Banias Nature Reserve houses an ancient city named Banias that developed around a spring once associated with the Greek god Pan. It had been inhabited for 2,000 years, until its destruction in 1967. It is located at the foot of Mount Hermon, of the Golan Heights. The spring is the source of the Banias (Hermon) River, one of the main tributaries of the Jordan River. Archaeologists uncovered a shrine dedicated to Pan and related deities, and the remains of an ancient city founded sometime after the conquest by Alexander the Great and inhabited until 1967; the ancient city was mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark by the name of Caesarea Philippi.
The spring at Banias initially originated in a large cave carved out of a sheer cliff face which was gradually lined with a series of shrines. The temenos (sacred precinct) included in its final phase a temple placed at the mouth of the cave, courtyards for rituals, and niches for statues. It was constructed on an elevated, 80m long natural terrace along the cliff which towered over the north of the city. A four-line inscription at the base of one of the niches relates to Pan and Echo, the mountain nymph, and was dated to 87 BCE.
The once very large spring gushed from the limestone cave, but an earthquake moved it to the foot of the natural terrace where it now seeps quietly from the bedrock, with a greatly reduced flow. From here the stream, called Nahal Hermon in Hebrew, flows towards Hula Lake. The pre-Hellenistic, Canaanite deity associated with the spring of Banias was variously called Ba’al-gad or Ba’al-Hermon.
Banias Nature Reserve – Things to Do
So which activities you can do in the park? So you can hike the amazing trails in the park. These trails are super easy and almost anyone can hike there. In fact, Banis Nature Reserve connects to Hermon Stream Nature Reserve which together forms one big park. Also, there is lots of archaeology to see like a Herodian Palace the holy precinct of the city Banias. In short lots of fun, you squeeze into just a short couple of hours. Trust me you won’t need more!
The banks of the river abound in willow trees, oriental planes, silver-leaf poplars, Tabor oaks, Palestine oaks, Mt. Atlas mastics, terebinths, carobs, ferns, giant canes, and various vines.
The stream is home to a variety of fluvial fish, including longhead barbel, large-scale barbel, Damascus barbel, and tilapia. Living and roaming around the stream or in it are wild boars, Syrian rock hyrax, swamp cats, nutria, and Indian porcupines.
Birds that frequent the vicinity of the stream include rock doves and Western rock nuthatch.
Banias Nature Reserve Opening Hours:
Last entry to the site: one hour before cited closing time
Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 08:00-17:00
Friday and holiday eves: 08:00-16:00
Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 08:00-16:00
Friday and holiday eves: 08:00-15:00
Holiday eves: 08:00-13:00
Yom Kippur eve: 08:00-13:00
On holidays and Saturdays, I recommend arriving early, entry is based on the availability of space.