Discover some of Israel's most exciting hidden gems - all within a two-hour drive from Tel Aviv! Enjoy some of the best views of the country, drink wine at Israel's most beautiful winery or explore the Dead Sea's salt structure away from the touristy beaches.
Ein Hod & wine tasting in the Carmel
Often overlooked because of it's more famous neighbor Zichron Yaakov, Ein Hod is such a gem in the Carmel! This artist village is one of the most picturesque villages in the country, with art galleries everywhere and even art displayed on the streets. You can also do all kinds of pottery and painting workshops (to be booked in advance, click here for more info) and Sabaya has the best views, delicious pizza and on Shabbat even jachnun! If you want a more traditional lunch, visit neighboring Arab village Ein Hawd to eat at House restaurant, where they serve mouth-watering, traditional Arabic dishes with wild herbs and vegetables from the Carmel forest.
A bit further north on road 4, only a few minutes away from Ein Hod, lies - in my opinion - the most beautiful winery in Israel. To get to Amphorae winery, you have a ten to fifteen minute walk through their organic gardens, wine ranks and olive groves, which makes you feel like in Tuscany. The winery itself totally makes you forget you're in Israel (honestly, Amphorae is the place I visit whenever I miss Europe) - it's the perfect spot for a wine tasting.
Click below for directions to Ein Hod. Looking to spend the night in Ein Hod? ArtRest is a wonderful little zimmer in the middle of Ein Hod.
Salt structures at the Dead Sea
When most people visit the Dead Sea, they either choose the north side of the sea with it's organized beaches like Kalia and Ein Gedi, or visit the south side of the sea to stay at the resorts. South of these resorts, you can find some of the most beautiful parts of the Dead Sea, where the shores are full with salt creations. There are two places you have to visit: the promenade between Ein Bokek and Neve Zohar and just south from the Leonardo Plaza in Neve Zohar.
This is what you'll find next to the promenade, these salt islands are a short swim from the shore. Especially if you have a drone, this is one of the most beautiful places in Israel to photograph!
Don't forget to wear sandals or shoes here, the salt crystals are like knives to your feet. And of course, lots and lots of water, you dehydrate so fast at the Dead Sea area. There are no showers or water facilities on these shores, but you can drive to the nearby beach of Herods Hotel for those facilities.
Photo is from @lostitalianos, who discovered these salt formations a while back and wrote an article about them.
The other must-visit place at the Dead Sea to see the salt structures is just south of the Leonardo Plaza hotel in Neve Zohar, where you have a walking path going into the sea. On both sides of this path you can find beautiful salt crystals.
Click below to plan your route to the Leonardo Plaza hotel. Next to the hotel you can park your car from where you can't miss the walking path going into the sea.
A day at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee): Mount Arbel, Tabor and Hukok beach
Yes I know, the Kinneret doesn't seem like an out-of-the-box day trip - it is one of Israel's most famous tourist spots after all. But there are gems around the lake so beautiful and hidden which make for a perfect, creative day trip! You can start the day with a little hike at Arbel national park, from where you have one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the country at the Arbel cliff. Mount Arbel is a national park with good facilities and is easy to reach. From the parking place, it is a short, comfortable hike to the viewpoint. From there, you can either choose to hike further in the national park or return to the parking place. It's also the perfect setting for a picnic!
Looking for a day trip that does not include an entrance fee? Head to Mount Tabor instead of Mount Arbel. It's as beautiful as Mount Arbel, though the view is over the Jezreel valley instead of the Kinneret and Golan Heights. On top of Mount Tabor you have great viewpoints, little hiking trails and a famous church, although it might not be open until international tourism returns.
After your visit, drive down through Tiberias to the shores of the Kinneret, to Hukok beach close to kibbutz Ginosar. This is my favorite of the Kinneret beaches - because you have palm trees with hammocks in the water. The beach itself is what you would expect from the Kinneret beaches, with groups (including loud music) and not the best facilities. However, when you walk a bit south, it is less crowded and more quiet. The beach also offers the option to camp overnight, in case you are planning a multi-day trip.
You can eat lunch nearby in the famous Magdala restaurant or Tanureen - two of the best restaurants in the area. Kosher options are Pizza Hut or Aroma at the Migdal junction (there are no kosher fish restaurants in the are unfortunately).
Only less than an hour from Tel Aviv, Caesarea has so much to offer! Of course you know of the famous Caesarea National Park, which is beautiful to visit, but did you know there is much more to see? When driving on road 2 from Tel Aviv, take the exit at Caesarea junction and head towards Caesarea. Very soon, on your right side you will see the Caesarea dunes, which are marked also on the map below. The dunes are beautiful on itself to visit and you can also find the Insta famous dead trees here! Keep in mind that there is no shade here and during the summer the sand gets too hot to walk on in the middle of the day.
After the sand dunes, head to the Caesarea port - not to visit the Caesarea national park, but to visit the beaches next to it! Park at the parking lot closest to the port (next to the beach club) and walk north a few minutes, until you see a beautiful field with palm trees. From here, head to the sea down the wooden stairs. There's a hidden beach there, a part of the excavations that isn't included in the national park. Trust me, it's equally beautiful to the national park and a great addition for when you've already visited the park. From here, it's another fifteen-twenty minute walk on the Israel national trail to the famous aqueduct beach - it's really a beautiful little walk next to the sea. Aqueduct beach is a great spot for photos, to swim and to do a picnic.
Last stop in Caesarea is the Ralli Museum, only five minutes drive away. Entrance is free and it's well worth a visit. The museum actually consists of two musea, of which one is foused on Latin-American art and archeological objects and the other on Spanish Jewry, in commemoration of the Jewish community that was expelled from Spain during the Spanish inquisition. The building itself is constructed in the Moorish style, making it a resemblance of the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Rotschild Blv. (Next to the water tower)
Museum visiting hours: Sunday and Wednesday - closed Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - 10:30 - 17:00 Friday - 10:30 - 15:00 Holiday eves - 10:30 - 12:30
Wadi Qelt and St. George Monastery in the Judean desert
These places in the Judean desert will make for a great, family-friendly day trip. Wadi Qelt with the Ein Prat nature reserve is great for hiking and swimming, with a natural spring, rock pool and stunning views. In ancient times, the Ein Prat spring was an important water source for the nearby city of Jericho and is one of the most beautiful, interesting places to visit in the Judean desert. The park also includes a working monastery which is only a short walk from the spring.
Nearby the reserve you can find the Monastery of St. George, a bigger, more famous monastery originally built in 500 AD. It is said to be one of the most beautiful monasteries in the world and it's one of the highlights of the Judean desert.
How to get to the monastery:
It's not very easy to reach, since the road is narrow with steep curves from Mitzpe Yericho. Put GPS 31.843310, 35.414901 in Waze, or simply St. George Monastery. You'll see a little parking place from where you can either hike down to the monastery or enjoy the famous views of the monastery. The viewpoint is only about five minutes' walk from the parking via an unmarked path that starts left from the junction. If you walk down from the road, you can visit the monastery which is open daily (except for Sundays and holidays) from 9 AM to 1 PM. Keep in mind that it's not an easy walk to the monastery and that there's a strict dress code, woman can only enter with a long skirt and must have their elbows covered, men must wear long pants.