Metula is Israel’s northernmost town. Charming and quaint, with red-tiled roofs that wouldn’t look out of place in Tuscany, the town is perched on a hilly ridge looking down at Israel’s Hula Valley in the south and the Ayoun Valley in Lebanon.
It is wedged so close to the border one can see cars and trucks driving in Lebanon, a country that is less than a five-minute walk away and yet impossible to reach. Since Israel and Lebanon signed a maritime border in October, perhaps a land border agreement, and free passage, will be next.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild founded Metula in 1896. The town grew slowly — the population hovered around 1,000 residents for years — but since Tel-Hai College was founded near Kiryat Shemona, less than 10 minutes from Metula, the town has drawn more students and young people.
Scattered throughout Metula are dozens of bed-and-breakfasts run by locals.
For visitors who love the outdoors and want to explore the Golan Heights, Metula is the perfect starting-off point as well as destination. Israeli songwriter and poet Haim Hefer, even wrote a song about it, predicting, “You will see the place that will be Metula, and even Haifa and Tel Aviv will come and kiss it, then you will regret not coming to us first…and then it will be too late.”
We chose 10 things to do in the Metula area.
1. Ice skate in July and swim in January
Spend the day at the Canada Center. Even on the hottest summer day, there’s an Olympic-sized ice-skating rink where you can rent skates. It’s actually chilly so bring a pair of mittens and a hat. In the winter, you can jump in a heated Olympic-sized swimming pool or sit in the sauna. There are even massages available.
In addition, there is a bowling alley, a new climbing wall and jumping center and a 7D cinema that offers special glasses and shock seats to make viewers feel as if they are part of the scene. There are activities at this rec center for all ages.
2. Take a tour
To hear stories about the history of Metula, try a tour with a local. Lior Baz, born to one of the founding families of Metula, guides visitors through orchards and his family’s river and shares personal anecdotes of his life there. To arrange a tour in English, call 052-246-5410.
3. Hike in a gorgeous gorge with waterfalls
Nahal Ayun Nature Reserve has four waterfalls: Ayun Falls, the Cascades, the Tanur Waterfall and the Mill Waterfall.
The Tanur Waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Israel, dropping 30 meters. The Mill Waterfall is near the ruins of an old flour mill. There is no swimming but you walk through the gorge — and gorge yourself on the lush beauty.
You can park at the bottom and walk up and then down (about a 3-hour round-trip) or, if you’re not feeling energetic, you can bring two cars and leave them at the start-and-end points. At the bottom of the falls there is a trail that is accessible for strollers, wheelchairs or anyone with difficulty walking.
4. Zami’s Music Box
Zami Ravid is a pianist and conductor who started Zami’s Music Box museum 30 years ago in Metula. His private collection contains 160 musical instruments from 50 countries.
Visitors get a tour, a lecture and a concert. Ravid has incredible knowledge about the history of music, musical instruments, and how famous pieces are supposed to be played. To make an appointment, call 04-699-7073.
5. Historic buildings on Main Street
Stroll down Metula’s charming main street, HaRishonim (“The Firsts”) Street, to see lovely old buildings made of locally quarried limestone, some with original wooden shutters. There are also several hotels and galleries to visit.
Beit Ha’ikar Museum (the Farmer’s House), located in the home of the town’s first rabbi, has early 20th-century furniture and household items. The museum has flexible hours. For further information, call 057-241-7735.
6. Tel Hai Courtyard
Tel-Hai Courtyard is at the top of a hill overlooking the Hula Valley near Metula. The yard has antique agricultural tools that illustrate what life was like for settlers who moved here in the early 1900s. Guides dressed in pioneer clothing reenact the story of the lives of pioneers.
7. Other Side Art Gallery at Tel-Hai
Tel-Hai College, a short drive from Metula, attracts students from around the country who major in a variety of subjects including bio-engineering and Chinese studies.
The Other Side Art Gallery has rotating exhibits every few months featuring artists who live in northern Israel. The current exhibit, “Lost Settlements,” has works in various media.
8. Pick cherries
If you go to Metula in the spring and summer, you can pick your own cherries, berries and other fruits in farms in the Golan Heights, where the views of Mount Hermon are spectacular.
9. Outdoor Market
If you are lucky enough to be traveling to Metula on a Monday or Thursday, stop off at the open-air market in Kiryat Shemona where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, candies and clothes and watch the vendors and shoppers.
In Metula, there are several cafes and restaurants, including Beit Shalom Restaurant (not kosher) in the 120-year-old Beit Shalom Hotel, in heart of HaRishonim Street. For reservations, call 04-694-1001.
There’s also a steakhouse, HaTahana (not kosher), decorated like a movie set in an American Western movie, with vegetarian options. Call 053-944-0904.
10. Lookout Points
Mitzpe Dado (Dado Lookout), two kilometers west of Metula, has a panoramic view of both the Ayoun Valley and the Hula Valley. If you’re there in the winter, you can see the snow-capped Mount Hermon.
And then you’ll understand Hefer’s message not to miss out on visiting Metula.