Abseiling in Israel

Adventure travel is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry. And as an adventure destination, Israel can’t be beat.

Only about the size of New Jersey, Israel is blessed with an amazingly varied terrain. It has four seas — Red, Dead, Mediterranean and Galilee — with miles of marvelous coastline, many mountains (some holy, some just heavenly), waterfalls, deserts, oases and enormous canyons…with diverse climates to match.

Here’s a summary of Israel’s numerous travel adventures:

Bump. Cover unusual terrain bumpily in non-cushy, all-purpose, 4-wheel drive vehicles. All-terrain vehicles are more macho than their cousin, the Jeep. Israel offers an almost endless choice of itineraries: mountains, deserts, the seashore. When led intelligently by someone who loves the land, these rides can be as beautiful as they are hair-raising.

Dive. After thousands of years the relentless pounding of fierce waves that crash into the limestone cliffs at Rosh Hanikra on Israel’s northern Mediterranean shore have created a labyrinth of grottos, caves and covers. The fearless can dive right into their waters, primordial and mysterious even in the bright sun of a summer day. Or visit by cable car.

Rappel. Want to hang by a thread off the face of a mountain? An increasingly popular sport, rappelling demands that you scale down cliffs double-roped around the waist, push off, let out rope, and continue on down. Qumran, which gained fame if not fortune as the 2,000-year hiding place for the Dead Sea Scrolls, is an excellent rappelling site, where four cliffs rise to increasingly higher heights.

Ski. The Israeli Alps are actually the lower slopes of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights. Skiing is seasonal, of course — December through March — but a surprise in the Middle East even in winter. There are chalet-type accommodations at Neve Ativ.

Crawl. You’re on your belly with barely enough space to breathe crawling through a vast, hollowed-out subterranean complex of caves at Hazan and Amatzia about 10 miles southeast of Kiryat Gat. A crawl through the 30 or so separate rooms will reveal storerooms, olive oil presses and cisterns, all connected by tunnels and secret passageways.

Soak. At the end of the day in the Galilee, plunk yourself into a naturally therapeutic hot tub at Hammat Gader. The Romans loved this place because of its red-hot sulfur springs, and many of their fabulous ruins remain for our enjoyment today. The Israelis added a beautifully cultivated park and a cute crocodile farm. The baths smell like hell and they’re great.

Cycle. Israel is a dream for cycling enthusiasts, with an enormously diverse countryside, short distances between towns and impressive historical sites, plus great weather almost all year long. Cycling in either of Israel’s dramatic deserts, the Negev or the Judean, is the best.

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