the western wall and the dome of the rock

Since Eurovision 2019 is around the corner, commencing on May 14th in Israel, you may want to take advantage of the visit and enjoy something a little different to the norm. This guide is to help you find the most unique and non-touristy places in Israel. 

With no need to say, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem are incredible places and they’re definitely worth a visit but they are full of tourists, expensive accommodation and high expectations that often leads to disappointment. After Backpacking from North to South across Israel in 2 months, I had time to discover some impressive places hidden to the eye of the tourist. 

ODEM

cows in a field

Odem is a very small town located in the Golan Heights and it’s completely surrounded by nature, with a population of 130 inhabitants built near an abandoned Syrian military base with a hippie and chill vibe. What makes this town truly special is its stillness: Odem is the perfect place to go if you need to disconnect and leave the noisy and crowded streets behind that seem to be everywhere
in the Middle East.

What to do? 

Deer forest:

It’s a nature reserve where deer are taken care by a local cowboy. There are also some farm animals and huts or tents to spend the night there. Opening hours: Friday and Saturday from 9 to 16. 

Odem mountain winery:

They offer all kind of activities from picking fruit to enjoying the best wine from the Golan area.

– Hike to an abandoned Syrian military base:

This old base is part of what remains of Israel’s war
ravaged past, the hostel staff will be more than pleased to show you the surroundings and point you the way to the abandoned base, where you’ll enjoy the best views on the Golan Heights.
 

Where to stay? 

Golan Heights Hostel:

This hostel is run by the friendliest and kindest workers. The Golan Heights will make you feel home with their living room furnished with comfortable sofas and a wide selection of board games. It’s decorated with beautiful art work and it has a big garden where you can relax on hammocks next to a bonfire. They offer free homemade pancake breakfast and a fully equipped kitchen. There are many room options, from mixed dorms for 100 NIS (25€) to private rooms for 270 NIS (67€). They have special discounts if the reservation is done through their website. 

How to get there? 

– From Tel Aviv bus station:

From Tel Aviv bus line 845 with EGGED company to kiryat Shmona. From Kiryat Shmona lines 55 or 58 to Odem. 

– From Jerusalem bus station:

From Jerusalem bus line 963 with EGGED company to kiryat Shmona. From kiryat Shmona lines 55 or 58 to Odem. 

 

EILAT

eilat

Although Eilat is quite known, it’s the last Southern city, which makes it hard to arrive since it’s surrounded by land, water and the Negev desert. This harbour town located in-between Jordan and Egypt is the gate to the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aqaba, which possesses one of the most stunning seas in the whole word, with amazing water clarity. The Red Sea is famous for its warm water and its rich marine wildlife, being home to the rarest and unique fishes, seaweed and shellfish. Eilat is a young city with plenty of night life and outdoor activities to offer and it’s also the only place in the world where 4 countries can be seen at the same time: Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

What to do? 

– Diving:
  • Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve: you can access this private beach by paying a small fee. Once you’re at the beach, you’ll find signs with all kind of useful information about the marine wildlife and where to find it. They don’t offer any scuba diving service but there are stairs and other facilities to help you dive. To get there, you need to take the bus line 15 and stop at Field School. 
  • Campingplatz: this public beach is right in front of 2 scuba diving schools: Snuba Diving  and Diver’s Village  where you can rent or take scuba diving lessons. To get there, you need to take the bus line 15 and stop at Migdalor Beach.
Mosh Beach:

This Caribbean-like beach bar is the perfect place to relax and enjoy an epic sunset after a day diving. They offer all kind of refreshing beverages, homemade food, and live music, topped up with the best staff crew.

– Red Canyon:

Located in the middle of the Negev desert and near the Egypt border, these spectacular natural canyons are a great hiking trail, going through imposing red rock walls and narrow paths. To get there, take the bus line 392 or book a shuttle service on your hotel reception.

Where to stay? 

Arava Hostel:

This hostel is equipped with a guest kitchen, garden, and a wide range of room options from 90 NIS (23€). Arava Hostel also offers different activities such as cruisers or jeep tours.

How to get there? 

– From Tel Aviv bus station: 

Bus line 394 with EGGED company. It is recommended to buy the ticket with one day in advance since the bus is always full. 

– From Jerusalem bus station:

Bus line 444 with EGGED company. It is recommended to buy the ticket with one day in advance since the bus is always full. 

MITZPE RAMON

MITZ

Mitzpe Ramon is a small town right in the heart of the Negev Desert and build next to the Ramon Crater, the world’s largest erosion cirque with 40 km long, 10 km and 500 meters deep. This young and yet prosper town is inhabited mostly by young artists and wild goats. Near Mitzpe Ramon can also be found some Bedouin (nomadic Arab people who inhabited the desert regions in North Africa and other parts of the Middle East) desert camps, where a few of them have been opened up to tourists and offer a Bedouin experience. 

What to do? 

– Hike the Ramon Crater:

There are many different routes for all expertise and durations, from 2 hours hike to 8 hours through the deepest areas of the crater. Visit the Visitors Centre to get a free map of the crater and some useful information and advice.

Camel Tour:

The Ben Midbar Bedouin camp offers different types of camel tours through the desert, from 1 hour to even 14 days across the Negev Desert. The only way to get there is walking 40 minutes from Mitzpe Ramon. 

– Visit the Artist quarter:

Located in the opposite direction to the crater, this quarter is home to craftsmen, artists and peculiar restaurants. The perfect way to discover all the workshops and pubs is to wander around every street with your eyes wide open.

Where to stay? 

Me’ever hostel:

This place is way more than a simple hostel, it’s a point of reunion for creative souls. Me’ever hostel organize all kind of events from music festivals to circus or theatre. They offer camping space, private tent or caravan, bedouin tent, 4-bed dorm or private bedrooms and the price range between 85 NIS (12€) and 313 NIS (77€). 

The Green Backpackers:

Located right next to the Ramon Crater, this hostel is an amazing place to
enjoy the purest desert views. It has a full equipped kitchen, terrace, laundry, common room and
many other facilities. It also offers different tours, hikes and activities. The Green Backpackers has 6-
bed dorms, 4-bed dorms and double rooms from 88 NIS (22€) to 365 NI (90€).

How to get there? 

– From Tel Aviv bus station: 

Bus line 660 (only once a day) with METROPOLIN company or from Tel Aviv bus line 370 or 380 to Beer Sheva. From Beer Sheva, bus line 64, 65 or 60 with METROPOLIN company to Mitzpe Ramon.

– From Jerusalem bus station:

Bus line 392 to Mitzpe Ramon.

IMPORTANT ADVICES

– While hitchhiking is a common and safe mean of transportation in the north, it is not recommendable in the West Bank or Southern territories, especially if you’re a woman travelling solo, due to the risk of kidnaping.

– Prepare your trip with Shabat in mind, the holy day of the week for the Judaism which lasts from Friday evening to Saturday evening. During these 24 hours, almost everything remains closed, including
public transportation.

– Be respectful around holy places, including wearing appropriate clothes. Israel is one of the most
sacred places to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Recommended Posts