ONE OF Israel’s most veteran boutique hotels, Bayit Bagalil is located in the heart of the Galilee’s Biriya Forest..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Vacationing in Israel has become much more common in recent years as lovely boutique hotels sprout up around the country. In the summertime, prices can be high and tourist sites are packed with visitors, but in the wintertime hotels offer more affordable rates, it’s relatively quiet and the weather is magically cool. How wonderful it is to hop in your car and reach your holiday destination in a couple of hours, as opposed to trips overseas that require hours of waiting on line and security checks in airports.
Vacationing locally in Israel also enables you to discover new areas you’ve never seen before. And if your child falls and, God forbid, breaks a bone, it’s nice to be close to home and not have to deal with emergencies in foreign countries and then fly home on hastily arranged flights.
Not long ago, the term “boutique hotel” was almost unheard of in Israel, but in recent years, boutique and family-run hotels have been popping up
all over the country. It used to be that you needed a special event to celebrate as a reason to book a night or two, but these days it’s common enough to just get away for a few days without needing any special occasion.
One of Israel’s most veteran boutique hotels is Bayit Bagalil, located in the heart of the Biriya Forest in the Galilee. For years, the hotel was shrouded in mystery; not just anyone could vacation on their premises, even if they had the money. The owners at the time were extremely particular about the guests who vacationed at their hotel, which only seemed to add to its prestige. Thankfully, this is no longer the policy at Bayit Bagalil.
The story of the hotel began back in the early 1990s when Shai and Naomi Grossman decided to make a career change and pursue their dream of opening a luxury hotel. They began searching throughout the country for a beautiful, remote location, and when they came across Biriya Forest it was love at first sight. It took them eight years to acquire all the necessary permits to build a hotel on the site, and in 2002 they finally succeeded in holding the grand opening of Bayit Bagalil.
The road that leads to the hotel is a paved street that begins in Hatzor Haglilit and leads up to the metal gate at the entrance of the hotel. The first structure you’ll see after you pass through the gate is an impressive stone building that reminds you of picturesque estates in Europe, with luscious green trees surrounding it. When guests first enter the lovely lobby and reception area they cannot help but immediately be impressed by its stunning wooden furnishings, wood-burning fireplace, luxurious couches and lounge chairs, fancy wall-hangings and charming lighting. It was the Grossmans’ dream to create a top-quality holiday vacation hideaway and they wanted to select their guests very carefully.
In the end, this policy was not economical, and now everyone is welcome to stay at Bayit Bagalil.
And so this past spring, the Nakash Brothers’ Orchid chain bought Bayit Bagalil and began carrying out renovations and breathing new life into the boutique hotel. They’ve refurbished all of the guest rooms, added a new suite, replaced all the carpeting in common areas and revamped the spa and pool area, which is heated all winter long.
The hotel boasts 32 suites with balconies overlooking the surrounding forest area, a massive African tent with a private pool, as well as a presidential suite with two bedrooms, living and dining areas, and a private pool and jacuzzi overlooking the Kinneret.
The 200-square-meter spa has six treatment rooms and wet and dry saunas. Throughout the winter, the spa will be offering special treatments to reduce dryness in your skin, improve your blood circulation and raise your energy level.
In addition to the incredible meals offered at Bayit Bagalil, guests can lounge by the pool, and take long walks along the trails that weave through Biriya Forest. One of these paths reaches all the way to Rosh Pina, where you can visit art galleries or enjoy a drink in a local café.
If you’re not familiar with Biriya Forest, you might find it interesting to learn that it was a planned forest that was planted in the previous century. It spreads out over more than 2,000 hectares from Safed to Hatzor Haglilit. There’s a wonderful 12-kilometer trail that you can walk that begins at Meron Intersection and ends in Hatzor Haglilit. Along the way, you can stop at a number of heritage sites, tombs of holy people and great lookout spots. If you happen to be vacationing at Bayit Bagalil in the near future, you’ll also be treated to mountainsides that are completely covered with crocuses. Regardless of which season you choose to visit the area, I recommend going to see the magical fortress and the ancient Naburiya synagogue.
The Naburiya synagogue was built in the ancient settlement of Biriya and is reminiscent of other synagogues that were built throughout the Galilee in similar times, such as the synagogue in Baram. The restored synagogue is famous for the unique inscription found on the lintel of its main entrance that reads, “Built 494 years after the destruction of the Temple in the time of Hanina Ben Leizer and Luliana Bar Yudan.” It is extremely rare to find dates on synagogues, and hence this inscription is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
In addition, 200 meters away, you can see Ein Naburiya, a spring that flows out of the rocky surface. Nearby, there are lots of fruit trees, making this a great place to stop for a picnic. And not far away, you’ll find the Tom and Sasha Weisz Lookout, from which you can observe the Dalton River and the Hula Valley.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
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