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Honeymoon in Israel

By Richa

Are Switzerland or Paris etc. too mainstream for you? Are you looking for an out-of-the-ordinary luxury honeymoon or wedding destination? For this reason; we bring to you – Israel – under our series ‘offbeat destinations for romance.

You might have never considered romancing in Middle East but there is one vastly different Middle East than the one we know. A Middle East that offers an amazing concoction of luxury, effervescent nightlife, complete liberty to women, lip smacking food, amazing natural wonders and a cultural experience that is second to none. We are talking about Israel, the country that we like to refer to as the unprecedented and unique Middle East.

“Indian tourists have started to explore new destinations in the last few years, including Israel; however Israelis have been visiting India for many years and are familiar with Indian culture, which is similar to theirs. Israel is a safe destination for all visitors, which is evident with around 3 million visitors in 2015, approximately 40,000 from India, and over 42,000 Indians have travelled to Israel in 2016 (from January to November),” opines Mr. Hassan Madah, Director of the Israel Ministry of Tourism in India.

“Israel is a place where East meets West, a mystical land that gives every couple the opportunity to choose a dream setting for their weddingceremony and for their guests - be it exotic, fun, historic, spiritual or an experience with a little bit of everything. Couples can exchange vows, or take their ‘saatpheras’, and begin a new journey where it all began, a nation filled with history and the wonders of modern technology, engulfed in natural beauty,” further added.

Trending worldwide as a hot destination in 2016, Israel is slowly catching the attention of us Indians too. After all with the amazing attractions, friendly people, yummy cuisine, natural and cultural gems, we are not surprised that the world is awakening to this sensational destination. If you delve deeper, Israel has all the secret ingredients for that special romantic holiday.

Imagine yourself in Israel…

Tel Aviv: Vibrancy, Nightlife, and Beaches

“If a good night of partying is what you’re looking at, then Tel Aviv is the place to be. Known as the party capital of the Middle East, your evening here can start at one of the amazing beach bars, with an ice-cold beer in your hands. You can then find a quiet backstreet wine bar to sample the local vineyards’ offerings, see some art at a ‘gallery bar’, and maybe catch a band play. As the night ends, the best option would be to hit the city’s clubs, where it’s lasers, beats and dancing until dawn,” suggests Viren Batra, Nirvana Excursions’ co-founder.

While Mr. Madah said “The cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv is home to representatives from different cultures and backgrounds. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, the city’s shoreline boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, offering breath-taking sunsets which can be enjoyed on the promenade lined with benches, cafés, bars, and restaurants. In addition to be famous for one of the best nightlife destinations in the world Tel Aviv is also known for the calming pull of the sea.”

Quench your Wanderlust Soul with Tons of Adventure & Leisure

These days couples crave adrenaline rushes and adventure as much as they crave romance. If you fit this bill, you will find solace in…

“Eilat, a resort city located on the southern tip of Israel, is known for creating a romantic setting and adding adventure to those couples who wish to enjoy unique experiences, like swimming with dolphins, hiking the Red Canyon, jeeping at the Timna National Park, rappelling in the Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) or a romantic dinner cruise on the Red Sea as you take in the sun setting on the Red City,” says Mr. Madah.

He further added “The Dead Sea Region has plenty to offer every kind of traveller, from the historical site of Masada delighting you with a panoramic view of the Dead Sea, Kibbutz Ein Gedi offers lodging/ accommodations and a Nature Reserve with a number of hiking trails and is also home to the beautiful David Falls. The most famous attraction is this region is the Dead Sea with a number of hotels, spas and alternative accommodation options that will allow you to experience all the fascinating features at the lowest point on earth, especially floating!”

Mr. Batra suggested “If you’re looking for a more exciting time though, then the Mahane Yehuda Market would be an interesting experience for any first-time visitor. Crammed with fresh fruit, olives, nuts and vegetables, it’s also a good place to purchase spices, teas, cheese, dried fruits, tahina, bread and pastries. But that’s not all. This versatile location reinvents itself at night as a restaurant and bar hub where local foodies, hipsters and tourists hang out.”

“And of course, how can we forget the Dead Sea, a unique natural phenomenon that is a must-see when you visit Israel. The sea in which you can’t sink is one of breathtaking natural beauty, compelling ancient history and modern mineral spas that soothe and pamper every fibre of your body,” he further added.
“For a relaxing getaway to enjoy pristine beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, visit Achziv and relax on the beaches, which are scarcely visited you might believe it is your own private paradise. In addition to the privacy, you can explore some of the architectural marvels here. The grottoes at Rosh Hanikra are another attraction for locals and visitors alike. Located in the north of Israel, on the Mediterranean Sea, this location also boasts one of the steepest cable car rides in the world!” Mr. Madah also suggested.

