The Carmel Range, often referred to simply as "Mount Carmel" (though this more properly refers to the hills immediately above Haifa), is a compact region of hills in Israel extending westwards from the Central Hill country to the Mediterranean Sea. Dividing the Coastal Plain from the Jezreel Valley, the Carmel Range retains its own unique landscape and culture.
Although hardly qualifying as "cities", the settlements of the Carmel Range are nonetheless fascinating:
- Daliyat el-Carmel - the largest and southernmost Druze town in Israel, located in the heart of the Carmel National Park, southeast of Haifa. Established 400 years ago, Daliyat el-Carmel has a population of 13,000 Druze residents, tracing their ancestry to the hill country near Aleppo (Halab) in northern Syria (reflected in their strong Aleppo accent and the name of the largest family in the village - Halabi). A large market in the center of the town sells traditional Druze and Arab products and draws tourists from Israel and from abroad. A memorial center for fallen Druze IDF soldiers also exists in the town. The shrine of Abu Ibrahim is located in Daliyat el-Carmel, and the ruins of several Druze villages are located in the vicinity.
- Isfiya - built on the ruins of a Byzantine settlement, the village's many Crusader ornaments and relics found on the walls and in the houses lead historians to believe that the village was once a Crusader center. The remains of the fifth-century Jewish settlement of Husifah were unearthed in the village in 1930 and include a synagogue with a mosaic floor bearing Jewish symbols and the inscription "Peace upon Israel". Some 4,500 gold coins dating from the Roman Period were also found. The modern village was founded in the early 18th century, when residents made their living from the olive oil, honey and the excellent grapes growing in the region. Some 9,000 people live today in Isfiya: 70% Druze, the rest Christians and Muslims. The tomb of Abu Abdallah is located here.
- There are also a few small Jewish villages and towns which mainly serve tourists. Much of the Carmel has been declared a nature reserve/natural park to protect it from further development.
The hills are home to a number of Druze villages, the focus of many travelers' visits to the region. There are also sites of Jewish and Arab cultural/historical interest, and many beautiful mountains and forests.
The Carmel is bounded by Road 4 (the old Tel Aviv-Haifa road) on the west, and road 70 (Zichron Yaakov-Yokneam-near Haifa) on the south and east.
From Tel Aviv, leave the freeway (road 2) at Zichron Yaakov. Then either turn left on road 4, or continue straight on road 70, depending on your destination.
There are frequent buses going up and down roads 4 and 70. Buses and service taxis also travel from Haifa to the Druze villages.
Several roads go through the Carmel and they are pretty scenic.
- 1 Muhraka (Keren/Queren HacCarmel) (From the main highway intersection to the east of the monastery, hike up the 1 drainage channel at the highway just 100 m north of the traffic light, which will lead you onto a small road. Going up it and then following the path into the farms, you will find a direction sign and the track up. 1-1.5h for the climb up.). A monastery located at the southeastern corner of the Carmel (opposite the town of Yokneam). There are stupendous views of the surroundings if the weather is clear. Traditionally, this is where the Biblical prophet Elijah had his showdown with the prophets of Baal. The monastery itself is not that impressive, but more a place for American and Chinese tourist groups seeking souvenirs quoted in US$. You can drive here, or else hike up from the road. ₪4 (but on your own you might get in for free, if you search long enough for coins).
- 2 Ein Hod (just off road 4 on the west side of the Carmel). An artist's colony which is fun to walk around, even if you don't end up buying anything.
- The Janco Dada Museum in Ein Hod includes both an art gallery and a lab where you can try your hand at creating your own art in the Dada style.
- The Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music has a unique and captivating collection of music boxes.
- 3 The Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve (Wadi el-Mughara Caves) (on the western fringe of the Carmel, next to road 4), ☎ 04-9841750/2. 8-15/16:00. "Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel" and a UNESCO World Heritage site. On the western fringe of the Carmel, next to road 4, a series of caves are located in the mountainside. One of them is a major archaeological site due to its habitation in prehistoric times and can be visited. ₪22/9/9 adult/student/child.
In general the Carmel has lots of beautiful forested landscapes which are great for hiking and biking. Some of the more popular ones are:
- Nachal Yagur is a steep forested riverbed. You start at Isfiya and go down the canyon to Kibbutz Yagur at the foot of the Carmel.
- "Little Switzerland", located in the middle of the Carmel, is another well-known scenic hiking area.
Pita, in the Druze villages.
The Carmel is perhaps the safest place in Israel. Watch out for the usual dangers, like dehydration in summer and swimming at the beach without a lifeguard.