Tour Israel: The many things to do in the Kinneret

The tourism industry has gone to great efforts to adapt itself to modern trends; moreover, Israeli tourists have gotten much more selective over the years.

 The Kinneret (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The Kinneret
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

Most people believe that if you want to get to know a region, you have to jump from one tourist attraction to another – which can mean a lot of driving between each location. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a place that has so much going on that you can stay in the area all day long and not get bored. 

The tourism industry has gone to great efforts to adapt itself to modern trends; moreover, Israeli tourists have gotten much more selective over the years, which means that tourist entities really have their work cut out for them. 

Kibbutzim have gotten ahead of the curve and invested heavily in the tourism sector. For example, Kibbutz Kvutzat Kinneret, which sits on the southwestern corner of the country’s largest freshwater lake, recently opened Eretz Kinneret Tourism. They are offering a wide variety of options for visitors, such as heritage sites, a hotel, camping grounds, activities for kids and tours. The hotel located on-site, Ahuzat Ohalo, is a longstanding venue that recently underwent a major face-lift. It is managed by Guy Wolfman and offers 105 guest rooms.

1. Ahuzat Ohalo Hotel

For many years, Ahuzat Ohalo functioned as a youth village, but the site was redesigned as an upscale hotel, with a decorative lobby and a chef restaurant. However, it has two weak points. The first is that it does not have its own private beach, which means that you cannot walk straight down from the hotel to the shore. Secondly, it doesn’t have a pool – a serious drawback in the hot summer months. 

In an effort to draw more business, Ahuzat Ohalo provides its guests with free or reduced entrance to a number of attractions, such as a tour (NIS 10) of the Motor House Museum in the Naomi Shemer Eucalyptus Forest. The Motor House operated in the past as a water pump for irrigating fields in the Jordan Valley. Originally, the pump was powered by natural gas, and then switched to electricity once the kibbutz was connected to the electrical grid. 

 Ahuzat Ohalo Hotel (credit: MEITAL SHARABI) Ahuzat Ohalo Hotel (credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

There will also be a guided evening lantern tour along the coast of the Kinneret during which participants will hear interesting anecdotes about the history of the lake, and visit the cemetery where Naomi Shemer and the poet Rachel are buried. (NIS 40 adults; NIS 35 children over age three) 

Guests also can join a guided tour of the palm date and banana orchards; a night tour of the Jordan Valley; a Kinneret jungle tour; or a visit to Beit Shafriri, the house where Naomi Shemer lived. 

Rates at Ahuzat Ohalo: Weekdays: Starting at NIS 660 per couple, including breakfast. Weekends: Starting at NIS 740 per couple, including breakfast. Prices include free entrance to Rob Roy for canoeing and kayaking; and the water fountains at Beit Eyal at Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov.

2. Yardenit

There is a plethora of holy Christian sites near the Kinneret. One of the most important ones for Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land is the Yardenit, a tributary of the Jordan River. More than 500,000 Christian tourists visit the site every year to dip in the Yardenit, located between the Degania and Alumot dams, not far from Kvutzat Kinneret. 

According to Christian lore, Jesus was baptized at al-Maghtas, located in current-day Jordan. In 1981, the Tourism Ministry established Yardenit as an alternative pilgrimage site, and a visitor center was built there. To this day, you can see pilgrims being baptized in the cool river water. 

Hours: Sunday-Thursday, Saturday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Price: FreeDetails: (04) 675-9111

3. Yarden Kinneret Camping Site

Five minutes from the hotel is the Yarden Kinneret Camping Site, which has air-conditioned tents that can sleep up to 10 people. The tents are comfortable for sleeping all year long. There are also caravans on-site for rent for couples and families, as well as an area to pitch your own tent. You can rent a variety of items you might not have been able to bring from home or don’t own, such as mattresses, camping lanterns and barbecues. There’s also a bonfire pit, picnic tables, bathrooms with showers, electrical outlets and a snack bar. 

What makes this camping area unique, and gives it serious added value is its access to the Jordan River and the Kinneret, which are both just a few minutes away by foot. 

Prices: NIS 100 per car per day (Sunday-Wednesday); NIS 150 per car per day (Thursday-Friday until 8 p.m.)Air-conditioned tent: NIS 800Details: 050-466-8661

 Yarden Kinneret Camping Site (credit: MEITAL SHARABI) Yarden Kinneret Camping Site (credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

4. Rob Roy 

If you love canoes, you should definitely check out Rob Roy. Located next to Kibbutz Kvuzat Kinneret, it is one of the most beloved activities for kids in the area. The site, founded by Ma’ayan Bovrov and Guy Alon nearly 30 years ago, has welcomed thousands of visitors from Israel and overseas. The site was named for Rob Roy MacGregor (who was named after a relative – a Scottish outlaw with the same name who later became a folk hero) who explored the Jordan River in a canoe.

The canoe ride down the Jordan River is easy and slow, making it appropriate for families with kids (from age two). There are lots of places to stop on the banks of the river for a picnic or to hang out in the shade. You can paddle and go more quickly or just sit back and relax and let the current lead the way. The ride on the river is 3 km. and takes about 90 minutes. You can also stop along the way if you choose. 

Directions: Rob Roy is located 10 minutes south of Tiberias on Road 90. Turn off into Kibbutz Kvutzat Kinneret; after 300 m. turn left when you see the sign for Rob Roy. Price: NIS 150 for a two-person canoe; NIS 250 per family. Free for guests staying at Ahuzat Ohalo.Details: 052-241-3176

5. Arthur Café 

A three-minute drive from Ahuzat Ohalo is Arthur Café, a little coffee stand where you can purchase delicious coffee and enjoy the view of the gorgeous landscape. The Kinneret courtyard was one of the first plots that the KKL-JNF purchased before the State of Israel was established. For many years, this area was deserted. In 1908, it was used to train Jewish farmers who had settled in the area; it was developed only recently.

Ronen and Maor, the owners of the coffee stand, named their business after Arthur Ruppin, in recognition of the hard work he did to settle the land in this area. In addition to coffee, Arthur Café offers cold drinks, sandwiches, quiches, burekas and pastries. And at 5 p.m. every day they bake pizza and offer wine and beer. In the spring and summer, they host live concerts.

Hours: Open throughout the week,

6. Dates at Tnuvat Kinneret

Don’t leave the area before popping in to the Tnuvat Kinneret store in the industrial area of the kibbutz. Here, you can purchase nine types of dates, silan and other date-based products. In the shop, you can also purchase sweets, spices, nuts and locally sourced produce.

Hours: Sunday-Thursday, Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Details: (04) 675-9678

Translated by Hannah Hochner.