Galilee is Israel's most fertile region, with an abundance of valleys, forests and farmlands. Tourists are drawn to the recreational pursuits and historical attractions associated with the area. Lake Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee) is an area closely associated with the life and times of Jesus, making it a religious centre for both Christians and Jews, and the area is full of religious shrines and historical sites of interest.
The city of Tiberias was built in honour of the Roman Emperor after which it is named and has played an integral role in the history of the Jews. Not only did it serve as an important spiritual centre and as the site of the compilation of the Talmud, early pioneers also established some of Israel's first (collective farms) around Tiberias. Many travellers still visit farms, ranches and in the area.
Today, Galilee is a popular vacation spot, offering year-round water activities, hot springs, health resorts and magnificent national parks. Galilee is popular with outdoor enthusiasts and eco-tourists because its variable landscapes are so great for adventurous activities like kayaking, horse riding, 4x4 tours and hiking. It is also the perfect area to explore if you want to experience some of the biblical landscapes.
The 17 springs of Hamat Tiberias have been used since antiquity to cure various ailments. In fact, the springs were so renowned for their healing properties and the relief they provided for various maladies that people were permitted to bath in them without censure on the Sabbath. The pools and various spa facilities and treatments are still the greatest draw for visitors, but there are some cultural attractions as well.
Built between 337 and 286 BC, the Hamat Tiberias synagogue contains the oldest surviving mosaic floor in Israel. The central mosaic is a beautifully preserved design representing a large zodiac. Helios (Greek sun god) is at its centre, guiding his celestial chariot in the direction of the sun. The Hammam Suleiman Museum is also located in the park and is situated right at the entrance.
Although there are some walking trails, those looking for an unspoilt wilderness area may be disappointed. The popularity of the springs has led to the area becoming quite built up, and it is frequently crowded. On the plus side, visitors will find shower and changing-room facilities, and lockers for personal belongings. The park has a restaurant but visitors can also picnic.
Beit She'an was established in the 5th century BC. Its hilltop location made the settlement strategically valuable, meaning that many over the centuries sought to conquer it. It was the seat of Egyptian rule before falling to the King of Assyria, and was later resettled as a Hellenistic city during Alexander the Great's time.
A period of conquests followed until the Romans returned the city to its former residents. It prospered during the time of Hadrian and experienced its golden age after the Bar Kochva revolt. Numerous buildings were constructed during this time and the residents enjoyed a period of peaceful coexistence.
Beit She'an's face changed markedly after Christianity was declared the Roman Empire's official religion in the 4th century AD. This was followed by further conquests until an earthquake left the city in ruins. Settlements later sprang up around the ruins and the area received an influx of people after the establishment of the State of Israel.
Today, this thriving city lies around the remains of an ancient centre. The Roman theatre, Byzantine bathhouse, Roman street and colonnade, and the amphitheatre used for gladiatorial battles are Beit She'an's most notable ruins.
Visitors should budget between two and four hours to see the park properly.
The Amal River's warm waters flow through the Gan Hashlosha National Park and can be enjoyed year round, with temperatures in the region averaging around 82ºF (28ºC). Park visitors can relax in its warm pools and rejuvenate in the natural Jacuzzi underneath an invigorating waterfall.
This is a wonderful place to spend the day swimming and exploring walking trails with the family. Lifeguards are on duty, and visitors will find changing-room and shower facilities, a kid's playground and plenty of tables and shaded areas for picnics. There is also a restaurant for those who don't want to bring their own picnic.
The hydro-powered flour mill, and the tower-and-stockade reconstruction are of cultural interest. So too is the Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archaeology, which contains a collection of Greek tools and a display of archaeological findings from Beit She'an Valley, Iran and Egypt.
Herod the Great established the ancient port city of Caesarea 2,000 years ago as a tribute to the Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. Before this, it was known as Straton's Tower after its founder Straton, who may have ruled Sidon in the 4th century BC.
Caesarea is conveniently located between Haifa and Tel Aviv and is a popular excursion for visitors. Its rich archaeological heritage includes the remains of a Roman aqueduct, a theatre, houses and palaces. The Roman theatre is used as a concert venue for big Israeli and international stars and is a special place to catch a show. Some of the archaeological finds from Caesarea can be seen in the museum at nearby Kibbutz Sdot Yam.
For scuba diving enthusiasts, diving among the ruins of Herod's city is an extraordinary experience. Caesarea has also become well known for some of its modern attractions, including some very fine private homes, Israel's only international golf course, luxury hotels, galleries and boutiques. There are some good cafes and restaurants as well. Miles of sandy beaches stretch along the Mediterranean coastline and visitors can enjoy the sun-soaked atmosphere against this luxurious backdrop.
Nazareth is one of the most important Christian holy sites, attracting pilgrims from all over the world. Jesus spent most of his life in the area.
Today, the city has both Muslim and Christian residents. Visitors can expect a quaint mix of red roofs and white churches to greet them from the Galilean hillside. The summit offers a glorious view of the Jezreel Valley.
The area is also home to some significant religious places. Visitors should stop at the Church of the Annunciation, where the upper sanctuary's walls depict scenes from the life of Mary. Catholic communities from around the world donated the work. The nearby Church of St Joseph houses the remains of Crusader bas-reliefs and inscriptions found during the Church's construction.
Nazareth's Synagogue Church is thought to stand over the site where Jesus preached of the Messiah's coming. Visitors will find an elegant mosque in the Mosque Quarter. The Turkish-style edifice was constructed in 1812 and belongs to the wealthy Al-Fahum family.
Galilee is known for its powerful biblical associations and lush landscapes. The region attracts both pilgrims and outdoor enthusiasts and has numerous world-class archaeological sites. Other attractions in Galilee include the Israeli collective farms, called kibbutzim, and many ranches and campsites that offer food, accommodation and fun outdoor activities.
Nazareth, one of the most important Christian sites in the world, is the place where Jesus spent most of his life and where the Annunciation took place, according to the Bible. Attractions in Nazareth include the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of Saint Joseph, the Synagogue Church, and the Mosque Quarter. Nazareth is perched on the breathtaking Jezreel Valley, one of Galilee's many impressive natural features. The Sea of Galilee, where Jesus reputedly walked on water, is also a place of great religious significance and a beautiful body of water to explore.
Galilee has a number of renowned national parks and wilderness areas (note that in Israel National Parks are not necessarily nature areas). The Gan Hashlosha National Park has gorgeous warm pools, waterfalls, and an Archaeological Museum. Beit She'an National Park houses the ancient remains of the city of the same name, with a well-preserved Roman theatre and Byzantine bath house. Hamat Tiberias National Park is home to 17 natural springs believed since antiquity to have healing properties.
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