The beaches of Tel Aviv, the tranquility of the Dead Sea, the holy sites of Jerusalem: if Israel isn’t on your radar yet, it should be. A Mediterranean climate and a thriving gastronomic scene add more reasons to visit, while an enticing selection of places to stay – including a former French hospital in Jaffa and a boutique hotel in an old Tel Aviv sewing factory – make a stylish base once you’ve touched down.
Located on a picturesque street in the Old City of Akko (Acre) in northwest Israel, this 12-room boutique hotel overlooks the Crusader Walls and the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises two houses – now joined together and meticulously restored – that were built on the site of ancient buildings from the sixth and 12th centuries. The rooms are modern, and come fitted with king-size beds, marble-lined bathrooms and the finest linens. The hotel has a wine bar located in the building’s cellar and a restored 400-year-old Turkish hammam and spa.
In the picturesque Zikhron Ya’aqov in northern Israel, this award-winning complex was designed by Israeli architect Yaakov Rechter in 1968, and transformed into a boutique hotel in 2005. Its facilities include a concert hall, 750sqm (8,073sqft) of gallery space, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and a restaurant. Elma has 95 modern rooms, each with original artworks, natural oak furnishings and stunning views of the Mediterranean. With a versatile event schedule that includes opera shows, concerts and plays, this luxury resort is recommended for culture lovers.
Mitzpe Hayamim is in Israel’s Galilee region, between the artist colony of Rosh Pina and the holy city of Safed (Tzfat). The hotel offers 97 elegant rooms and suites, extensive spa treatments, a swimming pool, an organic dairy and vegetable farm and two restaurants. Most rooms have a balcony or access to the garden, and some offer views of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) and the Golan Heights. The decor is classic, with wooden floors and comfy upholstery. Its restaurants – one of which is vegetarian – use produce fresh from the farm.
Perched on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, this spa hotel offers 110 luxurious villas and suites, some with an infinity pool, a hot tub and views of the water. The hotel is home to the largest spa complex in Israel, complete with an indoor pool, Turkish bath, multiple treatment rooms and a fitness centre. The Setai is perfectly located for exploring the area’s hot springs, parks and many trails around the Golan Heights.
Since opening in 2014, the Norman has been leading the pack with luxury hospitality in Tel Aviv. Its 50 rooms and suites are housed in two restored 1920s buildings that overlook King Albert Square, just off Rothschild Boulevard. The interior decor maintains some original period glamour with decorative inlaid flooring and soft hues. Walk around its citrus garden and plant-filled courtyard, or enjoy a drink at the Library Bar. There are two restaurants at the Norman: the Alena for a Mediterranean brasserie-style menu, and Dinings, a Japanese restaurant which also serves modern European dishes.
This popular hotel chain opened its Tel Aviv branch in 2017, and raised the bar for luxury accommodation in the city. A five-star urban resort, the Setai is set in a restored, historic compound that was once a fortress and an Ottoman prison. The hotel has 120 rooms and suites and a rooftop pool with views of the Mediterranean Sea. It occupies a prime location next to Jaffa’s famous Clock Tower and overlooking the city’s ancient port.
The luxurious Mamilla Hotel lies five minutes from Jerusalem’s Old City. The rooms are modern and chic, with pale wooden floors, crisp white linens and large windows that let in plenty of light. Choose from several dining spots, including an excellent fish restaurant overlooking the Mamilla shopping avenue, and relax at the rooftop area and bar – which offers magnificent views of the Old City walls. For some pampering, don’t miss its Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre, which offers a Turkish hammam and hydro treatments in a watsu pool.
Built on 5ha (12.5 acres) on the rim of the Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) in Israel’s Negev Desert, Beresheet offers dramatic views of the 24mi (39km) natural phenomenon. The hotel features 111 one- and two-storey private villas, designed to maximise the spectacular views of the desert and blend in with the surroundings. All the rooms have private entrances, and 39 rooms have private pools. Some of the top-floor balconies have views of the desert or the crater. The hotel’s Rosemary restaurant serves contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine with local wines.
Judy Cogan contributed additional reporting to this article.