With nature trails calling, it’s time to walk the walk
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With nature trails calling, it’s time to walk the walk

Some advice on how to hike, glamp, bike and horseback ride around the country

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

A 40th birthday celebration courtesy of Glamping Israel, which can supply everything, from activities and accommodations to local foods and drink (Courtesy Glamping Israel)
A 40th birthday celebration courtesy of Glamping Israel, which can supply everything, from activities and accommodations to local foods and drink (Courtesy Glamping Israel)

It’s getting hot out there — summertime hot, that steamy season when al fresco activities like grassy picnics and sandy beach walks, meandering bike rides and camping trips beckon. (Along with plenty of more civilized outdoor options for those of us who don’t do as well with grass-side lounging or tent living.)

We’ve assembled an assortment of warm weather activities; some are more suited to longer vacations, while others are doable on a long Friday or following a work day, when the sun is dropping and the air’s a little cooler.

Take a gander, and consider at least one of them. You’ll be glad you did.

1) Love hiking but get confused by local maps printed in Hebrew? Erez Speiser can commiserate. Speiser is a native-born Israeli who treks throughout Israel and abroad, and has experienced the frustrations of hiking in foreign climes without a map because he didn’t speak the local lingua. He decided that Israel, land of the hikers, needed its own proper hiking guide in English.

The mechanical engineer created “Israel By Foot,” a website dedicated to local hikes. There are 13 hikes listed so far, and Speiser plans on adding one each month. The site mimics other hiking sites, with plenty of helpful information, including level of difficulty, distance, recommended months in terms of weather, maps and directions. Five dollars will get you premium information, including a topographical map, a GPS track file and other treats, but Speiser said there’s enough information available on the site to “hike for free.” There are also discounts when buying 5-9 hikes or 10 or more trips.

2) Ever wanted to see Israel from the back of a horse? Then there’s cantering in your future  with Sirin Riders, a horseback riding operation run by Yair Sharet, a kibbutznik (and grandson of former prime minister Moshe Sharet), who returned to his beloved horses after years of running corporate marketing departments. Sharet offers week-long tours of Israel by horseback to a fairly self-selected group of tourists who can handle a week on a horse.

“Horses are the vehicle,” said Sharet. “They allow you to see things that you couldn’t see otherwise.”

He also offers half-day riding tours, more appropriate for non-riders, or those of us who are less accustomed to touring via saddle. It’s not a one-hour ride on a horse, but rather a half day that includes some practice riding and then a short tour, for $160 per person.

An aerial view of the stars and Tourism Ministry glamping tent set up temporarily in the Ramon Crater as part of an international marketing campaign. (Courtesy, Daniel Bear)

3) Charmed by camping, but you’d rather catch some zzz’s on 400-thread count sheets? We get your drift. That’s where Glamping Israel comes into the picture, with personalized, luxurious camping adventures created by Itay Kadish Katz. Kadish Katz started out creating wedding events out in nature, until he got a phone call from a client asking him to work his magic on a family camping trip. The rest is glamping history.

Once Kadish Katz heard about the glamping concept from an uncle in the US, he remade his company into the Israeli version, complete with luxury bed linen, plush rugs and Laurence of Arabia-like tents, or tepees, domes and yurts, if that’s more to your liking.

The luxuriously designed interior of the glamping tent (Courtesy Daniel Bear)

“I figured the tourists need me,” he said. “I can do it anywhere, at the highest levels, with local wines and food, attractions, everything for an entire vacation.”

Seven years later, Kadish Katz offers two types of glamping, customized, pop-up glamping camps that can be placed anywhere in the country and offer all the amenities, and the “happy glamper” for the younger crowd, a trailer already equipped with kitchen, music, wifi, sleeping accommodations, and everything else needed for hunkering down in the desert or the forest with your besties.

Prices start at NIS 1,500 ($429) per couple for the Happy Glamper, and vary widely for the more customized version of Glamping Israel. Call for a quote.

4) The Giro D’Italia is over, (and so are the other two bike races that rode through Jerusalem in the last few weeks), but biking enthusiasts in Jerusalem are looking forward to using the new, 2.1 kilometer (1.3 miles) bike tunnel leading from the junction near the neighborhood of Ein Kerem to Ein Lavan (near the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo).

Originally built by local sewage company Gihon to contain a sewage pipeline, the tunnel was later paved by the city as a two-way bike path, creating the longest bike tunnel in Israel. It’s now part of the circular, 42-kilometer (26-mile) Jerusalem biking trail that passes through parks and nature reserves around the city. And no worries, there’s no lingering smell of sewage.

5) Before it gets so hot that you don’t want to get near the Jordan Valley, head to Park HaMaayanot’s Escape Park, a fun way to spend the day with family and friends. Based on the same concept as any escape room, with a mystery (in Hebrew) that needs to get solved, this one is spread around Park HaMaayanot, a park with natural springs that is part of Kibbutz Nir David (and is also the location of kangaroo park Gan Guru, and several other sites and activities).

Each team gets around using golf carts, walkie talkies and a detailed map, looking for cleverly hidden answers to the clues offered in this mystery that relates to Israel’s history. At the end, there’s a cold spring shaded by eucalyptus trees and surrounded by tables for easy picnicking and cooling off.

Join us!
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