This summer we’re taking you on a tour of Israel – by caravan!!!
As always, our tour is primarily to highlight a way of seeing Israel that might never have crossed your mind – yes, by caravan – as well as give you some great ideas on places and parks that might not typically make it to your bucket list of Israel destinations. And excuse us if we have a cracking time enjoying ourselves while we show you!
After last year’s crazy 32 day tour from Metulla to Eilat, you’ll be pleased to hear that we’re only heading out for 15 days this time! However, we’ll still be squeezing in some true delights, including some of Israel’s finest national parks, sea turtles, Dead Sea boat rides (yes, there is such a thing!), and heck, even some crocodiles! And all via caravan!
Now for a short commercial break: the tour is being kindly sponsored by Israel’s premier caravan firm, Nofey Moledet. They’ve kindly donated one of their family-sized caravans, and we’ll be sharing our experiences along the way. Join us for the ride – and watch out for the hashtag #IsraelByCaravan – it’ll be everywhere this summer!
Preparing for a caravan tour of Israel
Before we head out, there are a few basics you need to be aware of when driving a caravan in Israel. First of all, you need to ensure your car can tow a caravan, something which from 2016 seems to be a lot easier to do, what with a change in the law here in Israel. But if you have any doubts, check with the super-knowledgeable guys at Nofey Moledet.
Secondly, if you’re coming from abroad, they can also help you with a whole range of services, including airport pickup, finding you the right caravan, helping you build and plan your caravan tour in Israel, guidance in how to operate the caravan, as well as help in renting a towing car, if needed.
Day 1: Collecting the caravan and heading north!
So, after a long night catching Radiohead’s epic performance in Tel Aviv and celebrating with some after-party beers, it was a bit of a struggle to head out for Caesarea, where we had to go and pick up the caravan for our 15 days on the road…but after verifying everything was in order, we were soon hitched up and off we went, on our merry way! We actually headed out to our moshav in the Lower Galilee, where we picked up another couple of beautiful iGoogledIsrael kids, and then headed to Betzet Beach, the most northern beach in Israel!
Unhitching your caravan and getting all connected to the water and electricity supply takes a bit of getting used to (so it seems), but with some excellent assistance from the guys who run the park at Betzet Beach (Itamar and Soof), we were soon settled in for the night. And with the crashing waves of the Med just a few meters away, it wasn’t too long before three tired kids were flat on their backs…
First impressions of driving a caravan: it’s not the easiest drive in the world, and it’s hard to see what’s coming up on either side of you since the caravan pretty much blocks your rear view completely. So overtaking becomes very tricky, although when your towing a 1200kg caravan, overtaking isn’t something you’ll be doing too often…
Day 2: Enjoying Betzet Beach
When you wake up at the doorstep of one of Israel’s cutest beaches, the only thing you really need to worry about is whether or not you have enough sunscreen…and after downing some Cheerios the kids were definitely ready to splash on the old creamy stuff!
The sea was a bit on the wild side in the morning, but we still had some fun before heading back to the caravan to test out our cooking skills in the confines of a caravan (and with 5 of us, there was definitely some serious advancements in the management of personal space going on!). On the menu, shakshuka (a famed local dish made from eggs, tomatoes, onions, and plenty of spices)! I think to all of our astonishment, it actually came out very tasty!
After chilling out for a bit in the midday heat, we headed back to the beach to catch the last couple of hours of the sun. As usual, the kids teamed up and built some serious sand defenses to save the northern coastline from any immediate flooding, and we stayed at the water’s edge well into post-sundown bliss. With some serious showering and de-sanding going on in the showers at the beach itself, the day ended perfectly with some tasty shnitzel and chips.
Have to say, the guys at Betzet Beach are a friendly bunch, and pay close attention to their caravan customers. There are also some additional camping facilities within the beach grounds, but the area cordoned off for the caravans is a lot sweeter.
Day 3: Heading inland to the Upper Galilee!
After waking up slowly and enjoying the fruits of some expert air-conditioning tweaks, it was great to wake up to the sounds of the waves crashing in the not too far distance. And after scoffing down some biscuits and coffee, it wasn’t long before we were back on the beach, making our way along the numerous rock-pools that make up this part of Israel’s northern coastline. Just watching the kids ducking and diving among the waves made me realize what pure joy is all about…forget iPads, smartphones, and their XBox, get your kids out in the waves for some serious fun!
