WHEN ISRAELIS HAVE DAYS OFF, ISRAEL OFFERS THEM PLENTY OF OPTIONS FOR FUN AND LEISURE. HERE WE TAKE A LOOK AT LIFE IN ISRAEL FROM THE TRAVEL PERSPECTIVE, TAKING AN INSIDER’S GLIMPSE AT THE LATEST LUXURY TRAVEL ALTERNATIVES AND CULTURAL EXPERIENCES THEY ENJOY.
By Meryl Fontek
Life in Israel is far from what most travelers and visitors from abroad would expect. Beyond the Bar and Bat Mitzvah services atop Masada and at the Kotel, strolls in Israel’s largest culinary markets—Carmel and Mahane Yehuda—and visits to the cultural and natural sites across the country, Israel boasts an endless bevy of chic, new boutique hotels, world-class galleries, museums and leisure-soaked tours that appease and inspire the hard working Israelis. Whether it’s an Israeli couple on a romantic getaway to the Galilee or the Negev Desert, or a family on an adventure in Tel Aviv, Israel offers Israelis plenty of options no matter the season.
Israel’s lush green and culturally-rich northern region is a favorite for locals that want to get away from the tourist sites during the high season. For instance, the ancient port-city of Akko is a culturally diverse and historically prominent city dating back more than 3,000 years, when it served as a major port for the wine and spice trading routes, and where Ottoman, Byzantine and Crusader-era architecture runs rampant. The stunning and stylish The Efendi Hotel is housed within a meticulously restored Ottoman-era palace overlooking the Mediterranean, and offers guests to relive times past with luxuriating Hammam bath and massage treatments, stays in grandiose rooms and suites with restored motifs, and a wine tasting in the property’s Byzantine-era wine cellar stocked with boutique Israeli and international labels that appease the palates of the wine-loving Israelis.
Taking guests deep into the region’s rich multi-layered history, the hotel also offers their Akko & Western Galilee Crusader Seminars featuring a bevy of lectures, tours and discussions led by experts and professors from Haifa and the Galilee, as well as visits to boutique wineries, ruins, historical sites, and produce and dairy farms, curated by a local celebrity chef named Uri Jeremias of the Uri Buri restaurant.
Another favorite of Israelis within their own country is the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv, Israel’s capital of start-ups, nightlife and leisure. Known as the “White City” for its collection of 4,000+ Bauhaus and eclectic architecture-style buildings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tel Aviv boasts an endless selection of new boutique hotels beyond the typical chain resorts and guest houses for which the city was previously known.
Those who like to stay close to the coast relax at beach resorts such as the Brown Beach House. This luxurious urban beach resort is located in the heart of Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean coastline, fusing together the city’s urban vibe while enveloping a world of inspired classic hospitality with a whimsical, contemporary twist. Modernizing the retro summer resorts of the 1950’s, the Brown Beach House is lush with six different types of palm trees and more than 140 verdant fauna embedded throughout the hotel, creating a vibrant and relaxing atmosphere with refined beachside aesthetics.
For upscale couples, a stay at Hotel Montefiore, just steps from Rothschild Boulevard, provides the ultimate Tel Aviv experience in urban-chic indulgence. Guests of the hotel begin the day with brunch on the picturesque balcony overlooking the quaint shops of Montefiore Street before they hit the town to explore all of the city’s art, food and design sites and sounds. The charming aesthetic of this restored boutique property originally built in the 1920’s is intertwined with the highest caliber of luxury, down to the last detail, from the perfectly packaged biscotti at bedside to the plush bathrobe awaiting guest’s embrace.
The Poli House, Tel Aviv’s newest design hotel, opening in June 2016, is housed within a meticulously restored Bauhaus architecture-style building and located in the beautifully gritty and historic Magen David Square. The Poli House boasts 40 playfully-designed rooms and suites created exclusively by local designer Karim Rashid, and is just steps away from the Carmel Market, from picturesque cafes on tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard, homegrown fashion boutiques and nightclubs around Sheinkin and Allenby Streets, and walking distance to several of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries, including Contemporary by Golconda and Feinberg Projects.
Now, for those local urbanites actually wishing to escape the confines of urban Israel, they go south. Nature, wine and luxury-dipped experiences in the majestic Negev and Judean Deserts is what the locals do. There are luxury travel operators in Israel that cater to both local and international guests, which offer multi-day retreat packages chock-full of spa treatments, expert-led excursions through off-the-beaten-path natural sites, including Ein Avdat and the Ramon Crater, and carefully selected stays at some of the most authentic and luxurious properties in Israel, including Beresheet Hotel. One of these such operators is Pomegranate Travel, which besides organizing these retreat packages, also caters to the young and active Israelis, offering curated mountain bike excursions which include a professional bike tour guide, meals, overnights and just about everything else high-powered Israelis might anticipate while exploring the endless natural, cultural and artisanal sites in one of Israel’s most spectacular regions.
Israel offers its inhabitants much diversity, which is why on holidays, they have so many options to get away and enjoy their blessed land, making them fall in love with their life in Israel a little more every day.