Escaping the Heat in Israel
Vacationing in Israel? Coming to Israel any time soon? Fantastic. The rainy season in Israel is long gone and now the worst of the pandemic seems to have abated, everyone is traveling again. Indeed, it looks like flights are going to be even busier than usual - no doubt because people really want to take a long-deserved vacation after enforced time at home!
And here in the Mediterranean, Israel remains a popular spot for tourists. It’s got everything you need for summer fun - beaches that stretch up and down the coast, full of white sand and clear water, nature reserves where you can hike, national parks such as Masada, where you can look at archaeological remains from thousands of years ago, and Eilat, on the Red Sea, which is ideal for anyone who wants to dive, snorkel, jet ski or drink cocktails and party at night!
Beaches, nature, holy sites, and - hot weather!
Israel’s also got deserts (which are great for trekking in), an extraordinary crater at Mitzpe Ramon (millions of years old), lush vegetation in the Galilee, and boutique vineyards in the Golan Heights. Not to mention Crusader castles, Herodian theatres, ancient villages, and a multitude of holy religious sites (churches, mosques, and synagogues everywhere you look).
But something else Israel has is hot weather. And we aren’t joking. When we say ‘hot’ we mean ‘hot’. And it can get extremely hot here in the summers, which are long and sometimes feel endless. Locals have all kinds of strategies for dealing with the heat (because they’ve grown up with it) but for those visiting, it really can be overwhelming. And combined with humidity on the coastal plains, if you aren’t careful, you can end up wiped out - fast.
How to escape the heat in Israel?
Writing this as someone who’s lived in Israel quite a long time now, I’d say (and so would everyone around me) that it’s certainly possible to have a fantastic time in the Holy Land at the height of summer. However, you really do need to prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, especially if you’re coming from a climate that isn’t known for long, dry summers.
Today, you’re going to be reading about ideas my colleagues and I have come up with, to keep you from going mad when the mercury soars. We’ve put together a list of tips for you, helping you to keep cool in Israel, whether you’re at the beach, exploring fortresses, hiking in nature reserves, or exploring ancient cities like Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Acre.
So get prepared - to stay cool and then to enjoy!
Sun protection - it might seem obvious but we had to start with this one. Whether you’re having a day of fun at the beach, kayaking on the Jordan River, or exploring the Old City of Jerusalem, you really have to protect your skin. Essentials (and they really are) to pack for your next trip to Israel (or buy here, if you are traveling light) include:
A tourist in Israel wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinHat - protect your head, with something wide-brimmed if possible. Baseball caps are ok but they won’t give you the same level of protection. Or pick up a ‘tembel hat’ - it’s an Israeli national symbol, used by the first Zionist pioneers. Shaped like a bucket, and meaning ‘foolish’ in modern Hebrew, it fell out of style in the 1980s but is actually making a bit of a comeback!
Long-sleeved cotton shirts - these are perfect not just for protecting your arms but, at a pinch, can be used as head protection, if you lose your hat! Cotton (or linen) is what you’re looking for, and, ideally, in white, to deflect the sun. Israeli fashion designers are wonderful, so maybe you should consider a shopping trip?
Sunscreen - the higher the number the better. The sun can be a real beast in Israel in July and August and even just 20 minutes outside without protection can leave you red and sore. Slather it on - regularly.
Water - few locals leave home in the summer without a bottle of water. Either pick them up at Israeli supermarkets or corner stores or buy a reusable water bottle and fill it as the day continues - there are public drinking fountains all over Israel, in parks, beaches, and museums.
Umbrella - if you’re at the beach, hire an umbrella or buy one of the very popular ‘tarps’ that you can pitch. You’ll be grateful for the shade.
Cover-up swimsuits for kids - Israel’s beaches are a perfect (and quite cheap) day out, but if you’ve got kids in Israel, we’d advise putting them in swimsuits that cover as much of their bodies as possible. They’re easily purchased all over Israel.
Icecream - Israelis love ice cream and, in the summer, the lines at the parlous are long! Whether you want something traditional, or ‘out there’ in terms of an odd flavour, you’re bound to find it, whether you’re in the big cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or towns and villages in the Galilee or the Negev Desert.
Ben & Jerry’s has been sold in Israel for a long time, and still is, although the political fallout from a decision they made not to sell ice cream in the West Bank has divided locals. They don’t have many parlours but it’s widely available in supermarkets and small stores.
Golda - Golda, is arguably Israel's most popular ice cream brand at the moment, with over 30 franchises across the country. With lots of flavours, made by hand and even options for vegans, it’s got to be worth a try! Our tip: try the halva and pistachio.
Tel Aviv has a wide array of small ‘boutique’ ice cream stores too, including Anita in Neve Tzedek, Arte on Nahalat Binyamin and Otello on the famous Dizengoff Street. All of them also sell sorbets, which are particularly good at cooling you down on a hot day.
Tourist approaching a small waterfall in Ein Prat, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Cold Drinks in Israel
Iced Coffee - Israelis love coffee and in the summer, drinking it with ice is the way to go. You can order ‘cafe kar’ which means ‘cold coffee’ (with milk, sugar and ice cubes). Or a ‘Barad’ - meaning ‘hail’ in Hebrew - it’s more like a slushie and is especially popular with kids.
