Sea of Galilee
Nestling between the Galilee and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee (Hebrew: Kinneret) is a picturesque lake that attracted humans from the dawn of history. Famed by Jesus’ acts and miracles, the Sea of Galilee is visited by many Christian Pilgrims, sailing and visiting its Holy Christian sites. The lake also offers many outdoor activities, good dinning options, and quaint places to stay while touring northern Israel.
Touring around the Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is the biggest freshwater lake in Israel, fed mostly by the Jordan River. The main city around the lake is Tiberias, which many will use as a base for day tours around the lake and northern Israel. Christian pilgrims will usually devote at least one day for touring around the Sea of Galilee, as its shores are dotted with Holy Christian sites:
Capernaum – The site where Jesus settled, after being rejected in Nazareth, became known as “his town” (Matthew 9:1). Today Capernaum is rich in archaeology and is visited by thousands of pilgrims, on daily basis. Aside the ancient grand synagogue and the church built over Peter’s house, it also offers a beautiful lookout of the Sea of Galilee and its surroundings.
Mount of Beatitudes – A hill above Capernaum is revered as the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The remarkable octagonal church and the gardens around it provide amazing panoramas of the lake, a perfect spot to reflect on Jesus’ teachings. No wonder that above the mount of Beatitudes is the grand modern Catholic center called Domus Galilaeae.
Magdala – The hometown of Mary Magdalene has been developed in recent years to a combined commercial, archaeological and religious center. Known as Magdala Center, its most important attractions are the first century synagogue with a Menorah engraved on a mysterious stone block, and the striking Duc in Altum Church. The Center also operates a new and popular hotel.
Sea of Galilee Boat – Two miles north of Magdala, in Kibbutz Ginosar, the local museum displays an extraordinary discovery made in 1986. During that winter the water level of the lake was very low, and an ancient wooden vessel was exposed. Dating to the 1st century, this boat is a very significant discovery for Christians, showing the type of fishing boats that were used by Jesus and his Disciples.
Sail on the Sea of Galilee – At the port of Kibbutz Ginosar, several tour boats offer a Christian-themed sail on the Sea of Galilee. The sail takes place in wooden boats and can include a demonstration of fishing techniques in antiquity. The sail provides some great vistas of the lake and its surroundings and is highly recommended for every Christian group touring the Holy Land.
Tabgha – Less then 2 miles west of Capernaum, along the lake’s shoreline, are two sites commemorating significant Christian events. The Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish, dating to the Byzantine period and fulle restored, records one of the famous miracles of Jesus, feeding the multitudes that followed him. Next to it, the humble sized Church of the Primacy of Peter marks the place where Jesus appeared to his Disciples after his resurrection, invited them to a meal of grilled fish, and appointed Peter to lead the early church. The site is also known for its local warm springs. One of them is still accessible for public swimming (the Hidden Waterfall).
Bethsaida and Chorazin – The two sites that were dammed by Jesus (Luke 10:13-16), were later abandoned and forgotten. In modern times their remains were rediscovered, and in the case of Bethsaida its location is still under dispute. The site of Et-Tell, which some identify with Bethsaida, bears significant finds from the time of King David. It may have been the capital of the Geshur Kingdom.
Kursi – The site commemorating the Miracle of the Swine was discovered by chance in 1970, when constructing a road next to the Sea of Galilee. A chapel facing a cave on a hill is revered as where the possessed man sheltered, before cured by Jesus (Mark 5). On a hill above Kursi lie the magnificent remains of Sussita, the city where the pig headers reported on Jesus’ miracle (Mark 5:14). The city was also a member of the Decapolis, a term mentioned several times in the Gospels.
Kibbutz Ein-Gev – Established in 1937 at the shore under Sussita, Kibbutz Ein-gev operates a popular resort by the lake, a veteran fish restaurant, and offers tours of the kibbutz on a tractor. It is also possible to order a sail from Ein-gev’s Kibbutz port to Tiberias or Ginosar.
Yardenit – A site at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee offering comfortable access into the Jordan River for Baptism Ceremonies. The facility provides specially designed white gowns, comfortable and safe access into the river’s water, showers and changing rooms. With 500,000 visitors a year, Yardenit is one of the most popular destinations by Christian pilgrim groups. It also operates a big souvenir store, and a restaurant.
Other points of interest around the Sea of Galilee include:
Tiberias – The main city around the Sea of Galilee was founded by Herod Antipas, and was named after the Roman Emperor, Tiberius. Today, the city is known for its selection of hotels, beachfront promenade, and dining options. Remains of ancient Tiberias are visible at its southern end, next to ancient Tiberias’ Hot springs – Hamat Tiberias.
Degania – The first communal farm (Kibbutz) of the Zionist movement was established in 1910 at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Today, the kibbutz invites visitors to its humble museum and Founders’ Court. A Syrian tank, stopped at the gate of the Kibbutz in 1948, is on display at the kibbutz’ entrance. Kids and chocolate lovers will also appreciate the Kibbutz Chocolate farm and workshop – Galita.
Kinneret Farm and Kinneret Cemetery – The former agricultural training center for many young Jewish pioneer groups is now a national park. Kinneret Farm is an important historical landmark, as its people laid the foundation for many of the state’s institutions. Its cemetery is also known, especially for the burials of two gifted women – “Rachel the poetess” (Rachel Bluwstein), and the songwriter Naomi Shemer.
Park Hayarden – Located at the Jordan river’s feed into the sea of Galilee, Park Hayarden offers a slow stream kayaking experience along the Jordan River, as well as ATV tours along the Jordan rivers’ flood plain. Nearby, it is also possible to hike along the shallow freshwater Daliot stream at the Majrase.
A tour around the Sea of Galilee can be combined with a guided day tour of the Galilee.