Pleasant northern diversions for all ages

Of course, the calm Hatzbani River is nothing like rapids on the Amazon or Colorado Rivers, but it is a great experience for families to learn how to row together as a team.

The Hagoshrim hotel Hotel is the former winter palace of the Ottoman ruler Amir Fa’ur (photo credit: ADI PERETZ)
The Hagoshrim hotel Hotel is the former winter palace of the Ottoman ruler Amir Fa’ur
(photo credit: ADI PERETZ)
It can be challenging at times taking trips with young children. It’s not always so easy to find a place where the kids can feel free to behave like kids, but that’s also relatively nice and clean.
As a result, many parents decide to forgo their comfort so that they can be in a place with a variety of fun activities for children. Luckily, a number of hotels in Israel have begun catering to young families, including Hagoshrim Hotel & Nature, which happens to be my favorite boutique hotel in northern Israel.
Hagoshrim Hotel
The hotel has an eclectic history. The building was the romantic winter palace of the Amir Fa’ur, the Ottoman ruler of the area, who sold it JNF-KKL in 1940. The hotel is near the Hatzbani River, has a fantastic trail that leads to the Hidden River, and has 194 rooms (some of which have been recently renovated) spread around the spacious campus and beautiful, open grounds.
The rooms in one wing are suitable for business travelers and couples, whereas rooms in a different wing are more suitable for families. Recently, Hagoshrim has even added eight premium suites that offer the ultimate luxury experience. In addition to nice rooms, in September the hotel opened its Fiorina Spa, which includes treatment rooms, a pleasant waiting area, health and cosmetic treatments, a Turkish Hamam, and a sauna. There’s also an outdoor balcony with a Jacuzzi and sunning beds.
Because the hotel is divided into wings, and the rooms are not all located in one central building, it’s quite fun to wander around trying to understand how all the different parts fit together, and the sculptures created by local Kibbutz HaGoshrim artist Aryeh Ashkenazi have been placed in niches around the campus.
If you feel like going out on a hike, the trail that leads to the Hidden River leaves right from the hotel (just follow the signs) and passes by a flour mill, a small waterfall, an electricity plant and Koren Pool.
If you’d like to take this walk on your own, just pick up a map at the hotel lobby. If you’d prefer a guided tour, the concierge at the hotel will let you know what time the next tour leaves. It only takes one hour to traverse this circular trail, which is suitable for families with young children, and it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable activities available in the area.
Maayan Hagoshrim Kayaks
That’s not all – there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Some people love to just relax and enjoy the quiet of nature, but if you’re the type of person who likes to keep active, or if your kids are excited to go out on a fun outing, then I recommend Maayan Hagoshrim Kayaks, where you can float down the Hatzbani River. Along the way, you’ll get to see all the unique vegetation that lines the riverbanks. There are two waterways you can choose from: the first one, which is about five kilometers long, commences in Kibbutz Hagoshrim and ends at Hama’ayan parking area. It was designed for families, takes about 90 minutes from start to finish, and goes through relatively shallow and slowly flowing water. You will be brought to the starting point on a shuttle that leaves from the parking area.
The second waterway, which is a bit more challenging and also longer, begins at the Maayan Baruch parking area. The waterway is about six kilometers long, and takes about two hours to ride down. It’s more suitable for people looking for a bit of a challenge, since it includes small waterfalls and faster currents. This rivulet joins the first path part of the way through. Of course, the calm Hatzbani River is nothing like rapids on the Amazon or Colorado Rivers, but it is a great experience for families to learn how to row together as a team, and refrain from crashing into the brush on the sides. Of course the water’s not cold like in Scandinavia, so it’s not the end of the world if you fall in the water.
In addition to kayaking at the Maayan camping site, visitors are welcome to spread out a sheet on the grass or sit at a picnic table for a quick meal. Alternatively, you could set up tents and camp there out for the night. The camping site is equipped with bathrooms, showers, and electrical outlets, plus a snack bar that is open all day long.
Price to stay overnight: NIS 70 per person.
Price for kayaking: NIS 95 per person on family waterway and NIS 115 per person on challenging waterway.
Purchase tickets online for discounts.
Details: 077-271-7500.
Shulman’s Chocolate Museum
Another great place to visit – especially if you’re a chocolate lover, as I am – is Shulman’s Chocolate Museum in Kibbutz Dafna. The museum offers two main attractions: a tour of the museum and a chocolate- making workshop. Shulman Dimitri (41) who made aliya from Belarus, began making chocolate 12 years ago when his wife was pregnant and was craving chocolate every hour of the day and night. So he took a beginner’s chocolate-making course and absolutely fell in love with the whole business and soon found himself enrolled in a professional chocolate training course in Germany.
Location: Golan Heights Length: Two days Season: All year long Difficulty: Easy, appropriate for families Type of tour: Involves short walks Hagoshrim Hotel: Prices for a couple in May & June, including breakfast, mid-week, runs from NIS 930 to NIS 1,580 (depending on type of room).
On weekends, from NIS 1,140 to NIS 1,790 (minimum 2 nights).
Hotel guests also receive discounts on attractions in the area: 20% at Maayan Hagoshrim Kayaks; 10% on Club Carts and 25% on bikes at Tiyulei Dan; 15% off of Shulman’s Chocolate Museum.
Directions: Drive north on Road 90. Turn onto Road 99 and continue until you reach Kibbutz Hagoshrim.
Follow signs to the hotel. 25 After he completed his chocolatier degree, Shulman opened up a little studio in Kiryat Shmona where he began preparing chocolate delicacies for family members. Slowly, he began expanding his business, and four years ago he opened the Shulman Chocolate Museum and the studio where he makes his chocolate creations today.
During the tour of the museum, which starts on the hour every hour, guests watch a movie that explains the entire process of how chocolate is created from a bean. During the workshop, guests can create a work of art made completely from chocolate and truffles.
Hours: Open every day (except Sundays) from 10:00 to 17:00, Fridays 9:00 to 15:00.
Self-guided tour: NIS 10 (includes movie) Guided tour: NIS 23 Workshop: NIS 55
Club Carts
Another fun option for families that are looking to get out into nature a little, but don’t want to walk too far since their kids are too small, or they aren’t up to the physical effort required, is to take a trip in a club cart. Yes, I’m talking about the kind of small electric golf cart that you see seniors driving around on kibbutz. Kibbutz Dan decided to offer these cars to families, too, so that not only people on ATVs can scoot around the beautiful forest area.
Club cart tours begin at Tiyulei Dan and guides will take you and the whole family on a relaxing ride where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery as you pass by the kibbutz’s fruit orchards, cowsheds, and fishponds where trout frolic about. Later on during the tour, you’ll be able to view the Dov and Hermon Mountains, and stop for a dip in the cool waters of the Dan River (it’s snow melting from the mountain), which is very refreshing on a hot day. The guide makes a few stops along the way during which guests will hear a brief explanation about the area, and maybe even have a chance to brew a pot of herbal tea made from freshly picked herbs.
Price: NIS 260 for a family club cart.
Details: 054-784-4964 or 054-784-4677. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.