I just discovered a whole new region in Israel that is absolutely delightful for nature trips. Yatir forest is the largest planted forest in Israel. It lies on the southern slopes of the Hebron mountain bordering with the Judean and Negev Desert. The combination of forest and desert terrain, dry mountain air and shady trees is just plain fabulous. The trip that I took introduced me to some of the historical sites and other gems in the area that can be combined with the upcoming cherry festival that will be taking place on two Fridays 31 May 2019 and 7 June 2019. Details below.
A picnic and bicycle ride through Yatir Forest
A jeep tour with a Beduin coffee break
Lunch at Café Ronel, Mitzpe Yair
Ancient Susya National Park
The Cherry Festival at Moshav Maon
A Picnic and Bicycle Ride through Yatir Forest The drive to Yatir Forest takes about an hour and a half from Tel-Aviv. At the forest we were greeted with personal picnic baskets and tablecloths produced by a local restaurant called "Vanilla and Cinnamon" that is only 7 min away from the forest. Each basket contains a fresh loaf of bread, 3 spreads, 2 muffin-sized casseroles and a personal salad with a dressing, a few cookies, a napkin and cutlery. I don't write prices of ongoing services because they tend to change, but they are very reasonable. Our picnic spot was by a large water reservoir that gave a lakeside effect.
After eating, Gal Magal, owner of the Midbar-E bike-rental took over and provided us with electric bicycles. It was my first time on an electric bike and I have to say that they are amazing. You still get to peddle and work out, but you don't have to kill yourself uphill in order to enjoy the trip. Gal offers bike rentals either for independent use with an application to guide you or as part of a guided tour of the forest for groups of five and above.
To order a picnic basket call Rafi: 050-5064907 To order a bicycle call Gal: 050-3550507
Above: Picnic Baskets by "Vanilla and Cinammon"
Top Left: Gal Magal from Midbar-E and the group. I later switched to an e-bike.
A Jeep Tour with a Beduin Coffee Break It is pretty incredible to be in a forest and desert all the in the same day because they are literally side by side. Danny, from Danny BaMidbar took us on a ride through the Judean desert where we took stops to enjoy some of the local water pools that were full of water due to the recent rains. We also came upon a group of camels and forced him to stop for a surprise camel photoshoot. The tour ended with some strong coffee and very sweet tea in Adnan's Bedouin tent. Adnan also offers full meals, but we had other plans.
To reserve a jeep tour call Danny: 052-8903-842 To reserve a Beduin break call Adnan: 052-549-3956
Above: Getting ready for the desert tour
Top left: WIth Danny
Above: Taking a coffee break in Adnan's tent with our pied piper tour guide Nadav
Lunch at Café Ronel, Mitzpe Yair When a dutch lady decides to follow her dreams, you get a tasteful café in the middle of the dessert. Mrs. Ronel Barak offers kosher mehadrin light dairy lunches that are very suitable for the climate. We had some salads and lasagna with chocolate mousse for dessert and heard her surprising life story. Trust me, I didn't ruin the surprise. The café is open only on Thursdays and Fridays or upon reservation for groups of 20 and up.
For reservations call Ronel: 058-790-6608
Bottom Right: Ronel with her superb chocolate mousse
Ancient Susya National Park This was another first time experience for me. Ancient Susia is 1,500 years old Jewish city. Its extraordinary findings include: a synagogue with magnificent mosaics, caves and mikvehs (immersion baths for ritual purposes). The audio-visual display presents the historic timeline and scholastic opinion regarding the archeologic findings within a light story framework. I thought it was well done. The park also offers additional activities by reservation for groups. Our tour organizers invited a pottery maker to demonstrate the ancient craft and discuss the advantages of its use in ancient times. Other options are to invite a story teller or a musician and of course a guided tour. Our tour guide was called Nadav Avrahamov and he was terrific - knowledgable and engaging. Aside from his recorder that he plays to create an atmosphere he has a few other adorable shticks.
To reserve one of the additional activities call the park at 02-6286212. To reserve Nadav call him at: 052-4825680.
Top Right: David the Potterer
Above: On the synagogue steps at Susya National Park
The Cherry Festival at Moshav Ma'on Each year, the trees in the Yatir region produce about 50 tons of sweet red cherries known for their wonderful taste and juiciness. They grow both sweet and sour cherries. Since the fruit needs a lot of cold in the winter season, the mountains of the Yatir region at 800 meters above sea level are perfect for growing the beloved fruit.
The festival will take place on two Fridays, 31 May 2019 and 7 June 2019 and will include family cherry picking with plenty of tasting straight from the tree and other activities including: dipping cherries in hot chocolate, creating clay cherry necklaces, inflatable games for kids, photo magnets, a farmers' market, a zipline for kids and other activities for the whole family!
For additional charge there will also be Laser Tag games, shake-making pedal bikes in which you prepare fruit smoothies by pedalling on the bike and of course food stands and local produce sales.
WHEN: On two Fridays 31 May 2019 and 7 June 2019 TICKETS: 35 NIS per person from age 3 and up OPEN: Friday 9:00-15:00 Waze: Ma'On
You can also call the tourist office if you have further questions at: 1-599-575758
This post is all inclusive
Accomodation Nearby accomodation includes hotels in Arad such as: Inbar Hotel and Yelehom Boutique Hotel and the farm "Kfar Hanokdim".
The trip took a day. We left Tel-Aviv at 8:00 and got back at around 18:00.
This is what it looks like on the map:
I hope you enjoy the festival, and now you have other options as well.
See you at the Cherry Festival!
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