If you’re spending time in bustling Tel Aviv and in need of a change of scenery, head two hours up the coast to the northernmost tip of Israel to Rosh Hanikra and the Bahá’í Temple in Akko. I took my family the last time I was there, and it made for an excellent day trip.
First Stop: The Grottoes Of Rosh Hanikra
Rosh Hanikra, literally translated: “the head of the grottoes,” is a natural geological formation at the northwestern most part of Israel on the border with Lebanon. Cavernous grottoes have formed over thousands of years where the Mediterranean Sea meets white chalk cliffs.
The first thing I was struck by were the magnificent views of the coastline. We boarded a cable car that took us 200 feet down to sea level. (If you’re afraid of heights, cover your eyes. It actually looks much steeper from the top.) Once there, we meandered around the cliffs, making our way to the magnificent blue grottoes that lay below.
If you’re lucky, you might spot a rock badger scurrying through the cliffs, These mountain bunnies can only be found across Africa and parts of the Middle East in rocky terrain. They are elusive but very cute. (And were of significant interest to my nephews.)
Upon entering the cave, the temperature dropped, the floor became slippery, and a 600-foot-long network of caves revealed itself. One artery lead to the right down a few steps to a natural
hole in the cave overlooking the first grotto. It was a spectacle of blues and purples, filled with a tumultuous watery floor drenched in sunlight flooding in from outside the grotto. It is such a beautiful and unexpected sight.
We spent a few hours walking the arteries of the cave, then got back onto the cable car for the ride back where we began at the top of glorious cliffs overlooking the sea. Truly magnificent.
Next Stop: The Bahá’í Garden and Temple in Akko
Forty minutes south of Rosh Hanikra is the port of Akko (also called “Acre”). It has been a marina and fishing port since the 15th century BCE, though its rich history stretches all the way back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. Today Akko is a melting pot of religions — Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and followers of the Bahá’í faith. This is a small town sitting on a little more than 5 miles with a population of 47,000.
Our First Stop Was Lunch
Seafood is, as can be expected, the cuisine to sample. We ate at El Babor on the port, overlooking the sea. In addition to the freshest, local catch in town, we ate an unbelievable spread of Middle Eastern salads and traditional flatbreads, amongst the best I have had. Ask what is fresh, be brave and order a whole fish. This is one of the best lunch spots.
Our last stop was The Bahá’í Gardens. The Bahá’í faith, which emerged in Iran in the early 1840s, is based on the major monotheistic religions of the world and is primarily dedicated to creating a peaceful, more prosperous world through education. The complex, a 2008 addition to added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, consists of a magnificent, formal, symmetrical circular garden with the temple at its center. The garden includes pristine cyprus, sycamore, fig, and olive trees. The best times to visit are Friday to Monday, from 9 a.m. – noon when the temple is open to the public. (Word to the wise: wear sunscreen.)
Sadly, the temple was closed when I went as the entire excursion to Rosh Hanikra was an impromptu decision. Luckily the garden is so expansive that it was a treat on its own.
By: Alyssa Barrie Weiss, Twitter @AlyssaBarrie