Forever intertwined with the story of Jesus Christ, who carried out much of his ministry in the area, the Sea of Galilee region is a beautiful place full of things to do and sights to visit, from ancient archaeological remains to a drop-dead gorgeous landscape. For Christians, the main tourist attractions are of course the collection of churches around Tabgha, built on the sites where Jesus performed his miracles, but for other visitors the tranquil lakeside scenery, hot pools and hiking in the surrounding hills provide plenty of reasons to visit .
Located on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias is the perfect base to explore this region. The waterfront street Yigal Alon Promenade is home to most of the city’s tourist attractions and is a great place for a lakeside stroll. Along this road you will find the 19th century Church of St. Peter , built over the remains of a Crusader castle. There is a beautiful cloister inside and the apse of the church is projected as the bow of a ship – a reference to Peter’s fishing boat. Just around the corner on HaYarden Street is the sculpture park known as the Open Air Museum .
If you walk south along the promenade you will come to the Greek Orthodox Monastery , founded in 1862. If you venture inland from the sea, Tiberias is home to a number of important Jewish tombs . About 300 meters from the northern end of HaGalil Street lies the tomb of the great philosopher and physician Maimonides (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, also known as Rambam). Born in Córdoba in 1135, Maimonides left Spain due to religious persecution and went to Cairo to become Saladin’s personal physician. While there, he also became the spiritual leader of the Jews in Egypt. As well as the tomb there is an excellent museumhere dedicated to his life and work. The grave of Yohanan Ben Zakkai – who founded a Jewish school in Yavne and transferred the seat of the Sanhedrin to that city after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD – is also nearby.
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2 Tiberias-Hamat: Hot Springs
Tiberias has been famous as a spa center since Roman times, and its hot springs are as popular now as they were then. When you’re done enjoying it, catch up on some history by visiting the fourth-century synagogue next door, with its well-preserved, richly patterned mosaic floor. The mosaic reveals the influence of Hellenistic and Roman culture even on pious Jews during this period, with the central part depicting the sun god Helios surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.
Location: 2.5 kilometers from the city of Tiberias
3 Wed Jerah
The archaeological site of Wed Jerah (‘house of the moon’, also known as Khirbet Kerak) is not mentioned in biblical or Egyptian records, but excavations here have found evidence of a settlement dating from the Bronze Age to the period of the Arab domination. Well-preserved remains of baths from the fourth and fifth centuries AD are here as well as the remains of a Roman fort from the third century AD. There is also a five-aisled synagogue and a Byzantine church.
Location: 10 kilometers south of Hamat hot springs
4 Arbel National Park
Arbel National Park is a beautiful place to put on your hiking boots and hit the road. The main attraction here is the walk to the Horns of Hittim – the scene of a decisive battle during the Crusader period. On July 4, 1187, Saladin inflicted a devastating defeat on the crusaders here. The Latin kingdom founded 88 years earlier now lost its capital, Jerusalem, and much of its territory, and for the remaining 104 years of its existence, it was confined to a narrow coastal strip with its capital in Acre (Acre) . It is a half hour walk to the top of the hill on a footpath up from the main road. From the top, where remains from the Bronze Age remain, there are beautiful views of Eastern Galilee and the Sea of Galilee.
Location: 10 kilometers west of Tiberias
5 Kibbutz Ginosar
The main attraction of this small kibbutz is the old fishing boat, now known as the Sea of Galilee Boat , displayed here in the Beit Yigal Allon Museum. Discovered in 1986, buried in the mud near the edge of the lake, the boat has been dated between 70 BC and 90 AD, meaning it was in use during the time of Jesus. The boat is 8.27 meters long and 2.3 meters wide and is made of cedar wood. Although there is absolutely no evidence that the boat could have been used by Jesus or any of his disciples, many people have called it the Jesus Boat. Historically, the boat is extremely important in providing archaeologists with an example of boat design from the 1st century AD.
Location: 9.5 kilometers north of Tiberias
6 Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is built on the site where tradition holds that Christ stood during the miracle when he fed the 5,000. Built in 1982 and designed by Cologne architects Anton Goergen and Fritz Baumann, it stands on the site of an earlier Byzantine-era church and retains original elements of the older church inland.
The Byzantine period mosaic on the floor are the most striking features of the church, with a variety of birds and floral motifs. The most interesting mosaics are in the transepts. The artist was apparently familiar with the Nile Delta and depicted the flora and fauna of that region with flamingos, snakes, herons, ducks, lotus flowers and reeds. The south transept also displays a Nilometer (a device used to measure the level of the river). The altar in the sanctuary is built over the stone on which Christ is said to have stood when the miracle was performed. At the front is the church’s most famous mosaic, featuring a basket of loaves of bread and flanked by two fish.
7 Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
Just 200 meters further along the road to Capernaum from the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, a footpath leads to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the Church of the Primate of St Peter. A chapel built here in the 4th century was destroyed in 1263, and the black basalt contemporary church was built by the Franciscans in 1933. The church commemorates the appearance of the risen Christ to his disciples on the shores of the lake when he gave Peter the priority over the church. The rock on the east side of the church must be the table where Christ dined with his disciples. On the south side of the church are carved steps down to the lake which were described by the pilgrim Aetheria around 400 AD as “the steps on which the Lord stood”.