Once again we rustled up some home-cooking using the caravan’s gas stove, and yep, the gluten-free pasta coupled with some Neapolitan sauce and tuna chunks went down a treat! It gave us a bit of energy for the next phase in our journey – packing up and moving on to the Upper Galilee.
With some excellent assistance from the guys running the camping facilities at Betzet Beach, we were soon all hitched up and raring to go. However, I should add that the chemical toilets used on caravans are a bit of a bitch if they get fairly full; you have to lug it to the nearest public toilet to empty the humdinger of a load you and your family have created over the last couple of days. Not the nicest task you’ll find yourselves doing on a caravan tour of Israel!
Anyway, within a couple of hours we were at the delightful Meister Farm and Winery in the Upper Galilee, next to Rosh Pina. After a quick tour of the grounds by owner Itai, we were soon won over – what’s not to like about the endless fields of grapes, the cute swimming pool, endless shady corners, and the history-infused wine cellars! This place looks like a keeper!
With the hunger pangs taking over, we headed to nearby Rosh Pina (about 4-5 minutes drive) to eat out at AmBurger, a burger bar we’ve been dying to try for ages. And it didn’t disappoint, one of the best burgers in Israel it has to be said! Service could do with a bit of kick in the ass, but nothing to complain about on the food side! That was enough to wipe out the kids – see you tomorrow!
One word of warning: watch out for the Israelis who’ll drive by, roll down their windows, and shout out “How much doe it cost to rent for the day?! A definite “only in Israel” moment!
Day 4: Enjoying the Upper Galilee!
With the sun shining through the sunroofs of the caravan (damn it, have to remember to close them at night!), it was a fairly early start…but after finding some great, shaded hammocks, breakfast was a pleasurable few biscuits and some coffee.
After caving into demand and allotting the kids 30 minutes of Internet time (I have to say, in their defence, that they haven’t even watched the TV that comes with the caravan), me and the missus went for a stroll around the farm and winery. It’s a great little place, with lots going for it. And so it was, that we decided to stay for another night, to make it 3 nights in all – also moving on every 2 days looks like a bit more of a struggle, what with the connecting up the caravan and all the tasks involved with that. So, pretty sure we made the right decision!
Anyway, once the cool little pool was open (at 09:00), that was the last we saw of the kids – until I actually jumped in the pool myself at noon! When they finally let me go, it was back to the air-conditioning of the caravan to re:lax.
A bit later we conjured up some more pasta magic, before chilling out in the grounds of the campsite, and iGoogled Junior serenading us with his acoustic guitar. Tomorrow beckons, including some wine-tasting from the Meister winery!
Day 5: Rosh Pina – and plenty of alcohol!
So, Day 5 already!
With a quick chillout in the hammocks followed by some scrambled eggs and baguettes, it was time to head to the pool again! And with a visit from the kids’ Israeli cousins soon upon us, it was time to hit the Lambrusco at noon-time!
With the hunger pangs hitting hard – and with no real desire to cook for 10 (including the cousins of course) within the confines of a caravan – we headed out to Rosh Pina, a quick 5 minute drive up the road.
We settled in at a great little chef restaurant called Pina B’Rosh, high up in the old city of Rosh Pina. Great, great food, big view, big portions, and a biggish bill too! But all in all, highly recommended!
It was a hot one today, and despite the beauty of the old city of Rosh Pina it was the constant hunt for shade and air-conditioning that drove us back to the Meister Farm, as we bid a fond farewell to the cousins.
Once back at the Meister Farm, we were invited over to taste some of the home-produced wine by owner Itai. Very tasty it was too, and we also learnt a few tricks about wine and how NOT to be a complete snob (or how to spot a wine-snob, to be more precise). We shared a couple of our beers from our beer sponsor, the Tavor Brewery, which went down pretty well too.
With all parties content and just buzzing a wee bit, it was time to feed the kids (had almost forgotten they were with us…). Shakshuka was again on the menu, with an all-round team effort, and great it was too! After that, and after polishing off the last wine of glass Itai had given us, there was only one place to go – bed!
Day 6: Moving on up to Horshat Tal!
After waking up fairly late, we scoffed down some biscuits and coffee, before jumping into the pool for our last session before departing the Meister Farm.
This time was a bit easier to prepare for take-off, since we didn’t have a stonking huge gazebo and chairs to fold up and store in the caravan. It was a quick storing away of all things moveable in the caravan (locking things away in secure cupboards to they don’t fly about when you go over bumps), and a quick connection to the car, thanks to Itai once again.
