15 of Israel’s environmental wonders

Breathtaking natural sights
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Photo by Elle Tzur

When it comes to nature, Israel has it all: sandy beaches with sunset views, green trees and fields, solemn desert, fascinating geological formations and more. The country itself may be small, under 300 miles long and about 85 miles across, but what it lacks in area it makes up for in diverse, beautiful scenery.

In a single day, you could drive across Israel and see mountains, forests, scenic streams, a vast desert – and if you’ve got the snorkeling equipment, a colorful coral reef. Take a virtual look for yourself as we highlight some of the most remarkable landmarks and waterscapes Israel has to offer.

Yatir Forest

(Photo: DoyleStevenson / Flickr)

Israel’s largest planted forest, the Yatir Forest’s 4 million trees span more than 7,000 acres at the edge of the Negev Desert.

The forest is comprised mostly of pine and cypress trees, although it is also home to olive and fig groves.

The Yatir Forest is more than just a forest – it’s a research center. The Weizmann Institute, NASA and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies all study the forest and its effects on the environment.

Hiking trails traverse the forest, allowing visitors to enjoy the shade and fresh air, entering a world far different from the neighboring dry desert.

Red Canyon

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red-canyon-southern-red-canyon.jpg

Transformed by water over thousands of years, a 100-foot-long sandstone canyon in southern Israel offers amazing views and a look into the past.

Bright red from its rusty composition, the Red Canyon is smooth and winding all at once. The Shani River flows through the canyon continuing its journey started so many years ago.

Visitors can hike above or within the canyon on relatively short trails that leave a lasting impression.

Dead Sea

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One of Israel’s most well-known features is the Dead Sea, the world’s deepest hypersaline lake hosting on its shores the lowest point on dry land.

Despite its salinity, microbial life thrives. A fungus growing at the Dead Sea has given researchers clues for developing saline agriculture.

The Dead Sea is magnificent to behold, from the fascinating salt crystals to the eerie way people effortlessly float in place.

Mount Carmel

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megadim_Cliff_Mount_Carmel_-7.jpg

With a vibrant city on one side and lush slopes on the other, Mount Carmel is one of the most beautiful areas in Israel. Benefiting from its proximity to the Mediterranean Coast, the mountain’s slopes are covered in plants and wildlife.

Makhtesh Ramon

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Views_of_Makhtesh_Ramon_from_Mitzpe_Ramon2.jpg

A special kind of erosion crater called a makhtesh, the Ramon Crater is the largest of its kind in Israel. In the daytime, Nubian ibexes frolic on the rocky cliffs with ease; at night, nocturnal animals emerge and stargazing opportunities abound.

Formed over millions of years by the ebb and flow of the sea as well as movements within the earth’s crust, Makhtesh Ramon is a geologist’s dream. Within its rocky slopes are layers of rocks representing the passing of time, and fossils can be found throughout the area.

With such geological significance and a human history dating back thousands of years, it’s no wonder this is Israel’s largest nature reserve.

Sea of Galilee

(Photo: Yuval Shoshan / Flickr)

While it’s not technically a sea, the Sea of Galilee is an impressive 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. The lowest freshwater lake on Earth, at 686 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee offers incomparable views.

Its location within the Jordan Rift Valley gives the lake access to the Jordan River as well as underground springs, keeping the lake full and making it an important source of fresh drinking water for the region.

Life brims within and around the lake, attracting visitors far and wide.

Ein Gedi

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremympiehler/17146546778

The Ein Gedi Nature Preserve is an oasis, home to one of Israel’s most spectacular waterfalls, David’s Waterfall. Near the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi is one of Israel’s prime day hiking destinations.

The water flowing through Ein Gedi makes it a hotspot for diverse wildlife in the middle of the arid desert. For those visiting the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi is a great overnight camping destination.

Eilat’s coral reef

(Photo: Marko Teräs/Flickr)

Coral reefs aren’t just pretty, they’re an indispensable part of marine life. Just off the coast of Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, the Coral Reef Nature Reserve protects an amazing coral ecosystem.

Next time you’re planning a vacation, consider helping out with coral conservation in Eilat. Not only do you get to help monitor the reef, you can get an up-close look at some pretty amazing marine life.

Clownfish, goby fish, lionfish, parrotfish and eels are just a few of the photogenic species who call the reef home.

Avshalom Cave

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stalactite_Formation_in_Avshalom_Cave.jpg

Hidden within the Judean Hills, a positively stunning cave stretches over 50,000 square feet. The massive, 300,000-year-old stalactites and stalagmites of Avshalom Cave make it one of Israel’s must-see natural phenomena.

The psychedelic lighting is a bonus to visitors, though it wasn’t just installed for looks – it controls the growth of algae within the cave.

Lake Ram

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Ram_089a.jpg

Located amid the beautiful mountains of northern Israel, Lake Ram is an example of the beauty that can come from destruction.

Formed by the collapse of a volcano caused by an explosion of super hot water, Lake Ram is a kind of crater lake called a maar.

Local legend points to a different origin of the lake, however: an old myth says it’s the tear-filled eye of a woman whose husband no longer loved her.

Timna Park

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Timna-park-pink-canyon-d.jpg

Strange sandstone structures dot the desert landscape of Timna Valley, where geologists flock to study the fascinating hoodoo formations that have been formed by tens of thousands of years.

The wind-eroded rocks even have nicknames, like the iconic “Mushroom” hoodoo and Solomon’s Pillars. All in all, it’s a fun hike filled with interesting discoveries.

Hula Valley

Photo from https://www.israel21c.org/the-hula-valley-israels-bird-paradise/

The wetlands of Hula Valley attract millions of birds in the spring and fall, making it an unparalleled birdwatching destination in Israel.

Though the Hula Lake was drained in the 1950s, the area has since been re-flooded and now the valley is one of Israel’s most important ecosystems.

No matter where you look, from the glassy ponds to the snow-capped mountains, the Hula Valley is a truly alluring nature reserve.

Rosh Hanikra

Photo from https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g321555-d325452-Reviews-Rosh_Hanikra-Rosh_Hanikra_Northern_District.html

The chalky cliffs of Israel’s northern coast meet bright blue water in a gorgeous display.

The iconic white facade of Rosh Hanikra is majestic to see from afar, but even more fascinating up close. At the base of the cliffs, grottoes have been formed by the crashing waves. The cliffs also offer unforgettable views of the surrounding seaside landscape. Visitors can take in the scenery via cable car rides that span the entire height of the cliff.

Hexagon Pool

(Photo: David Scaduto / Flickr)

Located at the bottom of a canyon not far from the Sea of Galilee, intriguing basalt formations give Israel’s Hexagon Pool its name.

Formed by water flowing over slowly cooling igneous rock, these peculiar columns almost look like a stairway at the water’s edge.

Banias Falls

Photo from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Banias-falls-wasserfall.jpg

The waterfall in Banias Nature Reserve in northern Israel is framed by lush greenery and a rocky shore. As the snow melts from Mount Hermon, it flows through a canyon and becomes Israel’s largest waterfall.

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