Banias: The Complete Insider’s Guide

Banias Falls hike

The Banias.  It’s one of the most popular waterfalls in Israel. 

At the Banias, at almost any time of year, you’ll see tourists galore, pulling up in giant buses to gape at the impressive falls.  Visitors line up on the viewing decks, basking in the cooling mist of the giant waterfall.

But did you know that there’s a lot more to this place than one beautiful waterfall?

Banias Nature Reserve is home to Banias Stream, otherwise known as Hermon Stream.  This gorgeous, cool river is created by snow melting on the Hermon Mountain, which then seeps underground through rock towards the riverbed.  Along the way, the melted snow is joined by several beautiful springs, which create the Hermon Stream in all of its crystal cool glory.

As one would expect, rivers have always been hot spots for settlement through the ages, especially in Israel.  At the Nature Reserve, you can also see the remnants of history, in an ancient temple, an old flour mill, and more.  The reserve also covers a large area of rich natural beauty, well beyond the waterfall.

Taking it in.

And Banias isn’t just a Nature Reserve.  Outside of the gates of the park the river continues, flowing down through Lower Hermon Stream.  You can follow the stream for many kilometers, along a cool and shady pathway.

This guide will give you a roundup of the 3 best walks you can take at the Banias.  Pick your favorite, or try them all for the complete Banias experience.

Wait, But Why Banias?

First, a bit of history:  The Banias takes its name from Panyas, which is what ancient civilizations once called this area of unique natural beauty.  Panyas was thus named after the Greek god Pan, a half goat half man figure who presided over rural areas.

King Herod, the Roman client king of Judea who ruled during the Second Temple period, built a temple to Pan at Banias Springs.  It can still be explored today.

Rich with history.

Herod and his son Philip also built a city at Banias, which they named Caesarea Philipi.  This city changed hands multiple times throughout the centuries.  It was home to temples, bathhouses, and a Crusader fortress. 

According to Christian history, Banias is where Peter received the keys to heaven from Jesus.  This has made the Reserve a place of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world.

What About the Nature at Banias?

Besides being an important archeological site, Banias is a place of great natural beauty.  Water from the springs flows downriver under a canopy of thick shade towards the waterfall.  The length and breadth of the riverbed cause the river to eat into the rocks, creating beautiful whitewater rapids and waterfalls.  There are fish at Banias, along with birds, otters, rock badgers, and all types of flowers.

Banias hike.
On the trail to the Springs.

The Nature Reserve itself is a spectacular place to visit.  But further downriver, outside of the Park gates, the beauty continues.  You can’t enter the water at the Banias Nature Reserve.  But you can go in the water just a few kilometers downriver.

Let’s get to the trails.

Banias Waterfall: Begin Here

First time visitors to the Banias cannot miss the hanging trail to the Banias Waterfall. This trail begins from the southern entrance to the Banias Nature Reserve.  The trail takes you along a hanging bridge, suspended in mid-air.  Walking this way allows visitors to experience the speed and force of the Hermon Stream from a unique perspective up above.

After a short and easy walk, you’ll reach the viewing platform of the Banias Falls.  The sheer force and beauty of the waterfall is magnificent.  On a cold day, you’ll want to bring a warm outer layer.  But in the summer, you’ll feel refreshed in the cooling mist of the falls.

Banias hike.
Whitewater rush.

After the falls, you’ll have to climb shady set of stairs to return to the entrance.  It’s worth it.  This waterfall is a site you just can’t miss.

It’s best to visit the Nature Reserve early in the day: the site tends to get crowded in the afternoon.  There are facilities and a store on site.  Entrance fee is 28 NIS per adult, 14 per child.  Make sure to check the hours on the National Park’s site before you go.  The entire walk is about 1.5 kilometers long.

Read the full post with free maps here.

Banias Springs Trail: Explore a Bit More

Once you’ve gotten your feet wet at the Banias, it’s time to wander a bit further: on the trail to Banias Springs.  There’s a separate entrance at springs, but I recommend you start at the Waterfall and break right onto the blue trail.

