Note: picture galleries will be displayed along the article - you can click on the pictures to see them at full size.
Riding the Western Galilee can be a 1 day trip from the center of the country, or the first day on a bigger journey that can include as well the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights.
Getting there from the center of the country
There are some different ways to ride to the Western Galilee from the center of the country.
The most direct way is riding to Haifa, crossing the Carmel Tunnels, and continuing North in the direction of Acco. In terms of roads, this is not the most beautiful way, but the advantage is that it will give riders that choose this way to see the old city of Acco (Acre), its market and the underground archeological discoveries there. You can also stop at Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot to see the old Roman aqueduct and visit the Gueto Museum. From there, continue directly to Rosh Ha Nikra, where you can go down with the cable car to visit the caves, a spectacular site, definitely one of the most stunning places in Israel.
After your rest, you will continue to road 854, in the direction to Ma'alot-Tarshiha, and after turning to road 8655 the first stop will be at the Kisra-Sumei Rock Park. Road 854 is a beautiful road, with slow and fast curves, which every rider will surely enjoy.
Kisra-Sumei is a small Druze village with a Christian minority also living there. There is a small park of plants and rocks which can be interesting to riders, and an opportunity for walking a little. It is not a place for loosing much time, but it is worth the visit and a little walk.
You will leave Mi'ilya using road 8837 to Mitzpe Hila and to Manot - the road is small and slow, but there you will see the best country views of the Mediterranean Sea. From Manot you will continue to road 8911, turn right in Road 70 and at Shlomi take a left to Rosh HaNikra.
The following is the complete map to this option of itinerary:
Old and New Northern Roads
Now both itineraries have joined together and we can continue with a unified trip.
We will come down from Rosh HaNikra and take Road 899 to the East. Road 899 (together with Road 89) is called in Israel "The Northern Road". It has been elected by some test-drive drivers and riders as one of the best roads in the world for sport driving/riding.
After a small number of miles we will see a sign pointing left to Adamit. We will turn left there to Road 8993, the "Old Northern Road". This was the original Northern road, that ran side-by-side with the border fence with Lebanon. In 1937 the new Northern road was paved, and since then it is the main route from East to West, while road 8993 stayed as an historical road.
The first miles of this road that we will experience is an uphill serpentine road which is beautiful and can provide a great riding experience, and also beautiful views. Make sure you stop from time to time to photograph the view to the west (your back) and down. You will not be disappointed by the pictures.
Our first stop will be at the Keshet Cave. The Keshet Cave is part of the Adamit Park, and is a giant round ring shaped rock which both provides a great view and is a rappelling site.
From the Keshet Cave we will continue to Arab el-Aramshe, an arab village that is really upon the border fence with Lebanon, there are places from there (the most Northern spots) that can provide a beautiful view of Lebanon.
After looking a little at our hostile neighbors from the North, we will continue our way East on Road 8993. We will pass inside the Bezet River reserve, a good place for a walk if you have time and will for that - there is a marked path in which you walk inside the river. But we will continue riding until we get to the Moshav Shtula, there we will find the "Talking Walls". These are a group of concrete blocks that were put there at the border for protecting the people of Shtula, which were later covered with street art and nearby a number of coffee trucks found a place to be. All this environment brought a lot of tourists, riders, drivers, families, for tourism there.
Monfort Fortress - A stunning ancient fortress in the mountains - save around 1h30m for this site, there is some walking there.
Galil Mountain Winery, in Iron - the largest winery in the region, it is already an industrial winery with a visitation center. Visits take about 2 hours and include a tour through the production line and some wine tasting.
Shabo Cheeses, in Rehannya - Rehannya is a Circassian village, and following the best Circassian tradition, they manufacture excellent cheeses and sell them, together with Circassian typical food. Upon previous reservation, it is possible to be received by the owners (mother and daughter-in-law) that run the place, receive an explanation of the Circassian culture and costumes. A very enjoyable visit that I have done myself.
Adir Winery - a little after Rehannya, at your left, you will see the Adir winery. Despite the fact that it is a lot smaller than the Galil Mountain Winery, Adir Winery is also an excellent place to visit, do some wine tasting and eat something. They have a kind of a restaurant there in which you can enjoy good food and excellent wine.
Safed - we suggested the area for sleeping, but despite the fact that Safed is not in the Western Galilee anymore, but rather in the Upper Galilee, no visit to the area is complete without a walk in the old city of Safed. Don't miss it!
At this point we have ridden one of the most beautiful regions of Israel, between the sea and the mountains, and on one of the most stunning roads in the country. We have felt the feeling of a closed border, and also how it is possible anyway to have fun so near such a border. This is definitely a trip to remember.
Here we finish the first chapter of this series. In the next chapter, we will be talking about the Upper Galilee, and maybe also about the Golan Heights. See you there.