Archaeology in the Galilee: A Seven Day Bike Ride Through History – Suggested itinerary for independent bikers
Day 1: Acre (Akko) to the Monfort. Approx 40 Km.
Begin your first day in the crusader port city of Acre. This old city has been selected as one of 830 world heritage sites; seven of which are in Israel. One could spend half a day to two days in the city, depending on how much you wish to see.
From Acre, head north through the side road along the coastline, heading north to the beach town of Nahariya. Continue north on the beach until you reach the Ruins of Achziv. The port here was built by the crusaders as a half way point between Acre and Beirut, and was an active port until 1948.
After a visit to Eli Avivi’s museum and a quick dip in the Mediterranean, take your bike and continue to Kibbutz Gesher Ha’ Ziv. Pass through the Kibbutz, and follow the service road leading to Nativ Ha’Shyara. From there, head north on road #70 to the Manot junction.
At the junction itself you will find a sugar refinery from crusader times, presumed to be one of the earliest, if not the first in the world. Follow the road uphill to Manot, and the dirt track to Hila. North of the road you will see the Monfort, where you will begin the following day. Overnight in the Hila-Ma’alot area.
Day 2: Monfort to Safet (Tzefad). Approx 40 Km.
Start your day at Monfort overlooking the Kziv Valley. This fort was built by the crusaders to protect the road to the coast down in the valley. Take the dirt road leading to Ma’alot and continue on road #89 heading east. On your way you will pass the ruins in Brazit and at Horfiesh and you can take a detour to Nebi Sabalan, a sacred tomb to the Druze faith.
Stay on road #89 to Gish, home of Joahanan, a leader of the rebellion against the Romans, where you can visit a synagogue from that period. Pass the tomb of the Talmudic rabbi, Shimon Bar Yohai, and climb up to Safed. This city dates back to the Bronze Age; the fort on the top of the hill was built in the crusader period. Safed has been considered holy to the Jewish people and the city has been built and rebuilt over the course of the last 1500 years. Some say it is a form of a living archeological site. Relax your muscles and walk through the allies of this mystical city. Overnight in Safed.
Day 3: Safet to Tel Hai. Approx 50 Km.
Take road #886 north out of Safed following the scenic road to Yesha Junction, and the Koah Fort. This location was first built by the crusaders as a stronghold over the road to Lebanon. It has been a fort ever since, most recently by the British and the state of Israel.
Continue north on road #886, along the border with Lebanon, which will slowly take you down towards Margaliot. At Margaliot, stop at the ruins of Hunin and follow road #9977 towards Tel Hai. This fort, built by pioneers of the second Aliya, entered history as a place of combat between Jewish and Arab forces in the time of French and British mandate. Pay a visit to the Shomer Home, commemorating the first Jewish settlers here in the turn of the last century. End the day in one of the many kibbutz hotels or zimmers in the area.
Day 4: Tel Hai to the Kal’at Nimrod. Approx 30 Km.
Follow road #99 east toward the Jordan River. On your way, you will pass Tel Dan, the ruins of the city of the tribe of Dan, built before the city of David in Jerusalem. Cross the streams leading to the Jordan River and begin to climb towards the foothills of Mount Hermon until you reach the Banias. These springs are home to the temple of the Pan from the Byzantine era. From there, begin climbing road #989 toward Kal’at Nimrod (Nimrod Fortress), one of the largest crusader fortresses still standing. After walking the walls and courtyards of the ancient fort, finish your day with a long deserved downhill ride, taking you back to the Banias. Overnight in the Banias Area.
Day 5: Along the River Jordan to the Sea of Galilee. Approx 50 Km.
Follow the TAP road (“Oil Road”) south, and turn south on road #959 to Kibbutz Gonen. From there, follow road #918 crossing the Hula Valley, until you reach historical Mishmar HaYarden.
Take the dirt road along the river (Jordan) which will lead you to the Atert Fort, which guards the entrance to Jordan. Continue south on the same road along the river until you reach road #8277 taking you to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Turn west and visit the Churches in Capernaum, marking the town that stood here in the times of Jesus and the Romans.
Continue south along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee to the Roman city of Tiberias. Finish the day touring the old city built on the lake shore. Walk the walls or relax at baths built by the Romans fed by a nearby hot spring. Overnight in Tiberias.
Day 6: Tiberias to Belvoir (Kokhav Hayarden). Approx 40 Km.
Ride south on the lakeshore road towards Dgania. Pass Yardenit baptism site, marking the place of baptizing of Jesus. Along the river in this area, you will find many unexcavated villages from the Ottoman and pre-Israel times.
Turn into Dgania, and take the back roads through Dgania to Beit Zera and Afikim. Cross the main road and take the road along the Jordan south. Stop at Naharaim, this first electrical plant in Israel, and continue south. Once reaching the main road again (#90), take it south until you reach road #717 which will take you uphill to Belvoir. Here, where the tribe of Issachar used to live, later became a stronghold of the crusader armies in the Galilee, overlooking the ancient route along the Jordan.From this site, continue west on #717 and spend the night in Moledet, Ramat Tsvi or Ein Harod.
Day 7: To Beit She’an. Approx 35 Km.
For the last day of the tour, head on road #71 to Beit She’an. You will pass Ein Harod, marking the story of King David’s first recruit. Turn south on road #669 towards Beit Alfa, and visit the ancient synagogue near the Kibbutz.
Continue towards the Sahne Park, where natural springs fill pools built in Byzantine times. A short ride will lead you to Beit She’an. After reaching the town, follow the signs to the old city. We recommend spending the rest of the day at the site which was a city built by Joshua, but has also been a city of every empire that controlled the road along the Jordan. Artifacts of Hellenistic, Roman, Mamluk, Crusader, Egyptian and Ottoman origin can all be found here.