Have you ever stayed in a hotel built around an archaeological park? For me, a short stay in Magdala resort hotel near Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) was a first – and yes, it is as impressive as it sounds.
But this is not the only attraction here. Concerts held on weekends in this spiritual center overlooking the Kinneret are another hard-to-resist reason to visit. But the most obvious attraction of course, is the proximity to the Kinneret itself. I found a bench overlooking the lake where I spent a relaxing hour, so necessary yet so rare these days.
Privately owned, this hotel was first designed mostly to host Christian pilgrims, but when it was reopened after the COVID-19 closures, it was adapted to be more suitable for Israeli families. That said, please note that the food is not kosher.
The beautiful common areas of the hotel, the spiritual center, the view of the Kinneret and the nearby beach (with no lifeguard), the warm hospitality, and the impressive historical site make this hotel a place to remember.
Very different from any other hotel in Israel, this tourism center was opened in 2019, after seven years of building. There are 150 rooms spread in two-story buildings, with half of the rooms overlooking the large garden situated in the middle. Some of the other rooms have a sea view, especially from the porches.
During the weekdays the hotel is very quiet, and the good-sized swimming pool is usually quite empty. But on weekends and holidays, families with young kids fill up the pool from the early hours of the morning. There’s a nice gym for those who want to exercise, I found a morning walk by the lake to be very satisfying.
The dining room is open throughout the day, serving breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The buffet is rich offering fresh produce, dairy delicacies, some artisanal cheese and bread prepared by locals. Staying here only for one night, we couldn’t check out all the delicious looking dishes, unfortunately, but everything we did try was very good and up to the standard of the best of local hotels (except for the coffee, but that is another story).
You can see the Duc In Altum church from the large windows of the lobby. Concerts are held here almost every Friday, and with the view of the Kinneret at sundown – they are certainly one of the highlights of the stay in Magdala.
Seven years to build
For many years there was a family cabin-hotel on this site called Hawaii Beach. Sold at some point to entrepreneurs who wanted to build a luxury hotel at the location, it was supposed to open in 2012. But when the entrepreneurs began building, amazing archaeological artifacts were discovered, meaning that building was forced to halt. The excavations revealed Magdala, a thriving Jewish fishing city from the first century. The discoveries tell a story of a thriving community that lived here, and a large city, with a market in its center, an ancient synagogue, and the Magdala Stone (see box).
In the middle of the lobby of the hotel there’s a reconstructed fish-salting pool, which was moved here from where it stood in the first century – the middle of the market of the ancient city. Outside there are beautifully designed gardens with water features that are lighted at night adding romance to the enchanted atmosphere.
Besides the Kinneret, the main attractions are the archaeological findings, such as a synagogue from the first century, considered the best preserved synagogue in the Galilee from the Second Temple period. As part of the synagogue is the Magdala stone, one of Israel’s most exciting archaeological discoveries in the last 50 years. What you see now is the replica of the stone which is showing in major exhibitions around the world and will return to Israel eventually.
We got a very pampering suite, which was large, with a luxurious bathroom, huge bed, a sitting area, and a porch, all designed using natural, appealing colors and materials, which we loved. The bed was very comfortable and beddings of excellent quality.
I took a peek in other rooms too, and they all looked very comfortable and beautifully designed.
I spoke to a few families who were in the hotel when I was there and they were very satisfied with the facilities, the pool was a great attraction as was the kids playroom and the food options.
Magdala was named one of 10 leading tourism sites in the Middle East by Tripadvisor for 2023. The Tripadvisor grading is done by visitors, and the hotel, graded 17 last year, made it into the top 10 for this year.
It is a quiet hotel, and that suited me very well. No loud speakers playing music by the pool, no long lines waiting at the breakfast buffet, and no running in the corridors. I loved it.
The impressive archaeological site is a good enough reason to come here, the concerts in a peaceful spiritual center are another reason, but it is really the location and the warm and efficient hospitality that will make your stay in Magdala Hotel so enjoyable.
Many say that the best time to enjoy the Kinneret is in the fall. Already not as hot as last month, the lake is peaceful and sun less scorching. That said, it can be difficult to find rooms during the holidays, so do try to book your vacation as early as possible.
Magdala Hotel, TiberiasMigdal Junction, (04) 620-99-00 / 074-7003204www.magdalahotel.com
The writer was a guest of the hotel.