Stretched taut on a narrow coastal strip between Tel Aviv and the Lebanese border, this gorgeous region offers a rare blend of Mediterranean beaches, fertile fields and citrus groves of the Sharon Plain, and seaside historical sights. Whether you succumb to the delights of the ancient port of Caesarea with its spectacularly restored Roman ruins, to the alleyways and beautifully vaulted Crusader
halls of the old city of Akko, or to the vistas and gardens of modern Haifa, this lovely part of Israel won’t disappoint.
It was in the softly contoured foothills of Mt. Carmel that the philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild helped found the country’s wine industry in the 19th century, now one of the region's most successful enterprises. The Carmel range rises dramatically to its pine-covered heights over the coast of Haifa, an amiable and thoroughly modern port city. Across the sweeping arc of Haifa Bay lies Akko, a jewel of a Crusader city that combines Romanesque ruins, Muslim minarets, and swaying palms. To the north, the resort town of Nahariya draws droves of vacationing Israelis. And just south of the Lebanese border, don't miss the amazing seaside coves of Rosh Hanikra, which have been scooped from the cliffs by the pounding surf.
As the scenery changes, so does the ethnic mix of the residents: Druze, Carmelite monks, Baha'is, Christian and Muslim Arabs, and Jews. Paleontologists continue to study on-site the artifacts of the most ancient natives of all, the prehistoric people of the caves of Nahal Me'arot, on Mt. Carmel. The Baha'is, dedicated to the idea that all great religions teach the same fundamental truths about an unknowable God, dominate Haifa's mountainside. Their terraced gardens spill down the slope toward a gleaming golden-domed shrine. White Friars of the Carmelite order preside over their serene monasteries in Haifa and in Mukhraka, on Mt. Carmel, next door to the Druze villages. The Druze of the Galilee and Carmel, now numbering more than 125,000, have lived here for a thousand years. Although they consider themselves an integral part of Israeli society, they maintain a unique cultural and religious enclave on Mt. Carmel, with the esoteric rites and rituals of their faith and the distinctive handlebar moustaches and white head scarves favored by the older men. Akko's vast subterranean Crusader vaults and halls, Ottoman skyline of domes and minarets, and outdoor shuk (market) are enchanting.
As you drive north, you'll enjoy long stretches of unimpeded views of the sparkling blue Mediterranean. Beautiful beaches lie beside Netanya, Haifa, and Achziv (and in between), with soft sand, no-frills hummus joints, and seaside restaurants. You can learn to scuba dive or explore underwater shipwrecks, hike the pine-scented slopes of Mt. Carmel, tread the winding lanes of Ein Hod artists' village, and taste local wines and tangy cheeses at some excellent wineries.