The next stop was Horshat Tal, a national park in the Upper Galilee region, next to Kiryat Shmona, and a quick 30 minute drive. We arrived mid-afternoon, managing to find ourselves a great spot – the caravan area is actually located well away from the main campground, so you have a bit of seclusion, and peace and quiet.
Me and the kids checked out the main pool – and wow, was the water bloody freezing or what!?! Even on a hot day at the end of July, it was completely freezing! The kids weren’t that taken with it to be honest, but the smaller rivers that surround the pool and seem to be found throughout the park, did catch their attention.
As the pool and its lifeguards closed around 18:00, we headed back to the caravan for some more home-cooking – Crikey, we’re getting good at this caravan culinary stuff – before heading out to the nearby river and the surrounding area for a bit of a wander.
One word of warning – this place seems to be Mosquito City! They seem to be bloody everywhere, so don’t forget to stock up on mosquito repellent! In fact, make that insect repellent, there are bugs everywhere!
Day 7: Exploring Horshat Tal
Waking up to the sound of the mini-waterfalls of Horshat Tal isn’t the worst possible way to start your day…and with a quick shave to make meself more presentable (after a week of failing to pull my razor out), I was rocking the morning!
Me and the kids headed once more to the main pool and rivers of Horshat Tal (which, by the way, is translated as Dew Grove), while Mrs iGoogled stayed in the air-conditioned bliss of the caravan. Although, of course, she didn’t get any ice-cream!
The park itself is quite charming – there are some amazing oak trees that are spread throughout the park grounds, some in worse shape than others, and some with huge supporting beams to stop them tumbling to the ground. And the main pool is very refreshing it has to be said, but be prepared – the waters that apparently originate from the Dan stream are mighty cold – and also in the small streams that run throughout the park!
After getting showered and brushed up, we headed to the local version of Pasta Basta, a great value pasta restaurant that we first came across last year in Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. And yep, it’s still great value – the 5 of us ate pasta and salad, with drinks (including a beer for moi) and dessert included, all for 174 shekels. Pretty damned good!
With the day drawing to an end, we stocked up on some food stuffs again – something you need to bear in mind when caravanning, as the fridge in most caravans is fairly small, and so you can only think about the next 24-36 hours in terms of chilled items, like milk and cheese.
Day 8: Chillout and steaks!
After waking up with the usual coffee and biscuits (are you in tune with our morning routine yet?!), the morning was mostly a chillout morning, with some brunch-time shakshuka once again testing our caravan cooking skills. With the kids enjoying the streams 100m from the caravan, me and Mrs iGoogled escaped the heat thanks to the air-conditioning of the caravan – yep, it’s bloody hot in Israel these days, but what did we truly expect at the end of July???
A little later, with the evening fast approaching, we headed out to Metulla to our favorite restaurant in the far north, Knaipeh! Owner Avraham spoilt us and the kids in his great little place overlooking the kiwi orchards of Metulla, and it was a great way to end the day. With the kids truly flakers, it wasn’t long before we joined them! Tomorrow we leave the far north and head to – the Dead Sea!
Day 9: Dead Sea here we come!
With a long day’s drive ahead of us, we started with the coffee and bikkies fairly early, and then packed up the caravan and prepared it for take-off. To be honest, this is one of the bummer moments, packing up everything and moving on, but I guess it’s the same even if we weren’t with a caravan. In fact, we can store most things in the caravan’s cupboards, so it’s mostly just a matter of making sure the cupboards are locked down and nothing big and heavy is free to fall while we tow it to the next stop.
With our destination being a 3-hour drive down to the Dead Sea, we headed down Road 90 – with a quick pitstop in our moshav in the Lower Galilee to pick up a few small things. The ride down Road 90 was a bit easier than I expected, although I have to mention that towing a caravan requires a level of concentration that becomes almost draining.
We eventually arrived at the Khan Ein Gedi campsite around 5, and with the sun speedily sinking behind the Dead Sea mountains, we quickly got unhitched from the car and all set up. The campsite is pretty decent, with a great chillout area that includes a free table-tennis table, a pool table, and beers and pizza 24/7. And OMG, free wifi – the first place on our tour that had wifi for all!
We’ll be exploring Ein Gedi tomorrow, thanks to lovely local Victoria’s tips!
Day 10: Falling in love with Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea!
