Nature, spa and culinary festival at Gilboa

Winter is perhaps the best time to visit the Gilboa area and adjacent valleys.

Nature, spa and culinary festival at Gilboa (photo credit: TALY SHARON)
Nature, spa and culinary festival at Gilboa
(photo credit: TALY SHARON)
Nature, spa and culinary festival at Gilboa
Winter is perhaps the best time to visit the Gilboa area and adjacent valleys, as it isn’t as hot and humid like during the summer. Except the must-see attractions such as the Park of Springs and Gan Hashlosha (Sakhne), Afula and its market is awakening up and turning into a historical and culinary destination with new trendy restaurants such as Hashuk 34 and Haashkenazi. The upcoming of Tastes of the Valleys Festival in early February provides an excellent opportunity to dine there and in other good restaurants such as the Gilboa Herb Farm at special prices, and to enjoy many free events!

Olive Gilboa Mountain Hotel
Olive Gilboa Mountain Hotel is a beautiful-small boutique hotel. The hotel spans over an oval two-story building with brick walls overlooking the green valley. Its center is a gorgeous seasonal pool with an open terrace providing access to the rooms.
Each of the 42 rooms is a spacious studio suite including the master bed and a sitting area, which can accommodate a family of five. There are two flat-screen TVs, and a small kitchenette with a microwave and coffee corner that can be used for light meals. The bathroom has a wide shower and is very comfortable. The ceiling is high and angled and the décor is classic-modern. I enjoyed the room very much and loved the quick access to the beautiful terrace and view!
It is perfect for families but I found out that it is a wonderful place for couples to stay at. It’s very romantic and quiet, especially off-season. At breakfast, which is a full warm buffet, we met a mother and daughter celebrating the daughter’s birthday.

Share Spa at Olive
Gilboa Mountain Hotel
One of the top attractions in the winter for me is a spa. Share Spa was recently opened, featuring a sauna, Jacuzzi and three treatment rooms, two of which are for couples. I loved the beautiful decor of the spa colored green and beige. The highlight of the spa is the Jacuzzi area with three private Jacuzzi baths with changing lights separated with privacy screens that can accommodate couples or groups that are especially filled for each party. The spa treatments were very professional.
Olive Gilboa Mountain, olivebb.co.il. Ph: 04-953-1153

Gan Hashlosha (Sakhne) National Park
One of the must-visit sites nearby is Gan Hashlosha Park. Summer or winter, bring your swimsuit, as the springs’ temperature is 28ºC (82ºF), which enables year-round bathing. In addition to the springs, there is an ancient flour mill, a regional archaeological museum with new exhibitions, and the Footprints in the Valley Museum. It is a full-sized model of the Nir David (Tel Amal) settlement demonstrating the tower and stockade settlements from 1936-1939 with an audio-visual presentation. The park is also open for camping and recently opened an RV park with the suitable facilities.
Gan Hashlosha, gan3.co.il. Ph: 04-658-6219

The Park of Springs
The Park of Springs is known for its river, springs and archaeological sites. Entrance is free but no cars are allowed in. Therefore, it is highly recommended to bring or rent bicycles, or rent an electric golf cart (suitable for up to six people) to tour the park. There’s a well-marked trail passing through the fields and springs that is very enjoyable. We stopped at different areas of the park and passed along the fish pools, a very nice and suitable trail for the elderly in the group.
Park of Springs, nirtours.co.il/en/Park_of_springs. Ph: 04-648-8060 or 04-688-1427.

Tastes of the Valleys Festival
The festival starts with an event at Haemek Museum in Kibbutz Yifat on February 2 at 8 p.m. The event will feature food booths, musical ensembles and tastings from local wineries. A ticket to the opening night including nine dishes, five wine/beer tastings and coffee, suitable for two to share, for NIS 210 (single tickets are available as well). Then, for two weeks, culinary and cultural events, many of which are free, will be held throughout the valleys in restaurants, wineries, farms, forests and along natural trails.
During the festival period, special meals are offered in participating restaurants. The meals include a starter, main course and dessert or a glass of beer/wine for a nominal price of NIS 79-129. The participating restaurants are: Octagon, Assado Bar, Bella, Hashuk 34 and Haashkenazi at Afula (kosher but not under supervision), Gilboa Herb Farm, Tanduka (kosher), Piano Piano at Yokne’am, Chang Ba and ChezVeze. The special meals are available from February 2-13.
Full festival information is available at teamim-baamakim.hafaka-ivrit.co.il

Sarig Winery
One of the wineries participating in the festival is Sarig Winery. Its roots began in 1920 on the Sarig Farm in Moshav Merhavia. Over the years, the farm engaged in various agricultural branches. In 1995, in a joint venture with the Golan Heights wineries, they began importing, acclimatizing and producing twigs for propagating grapevines, in an area that now operates independently and provides quality raw material for grapevine nurseries. Sarig Winery was established in 2005 as a family boutique winery and currently produces about 5,000 bottles of wine a year from the Shiraz, Grenache and Marselan varieties.
Sarig Winery, Hagefen 33, Merhavia, not Kosher, www.sarig33.com/

Afula
While most of us see Afula as a refreshment station on the way to our destination, it turns out that there’s a good reason to devote time to this city. We joined a guided historical-culinary tour of Afula. It included the old train station that was built in 1904 and was the trigger to the settling of Afula; the old synagogues (established between 1932-1937); the old police station; the famous Migdan family roasting shop (1947) where you can see the roasting in process; and Golani Falafel shop that was named after the IDF unit in which the family’s son served and died. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the interesting sites of the city; the market is waking up as well.

Hashuk 34 and Haashkenazi Afula
Two new culinary sites that bring Tel Aviv ambience to Afula are Hashuk 34 and a less formal smoked-meat kiosk called Haashkenazi, both working together to offer a variety of dining opportunities. Hashuk 34 is a colorful trendy bar/restaurant, the type you see in the Tel Aviv, with music, alcohol and a lot of good mood. The menu includes creative Mediterranean foods such as arais, khachapuri, risotto, and smoked meat from the nearby Haashkenazi, which offers a cheaper “dine in a pita” opportunity.
Facebook: Hashuk34, Haashkenazy, Afula. Kosher (not under supervision).

Gilboa Herb Farm Restaurant
The Gilboa Herb Farm is a romantic restaurant situated on the outskirts of the Gilboa not far from the hotel. It is based in an Alpine wooden structure with a wood fireplace and enjoys a view of the nearby valleys. The restaurant serves Israeli and Mediterranean food with many Italian choices made with fresh herbs from the garden. The use of aromatic ingredients is well felt in the food, such as herbs, truffles, etc., creating a sensual experience.
Gilboa Herb Farm Restaurant, Derech Nof HaGilboa, Highway 667. Not kosher, closed Sundays. herb-farm.co.il. Ph: 04-653-1093.

The writer was guest of the places mentioned in the article.