Okay, so you came for two months senior year of high school and then again on birthright and then you staffed birthright five times and now you feel like you know all there is to know about Israel…. what׳s next?
Wondering what there is to do that you haven’t done a million times? You’re in luck, I’ve put together a list of the top things to do in Israel that weren’t featured on Birthright!
Emek HaHula, March- April or October- November
Each year, 500 million birds migrate through this beautiful valley in the north of Israel. Whether you wander through this 8 km wide park by foot, bike, or tractor ride- it is sure to be one of the most beautiful places you ever visit. I recommend going early in the morning or right at sunset for the best views. While you can visit year round and are assured to see lots of amazing birds and wildlife- the best time to go is in the early autumn (October- November) or spring (March- April.)
Ariel University Wine Festival, April
You’ve probably heard about and been to the Jerusalem wine festival at the Israel Museum but I bet you’ve never been to Ariel and definitely not to their wine festival. I was lucky enough to be invited as press this past year and I think I was one of 4 Americans there, one of which came with me. Unlike the big festival in Jerusalem, this festival is full of small boutique wineries and attended by wine connoisseurs who actually enjoy learning about the vineyards and different types of wine being offered. It happens each year in April and while its a straight up bitch to get to, if you’re nice and make friends you might get a ride home from a winery owner.
Achzivland, Year Round
This micronation, located near the Lebanese border was founded in 1971 by Eli Achziv. It is located near the ruins of Achziv, an ancient settlement on the Mediterranean coast. With a reach history and interesting stories as to how the micronation came to be, it is worth going to see the museum for yourself. Akhzivland has its own anthem, flag, and passports.
Tour the South Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, Year Round
Bet you didn’t know there was a bat sanctuary Tel Aviv Central Bus Station! This maze of a building is filled with many mysterious surprises and while its often a creepy place to be alone, with a tour guide its actually one of the most unique places to visit.
Enjoy the Dead Sea like a Bouggie Israeli, Best in the off season
No, no, no- I’m not talking a mud mask and jump into a salty sea. I’m talking a nice hotel complete with a spa package, cabanas by the pool, and delicious food you don’t have to cook for yourself. Pack a bag with all your favourite cocktail supplies- my drink of choice for a beach weekend is a Mimosa and hop on a 1 hour bus from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. There you can spend countless hours by the pool, float in the sea without feeling rushed by your impatient and underpaid Birthright guide, and truly enjoy the beauty of the area.
If you go during the off season, you can find hotel rooms at Isrotel and the like for nearly half their normal price. Our package included breakfast, (they offered us a discount because we were gluten free) and the dining room even had a latte bar available each morning. The chef came out to meet us the first night and made us our own special dishes on shabbat.
Mitzpe Ramon Astrological Tour, Year Round
In the middle of the night, you join your tour group and drive out into what feels like the middle of nowhere. When you arrive, your guides set up telescopes, chairs, and blankets and give an brief introduction to astrology and mythology. Slowly, as the night gets darker, more and more stars appear. Throughout the tour you learn about what you are seeing in the sky including checking out the rings of Saturn through the telescope. It doesn’t happen every night but if you’re lucky you get to watch the sky turn purple as the moon sets. A wonderful family friendly activity great for kids and adults alike.
Dialogue in the Dark, Year Round
This is easily one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. Located in the centre of Holon, Dialogue in the Dark is a unique opportunity to learn the challenges faced daily by visually impaired individuals. At the museum, you take a tour of Israel (within the walls of the museum) completely in the dark. You are lead though a mock Israel by a blind guide. It is a unique opportunity to experience the liveliness of the Shuk, busy streets of Tel Aviv and a quick stop at a cafe without the use of your vision. For me, it was extremely powerful. After my visit, I feel like I have a understanding the impact of visual impairment on daily life.
Take on a part of Shvil Yisrael, Year Round
One of the super cool things about Israel is that there is a hiking trail that travels from the most southern point of Israel all the way to the North of Israel. The entire trail is 680 miles! It takes around two months to complete but you could always take on a piece of it for a weekend. If you spend enough weekends working your way through the trail you might even complete it. Read a full guide to Shvil Yisreal here: http://shvilist.com/Israel_national_trail/
Gan HaShilosha/ Beit Shean, Year Round
A visit to Gan HaShilosha is a quite popular Friday afternoon activity for Israelis during the summer months. It is located in the lower Galilie and while know to tourists, it has yet to become a classic stop for tour groups. The gorgeous pools at the sachne are filled by natural springs and stay at around 28 degrees year round. When you enter the park you feel the shade of the palms, a cool breeze, and the tickle of fish eating at your feet. For me, it is one of my favorite spots for a picnic and day of relaxing. While you’re in the neighbourhood, you can also check out the historical site, Beit Shean.
For more info about Gan HaShilosha go to: https://www.touristisrael.com/gan-hashlosha-sachne/6105/
Nesher National Park, Year Round
Located just on the outskirts of Haifa, Nesher National Park is a short hike which culminates at two large hanging bridges. It’s a classic stop for Israel school trips and makes a great quick activity to add on to any trip to the area.
Learn more here: http://info.goisrael.com/en/nesher-park-58251
Now you’ve figured out what to do, but do you know where to eat? If not, check out my restaurant reviews.