8 mountain of the zaligsprekingen
The Mount of Beatitudes is a major point of interest for all Christian visitors. Tradition states that it was here that Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount. The Roman Catholic Church here (built in the 1930s) holds mass every hour between 8am and 3pm for the pilgrims traveling here. The immaculately kept gardens are a wonderfully peaceful place to enjoy the views of the Sea of Galilee, while within the church itself is a beautiful stained glass window depicting the Beatitudes.
This archaeological site is believed to be the fishing village of Capernaum mentioned in the New Testament where Jesus lived, preached and gathered the first of his disciples. The beautiful remains of a fourth-century synagogue are the most prominent ruins here, while the modern church on the site is built over the remains of a Byzantine church and the ruins of the House of St. Peter . Archaeological work here has shown that the site dates back to the 2nd century BC and was finally abandoned in the 11th century.
Location: 3 kilometers from Tabgha
10 Greek Orthodox Church of the 12 Apostles
Well worth a visit, this beautiful and rather striking red-domed church is a major landmark along the Sea of Galilee. It was built on the seafront in 1925 by the Greek Orthodox Church and is well worth a visit for its interior of beautiful Byzantine-style frescoes painted in the late 1990s. Don’t miss the vibrant Last Judgment fresco that lines the back wall of the church covered. The garden here is a shady place to escape the heat of the afternoon sun.
Location: Capernaum, 3 kilometers from Tabgha
These basalt ruins are believed to be the remains of the New Testament city of Bethsaida, where Jesus performed the miracle of walking on water, and they are also near where he fed the 5,000 and healed a man of blindness. Because the ruins are mostly just foundations and low stone walls, it can be difficult to imagine what this once considerable city might have looked like. Information boards at strategic points around the excavations help visitors interpret the site.
Location: 23 kilometers northwest of Tiberias
These atmospheric basalt ruins are the remains of another city from the time of Jesus. The ruins sit on a hilltop at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Archaeological work here dates the site back to the 1st century AD, although the ruins present today all date from the later Byzantine era. The highlight of a visit here is the 4th century synagogue (where a horde of coins were found during the excavation), which is home to beautiful carvings with Hellenistic influences.
Location: 29 kilometers north of Tiberias
Near the headwaters of the Jordan River, Yardenit is a popular baptismal site for Christian pilgrims wishing to immerse themselves in the famous waters of the Jordan River. The site is well maintained and managed, with 12 separate baptismal pools along the lush riverbank to accommodate visitors wishing to immerse themselves, as well as a wooden riverside promenade for those who simply want to experience the quiet tranquility of the river. There is also a restaurant on site.
Location: 11 kilometers south of Tiberias
Official site: www.yardenit.com
The kibbutz of Degania is located at the point where the Jordan River emerges from the Sea of Galilee. This was the very first kibbutz, founded in 1909 by Russian immigrants, with the original kibbutz now known as Degania A, and its more recently founded neighbor as Degania B. At the main entrance to Degania A is a Syrian tank, which in 1948, advanced to at the kibbutz, but was subsequently knocked out by a Molotov cocktail. Within the territory of the kibbutz, Gordon House (named after Aharon D. Gordon, one of the kibbutz’s founders), is a research institute with an archaeological, natural history and agricultural museum.
Location: 2 kilometers south of Bet Yerah
When the Israelites took possession of the promised land, the tribes of Naphtali, Zebulun, and Asher settled in Galilee (Joshua 19), where they were later joined by the tribe of Dan (Judges 18). In the eighth century BC the country was occupied by the Assyrians; later came Babylonians, Persians and Greeks.
After the conquest of Hasmone in 163 BC, non-Jews lived in the coastal plain and Jews in the highlands. When the Romans occupied Galilee, it was ruled along with Judea by the Hasmonean ruler Hyrcanus II and then by Herod the Great. Then, in the life of Jesus, it belonged to the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, who made Tiberias his capital, and then, until 44, to the kingdom of Herod Agrippa. In 66 AD Galilee was a stronghold of the Jewish revolt against the Romans, and after the Revolt of Bar Kochba (AD 135), it replaced Judea as the center of Judaism; the cities of Beth Shearim, Sepphoris (Zippori) and Tiberias are of particular importance in this context.
From the seventh century onwards, the Arab population of Galilee increased steadily. The first Jewish settlements of modern times were established in Rosh Pinna (1878) and Metulla, the northernmost village in Israel (1886). In 1948, Galilee became part of the newly established state of Israel.
Where to Stay in the Sea of Galilee for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels and guesthouses in Tiberias by the sea:
- Scots Hotel: luxury boutique hotel, former 19th century Scottish hospital, lake views, large rooms, full-service spa.
- Leonardo Plaza Hotel Tiberias: medium holiday promenade, beautiful outdoor pool, kids club, comfortable beds.
- Ron Beach Hotel: affordable waterfront hotel, private beach, floor-to-ceiling windows, inviting pool, children’s playground.
- Villa Roca Tiberias: budget-friendly bed-and-breakfast, central location, friendly staff, stone building.