Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Spa Vacation Spot in Israel - Mizpe Hayamim, Rosh Pina

When my husband and I need to relax and want something special, we've been known to indulge ourselves and take a couple of days to stay at this lovely spa hotel. Nestled in the hills of the upper Galilee, the name of this means "Viewpoint of the Seas", and on a clear day, you can see the Sea of Galilee to the east and the Mediterranean to the west. But the best view from this hotel is of the snow-capped Mount Hermon. Mizpe Hayamim is truly a pleasure to stay at, despite the slightly high price you'll pay (and some of the spa bits cost extra). Still, if you need to really kick back and relax, this is the place - so hang the cost, we're worth it!

While not a terribly large hotel, this caters more to the moneyed visitors with 50 regular rooms but 41 suites. The whole place is carefully taken care of, is always clean, and seems well kept up. Even the simple standard rooms are luxuriously fitted out and are designed for maximum comfort and relaxation. You'll find a big king-sized bed, and some are even four-posters, draped with curtains that make you feel like royalty. While room service isn't perfect, they have in their lobby/reading room/central area a huge selection of herbal teas and all sorts of interesting things to eat like seasonal fruits or natural, organic pastries available free of charge. The best bit - as soon as you get into your room, take off your outer clothing and don your provided slippers and robe and wander the facilities in that all day and night. Technically, you don't have to get dressed unless you want to leave the hotel. Yum!

More than anything else, this hotel gives you a feeling of old-world welcome and atmosphere combined with natural and organic pampering (I hope that's not an oxymoron). You'll feel like you're there for your all-round health - both physical and spiritual - and whenever I've been there I've felt like time went just a touch slower since everything was so relaxed. They're really best known for their in-house spa facilities as well as the sports you can get to and hikes you can take in the area.

Spa VacationIf people are worried about the "natural" and "organic" bit, they shouldn't be. Vegetarians will be thrilled and even vegans can have a plethora of what to eat for breakfast, with produce from their own organic farm and in-house bakery. For dinners, they now have two restaurants – one vegetarian and one meat. These both are considered to serve organic food, and considered to be at gourmet level, which means they are both priced in that range.

Of course, being as expensive as it is, it mostly attracts wealthier customers - but thankfully, sometimes we lowly peons can find special deals. Back in its earlier days, everyone was always warmly welcomed. Over the years, as they became more popular, there were experiences where staff seemed to treat us as if we weren't really worthy of being there. But on my last stay there - which was after their last renovation - while I still felt they were a touch on the snooty side, I did feel they made an effort to be as nice to the "bonus voucher" clients as they were to the full price ones. So if I can find a deal, this will still be the first place I'll choose to go.

As I already mentioned, the food here is organic and/or natural. Breakfasts are generous and beautifully arranged, with a cook on hand to make fresh pancakes or eggs to order. I've never seen more fancy cheeses and salads anywhere, and Israel is known for its large spreads at breakfast. With real linen tablecloths and nice heavy silverware, everything feels sumptuous and the dining area is bright and welcoming. Mind you, they aren't big on coffee and don't serve any alcohol (besides wine at the restaurants), but if you like teas and juices, this is for you!

This is located in one of the most beautiful areas in all of Israel. The hills of the Galilee are stunning and stretch out in front of you from under your feet. Even in the summer, they do everything they can to keep the grounds looking lush and green. Plus with Mount Hermon out your window, what else can you ask for?

Mind you, this isn't easy to get to and I don't think there are busses to here, so you'll probably need a car. Even so, until the large road 6 is finished and it finally gets this far north, it isn't going to be a short ride. Also, when you do get there, you have to go up a narrow winding road above the small town of Rosh Pina which is about 15 minutes south of Kiryat Shmona (which also isn't that large a town). Still, there's a small airport nearby and you could fly to that from anywhere in the country and either rent a car from there or take a taxi to the hotel.

Due to where this is located, there's not much on-site in the way of nightlife. During the day, their organic farm as well as their natural soap and candle-making workshop have on-site shops. Of course, why visit a spa if you don't try at least one of the many treatments (most cost extra) available, not to mention the fitness rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis and swimming pool? If you go down the hill and into town, you'll find about anything you want - and if you're ambitious, go as far north as Ma'alot and there you can even go ice-skating! And there's no end of places to see in the area from hikes to history. But this only means that this is very quiet and perfect for a relaxing stay. I'll give it five stars and recommend it for those who can afford it and have access to a car.

By Davida Chazan

About Author

I'm known on the internet as "The Chocolate Lady" and I am a published poet but also write for several on-line review sites. My favorite review categories are books and movies. Born in Evanston, IL I now live in Jerusalem, Israel.

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