The Banias Spring emerges at the foot of Mount Hermon and flows powerfully through a canyon for 3.5 km, eventually leading to the Banias Waterfall, the most impressive cascade in Israel. Nine kilometers from its source, the Hermon Stream meets the Dan, and together they form the Jordan River. A stepped path near the spring climbs to the Banias Cave. Nearby, five niches carved into the cliff wall are a remnant of the temple to Pan, which gave the site its name: Paneas or Pameas (pronounced Banias in Arabic). Remains of a temple built by Herod the Great stand in front of the cave.
After Herod’s death, his son Philip inherited this area, and in 2 BCE Philip founded his capital near the Banias Spring, calling it Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi became an important Christian pilgrimage destination as the place where Jesus asked the disciples who people said he was. The New Testament records that Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus then blessed Simon, saying: “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it "(Matt. 16:16–19).
A 45-minute loop trail passes Roman- and Crusader-period sites. The marked trail to the waterfall takes about 90 minutes. About 150 m along that trail, it crosses the Govta Stream under a Roman bridge. It continues to the hydroelectric power station and the reconstructed, water-powered Matroof flour mill, where Druze pita with labaneh (goat cheese) is for sale. The Officers Pool, 350 m farther along, now a habitat for Capoeta damascena fish, was used by Syrian officers before 1967.
From here there are two options:
- Continue to the waterfall, about a 45-minute walk (you should leave a car at the waterfall parking lot). The cashier must open a gate for visitors who wish to continue from the waterfall area southward, along the trail marked in black.
- Backtrack 150 m to the loop trail toward Agrippas’ Palace and the Springs parking lot. You can also use your entry ticket and drive to the waterfall, where a loop trail takes about 30 minutes.There are plane trees, poplars and willows along the stream. On the slopes are Kermes oak, officinal storax, and a variety of Mediterranean woodland species that change with the seasons. The trail is beautiful year-round. The lower Banias reserve is a legally declared nature reserve, Signposted rules must be followed.
How to get there?
- To the springs - about 3 km east of Kibbutz Snir on road 99 (Kiryat Shmona-Mas’adeh)
- To the waterfall - about 2 km east of Kibbutz Snir on road 99
Credit: By Israel Nature and Parks Authority