Travel Guide: A Week In Israel On A Budget

Travel Guide: A Week In Israel On A Budget

Hoping to skirt this chilly weather? It’s the perfect time to spend time in warmer climes, and perhaps take that long-dreamt about trip to Israel.

Lately, Icelandic-based Wow Airlines have posted off-season fares to/from Tel-Aviv Toronto, for as little as $400 – less than half of any other airline, on a good week. Now, one week in Israel could run as low as $1,000 all-in.

Adventure

For the thrill-seeker, the go-to contact is Tel Aviv-based Israel Extreme. Their offerings across the country include skydiving, rafting and kayaking, jeep tours, rock climbing, rappelling, para-gliding, zip-lining and other activities to get the adrenaline pumping.

One of the more famous shooting/military ranges open to the public is Caliber 3, located about 23 km south of Jerusalem. There, you can indulge in Urban Combat Paintball, take Counter Terror and Urban Warfare courses, or a variety of other training scenarios taught by former Israeli combat soldiers. (Jerry Seinfeld recently visited with his family, in fact)

Touring

Trip Advisor online offers reasonably priced day-tours from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, to a variety of destinations.

One of them includes the combo Caesaria, Acre, the stunning Bahaii Gardens in Haifa, Rosh Hanikrah tour for $130, beginning at 7:45am and ending at 5:45pm.

The trip includes the port-side natural rock formations and grottoes of Rosh Hanikrah. Truly majestic to watch the rushing sea waters splash through hollow crags. Close to the Lebanese border, Rosh Hanikrah was at one point home to the Peace Train. During World War Two, the train ran from Rosh Hanikrah, to Beirut, Syria and Jordan – but sadly, closed down around the time of Israel’s independence.

In Caesaria, see the first century Herodian Hippodrome, where horse races once took place (think Kentucky Derby, but with ancient stone auditorium seating). Also discovered and unearthed are ancient bath houses, intact busts and statues, two thousand year old mosaic flooring, Roman columns, and the recently-renovated first-century acoustically incredible amphitheatre.

And in Acre, the Crusader ramparts and ruins are a sight to see, and on this tour, they also brought us through dungeons.

It’s tough to beat a full day tour at $130, which includes fascinating tidbits from the guide, ample time to wander, and transportation.

An hour bus ride away is Jerusalem, and self-guided walking tours of landmarks can get you your fill, for free: the Wailing Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Arab shuk, David’s citadel, and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum) can together occupy a good couple of days.

Where to sleep

While every hotel has its own character and charm, one of the latest Tel Aviv delights is recently-launched Dave hotel, on Gordon Street. Its shtick is to add bizarre show-pieces in each room, such as a bulky vintage 1970s television set parked right beside the toilet.

Toss in a tableside daisy-yellow grandma-style rotary phone, a mint-green painted door, a package of complimentary candied sticks near the flatscreen stand, and a welcome note from the management, and right there’s four conversation pieces.

The main-floor lounge, with its wall-shelf library and caramel-coloured leather-clad smoking chairs, could easily sub-in for a scene with The Most Interesting Man In The World, posing with his Dos Equis beer.

Housed in a preserved Bauhaus building, it is steps away from Tel Aviv’s chic shopping/dining strips of Dizengoff, and Ben Yehuda streets, and a five minute walk from the beach. During its soft-launch, it had been offering half-price specials, $100 a room.

Food and Drink (Tel Aviv version)

For freshly made delicious food, stroll through the buzzing outdoor Carmel Market in Tel Aviv (or its grander-sized doppelganger in Jerusalem, Mahane Yehuda).

Both are a fab destination for fruits, breads, fish, legumes, freshly squeezed juices, and made to order street grub like Lebanese meat pizza or lamb kabob. Navigating through the sea of hundreds of people, and sampling the day’s fare, is all part of the experience.

For a taste of America, with that Mid-East flair, try Memphis, a burger joint on Carlebach Street, which has received raves on social media for its burger-pastrami combinations. Meanwhile, the newest burger disruptor, Eight, takes its name from how much each item on the menu costs – eight shekels ($2.80). There are chains in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

For authentic Israeli fare, check out the popular Hakosem, in the heart of Tel Aviv. There, you can order the obligatory falafel or shawarma, but also their signature Middle Eastern dish, the sabich sandwich: hard boiled egg, fried eggplant, salad, tahina and potatoes.

If chilling is your thing, kick back and relax with a cup of tea. The Wissotzky Tea company has been around since 1849, and it’s practically Israel’s national beverage, save Maccabee beer. Enter the Wissotzky Tea House, on Hashmoniam Street, to enjoy a fresh brew, or to grab any number of the exotic blends lining the walls.

For nighttime enjoyment, have a seat at the Roza Parks bar on Dizengoff St., where after 9:30pm you can buy yourself a beer, and your friend drinks for free (or vice versa).

So, whether it is sitting under the Mediterranean sun, seeing ancient ruins, getting a taste of Israeli food – now’s a great time to enjoy what the Holy Land has to offer.

By: Dave Gordon

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