Explore Israel's most remarkable caves
Whether naturally formed or man-made, these stunning caves throughout Israel will have you putting on your Indiana Jones hat for some serious discovering.
With a widely varied landscape – from green fields to rocky mountains and epic desert views – it comes as no surprise that Israel is also home to hundreds of caves.
Each day, discoveries are being made in these ancient caverns, like the recent findings by spelunkers of gold coins, pottery and jewelry dating back to the reign of Alexander the Great in a limestone cave in northern Israel.
While some caves have been naturally formed, others were man-made, but all are breathtaking. With rich geological and human histories, we're taking a virtual spelunking tour into some of Israel's most amazing caves.
The Avshalom Cave, also known as the Sorek Cave or the Stalactite Cave, is by and large the most iconic cave in Israel, with impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations dating back at least 300,000 years. Located on the western side of the Judean mountains, the cave is a popular destination and easy to tour with walkways throughout the incredible cavern.
The remarkably preserved formations were discovered in 1968 by quarry workers – until then, the cave had been sealed off. Now, Avshalom Cave is protected by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
The bell caves of Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park
In Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park, visitors can explore an ancient and extensive network of caves dug out thousands of years ago. It may seem like an impressive feat for ancient residents who didn't have modern technology to help them – but layers of soft limestone revealed even softer chalk beneath the surface, making the caves easier to excavate from the top down. These and even older caves nearby were used for a variety of purposes, from burials to quarries to storerooms.
Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not just because of the caves but because of important archaeological sites in the surrounding area – including the remains of a Roman amphitheater that once hosted gladiator fights!
Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
The chalk-white cliffs of Rosh Hanikra aren't just a beautiful cable car destination – they're home to more than 600 feet of winding sea caves formed over thousands of years by the sea, seismic activity and rainwater. Visitors can take the tour through these caverns, a remarkable sight when the sun shines in on the light blue water. The shifting colors, coupled with the echoing sound of the sea lapping against the calk rock walls, forms a magical experience for anyone who ventures within.
The limestone Luzit Caves were excavated long ago, leaving the eerie and beautiful formations that stand today. (Photo: amira_a/Flickr)
Another set of bell caves can be found in the Judean lowland. These quarries were excavated as early as the 3rd century. These caves are open to the public year-round, making them a popular spelunking destination for adventurers. However, most visitors choose to simply walk in through the striking entrance to the caves, which appears to be a set of eyes looking out!
Mt. Carmel Caves
One of the many caves dotting Mt. Carmel, Ornit Cave shows a fantastic view of the scenery nearby. (Photo: Gil Eilam/Flickr)
Mt. Carmel in Haifa has a flourishing city on its coastal side, a lush forest on the other, and several caves throughout its limestone slopes. Four caves on Mt. Carmel are of special archaeological significance and have earned the status of UNESCO World Heritage site: el-Wad, Tabun, Jamal and Es Skhul. Excavations of these caves have revealed hundreds of thousands of years of human history. Some of archaeology's most groundbreaking discoveries of Neanderthal remains have taken place on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.
Whether you're a cave-rappelling (or as they call it in Israel, "snapling") fanatic, an archaeology buff or an outdoor adventurer, Israel's caves offer intriguing and alluring settings. These five features barely scrape the surface – there are hundreds more to explore.
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