Achziv and Rosh Hanikra Promenade

While in Israel don’t miss the opportunity to walk or drive on the coastline that stretches between Achziv and Rosh Hanikra located on the northernmost Mediterranean coast. Achziv is located in a unique ecosystem, filled with local animals and natural pools. A chain of small islands dot the coast, which creates a special natural landscape and a haven for the area’s birds. The cliffs of Rosh Hanikra and the mountains of the Western Galilee surround Achziv from the east, and provide wonderful and interesting places to tour in.

The Achziv national park is a must visit. The park combines a rocky coastline, complete with bays, lagoons and natural and artificial seawater pools with archaeological remnants of an ancient settlement. Beneath the clear water one can catch glimpses of water lilies, sea urchins and small octopuses. In the summer time a unique way to spend the night is by sleeping under the sky in this national park.

We spent two days in this beautiful place. As usual we opted to stay at SPNI youth hostel. It is located just opposite to Achziv Beach where we could feel the salty breeze and the sound of waves at night were like lullaby. We happened to visit this place during full moon day and took stroll on the beach at night.

Achziv to Rosh Hanikra promenade is around 5 kilometers and we walked the entire length of seashore watching the lagoons, tide pools, several fisherman, beautiful sunsets and also enjoyed the sea under full moon light.

 

From the sea shore you can find beautiful white chalk cliffs meeting the sea. This is the only place along 100 kilometer stretch of Israeli coast line where the sea meet the cliffs. At the point, one can find an enchanting tourist site of Rosh Hanikra. This place marks the Israel and Lebanon border (this part of Lebanon border is guarded by Hezbollah, a group identified as militant group by USA).

Here one can reach the grottoes formed by erosion of soft chalk cliffs pounded constantly by sea waves. These grottoes could be reached by a cable car, which is claimed to be the steepest in the world with a gradient of 60 degree. An old railway tunnel made during World War II by blasting these cliffs is currently being used as a visitor center.

Thanks for following my blog. I will take a sabbatical from blogging for a while and time permitting I would love to bring virtual tour of several other beautiful places from Israel and also would love to introduce you to the beautiful culture and beautiful people I ever met.

 

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Ashkelon- ancient port city

What are the best beaches in Israel? With over 100 km of Mediterranean coastline and beaches of Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee and Read Sea beaches at Eilat, it is really difficult to answer the question. The beach you want to visit depends only on you and what you are looking for. Israel beaches contrast hugely; from the urban beaches of Tel Aviv to quite beaches of western Galilee set in the rural areas. Some beaches even have historical importance. Many Israelis have some favorite beaches where they might be looking for certain amenities like restaurants, pubs to enjoy the evenings.

Some of my favorite beaches in Israel might not be the popular ones with tourists or locals. My favorite ones are those that are less crowded and away from the urban setting; where I get to enjoy the sunset peacefully. Irrespective of the kind of beach, one can spot several people fishing. Through my next series of blogs, I would love to share the pictures from my favorite beaches but not in any particular order.

The first in the series is Ashkelon beach. If you have read my previous blogs, you will have an idea how much I love history. This is one beach where you can enjoy both the ancient ruins and the beach at the same time. Off course Caesarea is the best but is usually crowed compared to Ashkelon. Almost entire Ashkelon beach is dotted with several excavation sites. Ashkelon national park is a fascinating antiquities site. The park consists of expansive lawns, picnic tables and barbecue facilities and is a good place to spend time with entire family. Southern part of the park is a reserve for unique flora and fauna living in the costal dunes.

The city of Ashkelon is the ancient port city having evidence of human settlement from Neolithic period. It is the nearest Israeli city to Gaza strip (around 8 miles only) ruled by Hamas group and hence is mostly targeted by crude rockets. The major attractions of this park are the Canaanite Gate (considered to be the oldest vaulted gate in the world), the rampart and the mediaeval walls surrounding the park. The look out point provides panoramic views of the city, the beach and also the ancient ruins.

Follow my blog to get the virtual tour of other Israeli beaches like Shell beach at Palmachim, Achziv Lagoon and Chalk stone cliffs of RoshHanikra…

 

Ein Gedi – Oasis on the Dead Sea shore…

Ein Gedi, an Oasis and Natural reserve on the shores of Dead Sea is one of the premium hiking spots in Israel. The most favored bottled water in Israel (at least for me) is from Ein Gedi springs. Seeing numerous bottles of these in almost every super shop in Israel, I mentally pictured Ein Gedi as a huge spring in a beautiful setup akin to tropical green forest. But in reality it is a moderate sized spring with lush green surroundings that contrasts with the harsh conditions near Dead Sea and Qumran. This contrast is the secret of its beauty.