“You might not know but Israel has over 300 wineries that are either in the Galilee region, in the north, or the Negev Desert in the south. These beautiful wineries not only have wine tours, which can also be customised to your requirements, you can also enjoy a delicious meal pair with wine at their restaurants. If you want to stay for a while and enjoy the scenery some wineries also have zimmers, or country style accommodation,” he concluded.

The Culture: Where it all Began…

One of the oldest cities in the world, holy land Jerusalem is the birthplace of three of the modern day religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is an absolute pleasure to walk through the lanes and by lanes of this city of gold where the quaint neighborhood rubs shoulders with the modern city. The old city, the monasteries, the temples, the archaeological sites, and the markets are absolute must visits.
Mr. Viren Batra, Nirvana Excursions’ co-founder suggested us all the below mentioned hotspots that are a must-visit when in Israel…

City Of David is the oldest part of Jerusalem. It was a settlement during the Canaanite period and excavations are ongoing to this date. The main attraction is Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 500m-long passage of waist-deep water, but there is plenty more to see so allow at least three hours for your visit. The Israel Museum is an excellent option for history aficionados, with its huge archaeological wing, the fine arts wing, the art garden, and the dedicated pavilion showcasing the museum’s prize exhibit, the Dead Sea Scrolls. For a further glance into the country’s heritage, the Pool of Al-Anazia would be an excellent option. A majestic 18th C reservoir, that’s explored by boat, it’s also known as the Pool of St. Helena.

The extremely famous Baha’i Gardens are another must-visit. Laid out on the slopes of Mt Carmel, the Baha’i Gardens have 19 terraces with a distinctly classical feel, where wrought-iron gates lead to flower beds, soothing pools, fountains, stone balustrades, sculptures and impossibly steep lawns, all overlooking the beautiful panoramas of Haifa Bay. No wonder then that these gardens were awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2008. Another excellent option is the Makhtesh Ramon. Featuring multi-coloured sandstone, volcanic rock and fossils, this geological phenomenon is 300m deep, 8km wide and 40km long and is best viewed from the lookout jutting over its edge.

The BeitShe’an National Park is also an excellent option. The extraordinary Roman ruins are the best place in Israel to get a sense of what it was like to live, work and shop in the Roman Empire, with colonnaded streets, a 7000-seat theatre that looks much as it did 1800 years ago (the original public bathrooms are nearby), two bathhouses and huge stone columns that lie right where they fell during the 749 earthquake.

And last, but not the least, the Old City is a sight that you definitely should not miss. Centered on KikarKedumim (KedumimSq), a paved space edged by touristy shops and cafes, this hilltop area overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and is visually dominated by the St. Peter’s Church. The surrounding laneways are home to boutique tourist accommodation, galleries, and the occasional artisan’s atelier.

Delicious Local Food

The sheer thought of Falafels, Moutabel, Tabouleh, Baba Ghanoush, Hummus, pita bread and the traditional Kosher food makes my mouth water. While the meat lovers would take an instant liking to Chamin, the traditional Shabbat stew and the ubiquitous shawarma, the vegetarians should not feel left behind. Israel is possibly the only country in the entire Middle East where the vegetarians enjoy a lot of delicious local options, due to kashrut (the rules of keeping kosher, one of the Jewish religious laws concerning food).

“Israel has a significant immigrant population where each is represented through their culinary traditions which are integrated in the cuisine of their new Mediterranean home. Just like India, each region in Israel offers its own adapted regional cuisine which reaches beyond the popular falafel, shawarma or shakshuka (a hearty egg dish in tomato and pepper sauce) to tantalize your taste buds, which is evident in the many food markets in the country that are popular among locals and tourists alike,” says Mr. Hassan Madah, Director of the Israel Ministry of Tourism in India.

He also mentioned “While the delectable locally grown olives and the healthy olive oil is a staple in many homes, there is a developing trend of farm-to-table conscious eating alongside newer nutritional trends like vegetarianism, veganism and gluten free diets which have taken preference in the food culture.”

Just a word of caution…

“Israel is an amazing place for a honeymoon and an extremely safe tourist destination, but there are some DO’s and DON’Ts that you should keep in mind while travelling,” says Mr. Viren Batra, Nirvana Excursions’ co-founder. “For instance, the Israeli culture can be quite accommodating in certain areas but not everywhere. So DO educate yourself about it further. Another important DO is to learn a few words of the language, if possible. Though everybody speaks English there, it would only help you to be able to converse in the local language, especially if you’re travelling by yourself. Also, DO explore the local markets when you get a chance. Though a lot of haggling will be required, the products available are quite unique and you’ll definitely leave with more souvenirs than your suitcase can fit. Coming to the DON’Ts, be careful to limit any PDA as the Israeli culture can be quite orthodox in that matter. Also DON’T wear very revealing clothes, especially if you go to a mosque or religious place. While it’s an extremely safe travel destination, it’s simply about respecting their culture.”

Go discover this different Middle East and see for yourself why we rate Israel as a top off beat destination for all Indian travel junkies, especially for their romantic holidays.

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