Rosh HaNikra Grottoes
At the northernmost point of Israel, on the Mediterranean coast, stand the majestic Rosh Hanikra cliffs. The waves of the clear blue sea crash upon the cliffs, adding to their beauty. When the water hits the white rocks of the cliffs, light is reflected, creating an amazing turquoise.
The cliffs of Rosh Hanikra are filled with caverns made by nature. It is believed they were formed by an earthquake which caused cracks and fissures to develop within the limestone. For thousands of years, rainwater trickled over the cliffs penetrating the crevices as waves crashed against the sides. Over time, the limestone and chalk eroded away, causing caves to form. As a result, there is a maze of caverns and tunnels, stretching out for over 200 meters within the Rosh Hanikra cliffs.
Quick History Lesson of Rosh Hanikra
On the border of Israel and Lebanon, in the northwest corner of Israel, Rosh Hanikra has held a strategic position throughout history. It’s located directly on the way from the Holy Land into Africa, Egypt, and the Arabian Peninsula. Trade caravans and pilgrims, traveling from Europe, Turkey, and Syria, as well as Israel and Lebanon, frequently passed through Rosh Hanikra. The road along the coast was also traveled by many armies, including the ancient Assyrians, Romans, Persians, Greeks, Ottomans, and Crusaders.
The path through Rosh Hanikra has seen a lot in its lifetime. While the British army captured Palestine from the Ottoman Empire and the Germans in World War I, the French were busy taking Syria and Lebanon. At the time, the path was rough, making troop movement between the French and British difficult. To make things easier, the British paved the road through Rosh Hanikra. This made traveling more efficient, but it destroyed the ancient routes, taking with it a piece of history.
Later, during World War II the British employed troops from South Africa to build a railroad from Cairo to Istanbul. They blasted the rock to form three tunnels in the Rosh Hanikra cliffs. They also erected a suspension bridge. This railroad played a critical role during and after the war. For example, it was used to transport Jewish survivors from concentration camps in exchange for Germans in Palestine.
In February 1948, during the War of Independence, members of the Jewish resistance wanted to stop Arab forces from using the route through Rosh Hanikra. To accomplish this, they bombed the railway bridge.
When the State of Israel was created in May 1948, attention was turned to repairing the bridge. However, it was too expensive, and the tunnels were sealed off. The main tunnels through the Rosh Hanikra cliffs remain sealed but tourists can visit one of the tunnels and see the remains of the train tracks.
Today, the Rosh Hanikra crossing along the border of Israel and Lebanon is mostly used by members of the UN. In 1949, the armistice agreement between Israel and Lebanon was signed at the crossing.
For decades, the grottos of Rosh Hanikra were only accessible by sea. This meant the only people able to marvel at the beauty of these caves were divers and swimmers. However, in the late 60’s a new tunnel was dug, followed by the addition of a cable car in the 70’s. Now everyone can experience the beauty that lies within the Rosh Hanikra cliffs.
Things to Do in Rosh Hanikra
To visit the Rosh Hanikra grottos, you go 70 meters down. This means taking the world’s steepest cable car, which descends over the cliffs at a 60° angle. When you get there, the views of the Israeli coastline are amazing. Managed by the Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, there’s more to do besides exploring the caverns. There’s a souvenir shop, a small café, and a restaurant. You can watch a film about the history Rosh Hanikra and how the grottos were formed. You can rent bikes or golf carts for a seaside excursion along the promenade that runs south along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
Ready to experience all that Rosh Hanikra has to offer? Take the Caesarea, Acre, and Rosh Hanikra Tour!