Taly's Travel: Springing into action in northern Israel

As Israel started opening up, we headed up North to see what we could find. With such beautiful landscapes, why bother going abroad?!

THE AUTHOR at the Ein Hermon spring. (courtesy) (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE AUTHOR at the Ein Hermon spring. (courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 As Israel started opening and the COVID-19 crisis began to ebb, we headed up North. We started at the Golan Heights and continued to Maayan Baruch, stayed at pampering cabins, rode new EZRaider electric all-terrain vehicles and ate delicious meals. We found the North in its peak of blooming. With such beautiful landscapes, why bother going abroad?!

Kibbutz Ortal Northern Landscapes Guest Houses
Kibbutz Ortal is situated in the heart of the Golan Heights. It is an excellent base to travel around, close to many travel sites. The kibbutz has varied sleeping options including from rooms and cabins, with glamping soon to be opened. We stayed at the wooden cabins tucked in an old pine forest. The spacious one-bedroom cabins have a kitchenette, a fireplace and a huge Jacuzzi with windows to the wooden porch and garden. It felt like they made sure the experience will be pampering including terry bathrobes and spa shoes in the bathroom, an espresso machine, and candles waiting near the Jacuzzi for a romantic evening.
A full buffet breakfast is served at the authentic kibbutz dining room, including a hotel-level warm buffet with food such as Greek salad, cherry tomatoes, cheeses, potatoes gratin, omelets and shakshuka. For the other meals, there are self-service barbecue facilities on premise and there are many restaurants nearby where one can dine or order a take away, which is what we did.
Ortal Northern Landscapes Guest Houses, Ortal, 04-696008 www.ortal.net/
LaPizzale at Merom Golan

We called LaPizzale in the evening. They sent us the menu on WhatsApp, which included pizza, pasta and salads. Within 30 minutes of our order, we had the food delivered to our cabin. We had pizza for two, a very good thin crust pizza, but the highlight was the ravioli. It consisted of sweet potato ravioli in cream and sweet potatoes topped with tossed almond chips – fresh homemade pasta with silky soft yummy sauce, we loved it! For dessert, we had soft Nutella buns, which we enjoyed very much.

LaPizzale, Merom Golan, 04-6960475, 050-9960476. Open Sunday-Thursday 16:00-24:00 (Saturday Motzash-24:00), Kosher. https://pizza-restaurant-1287.business.site/
One of the benefits of being at Ortal is that there’s plenty to do without leaving the kibbutz. One is to visit Ortal winery, Tel Shifon, seeing the vineyards and tasting wines. The other, which we did, is to take a Raiders tour of the kibbutz and surroundings.

Ortal Raiders
Ortal Raiders offers one-and-a-half hour EZRaider tours. EZRaider is a 4x4 electric scooter; it is extraordinary terrain traversable while quiet, which allows for quite an off-road trip. It is very steady, no license is required and driving is permissible age 16 years and up; there’s a child seat at the back for smaller children.
The experience of riding the EZRaider is exciting by itself, but the real excitement arrived after we crossed the cowshed and vineyards and left the kibbutz to the recently declared Ortal Nature Reserve. The reserve is stretched along a creek forming a small marsh area that is green year-round. We stopped at observation points to see the Bental, Avital and Hermon mountains, wind turbines, and the nearby plantations. As we drove, we crossed rugs of flowers, saw birds, boars, birds and bees. The blossom was extraordinary, fields of purple, pink white and yellow. This ride was the best and most beautiful part of our trip!
Ortal Raiders, Ortal, 052-5612293
Gilabun Ranch Steakhouse

A good trip makes one hungry; thus, we headed to the highly recommended nearby steakhouse, Gilabun Ranch. It is a kosher, informal, reasonably-priced steakhouse serving quality meat, located north of Katzrin (10 minute drive from Ortal). They serve hamburgers, sandwiches, poultry and beef and specially prepared meat cuts. I especially recommend the “farmers meal”, a mixed grill suitable for two (900 grams) but was enough for a family of three. It starts with the house warm bread with dips – nine small tapas (hummus, tahini, eggplant, beet, chimichurri, pesto, etc.) and continues with a warm bowl of varied meats (beef and chicken) served with two sides – salad and fries. We enjoyed every bite from the first to the last leaving no room for dessert. The restaurant has a wide outside seating place and an indoors cozier area and is great for a good meal after a trip in the nearby trails.
Gilabun Ranch, road 91, Hula Junction, near Glilion Hotel. 04-6850393. Open daily from 12:00-22:00 (closed during Shabbat time), Kosher. https://gilabun.net/
Before heading to our next destination, Maayan, we stopped at two locations – Ein Mokesh, a few minutes’ drive from Ortal, a large deep well of fresh water is a good place to jump in the cool water and swim in the hot days. The other stop was at Ein Hermon at elevation 1,000 meters. A 300 m. steep walk takes you toward a beautiful spring with an amazing view. I don’t recommend bathing in the water since it is used as trough for the sheep and cows that pasture around.

Maayan Resort Village

Maayan Baruch is well known for its groomed campground. Recently, the kibbutz opened a new, separate compound of huts. Eight modern huts, where each can sleep up to five people and is equipped with a kitchenette (no cooking), air conditioning, flat-TV with its own wooden dining table and barbecue facilities. A small creek crosses the village, forming shallow pools where the kids can play.
The location of the resort is excellent for a wet trip in the surrounding rivers, springs and Mount Hermon area including the surrounding wineries and restaurants. The hut compound is picturesque with the small creek crossing it so that we felt we could sit there all day, dip our feet in the water with a glass of wine in our hands.
Maayan Resort Village, Maayan Baruch, 077-2717518. www.maayanmb.co.il

Oz Patisserie at Gan Hatzafon

As we looked for breakfast we found ourselves at Oz Patisserie, an amazing French patisserie with a local flavor. Oz Shachari returned from an internship in Paris back to Maayan Baruch, where he opened a bakery with both sweet and savory pastries such as croissants, pies and cakes. It is a place not to be missed, so don’t miss the Asparagus-béchamel pastry and the Pistachio-raspberry croissant, you have my word for it.

Oz Patisserie, Gan Hatzafon, Maayan Baruch, 04-888-0915. Open Monday-Friday 7:00-14:00, Saturday 8:00-13:00, dairy, not kosher. https://www.facebook.com/Oz.shachari1465. Deliveries: www.limonada-store.com/oz
Klompus and Fai Mai at Gan Hatzafon

Not deciding between a stir fry or hamburger, the sister restaurants Klompus and Fai Mai at Gan Hatzafon near Maayan Baruch were the perfect place for us. The restaurants are informal self-service where we can order from both and then sat at Klompus. The ambience is of a diner, the hamburgers are well prepared and the stir fries are generous and delicious. We had a spicy salad, noodles with tender beef, and cashew chicken with rice, which were all made quickly and tasty.
Klompus, Fai Mai, Gan Hatzafon, Maayan Baruch, 072-2221243 Not kosher.

The writer was a guest of the sites.