Tourist tip #154 / Nimrod’s Fortress
Your reward for a fairly strenuous climb to the top of the fortified tower is a gorgeous view of the Hula Valley, the Golan and the mountains of Lebanon and the Galilee.
Nimrod’s Fortress towers dizzyingly high in the Mount Hermon foothills above the Hula Valley with a commanding view of the entire region from the Golan to the Galilee and beyond. The ancient biblical king the fortress was named after would likely approve – according to legend, he was among the monarchs responsible for constructing the notorious Tower of Babel.
Legend has it that the connection between the king and his namesake fortress goes like this: On a visit to the swampy Hula lowlands, a pesky mosquito flew into King Nimrod’s ear. In a move of regal arrogance, he tried to end his mosquito troubles by having his head replaced with one of pure gold. Sadly and to his surprise, he found the remedy fatal, and according to the legend, his subjects buried his head in the valley below his magnificent former abode, where mosquitos continue to plague it even today.
Despite the lore and the fortress' name, it doesn’t actually date back to biblical times. It was built in the early 13th century by the Mamluk governor of nearby Banias, Al-Maliq al-‘Aziz ‘Othman, to head off a march by the Crusading army of Friedrich II from Acre to Damascus. In 1275, the Mamluk sultan Baibars expanded and embellished the fortress, as a monumental inscription on the tour route attests.
Muslim warriors were stationed at the fortress to protect the road below, and their overlords insisted that they sally forth from time to time to do battle. To reinforce their courage, the story goes, the warriors took hashish, and so they were called hashashin – giving us the English word assassin.
A well-marked trail through the fortress will take you to its towers, an underground cistern, a secret exit down a magnificently fortified stairway and more. Your reward for the fairly strenuous climb to the top of the fortified tower is a gorgeous view of forested valleys, the Hula below, the Golan to the east and the mountains of Lebanon and the Galilee to the west.
Consider a hike down the approximately two-kilometer-long trail from the fortress to the Banias Nature Reserve (leaving one of your party to drive down and pick you up there); you can by a combination Nimrod/Banias ticket at either site.
Hours:April-September 8 A.M.-5 P.M.
October-March 8 A.M.-4 P.M.
The site closes one hour earlier than above on Fridays and holiday eves; last entry one hour before above closing hour.