Many visitors coming to the White City find themselves spending their whole trip exploring all there is to do within the borders of Tel Aviv and yet they still have more to see when it is time to leave. Why, then, would you even consider leaving the city to spend time elsewhere? After all, anything you could possible desire — the beach, gourmet meals, fascinating art exhibitions, shopping, water-sports, even free yoga classes — can be found just outside of our hotel lobby. Still, if you find yourself with some time to spare, Israel’s small size and navigable road system makes it easy to get around and, needless to say, there is plenty to see. Here are a few of our favourites that are definitely worth an hour or two on the road:
Beit Guvrin National Park
Beit Guvrin-Maresha, often referred to as “The Land of a Thousand caves” although there are only 480 to be precise is the the newest addition to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. This national park is all about the underground experience. Once you enter the cool, dimness of the first caves you realise that there is a whole world to explore. These man made caves have been created over the course of 2000 years and offers fascinating insights in what life looked liked in the desert in ancient times. The whole area stretches over 1200 acres and you can choose from a variety of trails and exploration options with a guide or on your own.
The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art
Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, is sometimes called the San Francisco of the Middle East. Located overlooking a bay with an array of different cultures the nick named is not too far fetched. Granted that most visitors are in town to see the magnificent Bahai Gardens but one shouldn’t miss a visit to The Tikotin, the only Museum of Japanese Art in the entire Middle East. Located high on Mount Carmel, overlooking the bay the museum was originally founded by a Dutch holocaust survivor forced to flee his home and leave his priceless collection of Japanese art during the Nazi invasion this museums is home to a vast collection of samurai swords a well as exhibitions of more contemporary Japanese culture such as the Harajuku movement.
The Zaki Trail Water Hike
The entrance to this 2-3 hour hike is on the north end of the Sea of Galilee and this is a hike that you can happily undertake even in on the hottest time of the year. The Zaki (“clear water” in Arabic) is one of five streams on the north end of the Sea of Galilee and you spend the entire time wading through the streams, at some points even swimming across a lagoon or two. Bring a second set of dry clothes to change into once you get back to your car and you are all set to make a splash.
Lesser known than Jerusalem but also considered a holy city, Safed with its winding cobblestoned alleyways and gorgeous views of the mountains of upper Galilee is the unofficial home of the Kabbala Jewish mystical movement. The artist’s quarters, an area with ancient, gorgeous houses that houses numerous workshops and studios is great way to start your exploration of this quirky and spiritual city. The blend of rabbis and tourists, artists and vacationers and history and creativity makes for a unique atmosphere and a great place to see a different side of Israel.