Touring Israel typically involves intense historical sightseeing, nature hikes and maybe partying in Tel Aviv or digging for archeological treasures. When travelers crave some down time they’re most likely to go floating on the Dead Sea or sunbathing on a Mediterranean beach.
Those two tried-and-true alternatives are only the tip of the relaxation iceberg, however. We’d like to suggest six additional ways to chillax, destress and recharge your inner batteries during your vacation in Israel.
1. SUNRISE SUN SALUTATION
Tel Aviv-based Tourist Israel launched its “Masada Sunrise Yoga, Ein Gedi Desert Oasis, and Dead Sea Rejuvenation Experience” earlier this year in response to clients seeking a slower, more mindful approach to travel.
“We already had a daily sunrise tour at Masada. We realized we could add yoga and other options for experiencing the desert,” says Franziska Falkenberg, head of marketing.
The full-day program runs every Saturday for $99 per person, starting with an air-conditioned coach from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to Masada National Park, site of King Herod’s desert fortress above the Dead Sea.
After climbing to the plateau on the famous Snake Path at sunrise, participants are rewarded with a yoga session for all levels, led by a multilingual instructor (mats provided).
Next comes a short drive to the Ein Gedi Reserve to enjoy its natural pools, waterfalls and vibrant wildlife and flora. Finally, the group slathers on the therapeutic mineral-rich mud of the Dead Sea and floats on the salty water at a private beach. Massages and spa treatments are also available.
2. CHILL OUT IN HOT SPRINGS
The sight and sound of gently flowing water immediately switches on our relaxation mode. Add to that the soothing effects of natural hot springs adjacent to pampering spas, and you have yourself a perfect recipe for stress-busting.
Five places to enjoy thermo-mineral springs in Israel are: Hamat Gader resort near the Sea of Galilee, Hamei Yoav near Ashkelon, Ga’ash Baths & Spa near Herzliya, Tiberias Hot Springs Spa and Ein Gedi Sea of Spa.
3. TUNE OUT IN TEL AVIV
The beating heart of Israel’s startup, nightlife and arts culture, Tel Aviv-Jaffa also appreciates the value of disconnecting, if only for a few hours.
You can do that very well on one of the city’s 13 beaches. Or you can put your mind in neutral by making an appointment at a place like these:
Right in the thick of things on Dizengoff Street, this new center includes an entry-level café offering organic, vegan, gluten- and sugar-free cleansing juices and other foods based on principles of naturopathy, herbalism, aromatherapy and Asian medicine. Downstairs in the Teepee wellness and healing sanctuary is an infrared sauna and options such as hands-on treatments and meditation, mindfulness or yoga classes.
Kitahara, a native of Tokyo living in Israel since 2008, runs this Japanese hospitality and therapy center in Old Jaffa. Acupuncture, massage and facial treatments blend Japanese and other Eastern techniques with Western methods to stimulate the energy lines along the body and assist natural healing. And of course there’s Japanese tea with all the trimmings.
Yoga instructors and wellness gurus Kim and Victoria hold several House of Sun events each month at different venues in Tel Aviv. Among the recent events were a Solar Sound Bath and a Cacao Ceremony, described as an ancient shamanic ritual to release negativity, connect to the deeper self and enhance creativity.
4. BOTANICAL BLISS
Stop and smell the roses at one of Israel’s gorgeous botanical gardens. We’ve listed all the details for 10 of our favorites here.
There are urban ones in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, world-famous ones like the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa and Acco (Acre), and off-the-beaten path ones like Utopia Orchid Park in Kibbutz Bahan, which also features a musical water fountain, mazes and rain forest.
5. UNWIND WITH FINE WINE
There’s nothing like a glass of good wine to take the edge off your stress. We’ve started you off with this list of 12 Israeli wineries that have welcoming visitors’ centers. But don’t limit yourself to those.
6. DANCE WITH DOLPHINS
This is my personal favorite place to zone out, lolling in a beanbag chair on the gently rippling dock of Eilat’s Dolphin Reef watching the dolphins swim around their Red Sea habitat.
If you like, you can dive in or snorkel with these magnificent creatures guided by a resident expert. This ecological paradise also has a beach and heavenly relaxation pools featuring underwater music.