Tour Israel: Emek Hama’ayanot adventures

When your tummy begins to grumble, you’ll know it’s time to go to Ethiopian Experience, located just behind the Delek gas station.

TAKE A load off at Olive Gilboa Mountain Hotel. (photo credit: YUVAL HANDLER)
TAKE A load off at Olive Gilboa Mountain Hotel.
(photo credit: YUVAL HANDLER)
One of my favorite destinations in Israel is Emek Hama’ayanot in the Beit She’an Valley. There are endless activities for the whole family spread out over a sprawling and beautiful area that makes you feel like you’re vacationing in Switzerland. This newly energized tourist destination, with its plethora of natural gems, has in recent years become a popular destination for Israeli travelers.
If you’re excited to spend the day in glorious nature and splash around in the water but you’d rather not have to pay any entry fees, then I recommend going straight to Emek Hama’ayanot, where you can relax and wade in three springs that are accessible throughout the year. You can rent electric golf carts or bicycles (or bring your own from home) to explore the park, as it stretches over a huge territory and isn’t accessible by foot, especially if you want to reach more than one spring.
Inside the park, there are fish pools, heritage sites and fields full of growing vegetables. You can see and hear birds flying overhead, and relax in the cool water during hot months or on a pleasant trip out into nature during colder months.
The most popular attraction in Emek Hama’ayanot, among both adults and kids, is walking inside the water along the short path. As you slog along with your friends and family, you can imagine that you’re walking inside a jungle.
The most well-known site in the region is Sakhne (aka Gan Hashlosha) where visitors can enjoy natural pools of refreshing clear water that remain at a perfect 28° all year long. And if you haven’t visited Sakhne since the 1980s, then you’re in for a big surprise, as the site has been totally upgraded. Sakhne is a wonderful place to spend the day swimming, lounging in the shade, enjoying a picnic or playing on the jungle gyms. The site recently inaugurated a new garden path with wheelchair access, which meanders for 300 meters alongside the stream and past the ancient flour mill.
There’s also a museum on-site that commemorates the Stock and Tower heritage from the early years of the state, including a rousing film that creates the illusion of being back in time and experiencing the fighting going on during the creation of Israel. Visitors can climb on the tower and view how settlers lived during the early years, including tools and objects left over from that time period. In another wing, visitors can view archeological items from various periods that were uncovered during excavations.
Price: Adults, NIS 39; Children 5-14, NIS 24
When your tummy begins to grumble, you’ll know it’s time to go to Ethiopian Experience, located just behind the Delek gas station. There, you’ll find a magical world where you’ll get to have a taste of what it was like for Jews living in Ethiopia. Chava Almo, who runs the site, tells groups her own fascinating and heart-wrenching story of how she and her family made their way to Israel. Guests are treated to a traditional coffee ceremony and learn how to dance Ethiopian style. There are also plenty of food stalls where you can buy kosher Ethiopian delicacies, as well as beautiful crafts. This is certainly one of the most unique experiences you can take your family to, and you won’t be forgetting Almo’s story anytime soon.
Reservations: (04) 653-4432
From there, you can continue on to Kibbutz Ma’aleh Gilboa, where you can gaze up at the 14 wind turbines towering at 75 meters high on Shlomo Meltzer’s wind farm. Visitors can watch a film and learn how the turbines create electricity.
Details: 052-811-4645
And at the end of an exhilarating yet exhausting day, you’ll be happy to know that instead of driving all the way back home, you can stay overnight at the Olive Gilboa Mountain Hotel, which recently opened its doors to the public. The boutique hotel, which sits atop the mountain and overlooks the Harod, Yizre’el and Hama’ayanot Valleys, has 42 guest rooms and two family villas offering large rooms that can accommodate up to five people each. Guests are of course welcome to take advantage of the hotel’s gorgeous pool.
Although the hotel is still being renovated, which means that guests take their meals in a temporary dining hall, you can still enjoy the hotel’s finished areas and the wonderful views of the surrounding lush green valleys as you sip good wine and relax in the evening.
Location: Nof Gilboa Road, Gilboa
Reservations: (04) 957-7333
Translated by Hannah Hochner.