Abigail Klein Leichman
February 2, 2023, Updated August 17, 2023

The Old City of Jerusalem. Masada. The Sea of Galilee. The beaches of Tel Aviv. We’d never suggest you skip any of Israel’s iconic tourist sites.

But if you’d like to add some off-the-beaten-track destinations and activities to your itinerary on a first or repeat trip, ISRAEL21c has some great ideas for you.

Freediving in the Red Sea

Eilat is a haven for watersports – scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing.

Well, here’s something a little different: freediving, which allows you to explore or photograph underwater while holding your breath, without the encumbrance of breathing apparatus.

Learn the art of freediving from the experts in Eilat at Freedive Israel, Apnea Diving or Freedive Eilat. Freedive Israel also offers workshops in underwater photography, yoga, breath and ice bath.

Desert Embroidery, Lakiya

Nine off-the-beaten-track destinations in Israel
Houda Sana at work in Desert Embroidery, Lakiya. Photo by Judith Sudilovsky

When you enter this hand-woven tent in Lakiya, guides will tell you about the lives of Bedouin women, the changes they are undergoing, and the role of embroidery as a creative and social outlet in their lives.

In addition to traditional Bedouin coffee and tea and optional full meals, your visit to Desert Embroidery can include an embroidery workshop, henna workshop, pita making, or a presentation in the center’s Medicinal Plant Nursery. Tours are available to the nearby Huriya Palace, a unique ancient mud structure.

Information: +972-)0)8-651-3208, rikma@lakia2.org

Orlyya Farm, Negev Highlands

Nine off-the-beaten-track destinations in Israel
Argan nuts growing at Orlyya Farm. Photo courtesy of Olyya Farm

Orly and Yoni Sharir established Orlyya Farm in 2003 in the desert between Sde Boker and Mitzpeh Ramon. In this desert environment, they grow argan nuts.

The highly prized argan oil inside the nuts is used as the basis to make a variety of healthful products you can find in the visitor center and factory shop.

Schedule a free daytime visit – including a walking tour of the argan trees and the ancient Nabatean rock paintings the Sharirs discovered on their property, plus a cup of herbal tea – or book an overnight stay in a cottage or personal tent on the farm’s private campgrounds, boasting incredible views.

Information: +972-50-299-3214, +972-(0)50-980-0069, havatorlyya@gmail.com

Meshushim Stream, Golan Heights

The central attraction of this unusual part of Yehudiya Nature Reserve is Meshushim (Hexagons) Stream, a natural pool surrounded by hexagonal basalt pillars formed from flowing streams of molten lava.

The scenic path to the pool, inside the Black Canyon, is dotted with oak trees and wildflowers (in season). There’s a little bridge that crosses the stream, from which you can watch the water bubbling through the narrow ravine.

Keshet (Bow) Cave, Upper Galilee

Nine off-the-beaten-track destinations in Israel
Rappelling at Keshet Cave in the Galilee. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

Keshet Cave, a favorite rappelling spot for adventurers, isn’t actually a cave anymore due to past geological upheavals, but rather a huge hanging arch over an abyss 40-50 meters (130-165 feet) below.

You don’t have to be an extreme sports enthusiast to appreciate this extraordinary natural wonder in cave-filled Adamit Park on the northern bank of Betzet Stream near the Israel-Lebanon border and Rosh Hanikra.

The spectacular ridge is a perfect place from which to view the full green Galilee landscape. It’s accessible and there are guardrails for those exploring the area on foot.

Tulip Winery Visitor Center, Village of Hope, Kiryat Tivon

Israel has hundreds of wineries, many with visitor centers where you can learn, taste and buy. Here’s one with an unusual story.

Tulip was founded in 2003 in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope), a pastoral settlement in the beautiful Haifa district for adults with special needs. The winery provides meaningful employment for residents, who help produce about 300,000 bottles sold throughout Israel and in many other countries.

A variety of tour options at Tulip Winery include tastings accompanied by boutique cheeses and fresh-baked breads; wine workshops; and a lecture by founder and CEO Roy Itzhaki about the marriage of winemaking and social entrepreneurship.

At the end of the visit, you can purchase not only wine but also art made in the Village of Hope and handmade products from surrounding villages.

Bell Ofri Tourist Farm, Golan Heights

Nine off-the-beaten-track destinations in Israel
Tami Kabalo leading a breadmaking workshop at Bell Ofri. Photo courtesy of Bell Ofri Tourist Farm

Tami and Babi Kabalo’s eco-farm in the Golan Heights village of Kidmat Zvi includes a dairy restaurant, a boutique winery in a former bunker, an olive-oil press, a cheese-making enterprise, an organic garden, two galleries, crafts workshops and a refuge for injured, abandoned animals.

Depending on the season, you can sign up to grind wheat, press olives or crush grapes. And all year, Tami and Babi offer hands-on activities in clay (you can make plates to be used in the restaurant), breadmaking, honey, chocolate, stained glass and more.

Bell Ofri is open seven days a week, 10-5. Book in advance: 052-880-5026, bellofri@walla.com

Information: +972-(0)4-983-0573, tulip@tulip-winery.co.il

Tel Gezer National Park

Nine off-the-beaten-track destinations in Israel
Photo of Tel Gezer National Park by Heritage Conservation Outside the City via Pikiwiki Israel.

Wherever you go in Israel, from the busiest city to the remotest village, you are never far from an archeological site.

With 25 layers of settlement going back to the fourth century BCE, Tel Gezer is a rare one for several reasons: it’s not well known to tourists; it’s positively identified as the place named more than a dozen times in the Bible; and it’s open all day free of charge. 

Gezer, an important Canaanite city, became part of the territory of the Israelite tribe of Ephraim after the Egyptian empire gifted it to King Solomon following his political marriage to the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Among the treasures at this 32-acre site between Rehovot and Modi’in: the Gezer Calendar, a stone tablet etched with the early Hebrew script detailing the eight periods of the agricultural year; the largest Canaanite water system and fortified tower ever discovered; and a magnificent gate from Solomon’s times (970 to 931 BCE).

A recently renovated road and trail make Tel Gezer easier than ever to explore.

Jojo Studio, Moshav Ein Tamar

Nine off-the-beaten-track destinations in Israel
Jojo Ohayon in his studio at Moshav Ein Tamar. Photo courtesy of Jojo Studio

About 20 minutes from the Dead Sea, international sculptor/painter Yosef (Jojo) Ohayon offers an “art playground” at his studio and showroom on Moshav Ein Tamar, his longtime home.

Visitors can watch him work with materials and techniques he developed, such as inflating metal forms using water jets; color splashing; and painting with electrostatic powder. Of course, his works are for sale as well.

You can arrange a hands-on workshop with Ohayon and/or a tour with a local guide of nearby Kikar Sodom, where the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah took place — now an agricultural oasis growing watermelons and peppers near the border with Jordan.

Open daily, 8-3, but reservations must be made in advance. Information: +972-(0)52-296-4677, mail@jojo-art.com

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