Sloping down Mt. Carmel to the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, the port city of Haifa was once a main hub for Jewish immigrants arriving in the Promised Land. First mentioned in third century Talmudic literature, the city has lived through its fair share of ups and downs. Home to a diverse population of Arabs and Jews, Haifa is now known to a steady technological industry, and the visually stunning Baha’i World Center and Gardens.
Although not the most popular tourist spot in the country, Haifa does have a few unique sites to offer visitors. The aforementioned Baha’i Center and Gardens (See video below) were constructed around the tomb of Baha’u’llah, a revered teacher of the faith. The Baha’i believe in the unity of all religions, and this center is one of their holiest sites. The immaculately maintained and terraced gardens are hard to miss as they cascade gracefully down the middle of the city center.
At the foot of the gardens sits the historic German Colony of Haifa that runs along Ben Gurion Boulevard. Founded by the German Templar Society in the late 1800’s, the area has been renovated to showcase what was once one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Many artisans have opened shop in the restored stone houses creating the perfect venue for unique souvenirs.
Haifa is also home to the country’s only subway system, the Carmelite. At a length of 1.75KM and boasting six stops, the subway is more akin to a funicular connecting the upper and lower elevations of the city, than an efficient way to trek about town. For an expansive view of the climb, opt to take the cable car ride from Bat Galim instead.
Once you’ve arrived at the top of the mountain, pay a visit to the beautiful Stella Maris complex, which houses a church, lighthouse, and the Carmelite Monastery. Built in honor of the prophet Elijah, the church is accented with Italian marble, and vivid paintings on the dome, which depict various scenes from Elijah’s life. Access to the cave in which Elijah is believed to have lived, can be found near the altar. Revered as a prophet by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze alike, Elijah’s cave is considered a holy place by many religions.
Museum lovers might want to pay a visit to Haifa’s Naval Museum where a portion of the INS- Dakar, the re-named British royal Navy T-class submarine HMS Totem, is on display. En-route to Israel from England, Dakar and her entire crew mysteriously disappeared without a trace in 1968. Extensive searches were futile, and the wreckage was only recently discovered in the waters between Crete and Cypress in 1999. The museum also highlights the struggle of immigrants to Israel during the British Mandate, as well as providing a history of Israel’s Naval Force.
Of course, a trip to Haifa wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beach and a walk along the promenade. The most popular of the beaches is Bat Galim, which is lined with shops and food stalls. You won’t find the same atmosphere on the shoreline of Tel Aviv, but this is still a popular spot to swim, stroll, and watch the sun sink into Haifa Bay.