Israel in Pictures (1) – Tel Dan Nature Reserve

Israel is a small country – approx.  470 km (290 miles) long from north to south, and about 135 km (83 miles) across at its widest point. It has borders with Lebanon in the north, with Syria in the northeast, with (the West Bank and) Jordan in the east, and with Egypt in the southwest. To its west Israel has a coastline with the Mediterranean Sea of about 200 km length (124 miles). Although so tiny, Israel has an amazing variety of landscapes.

There are the Golan Heights in the northeast of the country, a hilly basalt plateau situated between in winter snow-topped Mount Hermon in the north and the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret in Hebrew, the lowest freshwater lake on earth) at its southwestern end. The Golan is sparsely populated, with about half of its residents Jewish Israelis and the other half Druze, mostly with Syrian nationality.

The “Jordan River … has the lowest elevation of any river in the world. The river rises on the slopes of Mount Hermon, on the border between Syria and Lebanon, and flows southward through northern Israel to the Sea of Galilee… Exiting the sea, it continues south, dividing Israel and the … West Bank to the west from Jordan to the east, before emptying into the Dead Sea.”

“The Dead Sea, known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melakh (the Sea of Salt) is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the saline water of the lake give lead to the name because no fish can survive in the salty waters. The other result of the salty water is their renowned health and healing properties and the unique feature that one can float naturally in them. Really just a lake, the Dead Sea is part of the long border between Israel and Jordan whose towering mountains can be seen from the Israeli side, part of the Judean and Negev deserts. Just a one-hour drive from Jerusalem.”

At the southernmost tip of Israel, on the shores of the Red Sea, lies the city of Eilat.

“Hugely popular with Israeli families looking for a beach break and Europeans taking refuge from bone-chilling winters back home, the Red Sea resort of Eilat is brash, ugly and almost inevitably crowded, a place where being scantily clad and sunburned is the rule rather than the exception.

However – and it’s a big however – Eilat is also a place where visitors seem to have a great time and where children in particular seem blissfully happy. The turquoise waters of the Red Sea, home to some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs, offer snorkeling, scuba diving and swimming opportunities galore, and there are plenty of other attractions on offer, including (in no particular order) hiking amid spectacular desert scenery, VAT-free shopping and an aquarium. So far, the Red Sea’s reefs have suffered almost no bleaching, perhaps because the kinds of coral found here are already used to elevated water temperatures.”

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Two weeks ago my partner and I made a trip to the north to celebrate our birthdays, both in June. The first place we visited was the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, a truly enchanting paradise of water and green and lots of shade.

“… a wondrous nature reserve that is nothing short of a magnificent little piece of heaven, full of history and beauty. This site, located in northern Israel (near Kiryat Shmona) isn’t only a rare and exquisite archaeological treasure but it is also one of Israel’s most stunning natural attractions.

The Dan river, originating from the springs at Tel Dan, is the largest of three sources of the Jordan river and this site (covering a total area of 120 acres) has a variety of walks you can take through the reserve while enjoying its beautiful waters streams and treetops. The longest route is the most thrilling one, for it combines antiquities with gorgeous natural sights. All these paths will ultimately lead you to a pool where the river has its source. There’s a total of four nature trails that crosses water channels amid big forest trees and a flourishing plantation.”

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