Tel Maresha in Beit Guvrin National Park and the Stalacite Cave Nature Reserve in the Jerusalem Mountains make a great day trip if you're looking to travel off the beaten path in Israel.
They are both located in central Israel within an hour's drive from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Don't worry about special caving equipment, just put on a a good pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Want to book a private Caves Tour instead of exploring them on your own? Book the one day tour here.
Soreq - Avshalom Cave were discovered by chance in the 1960s by workers at a stone quarry in the Jerusalem Mountains near Beit Shemesh.
Known as 'Mearat Hanetifim' in Hebrew, the amazing crystallized formations in this active drip cave were formed about 5 million years ago. Those hanging from the ceiling are called stalactites and those on the floor are stalagmites. When they meet, differently shaped walls and pillars form.
The caves are not large, but their effect is stunningly surreal.
Your guided walk around the cave takes about 45 minutes.
The guide's flashlight illuminates one shape after another along the twisted path with artfully placed lights and colors, creating a unique, other-worldly atmosphere.
There is “Moses”, “Santa Claus”, "elephant ears", sculpture garden", "Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs", the "macaroni field", and "Romeo and Juliette" - a stalactite and stalagmite that are almost, but not quite, kissing each other.
When you leave the caves, you face a a breathtaking panorama of the evergreen pine forest of the Jerusalem Mountains.
TIP: There are rails and lighting along the trail, but the humidity is high and the trails can get slippery. So wear good shoes.
It will take you a few hours to explore the 'Land of a Thousand Caves' in Beit Guvrin National Park, in the Judean Hills near Kiryat Gat on the road to Beit Shemesh.
You can visit the fascinating remains of the ancient city of Tel Maresha, as well the underground cave complex.
There are 14 different areas to visit in this Unesco World Heritage site.
Start the tour visiting Tel Maresha.
Maresha was a Biblical city mentioned in the Book of Joshua that was inhabited by the Edomites, the descendants of the Idumeans. It later became a thriving Hellenistic and Roman city where Idumeans, Romans and Jews lived side by side.
You can see the fully preserved Roman amphitheater and Roman storehouses.
Beside the Roman ruins, visit St. Anne's Crusader Church, later turned into a mosque by the local Arab population.
Underneath the city are thousands of manmade caves.
Start at the impressive Bell Caves, some of which are enormous.
As was the custom of the Idumeans, they used the caves for olive presses, dyeing bins, weaving looms and columbaria for raising doves.
Descend down to the Columbarium cave where doves were bred, and the caves with olive presses.
Some of the loveliest caves are the Sidonian burial caves and the Necropolis.
There are beautiful ancient frescos in the famous Cave of the Musicians:
There are original engravings on the walls, such as this romantic excerpt by an anonymous writer from thousands of years ago:
" ...I am sleeping with someone else, but it is you I love, dearest to me of all. In the name of Aphrodite, I am happy about one thing, that your cloak has been left to me as a pledge. But I flee, and permit you expanses of freedom. Do anything you desire."
Instead of visiting the Judean Hill caves on your own, our licensed guide Levi would be happy to take you on a private tour. Spend your day among the wonders of the cave town of Beit Guvrin-Maresha, Israel’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the breathtaking stalatcites and stalagmites of Soreq - Avshalom Cave.
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