In one of my previous blogs here, I’ve shared my suggestions for the Top 10 must-see places for first time visitors to Israel. If you already are familiar with the main attractions, or simply interested in going somewhere else on your next visit, here are few suggestions for sites that are more ‘off the beaten track’. Most of them are particularly attractive during the coming winter season.
1. Hula Valley
The Hula valley is an agricultural region in northern Israel. Its Lake Park is becoming most popular during the fall and early winter months, since it serves as a major stopover site for tens of thousands of migrating birds, such as cranes, storks, pelicans and many others. Other activities such as hiking and biking are also popular in this tranquil natural area.
2. The Golan Heights
Not far from the Hula Valley, about an hour drive away, are the Golan Heights. A mountainous region, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the Golan is one of the wettest areas in Israel during winter. Plenty of springs, rivers and waterfalls make this region a winter wonderland, offering numerous water activities such as rafting and kayaking, alongside hiking trails. Overnight visitors can choose between many of the local B&B’s and camping sites for the complete outdoor experience.
3. Antipatris Fortress, Yarkon National Park
Antipatris was an ancient city built by Herod the Great, and is now an archeological site just east of Tel Aviv. The remains of a 16th century crusader fortress rule the site, also known as Tel Afek, which is located near the sources of the Yarkon River. This National Park offers several scenic spots for trips and relaxation in the nearby area, such as the large lake on foot of the fortress and the Nofarim Pond.
4. The Herzliya Marina
Twenty minutes from Tel Aviv, the city of Herzliya offers a great option for a refreshing afternoon. Its marina is a popular venue; restaurants and café’s with views of the water and a large indoors shopping center. The beach is also nearby. I suggest you plan your visit here to be during sunset, for some spectacular views.
5. The Biblical Zoo, Jerusalem
The holy city of Jerusalem is the #1 destination for tourists coming to Israel. However, there is a hidden gem which is less frequented by visitors to the city. The Biblical zoo is probably the most beautiful in Israel, located in a serene natural environment. It has an abundance of wildlife species, most of which are mentioned in the Bible, and many charming spots to rest during your visit.
6. Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is another popular destination, visited by millions of tourists each year, but it too has an almost secret place. The Yarkon Park spans between Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, and is the green lung of the two big cities. It’s the place where many locals go to with their families, engage in sport activities or simply take a break from city life. The park has everything to offer, from wooden bridges for scenic strolls to motor boats for rent.
7. The Negev forests, during spring
It’s called “Darom Adom” in Hebrew, meaning Red South, a whole festival celebrating the blooming of red Anemones all throughout the northern part of the Negev. The flowers begin to bloom in January and remain till most of March, but the peak is definitely during February. Each weekend in February the festival offers several activities, from farmers’ markets to bicycle tours around the red fields. The places I suggest for the best views are the Be’eri and Shokeda forests.
8. The Colored Sand, Ramon Crater
The Ramon Crater is a geological landform unique to the Negev, an exciting place to visit for itself. What is particularly interesting here is the area of the colored sand, an intriguing phenomenon to experience in the middle of the desert. Make sure you don’t miss it next time you go down south to the Negev!
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