By: Jillian Sutton × Vaughn Lowery
While history, politics and religion are a few keywords that have become the main topic of conversation involving Israel, there’s another focus that the nation has geared up for – Israel tourism. Due to a major growth of cycling tourism in the country located in Western Asia, the government has recently invested 30 million dollars in promoting the national culture of biking.
Israel is now flowing with trails, tours and bike sharing programs, including the holiest “Biking the Path of Jesus” tours. We were recently able to grasp a taste of Israel tourism, starting off with the bike trails.
Chief mountain bike guide, Nimi Cohen, was the escort on a week-long unforgettable trek, experiencing the magic of Israel on two wheels. Originally from Israel, Cohen has been mountain biking for 20 years. Starting on the more extreme side of mountain biking in downhill and free-ride, after injury, Cohen is now a mountain and marathon racer; he is the epitome of expert.
To Cohen, life is about the Israeli single-track experience (single-track describes a narrow trail that is approximately the width of the bike). Cohen also runs a mountain biking school – named Mountain Goat, meaning to have incredible balance on the narrowest of paths – where he guides others through trips and clinics. (For more information, please visit HERE or contact Nimi Cohen directly at email@example.com.)
“The Judean Hills, the Negev desert, Ramon Crater, the Arava Plains, and Eilat mountains.” These areas are all locations rideable 365 days a year. During the Israeli winter and spring, between October and April, they offer a great opportunity for a full-day epic ride, when the rest of the world (and the center and north of Israel) is covered in mud and snow,” explains Cohen. “Not to be afraid of trying new s**t… new stuff, but to do it moderately and slowly,” he shares some advice to new riders. He also recommends that bikers “ride in different terrains, as diverse terrains as you can get. You will become a complete and a whole rider.”
Bike Trails in Israel
Old Jaffa – Perfect for a night ride when visiting Tel Aviv. Bike riders can enjoy the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Old Jaffa.
Galilee – These trails connect to the Holy Land and a number of religious and historical sites. Tourists can enjoy magnificent views and some technical flowing single-track riding along the Sea of Galilee.
Mount Carmel – Coastal mountain range on the Mediterranean Sea, about 24 miles long.
Ayalon National Park (Canada Park) – Located in the Judean Plain, this is a more communal and popular trail. Expect to see many others enjoying this all mountain loop.
Adulam – Kanim – Single-track located in the Tuscany of Israel. This is a seemingly endless, smooth flowing trail about 25 minutes southwest of Jerusalem.
Old City Jerusalem – Another stunning trail to ride along at night time.Sugar Route – This is a 17-mile bike trail linking Jerusalem to Jerico.
Sde Boker – The Halukim Wadi single-track, this is the center for astonishing desert biking.Ramon Crater – A panoramic ride along the cliff of these geological phenomena.
Shayarot Cliffs – Beautiful, all-mountain technical ride, near the Arava Valley.
Timna Park – Manmade single-track ride at the site of the ancient copper mines, which is now a geological park.
Eilat Beach – Once a tiny kibbutz, Eilat is currently a center for tourism and bike riding. Trails surrounded by a view of poetic red mountains and deep blue sea. Tourists can find rough desert all-mountain and downhill trails starting high up and ending at sea level.
Located near the Arava Valley, Kibbutz Samar offers the unique and ultimate experience of sleeping and biking in the desert at a spot called Samar Bike. Kibbutz is a communal settlement in Israel, typically a farm. During the visit, we met one of the creators of Samar Bike, Yair Sela. “We want to live in a place that we live as we want to live,”he comments on being a part of Kibbutz Samar.
Along the way, we also met Faran Zeira, whose parents founded Neot Semadar 25 years ago when she was only two years old. Even though she was only a young girl, Zeira (born in Jerusalem) affirms that she chose to be a part of the kibbutz.
“Kibbutz is a kind of community of people choosing to leave the city together, sharing things less than having things to own privately. This kibbutz is a bit different, the main issue here is the interest of learning… learning how to share, how to live together. Learning how not to push things aside, but how to deal with them,” says Zeira. “You chose to be here, it’s family, 150 people living here. It’s really intimate. If people don’t have an interest, they don’t stay.”
Kibbutz living may be far from the Israeli city life, but one thing is certain: both share the passion of riding. Ross Belfer, an account supervisor at WEILL – a public relations and marketing company in travel and tourism – is a Tel Aviv local, who knows where all the cool spots are. Belfer shares his insider-look into the city life, “Tel Aviv is surely a city of the ‘now,’ with new bars, restaurants, galleries and creative hangout spots popping up at rapid speeds. The best means to explore Tel Aviv is through the perspective of a local who best knows the city, whether it’d be the top spot for late night bites or simply a quiet and serene look-out point in Jaffa, secluded from and unknown by tourists.”
When in Israel, why not experience thrilling Israeli city life while on two wheels? Another huge part of Israel tourism is its constantly adapting and evolving cuisine. For first-timers, Belfer suggests checking out Eager Tourist, a hyperlocal travel concierge which arranges tailor-made experiences in Tel Aviv within the realms of art, music, nightlife, architecture, bike routes and beyond.
Restaurants and Nightlife in Israel:
Cordelia Restaurant, Tel Aviv – Variety of detailed food items, menu developed by Chef Nir Zook. This spot is great for a late night dinner.
Yulia Restaurant, Tel Aviv – This seafood restaurant is perfect for lunch or dinner. With patio seating, the perfect spot for any occasion.
