Manara Cliff site.
(photo credit: TOMER FEDER)
The view is breathtaking, but that’s not the only thing that will take your breath away during a stay at Manara Lodge, the small hotel perched atop the Naftali Mountains in the Upper Galilee.
The hotel was recently acquired by the operators of the Manara Cliff extreme adventure site, and guests are granted a free pass to all the activities there. It also offers free access to the cable car that connects the three levels of the cliff attractions, and my son and I used it often during a recent two-night stay.
Posters around the site ask “Can your pulse take Manara Extreme?” From the moment we arrived, it was clear that this was a hotel with a difference. This is no luxury resort, so if you’re looking for a place for a romantic getaway, you should carry on looking. Kibbutz Kfar Blum’s Pastoral Boutique Hotel is one of several nearby excellent choices.
Manara Lodge, comprising 55 rooms set out in the kibbutz grounds, is very good at what it aims to be – a hotel servicing the Manara Cliff site. The staff is friendly, and the rooms are large, clean and comfortable. Our room had a rustic charm and an incredible view from the large balcony. Other rooms have direct access to well-kept lawns equipped with picnic tables.
This is a great place to crash after a day of climbing, hiking or cycling, but it is not a fancy hotel. Manara Lodge offers a sporting experience, especially fitting for those who like living on the edge. The scenery has a European feel to it, although I noted that we were so close to Lebanon that sneezing in the wrong direction could be considered germ warfare.
The height, 900 meters above sea level, offers another benefit apart from the view. The temperature was bearable during the day and very pleasant in the evening, even during a heat wave.
Manara is unusual on the local tourism scene for offering a combined hotel stay and an extreme theme park. It’s a long way in every sense from Euro Disney; but on the plus side, Manara Lodge is kosher and has a small synagogue.
At the cliff site, visitors included a broad age range and people of many different backgrounds, including ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs enjoying post-Tisha Be’av and post-Ramadan vacations.
The alpine coaster, which is Manara’s trademark, was damaged in a fire last month and was not operating during our visit, but my nearly 14-year-old son particularly enjoyed the rappelling and braved the 200-meter zip line several times while I (with a fear of heights) bravely watched him.
Among the popular features are Norwegian walking trails, a rope park, extreme biking, a climbing wall, archery, paint ball, bungee trampolines, guided tours and ecological workshops.
Averting my eyes from my son dangling from a rope as he rappelled down the cliff and concentrating instead on the view of the Hula Valley and Kiryat Shmona, which looked like a tiny toy town, I was even able to relax.
Manara Lodge is a good choice, particularly for families looking to keep the costs down by combining accommodation and activities. But there are two drawbacks: At this stage, the lodge offers only breakfast (kosher and good but not exceptional by Israeli hotel breakfast standards), and after a very active day you might not want to go out to eat, even if you could find the right place in nearby Kiryat Shmona or Rosh Pina. The second disadvantage is the lack of a swimming pool. The lodge offers free entrance to the pool at Canada Center in Metulla, about a 15-minute drive, but it’s not the same as taking a dip in the pool and then walking to your room.
I spoke to hotel guests with children from age three to late teens, and they all said they felt they got their money’s worth and would recommend the lodge to friends seeking a similar adventure holiday. For one family, their stay was part of a bat- mitzva celebration.
I have traveled to and from hotel rooms on foot, by bus, taxi, private vehicle and even a limousine, but Manara Lodge provided me with a new experience. When it came time to leave, we checked out and then my son and I carried our bags the short distance to the cable car, where our carriage awaited us, as it were. We waved Manara goodbye as we left in style in the cable car, suspended between Heaven and Earth – a gradual letdown after a couple of days feeling on top of the world. The writer was a guest of Manara Lodge.
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