What lies beneath: Israel's secret caves and hidden springs

Written by
Yoni Cohen

Israel's famous (and infamous) historic sitesnational parks with scenic views and well-known trails are a given. But if you scratch the surface a little, there is a whole host of hidden treasures lurking beyond what can be seen at first glance. Nestled within many of Israel’s mountain ranges are some incredible secret caves begging to be explored, and hidden throughout the country are hundreds of intimate springs and pools just waiting to be jumped into. 

Sorek Cave

Hidden within the western slopes of the Judean Hills is a magical fairy-tale world of stalactites and stalagmites in a multitude of shapes and sizes. The cave, which is also known as Avshalom Cave, was discovered accidentally in 1968 and was kept secret for years, for fear of causing damage to its incredible natural beauty. Luckily, now its fascinating formations, made from years of dripping water (some of which date back 300,000 years) are on display to the public. 

From Jerusalem, follow signposts from Bar-Giora Junction for about 5 km. From Tel Aviv, turn south from the Shimshon Jct, then east to the sign posted road for 5 km. 

Bell Caves

Bell Cave

Not exactly hidden, but still well worth a visit, Beit Guvrin, the 1,250-acre national park,  was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site three years ago - and for good reason. This significant archaeological site houses more than 800 bell-shaped caves in the park and 2,000 in the entire area - some of which are linked by underground tunnels. There is even one that is 1.28 meters high (and used for special events!) For an adrenaline rush, visitors can rappel down the limestone cliffs into some of the caves.

Take route 38 south past Beit Shemesh, until the road ends. Turn right on route 35, heading west. Follow signs to Beit Guvrin.

Malcham Cave

Not only is Malcham Cave the largest cave in Israel, it’s also the largest salt cave in the world and is one of more than 100 rare salt-rock caves at Mount Sedom, near the Dead Sea. At the base of the mountain lies the Malcham Cave. With massive open spaces, vertical shafts over 130 meters deep, and a range of stalactites and stalagmites made of salt, this is one secret cave that is never-endingly impressive. 

Take Route 90 south and after Neve Zohar continue for 10 km and then turn right towards Mount Sodom. 

Cave of the Pigeons

Pigeons Cave

© Shutterstock

Also called Ha’Yonim Cave, this ancient enclave hasn’t been inhabited for over 12,000 years, and these days you are more likely to see pigeons flying about. But for thousands of years, this cave served as a home to prehistoric humans - as far back as 250,000 years ago, during the Middle Paleolithic Mousterian period. Located in a limestone bluff about 250 meters above sea level in the upper Galilee, exploring this cave is a rare opportunity to see first-hand how our ancestors used to live. 

Take Route 85 from Akko then turn left at the Gilon Junction and follow the road for 2 km. Then follow the red and white markings.

Tsnobar Spring 

This spacious spring is located on a deserted army base in the Golan Heights. It’s surrounded by reeds and is hidden by tall eucalyptus trees – providing a welcome shade from the sun. While it’s definitely secluded and well worth the visit, watch out for local army officers who sometimes don’t appreciate additional visitors to the area. 

From Route 91 take a right 200 meters after Route 888 and follow signs to Tsnobar Camp and then enter through the gap to the right of the locked gate and continue about 400 meters. 

Plutit Spring

This spring just south of the Dead Sea was originally known by local residents as the ‘Hidden Spring’ because it’s hidden behind sugar cane and date trees. It’s also known as the ‘Love Spring’ because legend has it that those who dip their hand in the water and wash their face will be blessed with love. Even if you are not looking for love, it’s still a great little place to discover and cool off.

Turn right from Route 90 onto Route 2499 towards Ein Tamar and after 4.1 km there is a parking lot on the left side of the road. 

Kedem Spring

Kedem Spring, in the Carmel Mountains, is for those seeking to get away from it all, as well as a bit of adventure. There are two tunnels here, both with access to hidden springs. One of the tunnels is easy to navigate and leads to a spring, where water gushes out of the rock, while the second tunnel has a small window which only the very agile can squeeze through - but beware  - it leads into much deeper waters.

From Route 4 turn onto Jabotinsky Street in Tirat HaCarmel and continue east to the end of Ezra Street, where there is a parking lot. From the north of the lot follow the red signs to the spring.

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