As our time in Israel came to a close, there was just one more place that I really wanted to visit- Rosh Hanikra. Located on the coast, north of Akko at the border with Lebanon, this geologic formation looked like something we had to see for ourselves! We drove north from Haifa, and as we approached the border, we took a wrong turn down to the lower entrance of the nature reserve. We wanted to take the cable car and see the view from the top, so we had to turn around and go up the hill to the end of the road (just before the border with Lebanon). At the top of the hill, a snack stand, gift shop, and ticket booth, as well as a fancy restaurant are set around the cable car station. The Rosh Hanikra cable car is one of the steepest in the world, going down to the base of the bright white cliffs at a steep 60 degree angle. It was a thrilling ride down to the bottom!
We visited Rosh Hanikra on a week day afternoon, during Passover, close to closing time, so the line for the cable car was not very long and we were able to get down to the grottoes fairly quickly. I read that at times, the lines can be very long, and the cars only carry a few people at a time. We opted to not bring the stroller on this adventure, instead, Landon walked and we carried Owen in the baby carrier or let him wander around. There were others that took a stroller on the cable car, but they had to wait longer, and in the grottoes there are stairs that made the stroller-less trip easier for us. If riding the steep cable car is not your thing, park at the lower entrance and you can walk through a tunnel, or rent an electric golf cart to drive around the area.
I wasn’t sure how Landon would react to this crazy steep cable car ride, but he thought it was fun! It only lasts a few moments, but the views are great and it’s a crazy feeling to be carried straight down the cliff! Rosh Hanikra has many natural attractions- the shockingly white chalk cliffs (think White Cliffs of Dover), the sea grottoes (formed from wave action against the white chalk cliffs), and railroad tunnels with interesting historical significance. In one of the tunnels, a film plays every 15 minutes (and in English one time per hour) explaining all things Rosh Hanikra, from the wildlife to the history of the railroad tunnel. We decided to head to the grottoes first.
Before the viewing tunnel for the grottoes was completed in 1968, only divers and experienced swimmers could explore the caves. The tunnel opens onto several viewing areas, and there are some side tunnels as well. I wish that I had more time to figure out the lighting and camera settings to capture how gorgeous this place was, but Landon was going through the grottoes at a much faster pace, and I was afraid he was going to get lost or fall into the water!
The end of the grotto tunnel path pops out ON the white cliffs! The views over the Mediterranean were amazing, and we got to see the white cliffs up close. They seriously looked like they had been painted! Dark flecks in the chalk that we walked on were pieces of other rock embedded in the chalk.
The path circles around the outer edge of the cliff, and back to the cable car station. There is a fence to keep people from falling off the cliff into the water, but being paranoid mom I also kept a close eye on the boys as they ran around on the path. At one point, Landon ran off way ahead of us, and I thought he was lost in the grotto tunnels. After a few minutes of panicked searching, I found him in the railway tunnel near the movie theater munching away on a bucket of popcorn. When I asked him where he got it, he said he just took it from the snack table. In his defense, the snack table was right at his height, and the popcorn buckets were just sitting there, filled up and ready to go. He didn’t get anymore popcorn, although we did pay for it and the rest of us enjoyed it during the film. Landon learned to ask first, and not steal things. Yay for life lessons!
The film was really interesting and we learned about another facet of Rosh Hanikra that I did not know- its role in WWII and Israel’s fight for independence. During WWII, South Africans blasted through the cliffs to form the Cairo-Istanbul railway line, and connect Haifa to Beirut. When the British announced they were pulling out of Palestine early, and Israel was about to be attacked by many of its Arab neighbors, Israeli soldiers blew up the bridge connecting the two existing tunnels to deter Lebanese arms shipments to their enemies.
After thoroughly exploring the tunnels, grottoes, and white cliffs, we headed back up to the top of the cliffs. We saw a group of people a little further up the road, and found this sign marking the border with Lebanon (a big barbed wire fence and gate were just north of it). I had no idea that Beirut was so much closer to Rosh Hanikra than Jerusalem!
A visit to Rosh Hanikra was an awesome way to finish off our time in Israel. The views, the natural wonders, the history- everything was great! Because we visited on a holiday, the restaurant was closed, but I imagine that eating dinner on top of the cliffs while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean would be a great way to finish off a visit to this site. As it is, we saw a Domino’s Pizza and stopped by on our way back to Haifa. It was closed, but the “fast” food restaurant next door was open. We were confused where all the food was, but turns out it was a hummus and pita bread restaurant! We ordered big bowls of hummus with hard boiled eggs and pita bread, and had a hummus feast!