The Sea of Galilee
I’ve just returned from a 2 week vacation in Israel and think that the Sea of Galilee a.k.a Lake Kinneret is a beauty spot you should definitely visit, whether it may have a religious importance for you or not. The Golan Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to the often mirror-like water of the 13×7 mile lake and just a few minutes in this tranquil place made me feel relaxed! I stayed with my boyfriend in Tiberias, which is the main town on the shores of the lake and is a great place to stay in order to explore the surroundings of the lake and further afield in the North of Israel. There is plenty of accommodation to choose from whether you are on a tight budget or fancy something a bit luxurious (i.e Club Med, the Leonardo). The only thing I would say is that the choice of restaurants isn’t so good ; we stayed in a budget hotel so there wasn’t a restaurant there and other than that there wasn’t so much to choose from. That’s not to say we went hungry, there are a few restaurants near the water’s edge, which is of course an ideal location to enjoy meals but I’m writing this article in order to help fellow travelers and it’s just something I would point out about the town to people who may be hoping for a choice of gourmet cuisine!
Countryside near the Sea of Galilee
Rafting, Mountain biking and Mountain Climbing..
It is possible to take boat tours on the lake although my boyfriend and I were happy to appreciate it’s beauty from the water’s edge! We did however go rafting in the Jordan river and this was a mere 30 minute drive from where we were staying in Tiberias. Extremely enjoyable! Although not really suitable for those hoping for white water, it could be a little disappointing – it’s more drifting peacefully down the river; but great if you like nature, we saw a few kingfishers and other birds and compared to other parts of Israel there is quite a lot of vegetation in the North so this meant the river banks were very pleasant to watch as we floated along in our raft.
The rafting company we went to is situated in a country park and during the afternoon we went for a walk around the grounds, it’s very peaceful and beautiful and best of all there are plenty of places for barbeques next to the river! We enjoyed this place so much that the next day we returned and hired mountain bikes which cost us about £9 for 2 hours (or you can hire them for around £12 for the day) . There are a number of different trails around the park; a few that follow the river, one that takes you through an interesting archaeological site and one that takes you up a steep hill, which is totally worth the effort when you witness the fabulous vista of Lake Kinneret in front of you!
During another day of our stay in Tiberias we drove for about an hour to Mount Meron. This is the second highest mountain in Israel and there are a few trails around the area, one of which takes you to the top. Unfortunately the day we went it was misty and we’d left pretty late in the day so we didn’t make it to the top but enjoyed a lovely walk nonetheless! The trails here are very good because they’re marked all the way along by different colours; each trail has it’s own colour and these are painted on rocks along the way. The trail to the top of the mountain is quite physically challenging, make sure you where suitable footwear as it can be quite slippery in places, especially on a damp day – there are a lot of tree roots poking out of the ground. The nature here is beautiful here though, with forested areas interspersed with meadows full of poppies and olive trees. It’s well worth spending a day here to enjoy the area properly and maybe complete a trail.
The Upper Yehudia Trail
On our third day in Tiberias we hiked – or maybe i should say scrambled – along the Upper Yehudia Trail. The Yehudia is a river that flows into Lake Kinneret and the area where you hike is only about 15km from the lake. It was a fantastic experience full of adventure and some places along the trail actually pushed me out of my comfort zone.
You should start by parking in the official car park because here there is also a centre where they give you a map and show you the 2 possible trails (one takes around 4 hours – the Upper Yehudia – and the Lower Yehudia takes around 8 hours!) We opted for the shorter one because again we arrived a bit late in the day! Anyway you have to arrive before 12 noon otherwise they won’t let you start on either hike because it doesn’t allow you enough time to complete even the shorter one comfortably otherwise. It’s very good to park here because they also request a few personal details of whoever’s going on the hike and link these to the registration of the car you arrived in as a safety measure… A small indication of the challenging hike that was to come!
The trail starts high above the Yehudia river and you have beautiful panoramic views of the area surrounding the river valley. However, it’s not long until the path begins to descend quite steeply and very soon you are crossing the river in front of a pretty waterfall. The path continues to cross back and forth over the river, it’s marked by colour coded paint on rocks all along the way. It can be quite slippery in places so I would advise not to carry too much as to affect your balance and take and wear things that you don’t mind getting wet!
The part of the hike that was out of my comfort zone was climbing down a long ladder and having to jump off at the bottom into a huge, deep lagoon, knowing that the water was really cold! This is when you need plenty of plastic bags for you cameras/phones otherwise they will get wet! After my apprehension however, the experience was great and after getting used to the water temperature it was a very refreshing interlude to our scramble!
Just as steeply as the path descended to the river, it ascends and the climb can be quite tiring in the fierce Israeli sun. Make sure you save enough water for the end of the trail! What a day though, my boyfriend and I really enjoyed and felt a sense of achievement at the end!
Riding at Ramot Ranch
On our fourth day we went horse riding! It was at a place called Ramot Ranch and I’d definitely recommend it because the views you get of the lake while you ride are stunning. And they also have very nice horses, many of them are appaloosa, a breed renowned for their docile natures, however they weren’t totally unresponsive. I liked this ranch a lot also because they give you an informative induction before you get on the horse, whether you have ridden much before or not and I really felt that they were very concerned with the horses’ welfare and not just with making money. The guide monitored us closely along the way to make sure that we weren’t doing anything to upset the horses. The ethics at this ranch were great and they follow a technique very similar to the famous Parelli technique with many of the horses at there.
The beautiful view from the Ranch
These are just some of the things that we had time to do while we were in the North of Israel; research and you’ll find that there are many more activities and sights to see in this part of the country!