Ice pops - words like ‘Artik’ and ‘Kartiv’ are synonymous with summer in Israel and refer to any kind of milk or water-based sweet treats on sticks. The fruit-flavoured ‘Eskimo’ popsicle is not to be missed and the watermelon flavoured one is a delight too!
Water - as we said above, carry water with you everywhere! Refill bottles from the tap (water is safe to drink in Israel) or pick up flavoured and fizzy brands at cafes and corner stores.
Public Water Fountains in Israel
Drinking water is what’s going to save you on a hot summer’s day in Israel. And if you don’t want to spend a fortune in the ‘makolet’ (local grocery stores) then keep your eyes peeled for the endless water fountains you’ll see in public places all across the country.
What better way to spend a day of fun than at one of Israel’s water parks? Meymadion - if you’re in Tel Aviv and want the kids to burn off some energy but have had your fill of the beach (!) try this water park. The largest of its kind in Israel, it stretches over 25 acres and is filled with water slides, from the ‘simple’ water tube channel to the ‘Slalom’ ‘Meteor’ and ‘Cannon’ slides.
They have six pools, which means kids of all ages have a lot of choice and there’s a huge picnic area and lots of shady spots where you can admire the surrounding Ganei Yehoshua park. And, of course, there are plenty of inflatables in the water, for floating around and chilling out.
Aqua Kef - on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (or, as Israelis call it, the ‘Kinneret’) this water park is simply fabulous.Full of floats and slides, you can have a lot of fun climbing up and then falling down back into the water and as long as your children are aged 6 plus, they are allowed in!
The ‘Family Park’ offers all kinds of facilities, including jumping towers, bridges, climbing walls, ladders and trampolines. They also have ‘Olympic’ and ‘Extreme’ areas for the more adventurous.
National Parks in Israel
Israel has an extraordinary number of nature reserves, which are incredible places to have a day out. Many are also filled with streams and waterfalls, which offer sharp relief from blistering heat, especially if you’ve been trekking for a few hours.
Popular national parks include Banias (in northern Israel) where you can hike ‘the Hanging Trail’ and walk across a boardwalk before arriving at the waterfall, which comes from the Hermon mountain. (If you’re a keen photographer, go up to the observation deck).
Ein Gedi is also another firm favourite for hiking. Located close to Masada and the Dead Sea (about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem). This nature reserve is nothing less than a lush oasis in the middle of the desert in Israel, complete with hiking paths, spring-fed streams and waterfalls. For some of the top water hikes in Israel, take a look at our website and blog.
Day Tours in Israel
Booking a day trip in Israel, or any kind of organised tour around the country, is a very good idea for anyone that doesn’t want to drive, doesn’t want to travel solo in Israel or is interested in learning more about Israel’s history and culture. Israeli guides are fantastic - many you’ll meet haven’t just had excellent training but also years of experience with groups, and they also bring their personal knowledge to the job and are always happy to answer unusual questions!
Waterfall in Banias National Park, Israel. Image © ShutterstockMuseums in Israel
Finally, an incredibly good way to stay out of the heat is to visit a museum. Israel’s full of them (we aren’t joking) and not only are museums in Israel air-conditioned (sometimes so heavily that you’ll need a sweater!) but plenty have cafes and restaurants in Israel where you can eat, making sure you have a few hours - ideally at the height of the day - out of the sun. As we said, you’ll be spoilt for choice but some of the ones we can’t help but recommend include:
1. Israel Museum - located in Jerusalem, close to the Knesset (the country’s Parliament) is truly a world-class museum and a must-visit for anyone who wants to know more about the country. Established in 1965, the Israel Museum been significantly expanded in the last decade and is home to around half a million objects, as well as a sculpture garden, and replicas of synagogues from Italy and India.
Don't miss a fantastic model of the Second Temple and, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed in their own specially-designed building named ‘The Shrine of the Book.’ Moreover, the Israel Museum has a beautiful gift shop and two restaurants - one serving meat dishes and the other milk (in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws).
Eretz Israel Museum - situated in Tel Aviv, this treasure of a museum, has all kinds of ancient relics, eight permanent exhibitions and sites such as Mosaic Square (full of beautiful mosaic floors). Eretz Israel also has a planetarium (perfect for kids), and a cafeteria.
3. Madatech Israel National Museum of Science, Technology and Space - if you’re in Haifa, and want to learn more about science, this is a great place to visit and, if you have kids, it’s particularly good because it’s very hands-on, and chock-a-block full of interactive exhibitions (crash simulators, solar power and acoustics and waves displays will leave them enthralled). There’s also a cafeteria and a special play area for kids.
If you want to take a day tour or organised trip around Israel with Bein Harim, feel free to contact us - we’re at the end of the phone and email constantly - and the good news is that all of our buses are air-conditioned, so you won’t swelter on the way to your destination!
Children on a tour in one of Israeli national parks. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin