The Nimrod Fortress is the biggest Crusade-era castle in all of Israel, a mountain-top stronghold spanning back to the 13th century. With views of much of the Golan, the Nimrod Fortress is situated on a peak neighboring Israel’s highest and only snow-capped mountain, Mount Hermon. Below the fortress are the lush Banias forests with the rivers and waterfalls. The ruins of Nimrod Fortress are beautiful and well-preserved, a truly visible snapshot of history.
Nimrods Fortress and Hula Valley from North Tower. Image: Boruch Len
Within the stately ruins of the Nimrod Fortress – some 420 meters in length and 150 meters in width, a route has been mapped out, each place of interest marked with descriptive signs. From the lower western section, where most of the interesting antiquities are found, to the upper eastern section, the oldest part of the fortress, some 13 marked sites are to be seen on the route. Starting with the Northwest Tower, a short walk up from the parking lot, a collection of rooms, arches and even a small toilet room are seen. Next, after seeing the Baybars Inscription, is the Western Tower which is not yet excavated. Then, still following the route, the Southwest Tower and the Large Reservoir – a spectacular indoor reservoir pool within an arched room, are to be enjoyed. Continuing along the wall to the upper western section, the “Beautiful Tower” can be found, a round room with a great faceted pillar holding up the stone ceiling. Crossing the dry Moat, the Donjon (Keep) is next. Atop the Keep one gets the best view of both the fortress and the surrounding area, a beautiful blend of stone and foliage. Returning to the western section, the Prison Tower can be visited and when you want to “escape” you can sneak through the Secret Passage (27 meters or 88.5 feet long) which opens up in the Northwest Tower – where the route started. The full circle can take up to several hours, depending on how long one spends both examining the magnificent architecture and the incredible panoramic vista.
The Nimrod Fortress National Park, containing the fortress and the forested mountain on which it rests, covers a total of 195 dunams (49 acres). Somewhat hidden in the land and accessible either by walking down from the fortress or up from the main road, a huge pool can be found. The pool, once used for irrigation and watering the herds, measures an impressive 26 x 54 meters (85 x 177 feet) in surface area and holds the depth of 5 meters (16.5 feet).
Nimrods Fortress – Arched tunnel in Great Room. Image: Boruch Len
The Nimrod Fortress (known in Arabic as both Qal’at Subayba and Qal’at Nimrud, Cliff Fortress and Nimrod Fortress, respectively) once controlled the region’s road which began in Tyre (part of modern-day Lebanon) and ran down the Mediterranean coastline, through the Hula Valley and Banias on the way to Damascus. The fortress is named after Nimrod, the great warrior from the early days in Biblical times, who was also rumoured to have built his own castle up on the mountain. Some thousands of years later when the Crusaders lost to Saladin, the nephew of Saladin, al-Aziz Othman, built up the eastern section of the fortress. Throughout the next 50 years, the fortress was enlarged and improved in three more stages. Bilik of the Mamelukes finished off the building in the year 1275 and signed his work with a glorious stone inscription which can still be seen today.
The Nimrod Fortress is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Golan and is worth a visit.
Visiting the Nimrod Fortress
October to March: Saturday to Thursday: 8am-4pm and Friday: 8am-3pm
April to September: Saturday to Thursday: 8am-5pm and Friday: 8am-4pm
1. Take Road 99 east from Kiryat Shmona and Banias or west from Masada
2. Exit Road 99 north onto Road 989
3. Exit Road 989 northwest at Nimrod Fortress
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.