Last updated October 11th 2014
If you want to book a room at a five-star property, a luxury spa hotel, a wooden cabin, a boutique hotel on the beach, a youth hostel or a simple bed-and-breakfast, no problem. Israel has all of that and more.
But if you are seeking a really offbeat place to spend a night or two, check out ISRAEL21c’s list of 10 unusual places to stay in Israel. (Kudos to Judith Isaacson of Custom Israel Tours for helping us choose.)
1. Spa cave
The Columbarium at Moshav Shekef, near the UNESCO World Heritage Beit Guvrin caves, has three guest rooms set in a chalk cave (Wi-Fi included). The rock-walled rooms feature chromotherapy lights, fireplaces, a waste-recycling system and organic bathrobes, towels, soaps and food. Each cave has a private garden and there’s an indoor swimming pool and hot tubs set in former rain-water collection basins. Information: Dalia Anav, (972) 52-978-7638; email@example.com.
2. Renovated bus
The Zimmerbus bed-and-breakfast (zimmer is Hebrew for a B&B) was created by an Israeli couple in the Negev hilltop village of Ezuz, using discarded buses. Zimmerbus offers three converted, air-conditioned vehicles (one for couples, two for families) covered with natural adobe and date-palm leaves. A recycling system using wastewater from the Zimmerbuses irrigates an organic orchard, and there’s a new chlorine-free swimming pool. Information: 972-55-667-7962; firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Ottoman authenticity
Akkotel is built into the walls of the Old City of Acre (Acco). The renovated historical building originally was constructed by the Ottoman Turks (who ruled Palestine in the 16th to early 19th century) to billet army officers, and later became a boys school and then a courthouse under the British Mandate. Sixteen one-of-a-kind rooms combine stoned arches with handmade furniture. Information: +972-4-987-7100; email@example.com.
Another historic option in Acre is Efendi, combining two Ottoman mansions meticulously reconstructed under the supervision of the Antiquities Authority and merged into one building as a boutique hotel. Artisans were flown in from Italy to restore the hand-painted ceilings and a fresco of the city of Istanbul created in 1878 in honor of the new Orient Express train station.
4. A real Crusader inn
Montana House, in Jerusalem’s Ein Karem neighborhood, was originally a Crusader inn and is possibly the oldest structure in Ein Karem. Owner-manager Shahar Gur, who opened the property two years ago, says the basement was built about 1,100 years ago when the Crusaders were building churches in Ein Karem. They called this neighborhood “The Mountain,” and that is where Gur got the name of the hotel. Each of the four floors has its own luxury suite built from the remains of different eras; the oldest floor is 800 years old and the newest 200 years old. “There are no crosses in the rooms, but we have lots of unique items from that period,” says Gur, who hired an Austrian interior designer experienced in converting European palaces into boutique hotels. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Bedouin hospitality
Kfar Hanokdim between Masada and Arad offers a range of desert accommodations: A goat’s-hair Bedouin tent, 35 desert-style, air-conditioned guest rooms furnished with local wood, metal, stone and salt from around the Dead Sea; and designed lodges (sukkot) made with thick woolen sides and doors with decked wooden floors and futon-style beds for up to eight occupants. Information: 972-8-995-0097; email@example.com.
6. Can’t hurt to try a yurt
Several sites in Israel offer yurts – Mongolian-style fabric-covered teepees with an underlying wooden structure.
Ghengis Khan in the Golan, east of the Sea of Galilee, contains five air-conditioned yurts with attached private bathrooms. Four of them hold up to 10 people each, and one up to six. There is a communal kitchen with equipment for guests to use. Information: 972-52-371-5687.-3715687
Indian Village at Moshav Avnei Eitan in the Galilee is an upscale yurt campsite (think Jacuzzis) that also offers wooden cabins if a tent isn’t your thing. Information: 972-4-676-2151; firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Dancing in the desert
Adama Dance Inn, in Mitzpeh Ramon on the edge of the Negev desert offers three mud huts (with shared bathroom), 10 plaster-and-clay teepees and a campground for overnight accommodations. It’s part of the Adama Dance Art Healing Center, which also houses the dance troupe of Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal and a 400-seat concert hall. Information: 972-8-659-5190; email@example.com.
8. A night at the cinema
Tel Aviv’s downtown Cinema Hotel is an 83-room boutique hotel in an original Bauhaus building that once housed the Esther Cinema. The hotel’s unique design is complemented by some of the original projectors and movie posters. Classic movies are screened in the hotel lobby — with popcorn, of course — to heighten the nostalgic atmosphere. Information: 972-3-542-5555.
9. Playing in the mud
There’s no shortage of eco-lodges, mud huts and similarly environmentally friendly accommodations in Israel.
We’ll mention just three: Kibbutz Neot Semadar, offering 12 huts built of hay bales and homemade mud bricks, on the road to Eilat (054-979-8433; Smadarim011@gmail.com); Essene Farm in Even-Sappir outside Jerusalem, with six self-catering holiday suites (including one with wheelchair accessibility), made of straw bales covered with thick mud plaster (972 2-644-9588; firstname.lastname@example.org); and Khan Be’erotayim, a desert inn in Ezuz (see Zimmerbus) constructed from mud, palm leaves, mats and recycled materials.
10. Sleep in an art gallery
The Artplus boutique hotel in Tel Aviv boasts 62 rooms dedicated to rotating exhibitions of Israeli art. Five prominent Israeli artists created the murals that set the tone on each floor, and the foyer and lobby feature works by internationally renowned artists Zadok Ben-David and Sigalit Landau. A library has art books and magazines for guests to peruse. Information: 972-3-542-5555.
The Art Gallery Hotel in Haifa was opened in 2010 in a refurbished Bauhaus-style hotel from the 1930s where statesmen such as David Ben-Gurion and Yigal Allon slept over. Nine exhibitions of Israeli art are installed throughout its floors and hallways, along with open displays. On Saturdays, guests can take a free guided walking tour of Haifa art and architecture. Information: 972-4-861-6161; email@example.com