Mt. Carmel is Haifa’s huge green lung. Today most of Haifa’s neighborhoods occupy the mountain’s northwestern slopes, but the majority of the Carmel range is park land. Mt. Carmel National Park is recognized as a UNESCO biosphere. The Bible mentions its dense Mediterranean woodland several times, most notably in Joshua regarding the tribe of Menashe’s territory and later in the stories of Elisha and Elijah in the Book of Kings.
In early December 2010 a disasterous fire broke out and destroyed much of the Carmel Forest. We will update with more details on recommended tourist attractions as the information becomes available. We are confident that man made items will be rebuilt and that nature will do what nature does best.
The name Carmel may be derived from the Hebrew Kerem-El, meaning God’s vineyard. An interesting paradox, Mt. Carmel receives more rainfall than most of the country, but throughout most of history has been just sparsely settled. Haifa only began ‘climbing’ up the mountain in the 1920’s. This may be because of the difficulty of farming in the thickly wooded region, with steep rocky slopes and relatively few fresh water springs, as a year round water source. Thick woodland and very few inhabitants may have also inspired the development of cultic sites on Mt. Carmel in ancient times.
Visitors today can enjoy nice walks, great views of the Mediterranean coast and surrounding valleys, Druze hospitality and even an early man site. Here are a few suggestions for outings on Mt. Carmel.
Walk in ‘Little Switzerland’
Little Switzerland…Fine, so someone probably got a bit carried away with the name, but it’s a good place for a picnic and does have some nice walking.
To get there drive out of Haifa on Rt. 672, 1.5-2 km. past Haifa University a brown sign points right to ‘Little Switzerland’.
Drive in to the picnic area. From the picnic area it is possible to set out for some relatively easy short walks and climb up to the Tzuk (“Cliff”) Lookout for some fine views.
The Druze Villages – Daliyat El Carmel and Usafiya
Further along Rt. 672 are the Druze villages of Daliyat El Carmel and Usafiya. The market in Daliyat El Carmel is a fun place to shop and explore. Before visiting Usafiya, call ahead to El Carmel (04-839-0125, recommended several days in advance) to arrange for a meal/Druze hospitality and an explanation about the Druze community. El Carmel may insist on a minimum number of participants for a program.
Continuing on Rt. 672, a sign at the southern side of Daliyat El Carmel indicates a left turn to the Carmelite Monastery of the Mukhraqa. For more information see the dedicated Mukhraqa item.
Ein Hod Artists’ Village
Head out of Haifa to the south on Rt. 4 along the Carmel Coastal Plain, then turn left 1 km passed the Atlit (Rt. 721) exit to reach Ein Hod. In case Ein Hod is not marked, it is the same junction for Nir Etzion and Yemin Orde. The artists’ village was founded in 1953 by the painter and architect Marcel Janco. We recommend parking near the village square and beginning your visit at the central gallery nearby, where you can also find information about events and studios to visit. Next to the gallery is the Janco Dada Museum dedicated to the artist and the Dada movement, of which he was a founder. There are more artists’ workshops uphill in the vicinity of the ancient olive press.
Nahal Mearot – Early Man Site
A few kilometers further south on Rt. 4, just passed the Ein Carmel junction, turn left to the Nahal Mearot Nature Reserve. The caves at Nahal Mearot were home to an early man culture dating back approximately 200,000 years. Several later early man cultures also used Nahal Mearot’s caves. An audio-visual presentation about early man is available. It is worth asking about guided tours at the site. Also ask for directions to the nearby fossilized reef.