Jeannine Williamson discovers how to float off and how to get active in Israel
It’s renowned for a rich history going back thousands of years coupled with a Red Sea holiday playground.
With a ‘sea’ packed full of feel-good minerals and rejuvenating mud, Israel also has the world’s biggest natural spa right on its doorstep, making it the perfect choice for a relaxing break.
The spectacular landscape and warm climate makes the country a great destination for outdoor adventures, helping agents sell to a wider range of clients. Where the Judean Desert ends, the Negev Desert -– covering more than half of Israel – begins, so visitors never have to travel very far to immerse themselves in an exciting experience.
Another big attraction is Israel’s relatively small size – it takes seven hours to drive north to south and only one hour from east to west – so clients can be swimming with dolphins or riding camels in the morning and floating in the Dead Sea in the afternoon.
Pause: Known as the land of milk and honey, Israel is a great destination for foodies looking for long, leisurely meals. The cuisine is fresh, tasty and uses local ingredients and fertile Galilee is famous for its vineyards. The gastronomic Accad restaurant at five-star Dan Accadia in Herzliya showcases local recipes and ingredients and is available through Kirker from £996 for three nights.
In Acre, Cox & Kings offers cooking lessons from £150. After choosing produce at the market, chef Erez Koramovsky drives clients back to his villa to tour his organic garden before learning to make traditional dishes.
Play: Embark on a cultural adventure in the ancient crusader port of Acre, a World Heritage-listed site. In 1994 locals uncovered a 350 metre secret tunnel built by the Knights Templar to connect their fortress to the port.
A visit is included in Peregrine Adventures’ six-night Journey Through Israel itinerary, from £1,635. For centuries the nomadic Bedouin people have used camels for transport, and a trek gives clients a fun and authentic experience. Explore has a seven-night tour, from £1,451, with a camel ride in the Jericho region.
Pause: Golf widows can relax in the Cielo Spa at the Sheraton Tel Aviv (pictured below), from £998 for three nights’ B&B with Kirker, which has partnered with the nearby Gaash Golf Club. Hotel Indigo Tel Aviv, part of IHG’s boutique brand, has a lovely rooftop pool and is available from £1,049 for seven nights’ B&B with Thomas Cook.
The spa at its big sister flagship, the InterContinental David Tel Aviv, is another wonderful spot for downtime and sold by Abercrombie & Kent. In Jerusalem indulgent spa packages at the David Citadel Hotel include a romantic couples’ massage and Champagne.
Play: The five-star Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, sold through Cox & Kings, has launched bike tours with a local provider. Costing £38, the invigorating pedal-power trips take guests along bike lanes and hidden short cuts to areas they’d not find without a guide.
Clients can tailor their own itinerary and schedule activities, such as Segway sightseeing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with a private tour from On The Go Tours, ideal for a family or group of friends. A four-day break in both cities starts at £349, and allows plenty of time to experience Tel Aviv’s legendary dusk-to-dawn nightlife.
The Dead Sea
Pause: A float in the salty Dead Sea – actually a large inland lake – really shouldn’t be missed. For a DIY spa treatment clients can smother themselves in the gloopy black mud at public beaches, or have a professional treat at one of the many spa hotels at Ein Bokek.
Dead Sea visits are featured in Discover Egypt’s seven-night Discover Israel tour (from £1,229), Cox & Kings’ seven-night A Journey to Jerusalem itinerary (from £1,695), and Trafalgar’s eight-night Best of Israel tour (from £1,599), among others. Alternatively, kick back at a kibbutz. These self-supporting agricultural communes offer a laid-back way of life. Superstar Holidays offers a choice of two kibbutzim on the Dead Sea, Kalia and Almog, with seven nights’ fly-drive (from £799).
Play: The Dead Sea borders the wilderness of the Judean Desert, with options for jeep safaris, challenging hikes and sleeping under the stars in a Bedouin camp. Specialists such as Superstar, which offers three nights’ B&B at the Isrotel Ganim Dead Sea from £586, can help arrange add-ons.
A sightseeing highlight is King Herod’s mountaintop fortress Masada. Energetic clients can climb the winding snake path – or wimp out and opt for the cable car. Encounters Travel includes Masada on its seven-night Fantastic Israel tour (from £979).
The Negev Desert
Pause: About 160,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, so suggest an excursion to a camp to learn about their culture. Clients will enjoy a meal under the stars followed by traditional music and dancing.
For a relaxing base from which to visit the geologically wonderful Ramon Crater, suggest the stylish Isrotel Beresheet, which boasts a fantastic infinity pool and tranquil spa.
Play: Easily accessible from the Red Sea Resort of Eilat situated at the desert’s southernmost tip, clients can explore the Negev and Eilat mountains on an exhilarating jeep adventure.
Superstar offers a Red Canyon tour that travels into the Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve, with a break for sweet Bedouin tea en route (from £40), while its Timna Valley afternoon jeep tour gives clients the chance to watch the dramatic desert sunset (from £45). Specialist operators can also book activities including horse riding, camel treks and archery.
Pause: Fly-and-flop holidays are an enduring part of Eilat’s appeal, and with its chic shops, waterfront bars and comfortable resort hotels it’s very easy to stay put. The Dolphin Reef attraction offers a slightly surreal floating massage complete with underwater music.
Clients can continue the theme with a meal at the Red Sea Star restaurant, five metres below sea level, where the marine life can be viewed through giant windows. Thomas Cook has seven nights’ B&B at the Crowne Plaza Eilat from £908.
Play: The Red Sea is a legendary destination for divers of all abilities, and the coral reef running along Eilat’s shoreline is an underwater paradise teeming with colourful fish.
Superstar provides a range of diving packages for beginners to expert divers, including a five day Padi course (from £205). For a fantastic feelgood adventure the operator can also arrange for your clients to dive or swim with dolphins at Dolphin Reef. Superstar offers three nights’ B&B at the Dan Panorama Eilat, overlooking Eilat Lagoon, from £650.
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