The Sea of Galilee is a well-known lake in northern Israel, surrounded by historic and sacred sites common to three major religions. The views of the water are spectacular, as are those of the Golan Heights to the east of the lake and the Mount of Beatitudes, Mount Nitai and Mount Arbel in Lower Galilee. Whether you want to be right by the lakeshore in the town of Tiberias, in a boutique hotel carved out of a castle or on a ranch in the foothills of the Golan Heights, there are some great places to stay in the area.
The Setai Sea of Galilee
You’ll be away from prying eyes at the Setai, which comprises 158 villas in the Golan Heights foothills on the eastern shore of the Kinneret, as the Sea of Galilee is referred to locally. It has sweeping views of the lake, the city of Tiberias on the opposite shore and the Golan. Accommodation options include a standard hotel room or a villa with a hot tub or a private pool. The spa complex is one of the largest in Israel, set in a two-storey circular building with floor-to-ceiling windows, while the Lounge Bar Restaurant, decorated with wood, basalt stones and black metal, is a scenic spot for dining.
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The Scots Hotel
This slice of Caledonia on the Sea of Galilee shores began life as a medical complex built by the Church of Scotland in the 19th century. Today, it comprises 16 “Antique” guest rooms in basalt rock buildings dating back to the original hospital compound, and a further 50 “Unique” and “Deluxe” rooms in a purpose-built modern extension with tartan carpets and furnishings to keep the Scots theme going. The Torrance Restaurant, named after founding physician Dr David Watt Torrance, serves non-kosher gourmet food, and the gazebo terrace and botanical gardens have lake and mountain vistas. The Ceilidh Bar brings a Scots pub atmosphere to northern Israel.
Shirat Hayam Boutique Hotel
The Shirat Hayam, which means “song of the sea”, is an 11-room boutique hotel housed in a 19th-century Ottoman-style building on the Tiberias promenade. It was one of the first places to stay in town and adjoins a sculpture garden museum. Many rooms have exposed basalt walls and curtains that flicker in the breeze; floor-to-ceiling windows mean they fill early with light bouncing off the lake. Some also have jacuzzis. The Holzman Balcony is on the rooftop – a great place for sunbathing or just relaxing and enjoying the views.
Vered Hagalil Guest Farm
If you like horses, then this guest farm on a hill to the north of the Sea of Galilee is the place for you. It offers a variety of horse riding trips – from just an hour to overnight excursions with views of the lake, Galilee and Golan Heights. The farm has 12ha (30 acres) of land, with local vegetation, orchards and grassy expanses. You can stay in one of 30 holiday homes – including one-room cabins, studios, two-room cottages and suites – all made from local basalt and wood. Tibi’s Restaurant serves Israeli food, along with aged steaks and fresh salads, and as a guest of the farm, you can enjoy a discount at lunch or dinner.
Amirey Hagalil Boutique Hotel
Northwest of the Sea of Galilee, this spa hotel lies on the road to the historic city of Tzfat, with the vineyards of Merom HaGalil surrounding it and views of the lake, Mount Arbel and the Golan Heights. There’s a genuine liveable feel, with sculpted archways, stone floors, Asian carpets and lush greenery, including an ancient olive tree at the centre. Even the standard guest rooms have a balcony with mountain views, while some boast jacuzzi baths. For some relaxation, the spa has a large hot tub, dry sauna and lobby with hot drinks and rest areas with great views. The Bein Kramim restaurant is kosher and serves vibrant Galilean cuisine.
The Sea of Galilee Hotel
Opened in January 2019, the purpose-built Sea of Galilee Hotel has 200 rooms with balconies, complete with lake, pool or landscape views. The lake is just a short walk away, and the hotel has a private beach. Alternatively, you can chill by the pool beneath bamboo umbrellas imported from South Africa. The Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve is about 3km (2mi) away, with cliffs, a viewpoint overlooking the Sea of Galilee and native vegetation, as well as the ruins of an ancient settlement and synagogue and hiking trails leading to a cave fortress.
Sofia Sea of Galilee Hotel
A 19th-century stone house in the lakeside city of Tiberias has been expanded with a modern purpose-built structure, comprising 120 wood-panelled guest rooms. The Sofia is named after the hotel owner’s mother, who stopped at the Sea of Galilee on her way from Damascus to Argentina to meet her future husband whom she didn’t know. There’s a spa complex, including a Turkish bath and an infinity pool, and the COCA Restaurant serving Galilean cuisine. Try a cocktail at the Altamira rooftop bar to make the most of those lake views.
Villa Europa 1917
This boutique hotel was founded, unsurprisingly given the name, in 1917, a tumultuous time in what was then Palestine as it passed from Ottoman to British control. Some of the guest rooms were used by both British soldiers and, years later, Israeli fighters in the War of Independence. The lobby walls and the three wings are decorated with oil paintings of the Sea of Galilee, photographs from the hotel’s past and press clippings from the early 20th century. Atop the original building is a modern glass extension, and the hotel has a spa and a restaurant serving Balkan and Turkish food with European influences. Nammos beach, one of the best on the lake, is a few minutes south by road.
Ramot Resort Hotel
The Ramot Resort Hotel sits northeast of the Sea of Galilee below the Golan Heights. It offers private chalets, B&B cabins and rooms in the hotel building. With the chalets, you get a dry sauna, a shower with hydromassage jets and a jacuzzi – the latter is also in the cabins. All the hotel rooms have a balcony or open directly onto the garden. The Panoramic Restaurant on the top floor of the hotel building has 360-degree views of the lake and mountains and serves a selection of fine meats, including lamb shoulder and rib-eye steaks.
Out of Africa Resort
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the bush given the cabin stylings, which include paintings of impalas and African knick-knacks on the tables, in this spa resort just north of the Sea of Galilee. But that’s only until you step onto your balcony or into your private garden and see the lake and mountain views. Each suite has a hot tub and a kitchenette, and there’s a large communal barbecue by the pool if you’d prefer more sociable dining al fresco. The hiking, wineries and ancient synagogues of the Golan Heights are on your doorstep, as is access to the trail around the Sea of Galilee.
The fortress of Dona Castle dates back to 1745, built by Chulayevi – the eldest son of Daher al-Omar, the Bedouin ruler of the Galilee – as part of the Ottoman wall that surrounded the city. The building has two floors with four corner towers, one of which has been preserved in its entirety. In 2007, the fort was purchased and underwent restoration, culminating in the creation of the hotel. Some rooms have original features, such as plaster stone arches, while others have antique stone floors and balconies with views of the Sea of Galilee. The hotel is close to various beaches and restaurants in Tiberias.
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