Israel, in case you were wondering, is absolutely blistering right now. Heatwave after heatwave is taking our already hot summer to a whole new level, making the wonderfully air-conditioned indoors look like the perfect place to spend a couple of months.
And yet, there’s a limit to how much time we can spend in museums (best air-conditioning in Israel, FYI), shopping malls and other brick-and-mortar institutions. This is summer, and we want to enjoy it. For this purpose, we’ve complied an extensive list of great things to enjoy outdoors this season, heatwave or not.
As always, we urge you to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and hats, and exercise your judgment – no experience is worth heatstroke. With this caution in mind, have a wonderful summer, and see you under the sprinklers.
The sea provides obvious relief at the height of summer, although this is far less obvious come noon when the sun is scorching, the water is jacuzzi temperature and the beach is buzzing with sweaty people. Which is why we’d like to recommend a pleasant dawn swim. Not only is the sea actually cool, but the crowds are not yet out for the day. Make sure there’s a lifeguard on the beach, of course, and immediately follow your refreshing sporty session with an equally refreshing cold drink.
Another option for getting out and about during the height of summer is a sunset walk. To be perfectly honest, it’s still pretty hot outside during the evening in most of Israel, although Jerusalem and parts of the Negev and Galilee cool down nicely. You’ll notice loads of locals doing exactly the same thing, either at the beach, in parks or across town. Grab a pair of headphones and wind down your busy day in the best way possible.
Come evening, a common sight in Israel is kids running through parks, usually minimally dressed, getting completely soaked by sprinklers. In case you were wondering, this activity is 100 percent encouraged by their parents, who probably did the very same thing growing up. It’s an inherently nostalgic experience here, and a fabulous one too. If you’re in Jerusalem, don’t miss out on the water fountains at Teddy Park near the Old City – a most scenic location to get seriously splashed.
At the height of summer, hikes aren’t a great idea. Even shaded water hikes often get closed due to soaring temperatures, leaving avid adventurers with little to do. This is where Israel’s amazing caves come in. There are a couple of national parks that are all about caves – we’re thinking the amazing Beit Guvrin – and more experienced adults might also want to contemplate guided caving hikes. Both these options are great, literally cool and also very much outdoors, albeit underground.
Moonlight hikes are a superb option during the full moon, when you walk in the middle of the night guided only by the light of the moon and the stars. Top hikes include Nahal Havarim in the Judean Desert, the stretch of coast from Haifa to Atlit, the geological wonder that is Makhtesh Ramon and even the awe-inspiring Masada.
Just because it’s nighttime doesn’t mean it won’t be hot, but significantly less so than at midday.
Night zoo and safari tours
Walking around the zoo or safari in the middle of the day at the height of summer is not the sort of experience that we wish for you. A nighttime tour, however, is a whole other matter. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and the Ramat Gan Safari both offer night tours that promise a crowd-free experience and a sneak peek at the secret lives of their residents. At the safari, you can choose between a child-friendly tour in the earlier hours of the night and a midnight one for adults, and in the case of the zoo, you get the chance to camp overnight near the flamingos.
Dip in a spring
Going for a dip in a spring is a very Israeli experience. So Israeli, in fact, that we recommend avoiding Friday afternoon, when any given spring is packed to the brim. On other days of the week, the concept is a very nice, nature-y one: You bring a blanket, water, some snacks and a hat, and spend an afternoon on the edge of a spring, popping in and out of the water to cool down. We recommend Ein Lavan just outside of Jerusalem, Sataf in the Jerusalem hills, Nahal Hakibbutzim in the Beit She’an Valley and Ein Moda in the Beit Shean Valley.
Find a shaded coffee spot
If going out to nature is less your thing, how about a nice urban-yet-outdoors coffee? For this to be a pleasant experience, find a coffee shop with a properly shaded outdoor area. Bonus points if it has massive misting fans that spritz your face with water every couple of minutes. Order a café kar (iced coffee) or ice café (frappuccino), slip your sunglasses on and feel ever so cool. Your young companions, meanwhile, might enjoy a shoko kar (iced chocolate drink) or an ice shoko (a chocolate frappe). Complaining about the heat while sipping your drink, by the way, is a must.
Go out late, really late
Like in many sun-drenched Mediterranean countries, in Israel it’s also common to go out rather late at night. How late? Think dinner at 9, a 10pm show at the cinema, drinks at 11. Not only is this a practical way to leave your house or hotel without melting, but it also adds to the vacation feel. Unless, of course, you’re Israeli, in which case you curse yourself the following morning when you wake up for work. And repeat your nighttime shenanigans that very same evening.
Not for the faint of heart, but kayaking in Israel’s northern streams is a super fun experience. You hop on a little kayak with your group, put your helmet and lifejacket on, and then proceed to raft like mad all the way downstream. You will inevitably fall into the (deliciously always freezing) water, almost take an eye out with your oar and lose your voice from all the shouting, but you will have had a fabulous time. Make sure to put on sunscreen and drink plenty of water, but otherwise you can blissfully ignore the blistering heatwave all around.