A different way to tour Israel. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.
A different way to tour Israel. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.

Tourists in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand often travel around towing campers (also called “caravans”) that serve as a secure overnight “motel” hitched to a rented vehicle.

International-standard campers only became available for hire in Israel a couple of years ago. Tourists are starting to discover that they can rent a caravan in the Holy Land and park overnight at any of several dozen private and public campgrounds from north to south. Many of them are brand new, and others are in development.

For large families, this style of touring can be cheaper than hotels, but saving money is not the point. It’s a way of seeing and exploring a country in a different way — being close to the beauty of nature and able to choose your rest stops and overnight landscape in the comfort of your own “home on the road.”

 Inside a caravan. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.
Inside a caravan. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.

“Why didn’t this beautiful option exist in Israel — the perfect place to tour with motor homes and caravans? The answer is regulation,” explains Eran Nitzan, who was director of infrastructure and investment at the Tourism Ministry in December 2012, when the ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority introduced imported international-standard caravans for hire at an event in Ein Hemed National Park.

“It was impossible to sell or rent the vehicles from a business point of view,” Nitzan tells ISRAEL21c. “So we worked with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Finance and found a way to encourage this field by deregulating the taxes and licensing.”

He predicted that many tourists will be opting to explore Israel from north to south this way. “There is a huge sector in the tourist field of millions of people who travel by caravan,” he said.

The next advance, coming soon, will be motor homes to rent.

Feel the country and see its scenery

Touring in a vehicle with a camper hitched behind is “a great solution for tourists who would like to explore Israel in a different way,” says Asaf Efraim, CEO of LaOfek Camping and Caravan Center in Petah Tikva, the first business of its kind in Israel.

LaOfek offers options such as Adria caravans, Camp-let trailer tents, Isabella awnings and Brunner camping gear. You can rent a seven-seat minivan at the center for NIS 380 per day, and arrange for camping packages including chairs, tables and utensils for cooking and dining.

 A trailer tent hitched to a car. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.
A trailer tent hitched to a car. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.

Efraim and his partner and wife, Anat, also offer an airport pickup service, trip-planning services and professional guides. They operate their own LaOfek campgrounds, such as one at the Sea of Galilee with a camper-rental station.

“Camping is great for families but also for all kinds of tourists, including friends who want to explore together,” says Efraim. “It’s a unique experience; you can feel the country and see the great scenery. The amazing thing about Israel is that if you travel for two hours, the view is so different. And the weather is always good for touring, even if it’s raining.”

Touring in a caravan, he says, allows the flexibility of carrying your own “nature hotel” with you. If the kids need a nap or you want a fast snack in the privacy of your own space, the camper allows for that while you’re on the road.

Tourists in Israel can rent a trailer tent to set up at a campground for the night. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.
Tourists in Israel can rent a trailer tent to set up at a campground for the night. Photo courtesy of LaOfek.

“The trailer tents open into two separate beds, and the premium trailer tent has annexes. We also have caravans with double and separate beds suitable for many needs.”

Prices go down the longer you rent. The most inexpensive caravan, for two to four people, costs NIS 650 per night for two to four days; 600 for five to six days; 500 for seven to nine days; and 450 per night for 10 days or more. A five-person caravan goes for NIS 750 per night, while a luxurious six-or seven-person model with separate bath facilities and a full kitchen costs NIS 850 per night for two to four days.

Camping out in Israel with a caravan.
Camping out in Israel with a caravan.

For a list of Israel Nature and Parks Authority campgrounds with phone numbers and details, click here.

For more information on LaOfek, click here.