews. And next to Tiberias are preserved ancient ruins.
On the shore of Lake Tiberias (Kinneret) are the ruins of the ancient city of Capernaum. It is mentioned several times in the New Testament: Jesus Christ preached here and found disciples.
At the beginning of the first century A.D. Capernaum became the main Christian center of the region and remained in this status for over 600 years. But in the seventh century A.D. Capernaum suffered the same fate as the other cities of Palestine – it was conquered and destroyed by the Arabs. The local inhabitants left the city and it has never been restored since. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the first excavations began in Capernaum.
Capernaum is now part of the National Park System of Israel. Visitors can see the ruins of the volcanic basalt houses, the Catholic Church and the White Synagogue. There are also surviving structures from the Crusader Period. In the eastern part of Capernaum there is a Greek Orthodox monastery of the early twentieth century, which offers the most beautiful view of the lake. And next to the ruins of Capernaum, where the Jordan River flows into the Kinneret, there is another ancient town, Bethsaida. According to legend, the apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip lived in this city.
A small settlement on the slope of Mount Knaan was built by Romanian natives at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Baron Rothschild, a famous philanthropist, invested his own money in the development of the new settlement, and then a tobacco and silk factory, a winery, and a synagogue appeared in Rosh Pinah. Then several crises occurred in the country, which caused the settlement to fall into disrepair. It was only after Israel gained its independence that Rosh Pinah began to flourish again. Rosh Pinah is a pastoral town with astonishing views, and is beloved by artists and craftsmen. In addition to art, the wine industry flourished again in Rosh Pinah and tourism soon followed.
Travelers love Roche Pina for its stunning views of the Hula Valley and Mount Hermon, the delicious wine in cozy family tavernas, and the galleries and shops with handicrafts – all reminiscent of an old European village. There are several travel agencies in Roche Pina that offer unusual excursions around the town.
The ruins of Scythopolis, one of the most important cities in Palestine during Roman rule, are located in the Harod Valley near Beit Shean. The archaeological park includes ruined pagan temples, a 5th century Byzantine basilica, a synagogue with mosaic floor, a semicircular market square, thermae and a Roman theater with seating for 7000 spectators. Two of the main streets retain colonnades, many topped with Ionic and Corinthian ornament capitals.
But the most notable object of the archaeological park is the public men’s room, where in ancient times visitors held small talks and even concluded important deals. There are also surviving Crusader structures on the territory of the complex.
In the evenings in Scythopolis there is a unique light and sound show. Holograms, light effects, and sound simulation allow viewers to see the ancient city in its heyday.
In some cities of Galilee, such as Acre and Nazareth, there is a high percentage of Arab population which is notoriously impure and aggressive. This may be a way for the Arabs to express their dislike for the Jews and the state of Israel, but it doesn’t make it any easier for tourists. To have a vivid impression of the breathtaking ancient structures and picturesque views are not spoiled, it is better to prepare in advance for the unpleasant moments.
The Arab population of Israel is not too attentive to cleanliness. Therefore, in the middle of the streets and even next to the monuments of international importance can be seen as piece of garbage, and the whole heaps of garbage. Often the ancient arched slabs serve as free public toilets. The city parks and beaches are no less dirty.
Israel’s markets are no different from those in other Middle Eastern countries. But if the Jewish vendors only shout loudly and wave their hands, as soon as a tourist slows down, their Arab colleagues may block the road, run after them, shouting dirty curses. If a tourist decides to stop and buy something, the Arab seller will try to cheat.
Insults and harassment.
One of the favorite hobbies of Arab teenagers is the harassment of tourists, accompanied by insults. Sometimes adult men, less often women, behave in a similar way. To avoid attracting attention, it is advisable to look like a “typical traveler” and not to attract attention with expensive watches and jewelry. Women should not wear both short shorts and “kosher” skirts below the knee. If you do not want to walk around all day in the company of insolent teenagers, you must take off your backpack, turn around to face them and run at them, demonstrating the intention to hit them. Ignoring them is perceived as weakness and defenselessness.
For those who can not stand the sight of dirty streets and is afraid of intrusive sellers, it is better to use the services of guides and visit only well-maintained tourist sites.
Where to Stay in Galilee
Those who do not want to go from hotel to hotel every day and travel around Israel by public transport, it is better to stay in Haifa: you can get from here by bus or train to any city in the Galilee. In addition, the city has a well-developed tourism infrastructure and many hotels in different price categories – from budget to very expensive.
Living in Acre is not very convenient: the historical part of town is quite far to the railway station, and all the bus routes to other cities in the Galilee have to change in Haifa.
Tiberias is ideal for those who want to spend a few days on Lake Kinneret and visit its attractions.
Many places of interest in the Galilee can also be reached from Nazareth. Since Nazareth is an Arab city, you will find accommodation and meals a little cheaper than in Jewish cities, and most businesses are open on Shabbat. You can also find relatively inexpensive apartments on AirBnB in small towns in the Northern District: Nof-ha-Galila, Afula, Migdal-ha-Emek.
There are no sights in these towns, but the houses on the hills offer scenic views of the Galilee.
It is also convenient to travel to the north of Israel, stopping in one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the country – Safed. However, public transportation is much less frequent here.
It is much more convenient to travel around the Galilee by renting a car, because you can stop at any favorite city or even a village and not depend on the schedule of buses and trains.
How to get there
The only way to get to Israel from Russia or other CIS countries – to arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport. After passport control you can go straight to one of the cities in the Galilee or Haifa by rented cars or public transport.
Make the best route is convenient at the official sites of the Israeli carriers:
Israel Railways – trains;
Egged – the main bus company.
Both within cities and between small towns, buses of other companies can operate – to find out their schedules, it’s best to use the Moovit app, which is in the smartphone of every Israeli.