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The beautiful Banias Nature Reserve

The Banias Nature Reserve is in two sections. Both are popular and the entrance ticket covers both. They are connected by a footpath, although most people visit them separately. Closest to the Hula Valley is the Banias Waterfall, seen on an easy ¾-hour walk, with some of the walk on a suspended walkway. The other section contains the Banias Springs, which is the source of the Hermon Stream. From the springs are several short, easy walks to places of historic interest, all set in very beautiful surroundings.

The Banias Springs in the Banias Nature Reserve are the source of the Hermon Stream. This stream is the easternmost of the three main northern tributaries of the Jordan River, the others being the Dan River and Snir Stream. The Hermon Stream accounts for about one-quarter of the water flowing into the Jordan River. 


The springs seep from bedrock at the base of the Banias Cave and form the large natural pools. Their water catchment area is the southern slopes of Mount Hermon and the northern Golan. From the springs, the Hermon Stream enters a 3-Km steep canyon, and this leads to a speeding up of the flow of the water. There are also a number of waterfalls, the largest being the Banias Waterfall. The Hermon Stream has several small tributaries.

One of the outcomes of the Six-Day War was that Israel secured its water sources from the Golan Heights. No longer would Israel’s enemies be able to divert its water sources as Syria once attempted.

The pools from the Banias Springs

The pools of the Banias Springs

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Banias and the dynasty of Herod the Great 


After the conquest of Israel by Alexander the Great, the Greeks built a city here called Paneas, named after its shrine to the god Pan. (Arabs have difficulty pronouncing the letter p and they called it Banias, which is its current name). The shrine to Pan and his statue were set up on a natural terrace to the north of the city at the foot of a steep cliff and in front of a quarried-out cave. Subsequently, other pagan shrines were constructed along this platform. Pan was a god of nature, shepherds, flocks and the mountain wilds, and a companion of the nymphs. He was also recognized as a fertility god. He had the hindquarter, legs and horns of a goat.


The Romans incorporated Paneas into Herod the Great’s empire. To demonstrate his appreciation of this, Herod dedicated a temple here to his patron, the Roman emperor Augustus. The ruins of all these pagan worship sites can be seen on the platform.


At Herod’s death, his kingdom was divided among his three sons. To fully understand the history of northern Israel in late Second Temple times, it is helpful to understand the history of Herod’s dynasty, as their names appear in relation to Banias and other places and in texts such as the New Testament. Admittedly, this can be challenging as some of the names are rather similar.

Herod Antipas (reigned 4 BCE to 39 CE) was the son of Herod and a Samaritan wife and he became the tetrarch of the Galilee and territory east of the Jordan River and Dead Sea. The word tetrarch means ruler of a minor principality of the Roman Empire. Herod Antipas built Tiberias as his capital and carried out building projects in Tzipori. This is the Herod who ruled the Galilee during the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and who murdered John the Baptist in his palace in Transjordan. John the Baptist was beheaded at the request of Herod Antipas’ wife Herodias for denouncing her marriage. Herodias was formerly the wife of Herod Antipas' half-brother Philip the Tetrarch and Herod Antipas divorced his first wife in order to marry her. The New Testament sometimes calls Herod Antipas King Herod, although he never bore the title king.


Philip the Tetrarch (reigned 3 BCE to 34 CE) was another son of Herod the Great by a different wife and he ruled over what is now northern Israel, Lebanon and southern Syria. He made Paneas his capital and named it Caesarea Philipi to distinguish it from other cities called Caesarea. He had few Jewish subjects and pursued a policy of Hellenization. He had no sons and at his death the Roman emperor Tiberius attached his realms to the province of Syria. When Tiberius died in 37 CE, his successor Caligula immediately restored it as a principality, and appointed as its king Philip the Tetrarch’s nephew Herod Agrippa.


Herod Agrippa (born 11 BCE, died 44 CE and reigned 41 to 44 CE) was a grandson of Herod the Great. Herod the Great married the last surviving Hasmonean, Miriam, and they had a son Aristobulus. Herod murdered Aristobulus and his mother because of suspected insurrection, but not before Aristobulus had fathered a son called Agrippa. He was sent to Rome when he was 6 years old and raised as a Roman aristocrat. He was appointed ruler of Transjordan and eventually all of the Galilee by his schoolfriend the Roman emperor Gaius, and his kingdom was later expanded to include Judea and Jerusalem by the new emperor Claudius. Herod Agrippa had an excellent relationship with his Jewish subjects and was very popular. He identified with the Jewish people and never worshipped pagan gods. However, he was poisoned after being king of Judea for only 4 years by enemies resentful of his pro-Jewish activities. Roman procurators now took over his kingdom. The turmoil these seven corrupt procurators created was a major factor in the Great Revolt of the Jews against Rome.