Ein Gedi consists of two words. ‘Ein’ meaning spring and ‘Gedi’ meaning goat-kid (Nubian Ibex) thus Ein Gedi means “Fountain of the kid”. I felt the name was appropriate with several of Nubian Ibexes surrounding the spring. This reserve is situated on the eastern border of Judean desert, on the dead sea border. The elevation of the land ranges from the level of Dead Sea (423 meters) below sea level to the plateau of Judean desert at 200 meters above the sea level.

The reserve is a sanctuary for many types of plants, birds and animals. We spotted several Ibexes that can walk with utmost ease on the vertical cliffs surrounding this reserve. The animals like Ibexes and rock hyrax are very much used to humans with millions of visitors visiting this reserve annually. In fact, at the parking area one can see several of the Ibexes climbing the motor vehicles to reach the tender leaves of trees.

The water from this spring provided sanctuary to several people from over 3500 BCE. Currently, it supports an entire village of Kibbutz Ein Gedi located a kilometer away from the reserve. The Kibbutz area is home to an internationally acclaimed botanical garden that supports the growth of around 900 plant species from around the world.

One could choose from several different hikes that could range from kid friendly to moderate to strenuous hikes. One could even cool themselves along the hike by taking we could relax in a small pool we found hidden behind the huge boulders. We felt like we had private swimming pool all to our family only.

I was keen on looking for the bottling unit near Ein Gedi but instead found only waterfalls and pools. I got an answer to my question while hiking back to the parking. The spring water ends up directly into the camouflaged filtration units. We were told that the filtered water reaches the bottling unit directly that is located far from the natural setting.

If you liked this virtual tour to Ein Gedi, please follow blog to get updates on my coming blogs on the Mediterranean beaches.

Dead Sea… the lowest point on dry land!

Though it’s not the saltiest lake in the world, the Dead Sea, located between Israel and Jordan, is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world at over 1,000 feet deep. Those who walk its shores are at the lowest point on dry land — just over 1,400 feet below sea level. I was very much excited to see the elevation going below sea level as we drove from Jerusalem to Dead Sea via Jericho – the lowest city in the world. One can feel a sense of calmness while driving the entire length of Dead Sea on highway 90.

On our first day of travel to Dead Sea, we were greeted by a dust storm that greatly affected our visibility. On a clear day, one could easily see Jordan on the other side of blue Dead Sea. On our way we got to visit the Qumran caves, where the actual Dead Sea scrolls were found. We stayed at SPNI youth hostel located on a hill opposite to Dead Sea. We highly recommend this place as it offers great views of Dead Sea. We spotted several friendly Ibex’s roaming freely around the hostel premises. These Ibex’s are great example of the conservation efforts at Hai Bar natural reserve.

Our first visit to Dead Sea was really and fun and adventurous. Being first time to Dead Sea and we didn’t had any knowledge regarding the best beaches to float in Dead Sea. There are several beautiful and easily accessible public beaches all along the shores of Dead Sea but our random choice of the beach near by our hostel led us to a rugged and inaccessible beach.

We had adventure of a lifetime when we spotted and decided to try the Mineral beach. It is a spa and resort located at the northern shores of Dead Sea. At 8.00 am, we were the first and only ones to visit resort and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is the only beach with natural Hot Sulphur spring which is maintained at 39 degree centigrade at all seasons. The sulphur pool had enough salt that it was buoyant enough. The medicinal properties of these sulphur pools attract many visitors from all over the world to Israel for having a dip in these hot sulphur pools located near Dead Sea and Hamat Gader. Having been cured of a persistent rash on my body from just one dip into this pool, I can vouch for its medicinal properties. I learnt a hard lesson not to go into this pool with any metal ornaments especially silver that reacts with sulphur.

Natural boiling Dead Sea mud rich in minerals is found in this beach. The mud is also supposed to have several medical properties. The mud bath makes your skin soft and supple like a baby’s skin and is also known to reduce arthritis. My mom who could barely walk with out any support could easily climb several steps at Masada after receiving a special knee massage with this mud. From past 8 years, pure Dead Sea mud from Ahava is the only beauty product I use. We still massage our knees with warm Dead Sea mud to relieve the knee pain.

