Wonder where Tel Avivians go for a domestic refresh? Local journalist Lotte Beilin shares a few of her favorite Israeli escapes.
TEL AVIV – Israel's second city is your modern, vibrant, innovative, and cool Mediterranean destination. But even with the cuisine, the markets, the people, and the parties, there comes a time when escaping the city for fresh air and peace and quiet just makes sense. Whether you're in the market for a weekend getaway or an easy day trip, there are plenty of food, art, and nature-filled happenings within driving distance of Tel Aviv. Here are a few of my favorites for every type of traveler.
FOR THE DESIGN NERD
Some 40 miles up the coast from Tel Aviv lies Elma Luxury Arts Complex, an innovative 95-room hotel set amid 28 acres of beautifully arranged gardens on the rim of Mount Carmel in Zichron Yaakov. The art complex, the brainchild of patron Lily Elstein, whose collection is scattered throughout the hotel, is outfitted with restaurants, concert halls, galleries, a luxurious spa, an outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pool, and awe-inspiring views of the Mediterranean. All of which make this under-the-radar spot well suited for style-conscious weekend getaways with friends and family, in colder months, too.
FOR THE BEACH BABE
Endless sand dunes and choppy waters punctuate Hof Mayaan Zvi, a pillowy stretch of coast outside Zichron Yaakov. During the summer months, the beach becomes a camping destination for locals who build zoulas ("chill-out spots", fittingly enough) to live in for days on end, a relatively new phenomena on certain beaches in Israel. Bring a surfboard to take advantage of the rough breaks and supplies for a bucolic beach picnic. If setting up camp yourself isn’t an option, book a ready-made zoula from Toro Village and soak in the sea and sun without breaking a sweat.
FOR THE GOURMAND
A meal at Helena, Caesarea’s culinary institution, is certainly worth a day trip. The restaurant, blessed with exquisite views of the ancient town’s old port and the timeless Mediterranean, is known the country over for its fresh, upmarket takes on Israeli cuisine. Burrata on pumpkin carpaccio with crunchy sage leaves, aged balsamic, new olive oil, and pumpkin seeds is an example of what to expect from the ever-changing menu. Secure a window seat for an even more perfect meal, and cap off the evening with a stroll along the beach, a pop into the the historic city, or a show at the Roman amphitheater.
FOR THE WINE LOVER
For a unique viticultural experience, drive out to Israel’s Negev Desert for a tour of Midbar Winery. That’s right. A winery. In the middle of the desert. What was once an impossible process is now an 80-acre operation in Ramat Negev, an area in Mitzpe Ramon with a unique microclimate created by its proximity to Ramon Crater and tempered by a cool evening breeze year-round. After a look behind the scenes at the winery in Arad, pick up a bottle or two, score fresh cheese from nearby Na’ama Farm, and find a nice a scenic spot to lay out your picnic mat for lunch in the desert.