Herod Agrippa’s son Herod Agrippa II (27 to 100 CE) was the last ruler of the Herodian dynasty, and he was appointed ruler over provinces outside of Judea. He was eventually given territories previously governed by Philip the Tetrarch and also ruled over Tiberias. He made Banias the capital of his kingdom during the second half of the first century CE. He tried to dissuade the Jews from rebelling during the Great Revolt, but when unsuccessful became active on the side of Rome. His palace can be seen during your visit to the Banias Nature Reserve.



Time: ¾ hour.

Distance: Just over 1¾ Km.

Type of hike: Circular.

Difficulty: This is an easy trail, although there are 370 steps each way.

Directions:  Enter “Banias” into Waze and click on “Banias (Panias) Fall.”

Admission:This is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Hours in the summer are 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and Saturday, and Fridays and holiday eves 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. The site closes one hour earlier in the winter. It is recommended to come early on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer as space can be limited. There is a large parking area. Adjacent to this is a large completely shaded area with picnic benches, restrooms, a store for drinks and snack foods, and a café selling Druze food. The phone number of the reserve is: 04 653-2211 and this is their website.

Public transport: Enter "Banias" into Moovit. The closest bus stop is at the Sha'ar Yishuv Intersection which is a 3.3 Km/40-minute walk away.

The Banias Waterfall

The Banias Waterfall viewed from the suspended walkway.



This popular walk starts from the Waterfall Parking Lot. Part of the walk is on a suspended wooden walkway above the Hermon Stream as it flows swiftly through a narrow gorge. At the far end of the walkway, you look out on the impressive Banias Waterfall.


  • From the Waterfall Parking Lot proceed along the blue-marked trail. From the Lookout, this changes to a red-marked trail. As you descend towards the stream, the path becomes a wooden suspended walkway. Because of its steep descent, the flow of the stream beneath the walkway is quite fierce.


  • After viewing the waterfall, return the short distance to the junction. Take the right branch of the blue-marked trail back to the parking lot.



Directions:  Enter into Waze “Banias” and click on “Hermon Stream Nature Reserve.”

Admission: As for the lower section, this is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and has the same hours. One ticket is valid for both sites. The springs and pools are close to the parking lot. Close to the pools are a store selling drinks and supplies, restrooms, and a picnic area with picnic benches under plenty of shade from trees. No swimming or wading is permitted in the pools.

Public transport: Enter "Hermon Stream Nature Reserve" into Moovit. The closest bus stop is a 17-minute/1.4 Km walk away.

The shrine to Pan at Banias

The city of Panias was built by the Greeks and named after the shrine to their god Pan. This shrine was constructed in the northern part of the city above the spring.



The ruins of the pagan shrines can be visited by following the circular path above the pools. There are signs with information along the route from which you can recreate to a degree the paganism of Greece and Rome. You can also understand why people eventually tired of it all and why conversion initially to Judaism and then to Christianity became attractive in the Roman Empire.


Another pleasant walk from the springs visits the palace of Agrippa II. This is on a circular, 45-minute, purple-marked trail. In its time, this palace was the largest and most magnificent building in Israel. The synagogue in the same area dates from much later, from the 11th century CE.

Another trail visits the ruins of a Crusader fortress. This trail is yellow-marked and part of it follows the wadi of the Sa’ar Stream.

It also possible to hike on a footpath from the Banias Springs to the Banias Waterfall. It is about a 90-minute hike. You will miss much of the suspended walkway, but the view of the waterfall is the same.

if you do this hike, you will need to think about how to get back to your car. You can, of course, walk back the way you came. Also, many of the cars and buses at the Waterfall Parking Lot will be going to the Banias Spring and you can hitch a ride. You can also hope for the best and start walking along the main road. You should be able to hitch a ride, as a lot of drivers will be traveling in your direction.

Herod's palace at Banis.jpeg

The ruins of the palace and administrative center of Agrippas II. The large rectangular room was probably his throne room.

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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