Our idea of floating in the calm Dead Sea water was not fulfilled during our first visit because of the high winds and choppy waves. Even though we could float on the water, we were drifted to a different shore and had cuts from the sharp salt crystals that form the bottom of the seabed. It is highly recommended not to walk bear footed. A minute into Dead Sea water with 34% salt, one could feel every small and minute cuts on your body you were previously unaware off. We were almost shrieking from the pain. More than our pain for these cuts, my mom who was enjoying on the shore had to endure higher pain (feels like thousands of bee stings at one point) and red eye because of small drop that fell into her eye (because of high winds). The rough weather presented us with a totally different experience of Dead Sea. One our next visit, we could enjoy a normal, relaxing float on Dead Sea completed with reading newspaper while floating. I am glad to have enjoyed this mineral beach which unfortunately cannot be enjoyed again as it remained closed to public from 2015 onwards because of sinkholes.

Follow my blog for the next virtual tour of the only Oasis in the harsh conditions surrounding Dead Sea; The Ein Gedi!

Eilat – where desert meets the sea! Part -1: Coral World

Nothing prepared us for the amazing world waiting to be explored at Eilat! Not even my Israeli colleague words; “expect to see corals and fishes in every color you can imagine!” Even though we were awed by the amazing and colorful sea world and coral reefs at Eilat, it was the pristine waters of Red sea that caught my attention. I am still not over it even after visiting Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake (the most clear water lake in the world) in North America.

At Eilat, Red Sea water was so pristine and I heard people saying that one can see the dolphins swimming in the sea from the flight above. Even though Eilat is a Diver’s paradise, every one including people like me who don’t know swimming or who is afraid of water can enjoy the beautiful coral reefs with out any need to swim or snorkel or snuba diving. All of this made possible because of the under water observatory (Coral world) and its glass bottomed boat – Coral 2000. Also, one can take glass bottom boats from Eilat Marina and enjoy the most amazing and unique coral reefs in the world.

Number one thing to do in Eilat is to visit this under water observatory that is located almost 3.5 miles away from the urban Eilat. The observatory is a tower situated in the middle of the sea, without any fences or cages, offering a rare view of the Red Sea, with its bright colors, tones, and the marine life in the Gulf of Eilat. The park has a spectacular display (over 800 species) of fish, coral, sharks, mollusks, stingrays, turtles, and many other animals from the Gulf of Eilat.

The tower is comprised of two display halls. These halls are submerged at a depth of 12 meters under the sea, offering visitors a natural view of the coral reef’s spectacular beauty through huge plate glass windows.

 

Eilat, being a resort town is very crowded and so to avoid this crowd, we opted for student youth hostel – SPNI,  located just across this observatory instead of the costly and luxurious Eilat Dan hotels. My Hubby and me not only could just walk across the road and enjoy the beautiful sunrise but also had the beach just for both of us!

As I already indicated, Eilat is a snuba divers paradise. Most of the dives are done right at the beach. Eilat has only 10 kilometers of coral reefs for diving. Next door you will find Jordan and Egypt plus Saudi Arabia not so far across the water either.

Follow me to know more about the other attractions in and around Eilat that could be enjoyed with your family.

Hai Bar Nature Reserve – Desert safari….

As mentioned in my last blog, if you are ready for some adventure and want to watch the wild animals in their natural habitat, then visit Hai Bar. Hai Bar is not a normal Zoo or safari. In contrast to Ramat Gan safari where animal species from all over the world are seen, Hai bar features only those wild animals that are either mentioned in the bible or endangered desert species native to Israel. This is the place where these wild animals are bred before introducing them back to the Negev desert. It is actually a 3000-acre of breeding and reclamation center.

It may not be advisable to drive all the way to this reserve situated in Arava valley. We visited Hai bar on our way to Mitzpe Ramon from Eilat. It’s a great 2- hour detour. Instead of guided tour we choose to explore the park ourselves. We were given a CD with the information regarding the history of the park and the wild animals that are bred there. Ostriches are the main attraction of this park. We were treated to several curious Ostriches. One of it was very curious and was trying to have a good look at all of us and was even trying to peck the sticker on our windshield.

You should have lots of patience as the ostriches can block your car for a long time. We had to stop the car for about half an hour for one of the Ostrich to finish its meal of Acacia plant. Acacia plants are the major vegetation of this park.

The park is divided into three areas – an area where herds of desert herbivores live in conditions similar to the wild; enclosures containing large predators, reptiles and small desert animals; and a ‘dark room’ to view nocturnal animals when they are active.

The park borders with Jordan and we felt like we could just drive to the border. We enjoyed our safari tour through Hai-Bar, getting a tour of the past (and hopefully future) wildlife of the Negev.

Follow me on to next blog for the visual wonder that is Eilat!