The Hamat Gader resort is one of the most unique places in the north of Israel. Tucked away under the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and eastward of the Jordan River, Hamat Gader featured a ton of unique attractions for all ages. The main attraction is obviously the thermal springs which have been exploited by mankind since the Romans, some 2,000 years ago. But there is more, Hamat Gader also hosts the only crocodile farm in all of the Middle East.
Hamat Gader: An introduction
Hot springs in Hamat Gader by dlisbona, on Flickr
The first thing you’ll notice about Hamat Gader is its situation; a valley surrounded by brown cliff-edged mountains about ten minutes from the Sea of Galilee in the southern part of the Golan Heights. The geographical location of Hamat Gader provides it with gushing springs of hot thermal water (600 cubic meters per hour at 42 degrees Celsius) that is renowned for therapeutic benefits. Numerous such springs exist on the premises of the resort and are of varied temperatures. Many years back, ancient rabbinical figures and prominent Greek and Roman historians and philosophers spent time in the springs’ calming waters. Today the springs are well managed and attract bus-loads of visitors everyday, some seeking treatment and others simply swimming in nature’s wonders. From the spacious open pools to the jacuzzi chairs and the powerful hot waterfall, there is a place for everyone!
Around the main spring pool area are some eateries, including the upscale Siam restaurant, a gift shop where one can even purchase swimming outfits for the water, the hotel and the massage parlor. Massages range from NIS 200 to NIS 510 offering everything from Swedish, Thai, Aromatic, Shaitsu, Reflexology and warm stone massages all geared towards making your stay as relaxed as possible. There are also children’s treatments and packages for couples including a complementary glass of champagne.
View over Hamat Gader by Adam Jones, Ph.D., on Flickr
The Spa Village hotel is a clean and modern establishment for adults only to assure a peaceful stay. The hotel’s 29 suites are European-styled with private Jacuzzis, seating area, television, mini-bar and safe to cover all your needs. The Spa Village hotel even offers a private hot spring pool for guests of the hotel, providing robes for comfort and privacy. Room packages come with massages offered at the massage parlor next to the main spring pools.
For those looking to cool off after the hot springs, the “Splash” pool is the perfect place to do so. A large waterslide (30+ feet) is the main attraction for the pool but one must be at least 10 years old and a good swimmer to use it – the lifeguard will ask. Casual swimming is also encouraged in the main pool area as well as a large dancing area with small fountain jets shooting water into the air.
Ruins of the Roman hot spring at Hamat Gader
As a flashback to the past, the Hamat Gader resort contains two ancient Roman sites, a large complex of partially collapsed buildings around a large rectangular pool which once bubbled with thermal waters and a segment of what once was an amphitheatre, now just several rows of square stone blocks overlooking the picnic grounds. The old Roman “resort” shows the remarkableness of man’s efforts in channeling nature’s wonders for the benefit on mankind.
Crocodiles at Hamat Gader
On the far end of the resort are the animal features: the mini wildlife preserve, petting zoo, parrot show and crocodile farm. The petting zoo is perfect for children as they can touch and pose with dwarf goats, rabbits, tortoises and baby deer. The mini wildlife preserve has even more to offer with baboons, meerkats, mountain goats, axis deer, ostriches and more – most of them living in one open area with trees and water. The crocodile farm is, as mentioned before, the only one of its kind in the Middle East. Nearly 200 alligators, crocodiles, caimans and the endangered Indian gharial live in the various enclosures in the farm. The large, mature adults are housed in an open pond area where floating bridges crisscross to allow visitors to see the toothy predators up close. In addition, alligator feeding in shown during the summer months. The parrot show is a must-see for children, the show being held several times a day with posted hours. Watch the parrots and macaws ride tricycles, perform tricks and speak to the audience in the course of a 15-minute show.
Visiting Hamat Gader
Hamat Gader Opening Hours:
May & August:
Sun – Wed: 9am-5:30pm, Thursday & Friday: 8:30am-10:30pm, Saturday: 8:30am-5:30pm
(Separate womens’ pool swimming: Sunday 10:30am-1:30pm)
June & July & September:
Sunday & Monday: CLOSED, Tuesday & Wednesday: 9am-5:30pm, Thursday & Friday: 8:30am-10:30pm, Saturday: 8:30am-5:30pm
(Separate womens’ pool swimming: Tuesday 10:30am-1:30pm)
It should be noted that the different attractions within the resort often have their own hours so advanced planning would be worthwhile.
Entrance Fees to the site:
Adult: NIS 78/88 (week/weekend)
Child: NIS 59
Resort website: hamat-gader.com
Spa Village Hotel
Phone: 04-665-9964 / 66 / 77
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.