Vacation Sabra-Style in Israel’s Top 10 Camping Sites

Pitch a tent at the foot of the majestic Masada mountain for a unique Israeli experience. Photo by Limor Katan Friedman/Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Ditch busy city centers and swanky hotel rooms for outdoor fun and sleeping under the stars in Israel’s best campgrounds

By: Naama Barak

Beautiful sunsets, gorgeous views, and campfire cooking– there’s really nothing like spending the night outdoors.

Should you wish to ditch the swanky hotel room for a simpler pleasure next time you’re visiting Israel, we recommend the following choices.

They might not be as fancy, but they’re twice as memorable, and you can get away from the hordes of other travelers. Just don’t forget the bug repellant.

1. Horshat Tal

The beautiful Horshat Tal forest is located at the foot of the Hermon Mountain in northern Israel. Spread out over 170 acres, it boasts huge lawns, a big lake, ancient oaks and an orchid reserve.

The campsite at the forest requires an entry fee and in return offers a wide range of amenities, from lighting, hot showers and bathrooms to picnic tables and mobile phone-charging points. You know, not to entirely disconnect from civilization.

Visitors can choose to spend their days at the forest or enjoy some water hikes at nearby Banias or and Nahal Snir nature reserves. Either way, a water-packed fun day is guaranteed.

2. Kohav Hayarden

Horshat Tal in Israel’s north offers a relaxing and peaceful get-away. Photo by Fares Daabous/Israel Nature and Parks Authority

This is the one for those who need a little more than greenery on their weekend away. Kohav Hayarden, otherwise known as Belvoir Fortress, is a Crusader-era fortress, complete with a moat and all.

The stunning historical sight in the north of the country is a must-visit on any trip to Israel, and what better way to enjoy it than to sleep only moments away?

For a modest fee, campers can either set up a tent or sleep right under the stars. And while kitchen sinks and running water are provided, showers will have to wait until you reach home.

3. Khirbat Homema

Sleep right next door to a Crusader Castle at Israel’s Kohav Hayarden. Photo by Avi Bahari/Israel Nature and Parks Authority

This free-entry and humble-looking campsite is a well-loved spot among hardcore hikers. Located at the foot of Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee, it’s a great starting point for the Meron part of the Israel Trail.

The campsite boasts a water fountain, picnic tables and parking, but the rest will be up to you. Our tip? Bring a good drink, light up a fire and feel at one with nature. And make sure to dress warmly – after all, you’re all the way up north.

4. Achziv

Possibly the prettiest location ever for a campsite, Achziv is a wonderful place to ease yourself lightly into this whole camping thing.

The beachside campsite is a pebble-throw away from one of Israel’s nicest beaches, already making sleeping outdoors so much more enticing. The entry-fee grounds are well-maintained, offering visitors picnic table, restrooms, hot water, showers and the must-have phone charges. No kitchen facilities are available, though, so bring along a packed dinner. Or a takeaway, for that holiday feeling.

5. Yarkon

Wake up to the Ramon Crater from the comfort of your own tent at Khan Be’erot. Photo by Yaniv Cohen

Want to go camping without driving too far from Tel Aviv? Then head out to the Yarkon campsite. Straddling the banks of the Yarkon River, the grounds are above-average in terms of facilities – there are even summer movie screenings and lantern tours.

The entrance fee is modest, and visitors can choose whether to crash completely outdoors, bring their own tent or rent one onsite.

Keep in mind that the comfort level and short distance from the metropolis makes the adjacent Yarkon and Tel Afek National Park a huge hit on weekends, so for a quieter time try a midweek getaway.

6. Masada

Masada really needs no introducing. The sunrise morning hike, the fascinating archaeology and its fabled history all make this mountaintop one of Israel’s most famous sites. So how cool is it to sleep right next door?

As you’d expect, this campsite is one of Israel’s best equipped. Visitors can choose whether to bring their own tent, rent one or even put down their heads in a larger, Bedouin-style structure. There are “staff rooms” that can host up to five people for those still not so keen on open-air sleeping and a caravan park, in case you brought an RV along.

There’s also a barbecue area, bonfire areas, restrooms, showers and the obligatory mobile-phone charging points. There’s an entry fee to the campsite, but really, you can’t put a number on this kind of experience.

7. Khan Be’erot (Ramon Crater)

The sun rises over the Small Crater in Israel’s south. Photo by Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90

The fabulous Beresheet hotel out of your budget? Look no further than Khan Be’erot. For a far smaller fee you can still enjoy sleeping in the middle of the desert, right near the one-of-a-kind Ramon Crater.

Facilities include drinking fountains, barbecue and bonfire areas, restrooms and showers, as well as a refrigerator room for the ingredients for that fancy meal you’ll be whipping up after saving so much money.

As comfortable as the campsite is, don’t be tempted to sleep in too long. The Ramon Crater is a full day’s hike, and you’ll want to start before things really heat up.

8. Lotz Cisterns

Don’t come here if you can’t stand the thought of not having cell reception. But if the thought of spending the night in the middle of nowhere exhilarates you, Lotz Cisterns in the Negev Mountain is the place for you.

The ancient cisterns around the free campsite date back thousands of years, and some of them still fill up to this day. Thanks to these water sources, in the winter and spring the desert area enjoys a beautiful bloom – definitely a sight worth getting off the beaten path for. The remote location also draws astronomy lovers, as the darkness makes stargazing so much better.

9.  Small Crater

Another great, free desert getaway is the campsite near the Small Crater. The grounds are as basic as they get – that is, zero facilities – but easily accessible and offer a great base from which to head out and explore Israel’s desert.

Particularly pretty is the nearby viewpoint of the Small Crater. Make sure to catch the view at sunrise to appreciate the dusky hues in all their glory.

10. Nahal Havarim

This free camping site is also facilities-free, but it is the entry point to one of the coolest hikes in Israel, earning its place in this top 10 list.

The said hike is Nahal Havarim, a dry desert stream that is crossed in moonlight – an experience you won’t want to miss out on. It’s also a pretty short hike, leaving you plenty of time to cook up dinner, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the silence of the desert.

             (Israel 21C)