The Golan Heights is a rocky plateau at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, and straddles the borders of Syria and Israel. Israel currently holds about two-thirds of the territory, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981, while Syria holds the remaining one-third.
- Gamla - a site in the lower Golan that was a Jewish stronghold from 87 BCE until it fell to the Romans in 67 CE
- Nimrod Castle - a magnificently-located anti-crusader castle built in 1227 AD in the northern Golan Heights
Two-thirds of the Golan Heights has been under Israeli control since 1967, when Israel seized the area during the Six-Day War. The remainder is under Syrian control. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel returned another 5% of the land to Syria. Israel subsequently began building settlements in the area, and granted the Syrian Druze inhabitants permanent residency status. In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights.
The Israel-Syria border runs through the Golan Heights along an area known as the Purple Line. This line is patrolled by a United Nations peacekeeping force. No one is allowed to cross the border without special permission, though there is a UN-operated border crossing.
Hebrew is spoken among the Jewish inhabitants in the towns and kibbutzim. Arabic is also spoken in the region mainly by the Arabs and Druze living there, although many of them can also speak Hebrew and or English.
Public transport: there are a few daily buses from Tiberias, Hatzor and Kiryat Shmona to the Golan Hights. Services are few and far between due to the low population. Golanbus operates public transport from/to the Golan Heights, available only in hebrew though.
Private transportation: From route 90, there are four road "ascents" to the Golan Heights.
Hitchhiking is more accepted here than elsewhere in Israel, but you can still wait a long time to get to many destinations.
This area, due to low population, has one of the worst public transport services in the entire country, with some bus stops receiving as few as two or three buses daily.
You might try hitch-hiking, but it's not recommended, either here or anywhere in the country. You can rent a car as well, but only from few rental services.
- The Golan Heights is the wettest area in the region. There are many waterfalls including the Gamla, Sa`ar and the Banias waterfalls.
- It is especially recommended to visit in spring, when the ground is covered with wildflowers.
- Mount Hermon (2284m), in the northernmost point of the Golan Heights. There is a cable car going up the mountain - in the summer you can enjoy a breathtaking scenery and in the winter you can ski.
- Quneitra is a ghost town, evacuated during the 1967 war and left in the no-man's-land ever since. Thoroughly wrecked not only in 1967 but in the subsequent 1973 conflict as well, from the Israeli side the area can only be viewed from designated viewpoints set up along the border road, as it's just across the de-facto line of control. However, from Syria, the area can be visited with a permit from the relevant military office in Damascus, just above the Maliki garden on Sharia al-Jala (bring your passport). An official guide escorts all visitors (free of charge, but a tip is appropriate after the tour).
- Nimrod Fortress is is an ancient fortress in the northern Golan Heights, built in the 13th century by Muslim rulers to defend against a possible Crusader attack. It is located on a steep mountain ridge, with deep forested ravines on either side, and has a stupendous view of its surroundings. There is a trail leading from the fortress's west edge downhill several kilometers to Banias.
- Banias - This national park follows the Banias stream, and includes some easy and fairly short hiking trails that pass by old water mills, vigorous rapids, and the ruins of a temple to the god Pan.
- Gamla - nature reserve and archaeological site
- Majdal Shams - a Druze village. Nearby is the Shouting Hill where villagers communicate with their relatives in Syria.
- There are interesting hiking courses throughout the Golan. Breichat ha-meshushum (Hexagon pool) is a pool with natural hexagonal volcanic tiling. Yahudia wadi and Ein Zivan wadi are also popular hiking courses.
- Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve, Yehudiya-Hushniya Road (87) (7 km east of the Yehudiya junction, approximately 5.5 km south of Katsrin), . 8am to 3pm-5pm. Amazing hikes through natural pools. A must do for anyone with a strong sense of adventure and some basic athletic ability. NIS21. edit
- Merom Golan Tourism (Merom Golan Tourism), Kibbutz Merom Golan, ☎ 972-(0)4-6960267. Merom Golan Resort Village is located in kibbutz Merom Golan, surrounding by the Golan Heights, at the foothill of the extinct Ben Tal Volcano some 1000 meters above sea level. edit
- Golan Heights Winery - located not far from Qatzrin, the wines from here are quite tasty
- The Golan Brewery - located in "Kesem Hagolan", the Golan Visitors Center, close to the Golan Heights Winery. Established in 2006, brewing German Style Beer by a German brewmaster. They offer 4 to 5 types of beer, including an genuine Bavarian "Weizen". Open every day.
The Golan is mostly a rural area, and as such it is pretty much crime free. However, the Golan is also one of the world's largest military barriers, and while it offers many hiking options, several basic safety rules should always be followed:
- A large part of the Golan Heights area is either heavily mined, or is suspected as being mined - this is due to the fact that old mines may drift during heavy rains, which are frequent in winter. You should never walk or drive in open fields, off main roads or dirt roads (unless there are very clear signs which indicate that this area is safe- such as trail signs). While most mine fields are designated by warning signs (as the one shown in the picture), do not go into off-road barb-wired fields, even if they are not marked with signs (in short- you should never cross any fence- unless there are clear signs and/or suitable gateways in the fence). Never touch unidentified metal or plastic debris in the open even if it looks harmless.
- Some areas of the Golan are used by the Israeli military as training grounds. There are usually recognised by the "Firing Zone" signs in the entrance. While marked trails are pretty much safe, when going off-road you should check the local maps to make sure you are not going into a fire ground. If in doubt, check with local police or military authorities. Most training grounds are accessible during weekends (Fridays - Saturdays) and public holidays, and can also be accessed after coordination with military authorities.
The golden rule is: Take as many words of advice as possible regarding safety from any local guidebook or people. If in doubt, keep safe!