Even if you don’t live in Tel Aviv, it must by now have become glaringly obvious that cycling is fast becoming the most popular form of physical fitness and fun activity. While tens of thou- sands of Tel Avivians bike – to work, to the store and to the beach – on a daily basis, and there has been an increase in cycling volumes even in hilly Jerusalem, more and more of us are getting out and about, outside the urban domain, on our two-wheelers – of both the mountain and road varieties – in our leisure time as well.

This has naturally generated infrastructure-related ventures, including enabling mountain bikers to traverse the entire length of the country, along the Israel Bike Trail, in complete safety and relative com- fort. Planning and research work on the trail began several years ago. When com- plete, the route will stretch some 1,100 km., from the Golan Heights to Eilat. Thus far, five sections are in use, stretching northward for almost 200 km. from Eilat to Paran in the Arava.

The trail provides plenty of eye-catching scenery en route, and the 35 km. Moa- Paran segment offers bikers a beautiful view of the Wadi Paran estuary – the largest dry riverbed in the country – and winds its way through the towering Telem Eshet Cliffs. Like all the existing and planned sections – the IBT will be divided into 25 day-long segments – users will have all their needs met after a hard day’s cycling, from food and accommodation to water and bike maintenance services.

The IBT project is being developed with a host of partner organizations, such as the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Israel Government Tourist Cooperation, The Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Cycling Federation and the Prime Minister’s Office. And the government appears to be putting its money where its mouth is. Government Resolution 3368, from August 30, 2008, calls for a budget of NIS 100 million to be allocated to developing cycling infrastructures nationwide. A Tourism Ministry steering committee document, from January of this year, indicates that the government-sanctioned budget will be boosted by a further NIS 65m., which will go toward developing cycling infrastructures, maintenance, cycling field centers in the Negev, education and advocacy, as well as activities designed to boost cycling tourism.

The region around Mitzpe Ramon, with its spectacular scenery through and near the Ramon Crater, has become a major draw for mountain cyclists from all over the country, and accommodation facilities that specialize in catering to cyclists have opened there. The iBike Hotel offers comfortable accommodation, along with a range of activities, including cycling, work- shops organized group bike trips for people of all ages and levels of fitness, and plenty of information about trails, beauty spots and places of historical interest.

For more information: 052-436-7878 and www.ibike.co.il.

Farther to the southeast, the Cycle Inn, at Moshav Neot Hakikar, not far from the Dead Sea, offers B&B accommodation, with rooms for three, four and five peo- ple, as well as mountain bike rentals and plenty of advice about worthwhile routes in the environs.

For more information: (08) 655-2828; 052- 899-1146 and www.cycle-inn.co.il

As the Israel Bike Trail has started snaking its way northwards from Eilat, the Arava has become a magnet for mountain bikers, and accommodation facilities have begun to proliferate in the area. The Ma’ayan Bamidbar rustic hosting facility at Kibbutz Yahel, 65 km. north of Eilat, offers family rooms, as well as accommodation for couples and groups of four, and there are bicycle and accessory rentals and transportation to and from the cycle trails.

For more information: (08) 635-7967/8.

Kibbutz Samar, 30 km. north of Eilat, has become a popular hub of cycling activity in recent years. The kibbutz’s Samar Bike Hotel offers facilities for groups of eight and more, and the hotel staff tailors cycling routes to suit the size of the groups, the members’ experience and level of fitness. Accommodation is provided in five three-bed rooms, and meals are provided in the kibbutz dining room or at outdoor barbecues.

For more information: 052-551-8904 and 052-304-0640.


But the South does not have a monopoly on cycling. The HooHa Cyclists’ House is considered to be the country’s first cycling-specific accommodation facility. HooHa, located at Kfar Tavor in the Galilee, provides an excellent vantage point for following road routes and trails across the Galilee and the nearby valleys. The hotel offers a range of mountain and road bicycles for rent, for all levels of experience. Accommodation is available for various degrees of privacy and budgets, from rooms for two or three people, larger units that sleep eight to ten 10, and a luxury suite for a cou- ple. The hotel courtyard has a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi, and there is bicycle storage and facilities for bike cleaning and maintenance.

For more information: 077-708-0524 and 054-807-0524.


Elsewhere in the North, there is a delightful trail from the Golan Heights, near the Ram Pool, that traverses the Hula Valley and Nahal Sa’ar to the banks of the fast-flowing waters of Banyas. Beit Keshet Forest, in the Lower Galilee, has plenty to offer mountain bikers, while those looking for a leisurely day out on their two-wheelers can enjoy a trundle around the Hula Lake, where at this time of year there are many migrating birds to be observed.

For more information: www.gogalil.org


In recent years, the region around Beit Shemesh has proven to be one of the country’s most popular cycling areas, with numerous mountain bike trails on offer with varying degrees of difficulty. On weekends, hundreds of cyclists ride in from Jerusalem or bring their bikes by car from Tel Aviv and farther afield to ride through the Eila Valley or Beit Guvrin. Experienced road cyclists will, no doubt, appreciate the ascents from the Beit Shemesh area up through the Jerusalem Hills. These include the climb up the Eila Valley road, the tougher six-km. ascent from Beit Shemesh, from Route 3855 up to the turnoff to the Stalactite Cave or the most challenging and beautiful climb in the area, from Moshav Eshtaol past Ramat Raziel to Kibbutz Tzora and the Sataf National Park. The Bar Bahar restau- rant and information center, between Moshav Ness Harim and Moshav Bar- Giora, is a popular stopping point for road and off-road cyclists alike.

This time of the year in particular affords cyclists comfortable weather conditions and the inestimable added value of mil- lions of flowers and blossoming trees around the country.

This article was made possible with the help of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, www.go- israel.gov.il.


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