The 10 best parks in Israel - from botanic gardens to zoological gardens, from sports parks to biospheric parks.
You can cycle around them, walk through them, fly a kite in them, run on their new rubber running tracks or spend some time on your own in one of their hideaway spots. In the last few years, Israeli parks have become showcase items for any self-respecting city or town. And the bonus is – they are free. This list includes 10 parks carefully selected out of dozens of parks. We toured, saw, heard, spoke to tourists and locals, and we assembled the jigsaw puzzle based on the idea that each park has its own unique character and that on your Israel tour, you can have a different and enriching experience at each of them. Enjoy your time at the parks, but don’t forget to make the most of your time and to meet and chat with the locals.
All Inclusive: Yarkon Park
Specifications: Established in 1969, it covers an area of some 3,500 dunams (approx. 900 acres) along the Yarkon River, stretching from Geha Highway in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. In terms of size, it is the biggest in Israel by far, and even bigger than Central Park in New York.
In the park: Special gardens include the Tropical Garden, Pruned Garden, Rock Garden and Cactus Garden, with over 50,000 species. There are historic sites of the Seven Mills and the Ten Mills and, naturally, the Sportek sports facility with sports courts, a trampoline and Olympic climbing wall. The park is crisscrossed with walking and cycling paths, so we recommend getting right into the heart of the park, grabbing a flying fox (small cable car) or even renting a boat.
Worth knowing: The Yehoshua Gardens Company operates two more parks in the city - Menahem Begin Park near the southern neighborhoods, which has a water skiing lake, and the Nature Gardens on Herzl Street, where you’ll find botanical gardens and zoological gardens.
Old: The National Park in Ramat Gan
In the park: The center of the park is a safari park covering 1,000 dunams (250 acres). The park is home to 68 species of mammals, 130 species of birds and 25 species of insects. The park is green and well-tended and has a large lake in the middle, which has been renovated and enlarged several times. The lake is surrounded by a walkway, and there is a train for lazy visitors. There is also a fitness route, a horse riding center and an intriguing flower garden.
Worth knowing: Many of the trees have signs with their names, origins and brief explanations.
Charming: The Pools Park at the Keret River
Specifications: The park is in the south of the town of Yokne'am. It was opened in 2003 and covers an area of 27 dunams (approx. 6 acres) and is one of the country's most charming parks.
In the park: The park sits on the banks of the Keret River, which flows to the Kishon River. The park easily incorporates natural and designed vegetation. Two small wooden bridges span the riverbed and the five round pools sparkle in the sunshine. The park has an attractive animal corner with rabbits, goats, parrots, fish and all kinds of insects, a walking path about 2,500 meters long, and a grill area with benches.
Worth knowing: It can be a bit uncomfortable in this beauty spot on really hot days. Because it is a new park, the trees haven't yet grown enough to provide good shade.
Cool: Ra'anana Park
Specifications: The park opened in 1993 and covers an area of 190 dunams (approx. 47 acres). It is accessed form one of the city's streets.
In the park: The park is one the greenest and best-tended spots in Israel, and was designed as a place for families. The large trees provide plenty of shade and the drinking water taps dotted around the place mean visitors don't have to worry about the availability of water. There are infinite game possibilities for kids. There is a small zoo, with over 100 animals, including ponies, alpacas and ostriches. There are playing facilities suitable for a range of age groups, with swings, merry-go-rounds, ladders and ropes. The central lake contains swans and there are pleasant pathways and unique gardens around it. The park also caters to art lovers and sports enthusiasts, with several courts and unique sculpture gardens.
Worth knowing: In the past, non-residents had to pay to use the park on weekends, but now entrance is free.
Enchanting: Sapir Park
Specifications: The site, which is located next to the community of Sapir on Highway 90, was established in the early 1980s and covers an area of around 150 dunams (approx. 37 acres).
In the park: The cognoscenti call the park "the secret valley" because of its topographic structure - sunken and concealed. There are two springs on the site, joining in a small waterfall that flows into an artificial lake. There are expansive lawns and a Thai-style sitting area hidden by wild bougainvillea. There is also a walking pathway that takes about 10 minutes to complete, lined with works of art in the spirit of the desert.
Worth knowing: This is the perfect place to stop and refresh on the drive down to Eilat. Camping facilities are also available, with prior arrangement.
