Israel has a deserved reputation as one of the world’s top cultural hubs and its fascinating history draws millions of visitors each year. However, fewer tourists are aware of the many natural wonders that exist in Israel, including one of our favorites, the amazing Hula Valley.
Israel is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the entire Middle East and if you love the great outdoors, it would be absolutely criminal to not venture out of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and explore Israel’s gorgeous rural areas. The Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee should be way up there near the top of your list; it’s one of the best destinations for hiking, bird watching and other outdoor activities due to its unparalleled scenic views.
The Hula Valley is part of the world-famous Great African Rift Valley and is considered one of the best showcases of Israel’s scenery as the imposing Golan mountain scenery behind it is balanced by the tranquility of its many beautiful springs and plentiful greenery.
Just so you know, just 50-odd years ago it didn’t even exist. The Hula Valley of today only exists thanks to a comprehensive drainage project in the 1950s, before which the swampy area was a constant flood zone and a base for malaria. The drainage project meant the area became a great place to visit and even live, and also added large areas of agricultural land.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about the Hula Valley, you really can’t go wrong with checking out some of these amazing things to see and do in the Hula Valley area…
Without a doubt, the Hula Valley’s best-known attraction is Agmon HaHula. This recently developed site came about as a result of the floods in the area in the 1990s – and Agmon HaHula subsequently became the second home for thousands of migrating birds that pass through this part of the world in the autumn and spring, as well as the home of many native birds. It has become a very popular sight for bird-watchers from Israel and abroad to admire the storks, cormorants and white-tailed eagles that fly overhead; the now annual Hula Valley Bird Festival is fast becoming a must-see during the autumn months for keen bird-watchers.
Agamon HaHula has walking paths, observation points, and telescopes for observing the thousands of birds that inhabit the site. Visitors can also go on guided tours that offer explanations about the birds that inhabit the Hula Valley. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view some of the world’s rarest bird species, including some that are only found in the Middle East. You can even take a guided tour in a tractor-drawn safari wagon. It’ll make for some amazing photographs! See the official site for more details.
With all that water in the area, there are numerous other parks and reserves in the area, including HaTanur, Tel Dan, the Banias, and Hurshat Tal.
If you’ve had your fill of scenery and wildlife and would like to immerse yourself in some good old ancient history, do pay a visit to Tel Hatzor, the most famous archeological site in the Hula Valley. Hatzor was an ancient city built by the Canaanites and has been described in historical documents as being one of the most important cities in Canaan. Today, the ruins stand as impressive reminders of the luxurious palaces, grand temples and bustling markets that once stood in this great city. This attraction is probably best seen with a guide who will be able to elucidate some of the lesser-known details about the history of the city under Canaanite and later Israelite rule before it was razed to the ground by Assyrian forces in 732 BC, but it’s also very doable alone.
You could also head to the city of Kiryat Shmona at the far northern end of the Upper Galilee, plus stop by at the numerous kibbutzim and moshavim in the Hula Valley for various other year-round activities. Our hot tips: the Tel Hai Photography Museum, just north of Kiryat Shmona, and the Manara Cliff, complete with amazing cable car ride, which is just at the entrance to Kiryat Shmona.
Another great activity and one of our big faves, is kayaking (or rafting) on the River Jordan. Especially awesome during the hot, sweltering summer months (hey, even in early autumn or late spring!), kayaking down this great river is one of the best ways to cool off.
There is plenty to see and do in Israel’s great cities, but no visitor to Israel should miss out on the many rewarding outdoor activities available in the country. If you only have time for one nature-based attraction on your trip, make it the Hula Valley.