The Banias Nature Reserve is probably my favorite place to visit, either guiding groups or tourists or just enjoying the trails with my family and friends.
Banias is one of more than 150 nature reserves throughout Israel, and it is the most beautiful and refreshing. It is located in the upper Golan Heights and its roaring waterfall is fed by melting snow from Mount Hermon. It includes the Banias Waterfall and the Banias Springs, which once included a Greek and Roman temple where the Greek god Pan was worshipped. (The name Banias is an Arabic pronunciation of the Greek name Panias.)
I love visiting Banias at any time of year because it is different every time. The vegetation changes, the flow of the river is stronger in the winter and slows down during the summer months, and the light changes with the seasons. I call it the “Banias Bubble” because it is a well-protected nature reserve with a unique and unspoilt environment. It is also remarkably peaceful, even when there are many groups of visitors enjoying its trails, because the sound of the waterfalls is dominant but soothing.
The waterfalls are approached on a suspended trail along the gorge above the river, and you can stand on the observation deck and enjoy the spray from the rushing water. For the less intrepid, I usually take them to the Banias Springs Park, where the Hermon Stream leads you to the entrance to Pan’s Cave and the ruins of various temples.
For those of us who enjoy hiking, there are four trails to choose from within the Banias Nature Preserve, each with a number of interesting features along the route. The Officer’s Pool was a hot spring built by the Syrians for use by their officers during their occupation of the Golan Heights. There is an ancient Roman bridge, a working flour mill and olive press, remains of gates, walls and moats from the Crusader and Mameluke periods, and a ruined ancient city.
I often feel like Indiana Jones as I lead groups along the trails and walkways, pointing out the archeological highlights and brushing aside the creepers!
Let me know if you would like to visit the Banias on your next visit to Israel and I would be happy to escort you!