The northernmost edge of Israel’s coast is marked by a remarkable site – Rosh Hanikra, a glorious towering cliff dotted with winding grottoes. This fantastic day trip is family-friendly and can be combined with a hike in the nearby Bezet reserve
Every story has an end. You’ve traversed all (or most) of Israel’s lovely coastline, sunned yourself on the beaches and bathed in the Mediterranean, but the coast can’t go on forever. Luckily, it ends on a high note: Rosh Hanikra, Israel northernmost edge of the coast, is dotted with a beautiful collection of grottoes begging to be explored. Strap on your waterproof shoes and prepare for a one-of-a-kind, family-friendly Mediterranean adventure.
Grottoes – past and present
Before we set off, let’s get some background. Rosh Hanikra is a unique geological formation, the clashing point between mountain and sea. The significance of the site dates back to the ancient world, but it was during the British Mandate rule that a proper road was paved between Haifa and Tripoli (Lebanon), passing through Rosh Hanikra. The British excavated a path through the cliffs, and remains of this important rail line can still be seen today.
But we’re not here for old railways, nice though they might be. The main attraction is the grottoes, astonishing geological formations forged over years of tectonic shifts. The crashing waves continue this process to this day, slowly gnawing at the rock. In the past, the grottoes could only be reached by sea, but today they are accessed via cable car – the world’s shortest and steepest line, rising 70 meters above sea level at a 60 degree angle. The ride provides a stunning view of the area, particularly the bay in all of its glory, including three small islands that are home for a variety of water fowl. This is only the appetizer to the main course waiting at the bottom: the grottoes.
Taking the plunge: into the grottoes
Start off at the main hall, a transformed rail tunnel where you will view a short audiovisual show explaining the history of the grottoes (available in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian). The route takes us from the entrance through the grottoes, a 200 meter trail passing through the majestic, natural formations. Down here, the water is tinted a magnificent shade of turquoise, flushing in and out of the open sea. The path is marked and protected by safety rails, but you must still be extra careful – the waves splash, and you’re guaranteed to get wet. It’s a favorite site for divers, but due to the nature of their formation, diving requires the presence of a professional licensed guide. The diving site goes as deep as 7 meters, and you can spot different osteichthyes, crab and caretta.
Inside the grottoes, visitors join the local residents – fruit bats and hyraxes that seem to have gotten used to the constant flow of visitors. The circular path is partially lit and is not wheelchair and stroller accessible. Along the route you will find plaques that provide fascinating explanations and anecdotes. For a truly unique visit, sign up for nighttime lantern tours (held in July and August), and view the grottoes in a whole different light.
After you’ve had your share of water-carved caverns, head back up and enjoy the magnificent views stretching all the way to the border with Lebanon. If you want to get even more out of your visit, take a ride aboard the boardwalk car, for a scenic view of Achziv beach.
Keshet cave: for those who can’t get enough
If you still have some spring in your step, drive out to Keshet cave. Located 20 minutes away from Rosh Hanikra, this unique geological formation features a stone arch, previously the roof of the cave. It’s a relatively easy track, at points passing along the Bezet Stream. Experienced rappels are more than welcome to make use of the anchors already in place and take the 50 meter plunge to the bottom, but bear in mind that the path back up is not for the faint of heart.