With the coffee and biscuits out of the way, we checked with owner Ben on where and what to see and do. He told us that we could access the kibbutz since we were guests of the Khan (it sits right outside the entrance to Kibbutz Ein Gedi), so we hit the local makolet (minimarket) to stock up on some much-needed supplies – it was a Saturday, but this is kibbutz life apparently, where they have a small 2-3 hour window in which the makolet is open – great idea if you ask me!
We then hit the kibbutz pool, which was fantastic! The kids loved it, we loved it, and with a backdrop of the Dead Sea and Jordanian mountains, this pool has to be one of the best in Israel! It might be stuck in the middle of nowhere, but the locals sure have it good.
With the desert sun still burning strongly (and it being around 5pm), we decided to float in the Dead Sea and head to one of the Dead Sea’s secret beaches, Nahal Madrogot. I’m not going to give too much away here, but this is one of the best spots in the Dead Sea, with a small and cool natural pool nearby to rinse off all that salt. It’s not easy to get to, but our jeep definitely made it a lot easier (of course, the caravan didn’t come with us!). You can always park your car at the side of the road (Road 90, just a few meters south of the Israeli checkpoint) and head down by foot, just don’t do it in the midday sun…
Heading back in the dusk, we wrapped up the day with another classic shakshuka before the kids konked out. Me and Mrs iGoogled sat out under our gazebo (minus the canvas roof, as the wind was picking it up and threatening to send it to Jordan), and chilled out with some wine and chat and some amazing desert stars. A great day, and yep, we’re falling in love with the Dead Sea!
Day 11: Hiking the magnificent Nahal David
With the desert sun beating down from the early morning – but with a stunning vista of the Dead Sea on our doorstep to compensate – it was a bit of a lazy morning, mostly enjoying the confines of the caravan to the full!
What can I tell you, caravanning is where you get to test your personal boundaries and those of your family members…it can actually be a great bonding experience, but it can also be very demanding. Especially in the searing July heat in Israel, and with very little to do outside because it’s just too hot. All in all, we’ve got along great, and the kids have had some amazing bonding moments – plus, of course, the odd sibling fight that almost ended in the police being called…here’s a taste of what life in the caravan is like>>>
Around 2:30 we left for the Nahal David water hike, just 5 minutes drive from the Khan. It actually closes its doors to hikers at 3pm, so despite the heat, I knew it would probably be best to get there before closing and enjoy a couple of hours of late afternoon sun. And wow, what a great hike it is, surely one of the best in Israel! The first waterfall is only a 5-minute walk from the entrance, and a much-needed chillout zone it is! With numerous other small waterfalls and shady tunnels to walk through along this trek, it’s fairly easy to do and perfect for smallish kids too – very highly recommended!
As the shakshuka sous chef was on strike tonight, we ate some of the Khan pizza, which is pretty decent and the kids loved it, which is the main thing I guess. As they escaped their mother’s bosom and went out into the twilight hours (meaning: riding toy scooters and trumbling down stony paths…and falling off with cuts and bruises added to the mix), me and Mrs iGoogled relaxed with some vino and some chat, before calling it a day – I’ve got a sunrise start in the morning, and funnily enough, despite the godawful earliness, am really looking forward to it!
Day 12: Dead Sea boat rides – and then onto the desert!
Waking up at 4:30am is never something I can recommend, but if it’s to take on a Dead Sea boat trip at sunrise, I’ll recommend it all day long! This one was a solo trip, with just me and the cameras at work (on reflection, I don’t think there’s any way in this world that I’d manage to get all 5 of us out on the road before 5am!).
At 5:15 I met up with Noam Bedein, a photojournalist who is documenting the alarming rate at which the level of the Dead Sea is fast declining (more here). He runs a unique awareness boat ride, which takes both tourists and locals out along the coastline in order to highlight the rapidly falling sea levels. Just so you know, at the present rate there will be just a small pool of salt water left in the year 2050. The tour is inspiring, visually awesome, and thought-provoking. Highly recommended – and yes, we are now big-time advocates of the Dead Sea and keeping it alive!
After returning to the Khan around 10, it was time to start the countdown for lift-off once again, as we prepared to move on to our next destination, an hour’s drive away further south. Once we were all hitched up to the car, we were on our merry way again, heading down south on Road 90.
