Exploring Grottoes And Gardens In Northern Israel

28 June 2015
Read Time: 2.2 mins

If you're spending time in bustling Tel Aviv and need a change of scenery, head two hours up the coast to the northernmost tip of Israel to Rosh Hanikra and the Baha'i Temple in Akko. I took my family the last time I was there, and it was an excellent day trip.

Rosh Hanikra, which literally translates as 'the head of the grottoes', is a natural geological formation at the north-westernmost part of Israel on the border with Lebanon. Cavernous grottoes have formed over thousands of years where the Mediterranean Sea meets white chalk cliffs.

The first thing I was struck by were the magnificent views of the coastline. We hopped on a cable car that took us 60 metres down to sea level. (If you're afraid of heights, cover your eyes. It actually looks much steeper from the top.)

 Stunning Rosh Hanrika (image: Alyssa Weiss)

If you're lucky, you might spot a rock badger scurrying through the cliffs. The mountain bunnies are only found in rocky terrain across Africa and parts of the Middle East. They are elusive but very cute.

Once there, we meandered around the cliffs, making our way to the magnificent blue grottoes that lay below. Upon entering the cave, the temperature dropped, the floor became slippery, and a 200-metre network of caves revealed itself.

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A Spectacle Of Blues And Purples

One artery led to the right down a few steps to a natural hole in the cave overlooking the first grotto. It was a spectacle of blues and purples, filled with a tumultuous watery floor drenched in sunlight. It is such a beautiful and unexpected sight.

We spent a few hours walking the arteries of the cave, then got back on to the cable car for the ride back up to the glorious cliffs overlooking the sea. Truly magnificent.

Forty minutes south of Rosh Hanikra is the port of Akko (also called Acre). It has been a marina and fishing port since the 15th Century B.C.E., though its rich history stretches all the way back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. (When in the Mediterranean, after all …)

Today, Akko, a small town of 47,000 that fills only eight square kilometres, is a melting pot of religions — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i.

Our first stop was lunch. Seafood is, as can be expected, the cuisine to eat. We lunched at El Babor on the port, overlooking the sea.

In addition to the freshest, local catch in town, we ate an unbelievable spread of Middle Eastern salads and traditional flatbreads, among the best I have had. Ask what is fresh and order a whole fish. This is one of those best-ever lunch spots.

The Garden's A Treat On Its Own

Our last stop was The Baha'i Gardens. The Baha'i faith, which emerged in Iran in the early 1840s, is based on the major monotheistic religions of the world and is primarily dedicated to creating a peaceful, more prosperous world through education.

 The peaceful temple and gardens (image: Alyssa Weiss

The complex, a 2008 addition to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, consists of a formal, symmetrical circular garden with the temple at its centre. The garden includes magnificent cyprus, sycamore, fig and olive trees.

The best times to visit are Friday to Monday, from 9am-noon, when the temple is open to the public.

Unfortunately, since our excursion to Rosh Hanikra was totally impromptu, the temple was closed when we visited. But the garden was so expansive that it was a treat in its own. Still, now we know for next time. And we will be going back.

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This article originally appeared on Fathom.

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Alyssa Barrie Weiss

Alyssa Barrie Weiss is founder and CEO at Travel Beauty