If you’re visiting Israel, you need to visit Hamat Gader’s Spa Village. Swaying palm trees, lush foliage surrounding the two pristine pools, sounds of a waterfall and the tinkle of wind chimes. The warm air wafting up from the pools is filled with healing sulphur. This is about as close to the Garden of Eden as one can get in this lifetime. Hamat Gader, Israel, home of the ancient Roman hot springs has sprung to life in its modern reincarnation. Alongside vast public pools, a boutique hotel tucked away in a quiet corner allows guests quiet and privacy along with the extra comfort of staying overnight allowing them to enjoy the springs at all hours of the day or night. What a treat!
The highlight of any visit to Hamat Gader Spa Village are of course, the sulfur springs. Known for their outstanding mineral properties, in healing everything from arthritis to high blood pressure to digestive disorders, you can choose between warm, hot, or hotter. The hottest springs clock in at 42 degrees Celsius, (108 degrees Fahrenheit) and are hot indeed. There is a small sign that says one should not stay in longer than ten minutes, but I highly doubt that the sign is needed. I was able to last for just three. Other pools are a mere 38 or 40 degrees Celsius (100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and sport the added attractions of natural waterfalls, jacuzzi jets, and hydrotherapy currents.
Bathing, bathing and more bathing
There is not much to do at Hamat Gader but kick back and enjoy the waters. To that end, you can bathe in the very large public pools, the two smaller pools exclusively for the guests of the hotel, or your very own private jacuzzi filled with mineral waters on the large wooden porch attached to your room. All pools share the same water source with the same healing properties. In your personal in-room jacuzzi, you can set the temperature to your liking and while away the hours in perfect solitude.
Thailand in Israel
The Spa Village hosts approximately 30 individual wooden guest houses that have a Thai village feel to them. The elephant sculptures that adorn the gardens add to the eastern feel. Each guesthouse has a large room with a comfy queen size bed, closets, sofa, coffee table and cable tv. The bathroom has a full sized bathtub and is stocked with complimentary toiletries including shampoo, bath gel, conditioner and body cream. A small fridge stocked with free beverages and a complimentary bottle of wine are included as well. On the attached porch, you will find the above mentioned jacuzzi as well as a kettle for boiling water and all the fixings to make a nice cup of coffee or tea.
Part of the boutique hotel complex includes a small restaurant called the Blue Bar, situated right at the edge of the pools. It serves a deluxe, gourmet breakfast every morning replete with hand pulled espresso or cappuccino, and eggs made to order, along with a full buffet of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and herring. It is easy to fill up on the delicious, fresh food served with a smile. The restaurant is open for dinner as well, and serves fish and pasta daily, with side dishes of rice, potatoes and cooked veggies. A colourful salad bar is open each evening alongside the hot dishes, with an ever changing variety of salads. Most room reservations include both breakfast and dinner, but if yours does not, it is worth adding, as the nearest restaurants are a ten to fifteen minute drive from the hot springs. Eating at the Spa Village is both convenient and tasty.
Massage the day away
Spa Village at Hamat Gader is dedicated to creature comforts, and helping you to unwind and reduce stress. To that end, we purchased the full hotel package that included not only breakfast, dinner, but also a 45 minute massage per person. The massage center, staffed by experienced masseurs and masseuses, offers a variety of treatments ranging from Swedish massage, to shiatsu and Thai massage. While we were there, I had two massages from two different therapists, and both were excellent.
Before signing on to this relaxing vacation, it pays to keep in mind that the sulfur smell is pervasive (I personally love it) and the weather can climb to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer time. Wintertime is high season in Hamat Gader, and prices are accordingly higher. Our visit during the low season set us back 1,400 NIS or 370 USD for two people. This price included the room, breakfast and dinner for two, and two forty-five minute massages. Keep in mind as well that the only way to get here is by private vehicle, either car or cab. It is located about 45 minutes from Tiberias, and while there are many attractions in the area, the sulfur lulls you into a feeling of total bliss, with no need to go anywhere or see anything.
A relaxing getaway
Whether you are a weary tourist, or a stressed out business traveler, taking a night or two at Spa Village, Hamat Gader, is a wonderfully unique way to recharge tired batteries. Nestled in a corner of Israel, near the Sea of Galilee, and not far off the tourist trail, the natural scenery is breathtaking and the miracle of the sulfur pools is not to be missed.
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