We eventually arrived at Crokoloko in Ein HaTzeva in the afternoon, where we were pleasantly surprised to learn that another family from Germany we’d met at the Khan in Ein Gedi has also just arrived. They were actually doing 3 weeks around Israel in a caravan, a fact that perhaps highlights the growing demand for caravan tours here in Israel.
After a quick dip in the hand-built pool, we head out to the local makolet once again to stock up on some supplies, and then turned our minds to a juicy pasta dinner…
The night was a toughie though, mainly because of a lack of air-conditioning on an awfully hot night. It seems we finally succumbed to not lining up our caravan on a completely flat surface, a crucial factor for caravans and the water / cooling systems. Because of the sight angle we had parked, the AC was now dripping on Mrs iGoogled’s head. Which, surprisingly enough, she wasn’t very chuffed about. So we switched off the AC, opened the windows, and sweated our asses off all night…not a pretty sight!
Day 13: Hot hot hot – and the birth of a croc!
After suffering all night, as soon as the coffee and bikkies were downed it was time to move the caravan, to try and align it as straight as possible. It’s a bit of a pain moving the caravan only a couple of meters, but for some air-conditioning bliss, it had to be done.
With the hunger pangs hitting fever pitch, it was time to head for some local cuisine. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options in the area around HaTzeva, where Crokoloko is located, so we ended up at the local Aroma (an Israeli cafe chain). Which actually wasn’t too bad, especially after washing everything down with an iced coffee with cookies…and OMG, the air-conditioning. I swear I had to drag Mrs iGoogled out of there…
The kids then spent some quality time in the pool together, with Daniel the youngest getting even more cuts and bruises to add to his collection – he seems to be on a mission to have a reminder of each site we visit in the form of an injury!
Around 7, we headed to the Crokoloko crocodile farm, whose owner Orit rents out the caravan parking area to visiting caravaners. She did a great job of explaining everything nice and easy (for both parents and kids), but the real showstopper was seeing the amazing birth of a croc, right before our very eyes! Highly recommended if you’re in the area, or passing on your way down to Eilat – although hatching season is only in July/August apparently.
The night ended with some more glorious shakshuka – and yes, the AC is back! It was also our first night totally alone – no other caravans/campers in sight, and actually quite spooky as there was absolutely nothing nearby (not even a distant light to cling to for hope…). But if you love the solitude and the camping lifestyle, this place is for you!
Day 14: Day trip to Eilat
With Eilat being just over 90 minutes away – and the Red Sea calling my name hard – we decided to pop down to Eilat for some RnR. The August Negev heat had taken its toll, and now we were in need of some shopping and snorkeling!
Eilat is about 150km from Crokoloko, and the drive through some stunning desert scenery is always a nice one. We had thought about camping at Timna Park, another option for caravans, but decided to leave the caravan where it was and drive back from Eilat in the evening.
Shopping was done at breakneck speed, before we headed to Coral Beach for some snorkeling – Mrs iGoogled continued on with her shopping expedition, while me and the kids enjoyed the treasures of the sea. We actually bumped into the German caravaners once again, who were actually snorkeling at Coral Beach too (they had moved on to Timna Park)! To be honest though, not too impressed with Coral Beach, I’d say the other beaches close by are better, especially my fave beach, Migdal Or.
To celebrate our last night on the road, we headed to Barbis, one of Eilat’s premier burger joints. We weren’t disappointed either, great burgers! And with that, we were back on the road to Crokoloko, for our last in the wilderness. The kids konked out quickly, and we quickly followed…
Day 15: Heading home!
Waking up on your last day of an adventure/vacation always induces mixed feelings. On the one hand, you just want to get home and back to your familiar surroundings; on the other hand, you want the adventure to continue just that little bit longer. But to be completely honest, I think the majority of us were keen to get back as quickly as possible – the kids had friends’ birthday parties they wanted to get back for, Mrs iGoogled was missing her bed and the strong water pressure of our shower back home, and I was fairly relieved to hand back the caravan in one piece!
So we packed up everything fairly quickly, said goodbye to Orit from Crokoloko, and started the long drive home. The most daunting part was the climb up to Dimona on Road 25 – not easy for a regular car, but when you’re also towing a caravan, it gets kinda humiliating when huge semi-trailers overtake you…
After minimal stops for leg stretching and pee pee, we finally made it to the Nofey Moledet offices near Caesarea, where Maor and his brother, the owners of Nofey Moledet, were waiting for us. After recounting some of our tales, we handed them the keys to our caravan, and were on our way home!