Chakra Restaurant, Jerusalem – Offers an authentic Mediterranean experience with menu items from land and sea. Claiming their most important ingredient to be ‘love.’
Pedro Restaurant, Eilat – Pedro has a small and intimate atmosphere and is famous for its high quality meats. Guests will be sure to feel like they are at home when dining in.
Port Sa’id, Tel Aviv – Vibrant, hip restaurant adjacent to the Big Synagogue on Allenby Street with innovative dishes by Chef Eyal Shani. This spot features local DJs spinning the restaurant’s collection of 1,000+ vinyl records.
HaHalutzim 3, Tel Aviv – Buzzed about gourmet restaurant, located within the Levinsky Market and the i rst of its kind in the neighborhood. Young Chef Eytan Vanunu cooks up eclectic dishes in his comfortable and quaint, internationally inspired restaurant. Dishes include pork-stuffed challah, polenta with veal and red wine reduction, lentil salad with yogurt chive dressing.
Yafo Creative, Tel Aviv – Yafo Creative is a boutique guest house and art hub in the heart of Jaffa. Locals and travelers can connect and collaborate during weekly Friday night dinners. Yafo is known for hosting performances by Israeli and international musicians and performance artists.
Anna Loulou, Tel Aviv – Hyperlocal dance bar on a side street in Jaffa. On Wednesday nights, dance to vintage Arabic music.
Pasaz, Tel Aviv – One of Tel Aviv’s hottest spots for local DJs and bands with a new artist performing each night.
Noga Complex, Tel Aviv -A quaint, village-like neighborhood on the cusp of the city’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood and Jaffa. The Williamsburg-esque Noga Complex is teaming with design and fashion boutiques by homegrown Israeli artists. Stroll along the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets and enter several unique culinary and design focused conceptions.
Sarona Complex, Tel Aviv – The up-coming Sarona complex will soon stand as Tel Aviv’s newest art, culture and design hot spots. A formally uninhabited neighborhood boasting 19th century Templar buildings, the Sarona complex will feature art galleries, museums, fashion and design shops.
Friday Sunset Drum Circle behind the Dolphinarium, Tel Aviv – One of Ross Belfer’s favorites. Bring a drum along or just show up with beer or wine and dance to the rhythms as the sun sets.
Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv – One of the city’s most renowned art galleries, showcasing local talent with two different locations.
Amphorae Winery, Tel Aviv – One of the most beautiful wineries in Israel. Although the winery isn’t set in the midst of its vineyards, it is set amidst organic farms in the area.
Srigim Brewery – Enjoy different beers at a tasting at the Srigim Brewery. They offer 7,000 different kinds of beers and are famous for their IPA. There is a 10-minute ascent in the Masada-ruins of King Herod’s mountain-top fortress. Tourists can ascend from the west to the east via cable car. The Snake Path is also still open for tourists wishing to use this ancient trail. Another tourist favorite is a must-do, dip in the Dead Sea. Israel also offers some of the most gorgeous and sought-out lodging experiences in the world.
Hotels in Israel:
Herods Hotel, Tel Aviv – This ive star hotel is located in the heart of the city along the coastline of the exquisite Mediterranean Sea. Herods captures a historical style in a modern day atmosphere.
Leonardo Plaza, Jerusalem – Nothing but the inest. Another ive star hotel, Leonardo Plaza offers breathtaking views of both old and new Jerusalem.
Hod Hamidbar Hotel, Dead Sea – Famous for being the lowest point on earth, the Hod Hamidbar hotel is located on the northern side of the Ein Bokek region, on the Dead Sea.
Beresheet Hotel, Mitzpe Ramon – Located on the edge of the Ramon Crater (a natural phenomenon), this desert hotel manages to have comfortable and cooler weather all year long. Guests come irst at this ive star hotel with unbelievably spectacular views throughout the entire property. This hotel truly is a gem in the middle of the desert.
Samar Bike, Kibbutz Samar – Built by riders for riders.
King Solomon Hotel, Eilat – Surrounded by sea and mountains, King Solomon Hotel is perfect for fun activities or just plain ole’ relaxation.
Carlton Hotel, Tel Aviv – A fabulous resting spot after a long bike ride. Relax and take in a beach-front view.
iBike, Mitzpe Ramon – An active boutique hotel, giving guests personal attention and special care for excitement, welfare, and enjoyment.
Dolphin Reef Spa, Eilat – Located on the shores of the Red Sea, this reef area gives visitors a chance to observe and swim with a group of bottle-nose dolphins in their natural habitat. Relax at the spa or hang with the dolphins and enjoy the view.
Eden House Boutique Hotel, Tel Aviv – This classical twelve-room property is located right in the middle between Tel Aviv’s vibrant Carmel Market and Mediterranean promenade. The modern day bed-and-breakfast spot has nothing on this place.
Traveling to Israel has never been easier than now. El Al Israel Airlines offers non-stop lights to Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv), Israel’s main international airport. The location is convenient to go anywhere in Tel Aviv and start the adventure. The Israel Ministry of Tourism website is a great way to keep up with what’s happening, or be sure to check out 360 calendar listing for Tel Aviv (coming soon).
“It’s amazing…like NYC and Miami had a baby,” 360 Magazine President Vaughn Lowery concludes with excitement on our recent press tour to Tel Aviv. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Tel Aviv is a major untapped NYC type of place [with] so many young cool entrepreneurs.”