A secret pleasure on any Holy Land tour is discovering a place which is largely overlooked by the crowds but offers a unique atmosphere or experience not found anywhere else. Nazareth is certainly significant for any traveler seeking follow in the footsteps of Jesus and, of course, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a favorite stop for most Christian travelers; but have you ever heard of Nahal Amud? If the answer is, “what the heck is nahal amud,” then you are like virtually every other tourist to the Holy Land (and even many native Israelis). And that’s a shame, because Nahal Amud is one of the most beautiful places in the Galilee and in all of Israel. It is a great a place to meditate in nature and to experience the holy land in much the same way Jesus experienced it.
Part of the Israel Trail
Nahal Amud is actually part of the larger Israel Trail, a national trail that runs from north to south, beginning in the upper Galilee and ending in the mountains just north of the southern port city of Eilat. The Israel trail is rather long and those who do hike the entire trail typically take more than a month to do so. However, if you just want to “get your feet wet,” both literally and figuratively, then Nahal Amud, with its variety of trail options ranging from a couple hours to a couple days is a great place to start.
So What Is Nahal Amud Anyway?
Nahal Amud is 15 mile long nature trail that runs from the base of Mt. Meron (the second largest mountain in Israel) between the Galilean mountains southeast to the Sea of Galilee. With its flowing streams, waterfalls and natural pools (in the upper part), combined with its ancient flour mill, fig trees and Neanderthal caves, it is a favored hike by Israelis who have heard of it from friends or family since it usually doesn’t make it into the popular guide books. Unlike many other Israel parks, Nahal Amud is not that crowded, and thats only because to visit the nature reserve and enjoy its natural water pools one must be able to walk somewhat of a distance.
Experience the History
However, for the Christian tourist, some of the things that will be most exciting are the fact that there are a number of running streams where one can swim or even baptize themselves in waters that Jesus himself may well have traveled through. There are also a number of caves carved into the mountainside which aside from being the ancient home for Neanderthals some 70,000 years ago, may well have been used by ancient Jews or Christians as hiding places when they were running from the Romans.
Come for the Quiet
The thing that I loved the most however was the peaceful quiet of the place. Located less than an hour’s drive from Nazareth and about 30 minutes from Tiberias, Nahal Amud is the perfect place to simply get out of the city and away from the tourists. Set in a valley between the mountains the shorter 3 – 4 hour upper hike involves a steep walking path down into the canyon as well as back up at the conclusion or the mostly circular route.
Stay for the Beauty
The area is also alive with wild flowers and tall cliffs which rival some of the great national parks in the United States. While certainly not as big and nowhere near as famous, the beauty of the place truly shows God’s greatness in providing a place of unparalleled beauty. The truth is though that words really fail to capture the majesty of the place. You have the streams where you can dip and you have the trees and caves, but put them all together and it defies simple words to describe what the place looks like.
Those who drive to Nahal Amud can take one of two entrances to the trail. It starts out near the mystical city of Safed and ends near the city of Tiberias, about 25KM (about 15 miles) away. You don’t have to hike the whole trail though. When I went, we did just a portion of the trail in an afternoon. And the best part is, unlike many other more frequented areas, this place is not the least bit crowded.
There are actually several entrances to Nahal Amud. I entered from Route 8077, which is a small side road on the way to Kibutz Hibikuk. From that entrance, there is no proper parking (we simply parked along the side of the road) and the entrance is merely a small fenced off entryway which is free to enter. Those feeling a bit less adventurous may choose to go in from the other side of the trail, which is an official park of the State of Israel. There is a small entrance fee to get in, however that part of the park may feel a bit more “civilized” for those who want an easier trek. It has a proper washrooms, maps and other necessary supplies for purchase.
Nahal Amud is located 10 minutes from Safed, the city widely known for its Kabbalistic origins and about 25 minutes from Tiberias and can easily be combined with an afternoon in either city or a visit to the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth or in Haifa, which are popular sites for tourists as well. Anumber of small kibbutzim (collective farms) in the area which often have boutique shops, wineries and or farmers markets open to purchase locally produced products.