Sea of Galilee

A sacred lake below sea level


Lake Tiberias, Israel

GPS: 32.810339081718, 35.59559335362

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Fed by the Jordan River and surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake in north-eastern Israel. It has the geological characteristic of being in a natural basin below sea level (-200 meters), making it the lowest freshwater lake in the world. Along with the Jordan Rift Valley and the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee lies in the Ghor, a Near Eastern depression formed by the Dead Sea Transform fault system separating the Arabian Plate from the African Plate.

Also known as Lake of Gennesaret or Lake Tiberias (Kinneret in Hebrew), the Sea of Galilee is a major place of pilgrimage and vacation. It is said to be an area of miracles mentioned in the New Testament and remains the region where Jesus of Nazareth spent most of his life. It is precisely on its shores that he chose 12 apostles from among his disciples (some of whom were fishermen on the lake) to lead the Church and preach the Gospel. Since ancient times, the Sea of Galilee has been of great religious importance to Jews and Christians because of its biblical associations and the presence of many holy places.

The Sea of Galilee covers 166 square kilometres and reaches a maximum depth of about 50 metres. It is 21 kilometres long and 13 kilometres wide, on the fertile lands of the plain of Gennesaret below the cliffs of Mount Arbel. The Sea of Galilee is also appreciated for the quality of its fish, the diversity of its bird population and its numerous beaches of fine sand or pebbles. A variety of water activities around the lake (cruises, fishing, canoeing, windsurfing, etc.) bring life to this place that has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Sea of Galilee is the country’s main freshwater resource and provides drinking water to many residents of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Over the past decade, there has been a gradual and alarming drying up of the Sea of Galilee leading to an increase in the salinity level of its waters. Low rainfall in winter and dry spells in summer sometimes cause a new island to emerge near the southern shores of the lake. To maintain its potability, the State of Israel is now forced to extract several hundred tons of salt per year to meet its fresh water needs. According to some prophetic accounts linked to the Muslim tradition, this natural phenomenon of a drop in the water level could announce the end of time and the arrival of the false messiah, the Dajjal.

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  • The sacred, historical, spiritual, and symbolic dimension of the Sea of Galilee
  • The multitude of archaeological ruins, religious sites, and holy places in the region
  • The ancient city of Bethsaida; the remains of Chorazin (Korazim) and Capernaum; the archaeological sites of Magdala and Kursi; the remains of harbours and villages under the sea; the historic site of Hattin (the hill where the Battle of Hattin was fought in 1187 between the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem and the Muslim forces of Saladin who took over the city of Jerusalem)
  • The site of Tabgha and its Byzantine church (Church of the Multiplication); the Church of the Beatitudes near the Mount of Beatitudes; the holy city of Safed
  • The natural hot springs in Tiberias; the 20-odd species of fish in the waters of the lake
  • The nature reserves of Majrase, Beit Saida, Hamat-Gader and Naharayim; the Golan Heights; the dome-shaped mountain of Mount Tabor
  • The oasis near Kibbutz Kinneret (or Kvutzat Kinneret) and Tsemach Beach
  • The Hamat Gader tropical park, its mineral springs and crocodile farm
  • The magnificent views of Lake Tiberias from the cliffs of Mount Arbel; the snow-covered peak of Mount Hermon (from which the Jordan River flows before crossing the Sea of Galilee); the panoramic views of Mount Nitai
  • The miraculous catch of fish, walking on the water and calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee are among the miracles performed by Jesus in front of his disciples. The Lake Tiberias is also where Jesus of Nazareth presented himself to his disciples after his resurrection.
  • In 1986, the remains of a 9-metre-long wooden boat nicknamed the “Ancient Galilee Boat” were discovered at the village of Ginosar. Dated to around the first century BC or AD, this ancient fishing boat is made of cedar and cypress wood. It is on display at the Yigal Allon Centre on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kibbutz Ginosar site).
  • A giant stone structure made of uncut basalt blocks, conical or pyramidal, was uncovered in 2013 under the waters of the Sea of Galilee. It is 10 metres high and reportedly weighs 60,000 tons. Its mysterious origin is still being studied by specialists.
  • Archaeologists have recently discovered a carved basalt block near Bethsaida, the birthplace of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Dated to the Byzantine period, it could be an ancient reliquary from the Church of The Apostles.
  • The condition of the Sea of Galilee, which had been chronically short of water, has improved. Heavy rains at the beginning of 2020, combined with melting snow, reversed the water shortage. The waters reached their maximum level for the first time in almost 20 years and even threatened to overflow. This allowed the authorities to open the Degania Dam to feed the Jordan River for only the 3rd time in its history since the construction of the dam in 1931 and to run off to the Dead Sea (which has been drying up continuously for decades). Faced with the consequences of global warming, the country remains at the mercy of a sharp rise in temperatures and an intensification of drought periods.
  • There are boat and bus services for organized excursions to the sites of interest on Lake Tiberias.
  • Alternatively, you can cycle the 60-kilometre Shvil Sovev Kinneret trail around the Sea of Galilee.
  • In the evening, enjoy the sound and light show held daily in season at the southern end of the lake.

Where to eat

  • Falafel Hakikar
    (delicious sandwiches)
  • Restaurant Roberg
    (gourmet tradition)
  • Restaurant 1910
    (generous cuisine)

Where to go

  • Village of Nazareth
    (filled with history)
  • Tel Hazor National Park
    (archaeological park)
  • Hula Nature Reserve
    (rich in birdlife)

Where to stay

  • Casa Nova Pilgrim Guest House
    (hospitality house)
  • Arbel Guest House Shavit Family
    (place to relax)
  • Vered Hagalil Guest Farm
    (beautiful sea view)