The Banias Nature Reserve contains an abundance of natural and historical beauty, from the ruins of ancient cities to the roaring Banias Waterfall – the biggest waterfall in Israel. Found in the Upper Golan between the fertile Hula Valley and the Mount Hermon mountain area, the Banias is a favorite for those visiting the Golan. Hours can be spent at the Banias; walking the trails, exploring the ruins and picnicking in the lush green woodlands.
Banias Stream and Pan’s Cave. Courtesy Boruch Len
The Banias can be entered in two separate locations; the Falls and the Springs. The Falls entrance is the first one on the road heading northeast and allows one to visit the Banias Waterfall with ease – just a short walk down to the suspended trail. The Springs entrance takes one to the old temple complex that is now mere ruins of what once was a Greek and Roman testament to their rule of ancient Israel and their devotion to their gods. The name Banias is actually an Arabic corruption of the word Panias or Paneus – of the Greek god Pan, god of the forests and shepherds.
Banias Falls Park
The Falls park entrance contains a large parking lot, facilities and a place to buy ice creams, snacks, and hot Druze pitas. Beyond the ticket gate (note: one ticket gains entrance to both park entrances) a trail leads down to the river, a 45-minute walk round-trip, including the suspended trail. A very unique way to approach a waterfall, the suspended trail was built along the basalt and travertine stone walls of the gorge, the roaring river just several meters below. The Banias Waterfalls are most impressive during the winter and spring when the water is most plentiful, on its way down to the Sea of Galilee. The waterfall is 10 meters (33 feet) high and during the winter and spring, the water crashes and mists down on those standing close on the observation deck. Read our dedicated article about the Banias Waterfall
Banias – Ancient water-operated flour mill. Courtesy Boruch Len
Banias Springs Park
The Springs park entrance contains a smaller parking lot, facilities and a gift shop. The wide mouth of Pan’s Cave can be seen from the road, making it easily identifiable. Before the cave, there is a calm series of stepped water, the Hermon stream, which can ever overflow onto the paved walkway. It is a peaceful and gorgeous entrance to the cave area. The ruins around the cave have been charted out to show the various temples and courts that were built and glorified by Agrippa II after the original site was founded by Herod’s son Philip who made the city Caesarea Philipi in the Banias. The cliff edge above the cave and ruins can be climbed, giving a birds-eye view of the park’s entrance and various trails and ruins.
Hikes at Banias
There are 4 trails that one can take within the Banias Nature Preserve, three of them 45-minutes long and one of them 90-minutes long.
Trail 1 – From the Springs Parking Lot to the Crusader city and back (45 minutes)
Trail 2 – From the Palace of Agrippa II to the Underground Passages and back to the Springs Parking Lot (45 minutes)
Trail 3 – From the Springs Parking Lot to the Banias Waterfalls (90 minutes)
Trail 4 – From the Falls Parking Lot to the Banias Waterfalls and back (45 minutes)
Note: Trail 3 goes from one parking lot to the other so be sure to have a car waiting for you unless you want to walk back another 90 minutes.
Banias Falls. Courtesy Boruch Len
To be seen along the trails are places of interest such as the Officer’s Pool – a hot spring built by the Syrians and used by their officers, an ancient Roman bridge, a still-operational flour mill with olive press facilities as well, a hydroelectric station, gates, walls and moats from the Crusader and Mameluke times and an ancient synagogue on the outskirts of the ancient city ruins.
By: Shem Tov Sasson. A Contributing Journalist for Tourist Israel, Shem Tov lives in the small Israeli city of Ma’alot. His personal blog about his experiences and adventures in the Holy Land can be found at Israel’s Good Name.