Tel Dan is one of the special places in Israel. It is a place of incomparable beauty – where you can get close to (but not go in) a relatively fast flowing (in Israeli terms) stream that is one of the sources of the Jordan.
It is really outstanding. A photographer’s dream.
Known as Tel Dan Nature Reserve, this half-square kilometer reserve, north of Route 99, has two major attractions. The first one contains a lush forest, which is fed by springs that run all year round. The second one contains the ruins of a grand ancient city where the Canaanites inhabited during the 18th century B.C. and the Israelites during the First Temple period (12th century B.C.)
There are three trails to choose from:
- Short Trail (45 minutes)
- Long Trail (one-and-a-half minutes)
- Ancient Dam Trail (two hours)
Some of the sections of these trails became virtual tunnels through the thick brambles. There are certain sections that are wheelchair-accessible. All of these trails pass a wading pool — which measures just about 1.3 feet — a great place to wade and to cool your heels, literally. However, swimming is prohibited in the pool and elsewhere in the reserve.
Since the reserve is the hub of the three ecosystems, it boasts a surprisingly diversified selection of flora and fauna. They include the Indian-crested procupine and the orange-and-black fire salamander (they are in the “endangered” status now). This curious creature has five toes on each of its hind feet but only four on its front feet. Some of the reserves’ non-native plants and trees — such as the silver poplar and eucalyptus — are being cut down to allow the native species to grow and thrive.
Your visit to the reserve won’t be complete without checking out the Tel Dan Stele (“House of David Stele”) a term archaeologists refer to a fragment of a 9th-century-B.C. tablet inscribed in Old Aramaic (Phoenician alphabet). This is the tablet in which King Damascus boasted having defeated both the “king of Israel” and the “king of the House of David.” Other than the Bible, this ancient table is the earliest-known reference to King David. You can find the original at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The main trail is fairly short and entirely wheel chair and stroller accessible. (There are also some branch routes that go further that are only foot paths.) There are some Canaanite remains further up the trail.
Tel Dan is perfect for an hour’s relaxation – enjoy the shade on a hot summer’s day. Definitely finish off with an ice-cream.
There are several restaurants in the area serving fish fresh from the streams in the area.
This is one of my personal favorite spots in Israel — I visit Tel Dan almost every time I am in the area (Jonathan).
See Tel Dan Reserve
See also Nature Reserves
Getting To Tel Dan
On road 99 – east of Kiryat Shemona