THE BEACH at the Olive Daria Holiday Village at Ha’on – all the needed facilities for a pleasant and relaxing stay..
(photo credit: TALY SHARON)
Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) is at its best this year. The rainy winter raised its water level and made the lake a more-than-ever popular vacation destination. We took off for a short retreat, perhaps too short, at Olive Daria Hotel, located in the southeast side of the Kinneret and spent all the time at its eastern side, including the slopes of the Golan Heights. We took a trip across banana and mango plantations, climbing some steep slopes and stopped to chill in a natural cool spring. We visited the archaeological site of Hippos (Sussita) and enjoyed watching the sunset. After dipping in the water of the Kinneret, we enjoyed a bonfire with live singing and enjoyed the beautiful view, and of course, enjoyed some really good food in the local restaurants featuring local produce: Marinado at Ein Gev junction and Moshbutz at Ramot.
Olive Daria Holiday Village at Ha’on It seems that the old holiday village has never seen such glory before. The Olive hotel chain has taken it on board and has refurbished it, renewing the cottages and grounds. Once we entered the front (well-secured) gate, a calm, very green village welcomed us. It felt just like a kibbutz – serene! Rows of one-story cottages separated by walking paths are surrounded by trees and green grass.
Each cottage has an outdoor seating area, where we could see families sitting and relaxing while the children were playing around. Surprisingly, although the village was full, it was very quiet, perhaps thanks to the strict rules that loud outdoor music is not permitted here, and barbecue is only allowed in designated areas. There are about 100 cottages here, all refurbished and modern. We stayed at a one-bedroom suite (a master bedroom with a living room that had two adult beds for our teenagers). The bathroom had a spacious shower and plenty of space for our toiletries. The room also has a basic kitchenette with coffee-making facilities and a small fridge, and the rooms have flat screen TVs, a safe, and plenty of power outlets for our phone chargers. Besides being immersed in vegetation, the village is situated on the beach of the Kinneret, and some cottages overlook the beach.
It is a well-groomed beach with a lifeguard on duty. We enjoyed it very much, the water was like silk and its temperature perfect, not to mention that it was jellyfish-free compared to the Mediterranean beaches in July. The beach has volleyball and mini-soccer courts and plenty of deck chairs. During the season, the village offers complimentary activities including bonfires, live music and storytellers, children’s movies, arts and crafts, beach games and more.
Breakfast was served in the main dining room facing the beach. I was quite surprised by the variety of food served, except for the usual salads and cheeses. There was pasta, shakshuka, and plenty of warm dairy food, making it almost a brunch. The coffee was very good, too. Overall, Daria is not a luxury accommodation. It is more like a village-type holiday with all the needed facilities to make it pleasant and relaxing.
Olive Daria, olivebb.co.il, 04-953-1153
Off-road trip with Yaniv Gal One of the more attractive ways of exploring the area is by taking an off-road 4x4 trip. We joined Yaniv Gal, who specializes in trips for small intimate groups and families. Yaniv is an educator and guides the groups with passion.
He makes the trip an experience, not just a drive. We chose together the route to a natural spring. The trip takes about two hours and includes time to dip in the spring so we brought swimsuits. As we sat in the cars, we got face and neck dust masks.
The vehicles were new and very comfortable. We started the selfdrive track and drove along the Golan Heights’ southern slopes along mango and banana plantations and cattle fields, stopping at some nice viewpoints. Part of the fun is the self-driving off-road, crossing obstacles, etc.
The peak of the tour is Ein Sharir, a beautiful natural spring. It requires a short walk to get to it, which is well worth the small effort.
The spring is cool and is shaped like a pool, easy to get in and out of. Yaniv served us cold watermelon that he brought with him. That was a treat. We loved the place so much that we left it reluctantly.
Before returning to the start point at Kibbutz Ein Gev, Yaniv took us to a viewpoint near the archaeological site of Hippos (Sussita) that belongs to a different route. It was sunset and the view of the Kinneret was fabulous. He also told us about the site as part of the instruction of the tour, which helped us plan on visiting it the next day.
I highly recommend this tour with Yaniv. His personality and personal touch make the trip an intimate experience, especially suitable for small groups and families, including bnei mitzvot and family events. Yaniv also rents camping equipment supplied directly to the camping site.
Yaniv Gal, Ein Gev, experience-group.co.il, 050-579-3977
Marinado Restaurant at Ein Gev Our favorite restaurant in this area is no doubt the Marinado. The restaurant is a one stop shop to dine and stock up .
The complex is located at Ein Gev’s fuel station and includes a grocery store, a butchery as well as the restaurant. They also offer cooking workshops here. Marinado’s specialty is meat, especially lamb, and while there are some vegetarian and even vegan dishes, this is a steakhouse.
Everything they serve here is superb and the service is more than excellent. I always say it is American quality of service. A very interesting starter we had here was the tri-colored eggplant, roasted and served with three types of Tahini – plain, herb and beetroot – and the house bread. It fuses some interesting flavors and is a real treat.
During July and August, they have a festival here “Celebrating America” featuring special burgers and cuts. I can recommend the porterhouse steak for sharing. It was served on a hot plate and was very tender and tasty. The burgers and other cuts are also superb.
The dessert menu is wide and delicious, and an entire wine shop is at the customer’s disposal to pick a wine for the meal.
Marinado, Ein Gev junction. Not kosher. Marinado.co.il, 04-665-8555
Moshbutz Restaurant at Ramot Moshbutz is a farm-to-table restaurant situated in Ramot on the Golan Heights facing the Kinneret. It is only a few minutes’ drive from Ein Gev. The name of the restaurant, Moshbutz, is after the nickname of the Ramot settlement: a combination of the two forms of settlement in Israel in the old days, moshav and kibbutz. It started as a kibbutz but the settlers knew they want to be a moshav, therefore referred to it as Moshbutz, and the restaurant preserves this notion.
The Moshbutz Restaurant serves food made from produce of the local Schneider Farm and other neighboring farms. This includes the meat, vegetables, cheeses, herbs and more. On Thursday evenings they hold a farmers’ market here, where local farms sell their products at discounts.
This includes also Schneider Farms’ excellent meat! The restaurant itself is spacious and has large windows to the beautiful view of the Kinneret. Its decor is country style, with a lot of wood. The menu is meat-based and a changing variety of fresh cuts is offered every day.
While the meat dishes are superb and the meat practically melted in our mouths, there are many other dishes that include fresh local produce, such as salad with Regev Farms’ goat milk, labaneh cheese, trout from the Dan River, gnocchi and ravioli. We tried a number of dishes. All were seasoned using fresh herbs and were rich in flavors. They also serve a variety of local wines. We enjoyed the house wine of Regev Farms.
Moshbutz, Ramot. Not kosher. Moshbutz. co.il, 04-679-5095.
My recommendation is to come for a longer stay than I did, and enjoy more time swimming and playing water sports.
The writer was a guest of the local businesses mentioned in the article.