You can't see much in Clill after sunset, a small village nestled in the heart of the Western Galilee. The ecological village, which is home to 600 people, runs exclusively on solar power. So come nightfall it's best to bring a flashlight - or better yet, curl up in a comfy bed and breakfast after having a hearty meal.
That is what this reporter did, while touring the region as it geared up for their annual Western Galilee Winter Festival.
The festival, coordinated by Western Galilee Now (WGN) - a consortium of small businesses in the area - is now in its seventh year and is a flagship event for the NGO.
"We want people to stay for more than a day. Spend a night, relax and take in the North," Michal Shiloah Galnoor, the director of WGN said.
At the Jewish National Fund supported WGN Tourist Information Center located in Akko’s old city, staffers help visitors craft a tailor-made Western Galilee experience based on their interests. For the 15,000 people who enter its blue doors per year, the goal is to encourage them to go beyond Akko and discover the hidden gems the region has to offer.
Although shrouded in darkness the first night, I felt right at home at Dawn Estate owned by Ofer Shectman. Inside, there was plenty of light in the spacious Ottoman style-2 bedroom tzimmer and its breathtaking views overlooking the Galilean mountains is certainly a pleasant sight to wake up to in the morning.
"The Western Galilee is special. It has a different energy, it's just beautiful here," he said.
For two years, Shectman has run the quaint tzimmer which has gained a bit of a reputation as a tranquil getaway for artistic types and those looking for a wellness retreat. Musicians like Ehud Banai were guests while the village hosted a series of concerts this year and Shectman's girlfriend is on hand to whip up vegan friendly foods for those who came for a bit of a detox. And while the six bedroom complex is not Kosher by default, Shectman has offered kosher-friendly pots/pans upon request.
"It's extraordinary how active this place is. It's like a little Tuscany," he observed of the region.
As such, for those attending this weekend's festival, there's plenty to do in Cllil alone. For example, one can attend a chocolate making workshop, create Ayurveda-style concoctions to treat winter illnesses, attend a winter solstice incense ceremony in a private studio and, because all that activity can work up an appetite, eat a homemade Druze lunch.
Speaking of food, a mere 20 minute drive away is one of the best restaurants in the region - Aluma Bistro. Its owner Alaa Sweetat, a kind, hospitable host who wants everyone to feel like at home at this neighborhood haunt.
"Come hungry and be in a good mood," he said of his annual Christmas dinner that will be offered Thursday night. His Christmas dinner will have all the trimmings, including a large beef roast presented in the middle of the restaurant.
"This is not a quiet meal where you hold hands over a small bouquet of flowers, it's a full-blown meat extravaganza!," he smiled.
Of course, a gluttonous meat parade is not for everyone, however, there are plenty of activities suitable for the whole family.
For example, Hasia Naveh's quilt-making workshop, can provide a pleasant bonding experience for young and old alike.
Naveh, whose intimate workshop is located in Bustan Hagalil, will show participants how to create colorful fabric slippers.
"I've worked with fabrics my whole life. " Naveh, said in her bright studio, surrounded by vibrant examples of her embroidery and patchwork courses said. "I never let any piece of fabric go to waste.
Everything interests me and everything has a purpose." Another example for those looking for a less traditional stop along their winter festival journey, can visit Kfar Vradim's Cafe Ma'arag, which sits on a complex that offers a safe haven to young adults with special needs.
The warm and inviting complex with calming blue turquoise painted walls, wooden swans decorating the hallways will take on an "other-worldly" look as it hosts a "mystical brunch" on Friday morning. Candles will adorn the table tops, as a woman reads Tarot cards in the corner and guests sip on different kinds of soup, sachleb and sangria.
In addition to getting a glimpse into their future visitors will contribute to a good cause: all proceeds from the brunch go to the people with special needs who work at the complex.
"It's a weekend of action," Kinneret Dey, general manager of the coffee shop, said. "These kinds of events force me to think outside of the box, so we can attract tourists and regulars." For a complete schedule of traditional and outside the box events, visit: winterfestival.westgalil.org.il.The writer was a guest of Western Galilee Now.
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