May 3, 2012, Updated September 10, 2012

Many seasoned travelers are so over the one-week all-inclusive holidays to Cancun. New values have streamed into our consciousness: values like environmental awareness, keeping fit and getting in touch with the local culture and surroundings. We seek out-of-the-box experiences that match our interests and hobbies.

Looking to fill the niche market of cycling holidays, the HooHa Cyclists House is the first such hotel in Israel. Established six years ago in the north, the hotel offers single rooms and dorms to accommodate up to 30 people looking to bike around Israel’s scenic Mount Tabor and Lower Galilee region.

HooHa caters to amateur and pro cyclists as well as teams.

Fulfilling a dream on two wheels

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Dror Nevo and his wife Hadas started HooHa in the picturesque village of Kfar Tabor, but not because they were lacking work. The parents of two both had lucrative careers: he as a VP in high-tech software, she as a veterinarian. After a three-month cycling holiday in New Zealand seven years ago, they made a pact and decided to turn their dream of a cyclist hotel into reality. A location was found, and a year later, the doors were open and the wheels were rolling.

Today about 85 percent of the guests are Israelis, Dror surmises. About 60 percent of the people who stay at HooHa are cyclists. The rest are people who enjoy the location and ambience.

Dror hopes to turn HooHa into part of a chain of specialty sports hotels — diving included — first in Israel and then later in other countries. He’s already helped an Israeli couple set up a Swiss cycling chalet called MTB Swiss, which caters to people from the Land of Milk and Honey when they want to roll on over to the Land of Chocolate and Cheese.

For now Nevo is content with Israel, and has launched a marketing campaign to attract tourists to Israel. He has the dream itinerary already set up for a three-day trek.

“Of course it depends if they are mountain bikers or road bikers,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “Most of the people would like the Beit Keshet single track, a trail we established with the Jewish National Fund. And all the area of the Tabor River. We could end the trip in the area of the Jordan River or the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee].” The Sirin Trail, Mount Gilboa and the Golan are other options.

HooHa offers a range of room rates, comparable to a hostel in the bottom range and comparable to a three-star hotel at the upper range. Equipment for cycling can be rented as part of a package and it’s also possible to hire Nevo as a guide.

Along with suggested itineraries and maps, he supplies good advice. “There are many more injuries in mountain biking, although less severe than road-bike accidents. This is part of the information we give to cyclists,” he says.

The couple also offers a lift by car to starting and end points; massages and relaxing activities onsite; as well as special meals to fit a high-energy diet.

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Part of the Israeli craze

Why has the cycling craze become so strong in Israel? “I think it is all over the world,” says Nevo.

“In the Western world it is related to several reasons: All things are going to the direction of being ‘green,’ and leaving the workout room to go outside and back to nature. To go outside for the experience.

“The other reason is that the equipment and the bikes themselves have seen a big jump in technology, especially in Israel, where Israelis have no problem with buying a bike for NIS 20,000 or 30,000 [$5,000 to $7,000] and riding it once a week. This is not common in Europe, and people from Europe always ask me what’s happening in Israel. I guess people here like to show that they have the best and the biggest.”

Nevo believes that bicycling is becoming a way of life for some Israelis, especially on the weekends: “It’s become like a culture and I hope it’s here to stay.”

Nevo is already planning a cycling hotel network throughout Israel, linking it to Europe. While it’s not yet possible to cycle to Europe from Israel (Lebanon is closed to Israelis), the trails can be laid in advance, and when peace comes to the region, the cyclists can blaze the trails.

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