A visit to Rosh Hanikra is, without a doubt, an unforgettable experience that you cannot have in any other place in the world. This geological formation and its vast network of grottoes and caves are located along the Mediterranean coastline in the Western Galilee region, on the border between Israel and Lebanon. The enchanting scenery and the historical significance of Rosh HaNikra make it a place truly worth visiting.
While on an escorted tour to this lovely place, here are a couple of interesting facts about it, as well as some exciting things to do and see there.
A Short History
Scientists believe that Rosh HaNikra was created by a series of earthquakes that made cracks in the cliffs, while the rain and waves eroded the soft chalk rock further, widening the openings for thousands of years until grottoes and caves have formed. The total length of the grottoes is cca 200m, with segments branching off in various directions, yet some remaining interconnected. For centuries, this ancient place served as an important point on the route for trade caravans. Several tunnels were added, like the one Alexander the Great built in 323 BCE for his army, or railway tunnels built by South African and British forces in WWII.
A tragic ancient fable tells a story of a young girl from the port city of Acre, who was to be married to an old, wealthy man in Lebanon. She pleaded with her parents to not give her away, but they would not listen. Her father was escorting her to Tyre when she threw herself from her horse and into the Mediterranean Sea near the white cliff of Rosh HaNikra. It is said that one can still hear this unnamed girl’s sad song coming from within the water crashing against the cliffs. There is certainly a distinctive sound the waves make while flowing through the tunnels.
The world’s steepest cable car
The two-minute-long, 64m ride leads straight to the grottoes, at an angle of 60 degrees! Only extreme weather can shut it down, and it is so popular that one should go very early in the morning to avoid long queues. Rosh Hanikra is the only cliff in Israel that descends straight into the sea, so the views from the top and from the cable car are spectacular. You can see the Mediterranean beach, the lovely little islands, as well as the Elephant Leg (a natural formation created in the cliff by the seawater) with the fossilized starfish on it.
Exploring the grottos
Take the 200m walking track and pass through some of the most intricate grottoes, investigating them at your own pace. You must see the hundreds of stalagmites hanging on the cave ceilings above the turquoise pools. Like that splendid view is not enough, you can find animals along the way, such as fruit bats, rock pigeons, swallows, and hyraxes, or even visit the loggerhead sea turtle reserve, since Rosh Hanikra is one of the few places in the Mediterranean basin where the giant turtles lay their eggs. After that, you might want to watch the audio-visual presentation that tells the tale of the creation of the grottoes.
Night-time exploration of the tunnels
While most people opt for a daytime visit, think about a night-time exploration too. During the day, the sunlight slowly enters the grottoes’ entrances, making its way through the tunnels, and it is truly a spectacular sight. But imagine the tunnels and the pools of water under moonlight. It is splendid! The path is also well-lit, so your safety is ensured. In addition to the natural night-time charm of Rosh HaNikra, you do not have to worry about the crowds either, so you can observe, hear, and feel the true atmosphere of the tunnels.
Train, bicycles, and electric car
On weekends, a small train offers forty-minute rides along the sea promenade to the lovely Achziv and back. How about a bicycle ride to observe the grottoes from a different perspective? You can even join a cycling tour. If cycling is not your thing, take a drive along the sea promenade in an electric car, to enjoy the splendid landscape in peace, and see the cute rock hyraxes who live in rock crevices. Railroad tunnels are also very interesting – there is a light-and-sound show in the British-built tunnel, which tells the story of the grottoes, the ecology around it, and the tunnels’ history (plus, it has a few surprises for you).
When to visit?
Rosh Hanikra is beautiful all year round and, due to the unpredictability of nature, with every visit comes a different experience. Most people agree that winter is the best time to go, though some attractions, like the little train, do not work, and it can get a bit chilly. However, the waves of the Mediterranean Sea are at their strongest during the winter. Amazingly, during tempestuous weather, the waves can rise 35m up and over the edge of the cliff. It is a marvellous sight. Regardless of the time of the year, the grottoes will always welcome you.