July 5, 2011
Northern Israel’s boutique mystique
When Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer and Amber Tamblyn paid a visit to Northern Israel with “House” creator David Shore as part of a weeklong trip sponsored by America’s Voices in Israel, the stars of the hit Fox series admired the tranquil beauty of the Galilee region.
“It was just so much fun to be able to relax and get away from it all, even if it was only for a day,” Tamblyn said. “It’s just so peaceful and beautiful up here.”
That serenity is the selling point for a number of posh Galilean boutique hotels located around the mountainous town of Safed and along the banks of Lake Kinneret in the city of Tiberias.
“The pastoral beauty, fresh air and unique historical mystique of Safed and the Galilee region is the perfect place for tourists who wish to get away from the big city and just relax,” said Nadav Brada, general manager of the Ruth Rimonim Safed Hotel.
In Safed, tourists can walk through the narrow alleyways of the Old City and pray in one of the spectacular ancient synagogues. The popular “Lecha Dodi” (Come My Beloved) Friday night sing-along prayer was actually composed in one of the town’s ancient synagogues by 16th century Safed kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz.
The adjacent artists’ colony, where Tamblyn purchased some beautiful rings and bracelets, boasts some of Israel’s most unique jewelry and art galleries. Just bring cash and a willingness to bargain with the locals, who are only too happy to partake in a bit of Middle East marketing.
For tourists who enjoy culinary adventures, the Galilee and Golan Heights boast some of Israel’s top wineries. Hotel concierges can easily arrange daylong treks to any number of wineries in the area.
At the Ruth Rimonim Safed Hotel, a unique boutique facility, part of the structure dates back more than 300 years, when the Ottoman Empire ruled over the region.
“Of the 77 rooms in the hotel, 36 are located in the ancient part,” Brada said. “Every one of the rooms in the hotel is designed in a different manner, which is what makes it so unique.”
The Ruth Rimonim Safed also features a spa, a swimming pool that faces Mount Meron and a fully stocked wine cellar, which is also a destination for nightly entertainment.
As you wind your way down from Safed to Tiberias (about 15 minutes away), Lake Kinneret and the adjacent Golan Heights are frequently abuzz with outdoor activities.
“This is a place where families and kids can enjoy so many types of water sports, including kayaking, motor-boating and jet-skiing, as well as horseback riding, jeeping and even rappelling across the Golan Heights,” said Omar Assle, manager of the Rimonim Galei Kinneret Hotel.
The 120-room Rimonim Galei Kinneret, which bills itself as a classic, boutique destination, features a pool, spa and private beach. In the evenings, guests can enjoy a show on the terrace opposite the pool.
“We are not one of those big, crowded hotels,” Assle said.
The Prima Galil prides itself on its various indoor and outdoor experiences. Guests are encouraged to create their own ways of exploring the region via a checklist of recommended activities: sports, bicycling, jeep trips and visits to local wineries. The hotel’s Galilean evenings (Mondays and Thursdays) entice guests to sample culinary delicacies while listening to live music performed by local musicians.
One of the best-kept vacation secrets in the region can be found between Ma’alot and Kfar Veradim in the Western Galilee. The Hacienda Forestview Hotel, which has been built like a Spanish homestead, sits amid 20 acres of natural green forest. It is renowned for catering to body, soul and palate.
Part of the C-Hotels chain, the Hacienda offers three different themed spa options: C and Enjoy, including mud treatments and body peeling for couples; C and Relax, featuring a Turkish steam bath, Jacuzzi and baths for reflexology treatments; and C and Feel Fit, which showcases the hotel’s exercise room.
“When you are feeling relaxed, you are more than ready to enjoy an incredible culinary experience,” a C-Hotels spokeswoman said.
The Hacienda offers a colorful and healthy array of breakfast options. However, it’s the South American-style barbecue evenings, featuring prime cuts of beef and other delectable dishes prepared by Chef Itzik Marciano, that accentuate a real gastronomic extravaganza. Recognizing that kids shouldn’t be left out of the culinary equation, the Hacienda also highlights a delicious buffet for kids right down to the toasted marshmallows and melodic outdoor kumsitz (sing-along).