Sporty: Herzliya Park
Specifications: Herzliya Park, which was opened in August 2008, is planned to expand to an area of around 700 dunams (approx. 175 acres). It is now bordered by Yosef Nevo Street to the east, Ben Zion Michaeli Boulevard to the south, Begin Boulevard to the north and the Ayalon Freeway to the west. To date the park includes an area of 120 dunams (approx. 30 acres).
In the park: As the park is located in one of the lowest places in the city, some of the winter's runoff water has been incorporated by the park's designers, and is used for the main water site there. The park has the only game court of its type in Israel: it looks like a series of bridges made out of steel and concrete, covered with a rubber surface, twisting and meandering to different levels at different heights, some of which lead straight to rope bridges of varying lengths. On the north side of the compound there are two small cable cars that stretch for 30 meters each. The plan of the park focuses on boosting popular sporting activities, incorporating separate pathways for bicycles, running and walking. The cycle path in the park links up with the cycle paths in the area.
Worth knowing: The running path that encompasses the park is made of a special rubber that enhances the running experience.
Accessible: Fighters' Park
Specifications: Near the community of Kfar Menahem in the Judean Plains is a carob forest. An area of 300 dunams (approx. 75 acres) of the forest is occupied by the Fighters' Park, which was established by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) with the help of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) disabled veterans organization. The park is designed to allow people with limited mobility to enjoy a quality and active visit to Mother Nature.
In the park: Access to the park is very convenient. It can be reached by car, and visitors can drive around the park itself. The numerous attractions include game facilities suitable for handicapped children, fitness facilities and courts with rubber surfaces that allow free movement of wheelchairs. The park also contains a nature trail, about a kilometer long and paved with asphalt, which crosses interest spots there. The trail includes physical and vocal effects that enhance the trail experience and are positioned to enable wheelchair users to enjoy them.
Worth knowing: There are other wonderful sites in the area, such as British Park and the Beit Guvrin National Park.
Ecological: Ramat Menashe Park
Specifications: Ramat Menashe Park is an exception in this list of parks. It is a biospheric park measuring around 85,000 dunams (approx. 21,000 acres), incorporating forest, pastureland and agricultural land between Yokne'am and Kibbutz Gilad.
In the park: So what’s a biospheric park? UNESCO gives this title to special regions near residential areas that meet strict ecological criteria. This involves the full cooperation of the residents in impacting the future of the domain in which they live, and in decisions about the nature of the area. Ramat Menashe Park is a highly protected ecological area that takes in the entire region of the Megiddo Regional Council. The park’s expanses are among the most beautiful in the whole of Israel, and the residents of the regional council treat them with respect, and strive to preserve them for future generations too. Entrance to the park is free and there are easy access routes through it, shaded beauty spots, picnic areas and panoramic observation points. Volunteers from the local communities are located around the park to welcome visitors and to ensure that the movement of the public and their activities do not damage the grazing and agricultural areas used by local farmers.
Worth knowing: March-April is the best time to catch the flowers in the park.
Calming: Ornamental Farm Park
Specifications: About 800 meters to the east of Ruppin Junction, in the Hefer Valley Regional Council area, there is an ornamental farm. It was created in 1949 by David Tzafrir, one of Israel’s first gardeners.
In the park: Here, it’s more a matter of what isn’t in the park. There aren’t any facilities here, or cafes, courts or grill areas. The ornamental farm was established to analyze the ability of various species of trees and flowers to acclimate themselves to local Israeli climate and weather conditions. Today there are around one thousand species of plants, originating all over the world, that were distributed around Israel thanks to the work done here. The trees are allocated according to types, with lawns and benches between them. For those who like vegetation and quiet, this is a veritable Paradise.
Worth knowing: There is a nursery here that sells plants, with all the income going to preserving and developing the park.
Griller: Sacher Park
Specifications: The largest park in Jerusalem - covering an area of 163 dunams (approx. 40 acres) - was opened in 1965 and runs alongside Ben Zvi Boulevard.
In the park: It’s mostly grass, but there are also sports courts, roller skating areas, fitness facilities, games for children and running and cycle paths. In the park, which was designed by architect Yahalom Tzur in the style of an English park, you can often see impromptu games of soccer, American football and baseball. The park is particularly popular with meat grillers, especially on Independence Day, and hosts the annual Mimouna Moroccan Jewish festivities as well as numerous political gatherings. In the winter, when it snows, the park fills with adults and children enjoying building snowmen and having snowball fights. The pathways around the park include running paths and cycle paths. The park also has a dog run, for dogs to be released so they can run around freely.
Worth knowing: The park adjoins the Valley of the Cross, which is another beauty spot.