Israelis love camping, and for much of the year the climate obliges with rain-free weather and clear skies; heat is more likely to be the issue. But camping in Israel has a few rather handy quirks: many sites rent mattresses and even fridges, dorm tents are common, and air-conditioning graces even the most humble-looking bungalow.
A few kilometres south of Haifa, near Carmel Mountain National Park, the Dor HaBonim Nature Reserve combines a long sandy beach with rocky coves and ancient kurkar (endemic sandstone) quarries. It’s a complex ecosystem hosting corals, sea turtles and ghost crabs; just inland, you might spot sand cats, foxes and gazelles. The main beach campsite features showers, picnic tables and fire pits, and there’s a small shipwreck to explore just offshore.
Spectacular Masada – a clifftop fortress overlooking the Dead Sea, where Herod the Great built two palaces – is famed for a 1st-century siege where Jewish rebels held out against Roman troops. At the end of an access road, the campsite is surrounded by beautifully austere hills and ridges, an ideal spot to launch a dawn hike up to the plateau. The well-equipped camp features “field kitchens” with fridges, showers, drinking fountains, fire pits and electrical sockets. On-site family and dorm tents mean you need not bring your own.
Near the foot of Mt Hermon, Horshat Tal (Dew Grove) is a modest nature reserve and recreation park with cool, hill-fed streams, a swimming lake, meadows and grassland, oak groves and an orchid reserve. The family-focused campsite is well-lit and features barbecues, picnic tables and even waterslides along with plenty of restrooms and shower cubicles. You don’t need a tent, either – cabins and bungalows for up to six people are available. The site’s location provides convenient access to several other nature reserves, including the Tanur Waterfall.
Almost midway between the Sea of Galilee and Mount Hermon in the Hula Valley, Kfar Blum kibbutz pioneered commercial river kayaking and rafting in Israel’s northern rivers. Their star excursion is a two-and-a-half-hour run down various streams through rapids, coves and pools to join the River Jordan. The adjoining campground has the feel and vibe of an American summer camp. Those without tents can stay in air-conditioned on-site “cottage-tents” sleeping five on double and single beds. You’ll get a mirror, some shelving and a padlock, too.
On the Sea of Galilee‘s eastern shore, Gofra Beach is particularly popular; the thermal springs are a bonus. Operating only in spring and summer, the campsite accommodates around 300 tents and has a mini-market, cafe, children’s playground and even boat moorings. Tents, refrigerators and caravans are available to rent. Consider paying more for a larger pitch with lighting, tables and a bit more comfort.
Deep in southern Israel’s Negev Desert, the Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve is centred on a spectacular makhtesh, a crater-like box canyon around 500m (1,640ft) deep and 40km (25mi) long. Scenery aside, the canyon’s place on the ancient Nabateans’ Incense Route means there are archaeological remains to be seen. The campground looks like a cross between an army camp and a Bedouin way station in magnificent surroundings. Vast communal tents sleep up to 170 (though partitioning is available) while staff cabins sleep six; visitors’ tents are also welcome.
On the edge of Ein Gedi kibbutz by the Dead Sea, Dead Sea Camping offers pitches and “bungalows” – capsule-like dwellings with chipboard walls and fabric ceilings. Perched on low platforms, they have beds, furniture, air conditioning and lights. There’s a spacious dining gazebo with mat floors serving mostly Israeli cuisine, and a communal kitchen. Popular Ein Gedi beach is a short walk away. For a fee, you can also use a nearby hotel swimming pool.
Just south of Ein Gedi kibbutz, the Lodge features bare pitches for tents, timber-framed “bungalows” sleeping five, dormitories and, best of all, four charming old VW campervans with double beds. Facilities include a lounge-terrace with bar, table tennis and a children’s playground. It’s all very relaxed – perhaps a touch “alternative” – and a good place for advice on spectacular walks in the nearby canyon and stark cliffs looming behind the camp.
By the fringes of Mitzpe Ramon town, and a short walk from the edge of the Makhtesh Ramon box canyon, Silent Arrow embraces rustic simplicity with a boho vibe. Unconnected to the grid, electricity is solar generated – and if that fails, you’ll make do with stars, moonlight and presumably lamps or torches, too. Choose between a dormitory tent or bring your own – mattresses are supplied for either – there are also a few domed bungalows sleeping up to six guests on beds and futons.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Hilla Ofman.
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