The Baha’i Holy Places and Gardens in Haifa are undeniably one of the most beautiful places not to be missed when visiting Israel. Exquisitely detailed landscaping, layered terraces, creative gardens, architecture, and sculptures are dispersed over a serene environment of 200,000 meters (49 acres). Haifa gardens are sacred destinations for pilgrimage and prayers.
The History of Haifa Gardens
Around 200 years ago, Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi founded the Bahia faith. He was known as the prophet Bab, and his goal was to spread his religious beliefs. Through the years, he gathered a large following among the tens of thousands who shared his beliefs. Regardless of his popularity and followers, his beliefs were shunned by the clergy. Six years after beginning the Bahai movement, Shirazi was executed in 1850 by firing squad in Persia.
After his execution, his followers took his remains and kept them in secret. Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri continued the prophet’s movement. He chose the name Baha’u’llah, and he, too, was harassed by the clergy. In 1868, Baha’u’llah was sent to an Ottoman Empire prison. Eventually, he was released from prison and allowed to live in peace. Along with his son, Abdul-Baha, who continued his father’s teachings, and the Bab, the three men were considered to be the most important people supporting the Bahia faith.
In 1909, the prophet’s remains were brought to Haifa, which had been chosen by Baha’u’llah as the final burial place for the religion’s founder. William Sutherland Maxwell, a Canadian architect, designed what is now the Shrine of Bab. It was constructed in 1953, with its golden dome as a main feature.
The gardens were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008 because of their “outstanding universal value.”
The Natural Beauty of Haifa Gardens
Between 1989 and 2001, the slopes of Mount Carmel became the location of the gardens that frame the shrine. The terraced lawns are like a rolling green carpet with decorative features, such as stone eagles, assorted sculptures, and refreshing fountains. The flower beds are meticulously designed, and hedges are shaped into eight-point stars.
The natural beauty of Haifa Gardens can be enjoyed with a 45-minute guided tour. The tour is free and available every day except Wednesday. During the tour, visitors will learn about how the gardens were designed, how they are maintained to retain their beauty, and the importance of the gardens and the Bahia religion.
In the evening, the gardens are fully illuminated with decorative lighting, providing a peaceful atmosphere with the dome glistening in the background.
When visiting, be aware there is no food, no beverages (other than a bottle of water), no smoking, and no chewing gum allowed in the gardens. This is to protect the beauty and integrity of the gardens. Also, be aware of any dress code restrictions within the gardens and especially the Shrine of Bab, since the gardens are a religious site.
Attractions in Haifa Gardens
A leisurely stroll through the gardens is a visual delight on many levels. The design and layout provide unlimited opportunities for visitors to relax and relish the serene environment surrounded by a palette of colors any artist would envy.
Within the gardens, a variety of flowers are dispersed over 19 terraced landscapes. Beautifully detailed concentric circles have been created in nine locations to display assorted flowers that bloom throughout the year. Decorative metal and stone ornaments, water fountains, serene pools, small sculptures, formal gardens, and assorted trees create a visually stunning panorama of color and precise detailing. Guests will also see the wooded area that serves as a home for wildlife.
There is also the Ursula Malbin Sculpture Garden at the garden’s entrance, which is an ideal place to rest and enjoy the views.
The crowning glory and centerpiece of the gardens is the Shrine of the Bab, highlighted by the blue water of Haifa Bay. The gold-domed structure is a magnificent piece of architecture. The shrine was completed in 1953. It is built with Italian stone and marble walls and pillars of granite. The imposing gold dome was constructed using 12,000 tiles of different sizes and shapes that interlock. The tiles, made in Portugal, are fire-glazed scarlet and emerald green and fitted with intricate motifs and decorations. The style of the shrine features European architecture and is influenced by Eastern traditions. The Shrine of Bab is open to the public for those who wish to pray or meditate.
Two buildings within the gardens can be observed from the outside, which allows visitors to appreciate the detailed architecture. One building, the Universal House of Justice, is constructed in the neoclassical style. The other building, referred to as the Archives, is similar to the Parthenon in Greece. Both buildings are closed to the public.
Where to Stay and What to Eat Around the Haifa Gardens
Places to stay near the Haifa Gardens include several choices in hotels, resorts, and boutique establishments. Closest to the gardens are the Haifa Bay View Hotel, Dan Panorama Haifa, the Mirabelle Plaza Haifa, Leonardo Plaza Hotel, and the Colony Hotel. Also near the gardens are the Carmella Boutique Hotel, Villa Carmel Boutique, Bay Club Hotel Haifa, Bat Galim Boutique Hotel, and 1926 Apartments Hotel, all less than 2 miles from the gardens.
Several places to refuel with food and beverages include Cafe HaPina, Elika Artbar Cafe, Tibi Conditory and Coffee, Cafe Masada, Allenby Restaurant, 80’s Burger, Lux, and Del-mar. From casual to fine dining, there are many palate-pleasing choices near the gardens.