Why should you take this extended version?  It’s because there’s so much to enjoy on the actual trail to Banias Springs!

On the trail, you’ll get to walk along a rushing river, covered in a magical canopy of shade.  The walk is quiet, and cool even on the hottest days.  On the way to the springs, you’ll pass an old flour mill (still in use) and walk under an old Roman Bridge.  Eventually, you’ll get to Banias Springs, where you can see the famous Temple of Pan.

The Springs.

You can leave a second car at the Banias Springs Parking to shorten your hike, but it’s worthwhile to stop for an ice cream break and then return the way you came.  It’s just that beautiful.

Since this trail is located in the Nature Reserve, you’ll have to pay a fee upon entry.  If you’re traveling with kids, I recommend that you pick up a Junior Ranger book as well.

This easy and pleasant hike is about 4 kilometers each way.  Try the Springs trail, and you’ll really fall in love with the Banias.

Read the full post with free maps here.

The Other Banias: Lower Hermon Stream

If you’re getting tired of paying an entrance fee at every visit to the Banias, it’s time to switch to the free version of the trail – at Lower Hermon Stream. 

As previously mentioned, the Banias River doesn’t end at the National Park gate.  It continues southward, eventually spilling into the Jordan River.  You can hike along the trail next to the river for several kilometers, experiencing the same beauty in a quieter setting.

Banias hike.
Floating along at Lower Hermon Stream.

The best part of visiting Lower Hermon Stream?  You can actually get in the water!  Visit the Banias Nature Reserve in the summertime, and you’ll find yourself wishing for a quick dip into the cold water.  But no can do.  Swimming is not allowed at the Nature Reserve.  At Lower Hermon Stream on the other hand, you can float down the Banias River in an inner tube to your heart’s content.

This trail stretches between the towns of Sha’ar Yashuv and Sde Nehemya.  You can follow the Waze link in the post, or park much further up for a longer river ride.  Enter חורשת הנופלים into Waze for the longer version.

Since this trail can be as long or as short as you like, it’s great for just about anyone.  This hike is perfect for families in the summertime.  Don’t forget your water shoes!

Read the full post with free maps here.

The Banias: Beauty 3 Ways

There’s more than one way to explore the glorious Banias.  This Northern Israel gem is a must-do for visitors and locals.  You can hike through it at all seasons in all kinds of different ways.

From archeology, to history, to nature, to fun, the Banias has everything you need for a great day.  Complete the three hikes in this guide, and you’ll have the inside scoop on one of the most beautiful streams in Israel.

Get in there!

Don’t forget to click on the individual hike posts for free maps and instructions!

Click to expand FAQ below:

FAQ

What is the Banias?

The Banias is a Nature Reserve around Hermon Stream. At the Nature Reserve, there are waterfalls, springs, a cool river, and an ancient city. It is home to the largest waterfall in all of Israel.

Is there a fee to get in?

It costs 28 NIS per adult and 14 NIS per child to enter. Outside of the Nature Reserve you can enter Hermon Stream for free.

Can you swim there?

Entrance to the Hermon Stream is not permitted in the Nature Reserve. Outside of the reserve, you can swim at Lower Hermon Stream.

Why is Banias a site for Christian pilgrimage?

According to Christian history, this is where Jesus gave the keys to heaven to Peter.

What does the name mean?

The name was taken from the original name for the area: Panyas. It was named for the Greek god Pan, a half man half goat that was thought to preside over rural areas.

When can I go?

Banias is a good place to visit at any season. The Nature Reserve is open in the summertime daily from 8:00-17:00, in the winter from 8:00-16:00. On Fridays, it’s open until 16:00 in the summer and 15:00 in the winter.

How long is the trail?

The short trail is 1.5 kilometers. It takes less than an hour to hike. There are also longer trails in the reserve which can take 2-3 hours to hike.

How do I find my way?

You’ll receive free maps in English when you enter the reserve. For Lower Hermon Stream, enter Eucalyptus Parking into Waze and then follow the trail.

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