10 Amazing Places to Visit in Israel That Are Definitely Not in Your Guide Book
Israel off the beaten track holds tons of surprises and delights for the motivated traveler.
The touristy spots are still amazing
It’s a given that any trip to Israel will involve copious hours of beach time, a trip to the Western Wall, Yad Vashem, floating in the Dead Sea (it will do wonders for your skin!), and stops at Machane Yehuda and Carmel Market. These activities alone unquestionably make for an unforgettable trip, but one would be remiss to not color their Israel experience with trips to an out-of-this-world vegan eatery (Israel has the most vegans per capita and the trend is growing), swimming in a lush pool surrounded by a desert landscape (free roaming animals and all), touring a farm maintained using biblical practices, and so, so much more—read on to discover more about these delights.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant in Tel Aviv that doesn’t have vegan options, but plant-based eatery Bana takes it to the next level with dishes that are as flavorful as they are beautifully presented. They’re also filling, which isn’t always the case when eating fresh, healthy plant-based foods (there are so many perks to eating a plant-based diet). They get brownie points for Instagram-friendly décor, vibrant pink walls, and indoor and outdoor seating. Order the mushroom dish!
Nineteen diners sit, bar-style, around an open kitchen at this unique restaurant that has no menus. Instead, you tell your waiter your likes and dislikes and they will create a multi-course tasting menu right in front of you. At any point you are invited to interact with the chefs and get up close and personal with the meticulously crafted dishes they’re creating (it’s called OCD for a reason!). The kitchen is heavily inspired by molecular gastronomy so prepare to be wowed and don’t forget to make a reservation. Here are some other weird restaurants around the world to try.
First, make sure you’re up on your hotel booking secrets. Then book a room at the Beresheet: Usually being in the middle of nowhere is not a plus, but that’s exactly what makes this luxury hotel overlooking the desert and Ramon Crater so special. Nowhere else can you dive into a posh swimming pool surrounded—literally—by nothing besides miles and miles of sand and free roaming animals. Many of the rooms also have private pools and crater views. Breakfast and dinner are included with your stay. Note, however, that the hotel is kosher so try to avoid Shabbat if you’re not observant as the buffets aren’t as lavish (you’re not allowed to cook/use fire on Shabbat).
Mizpe Hayamim Hotel
One of the many things that makes Israel such a fantastic country is that Israelis have a way of turning nothing into something. Case and point is Mizpe Hayamim Hotel where on rough, insanely hot, desert land they have been able to grow acres of organic fresh produce using biblical farming techniques. This luxe hotel is basically the Canyon Ranch of Israel so expect to see local celebrities trying to “detox” while you’re there (don’t even think about starting a detox without reading this first). Your stay will include breakfast and dinner and nothing in the kitchen isn’t made on premise. Don’t forget to book a tour of the organic farm for a goat selfie!
There are plenty of waist expanding Israeli treats that are worth indulging in (we’ll get to those shortly), but eating healthfully is something that is actually enjoyable in Israel. First off, there are no Whole Foods-type supermarkets meaning if something isn’t in season, you’re not getting it. So everything you can get is insanely flavorful, and nowhere can you take better advantage of that than at Tamara. The popular kiosk (it’s open 24 hours except for Shabbat, when it’s closed) sells smoothies, juices, popsicles, and acai bowls that are so amazingly fresh and delicious even a steak and potatoes guy will fall for their green smoothies. Before you go, remember these tips for making a great smoothie.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you want to give up on exercise. Luckily, being active in Israel is very easy. There are countless hiking and biking trails and plenty of swanky New York City-style boutique studios. Beit Hanna, however, offers something unique for Israel. The newly opened Soho House-inspired members-only club (there are day and week memberships), offers boutique-style classes, an eatery with fresh food and snacks, a full program of events (think meditation, lectures, and outdoor film screenings), and wifi indoor and outdoor working spaces.
What’s better than slices of ice cold fresh watermelon with your feet in the sand? Get it at Calypso a newly opened eatery owned by local celebrity chef Omer Miller and located directly on one of Tel Aviv’s most popular beaches. If you’re not interested in eating on the beach, indoor and outdoor seating is also available as is a full menu including burgers, hummus, ceviche, and other staples.
Don’t be afraid of baked goods—just learn the secrets of how bakers avoid gaining weight. Because you can’t go to Israel without a solid sampling of babka and it doesn’t get better than the ones at Bakery—a chain of, you guessed it, bakeries. Besides the classic chocolate, they have cheese, halva and seasonal flavors like raisin and cinnamon. A long list of cakes, pastries, sandwiches, salads and other snacks are also sold.
Of course you’ll have a drink or two—you’re on vacation! Tel Aviv is overflowing with cocktail bars, but none standout the way Bellboy does. Each cocktail—and the list is extensive—is not only meticulously crafted, but unique. Take for example this cocktail, which comes served in a bathtub-shaped glass and overflows with drinkable bubbles.
Everyone will tell you to go to Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem and Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, but you should also make a point to stop at the relatively new Shuk HaNamal. Located in Tel Aviv’s port you’ll find an abundance of fresh produce and juices and, on Friday and Saturdays ready-made food and the country’s best dates.