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A breathtaking journey through Israel’s diverse lands uncovers hidden adventures and holistic wonders. Words: Liggie Pelekani
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Israel. Most of my preconceptions were based on the ongoing conflicts surrounding the area, which hit a distressing juncture two weeks after my departure. However my journey discovered a positive stillness within a country with a huge heart.
My six-day journey began in the Eastern Galilee in north Israel, a scenic region dotted with volcanic hills and spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee. The Mizpe Hayamim hotel and spa was my first stop — set in 37 acres of fragrant organic gardens and walking routes. Scattered around the hotel’s grounds are an organic dairy, a farm containing friendly animals, and a number of production facilities making jam, cheese, bread, candles and soaps.
My first discovery was the tea and coffee corner in the lounge, which contains endless clay pots of organic herbs, free to be mixed at will. I felt like an alchemist mixing lavender, honey and lemon verbena to make a delicious hot, herbal potion.
When it came to my trip to the spa though, I left the mixing to the experts and enjoyed the hotel’s signature Mizpe Hayamim massage (£54 for 60 minutes). Using lavender oil, the treatment combined several techniques focusing on the pressure and energy points in the body. It was so relaxing I drifted off to sleep and had to be awakened by the masseuse. But I managed to gather up some energy to head next door and try the gourmet cuisine at Muscat — one of the best restaurants in northern Israel — serving up a delicious mix of Galilean recipes using produce from the hotel’s organic farm.
After a restful night, the next day I visited the Hamat Gader Park on the southeastern part of the Sea of Galilee. Here, 40 acres of tropical parkland include ancient Roman baths, a thermo mineral pool and a crocodile farm. As soon as I entered the park, I could smell the egg-like aroma of the mineral-rich water, which is said to relieve joint pain and other ailments and reaches a toasty 42C. Once initially submerged, the water was soothing but five minutes in and I was rather unattractively sweating and struggling for air. I’d recommend a succession of short dips combined with some sun lounger relaxation for maximum effect.
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