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Israel and luxury travel are not exactly synonymous, and the Holy Land is certainly not home to Gulf-style vertical excess, but luxury properties across the board have definitely been on the climb in recent years — and not just in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Herzliya, where Lady Gaga hung out in 2014, but in more remote areas like the Negev Desert. As if to help answer the holy luxe call, more and more airlines are offering nonstop flights to Tel Aviv than ever before. El Al is replacing its aging fleet of 747s with 787 Dreamliners. United recently added nonstop service from San Francisco (SFO) to Tel Aviv (TLV). You can fly Norwegian to Tel Aviv (with one stopover) from New York (JFK) and Newark (EWR) as well as Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Las Vegas (LAS) and Los Angeles (LAX). Ryanair recently debuted Tel Aviv service from several European cities as well, so what are you waiting for?
1. The InterContinental David Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a beach town and unless you are truly upset by sand, you want your hotel in the White City — so nicknamed because of the abundance of white Bauhaus architecture — to be facing the beach. The problem is most beachfront hotels in Tel Aviv either aren’t really on the beach or aren’t that great. The most notable exception is the InterContinental David. From the outside, it looks like any standard international business hotel but inside, there’s a wide range of rooms and spacious suites, many with sweeping views. Its location puts you at the south end of the promenade, meaning the beach is easily accessible, as are the hipster zones of Rothschild Boulevard and Neve Tzedek. Plus, it’s home to the best hotel pool in Tel Aviv, hands down. Rates from $284 or 40,000 IHG Rewards points per night in November.
2. The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
The large and elegant 10-story building that houses Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria started out as the Palace Hotel, built in 1929 by Amin al-Husseini, the controversial mufti of Jerusalem. While retaining its hybrid Moorish, Arabic and Roman interior, it was reborn as the most luxurious hotel in Jerusalem in 2014 thanks to a design team that included Israeli architect Yehuda Feigin and Turkish interior designer Sinan Kafadar. The grand staircase was restored and a skylight was added 50 feet up. There are 197 rooms, 29 suites and two restaurants on the ground floor — as the hotel is certified kosher, one serves meat and the other, dairy. Location-wise it doesn’t get much better than this: At the intersection of King David, Agron and Mamilla streets, you’re just minutes from the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. Rates from $487 or 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night in November.
3. The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya
When Lady Gaga performed in Tel Aviv, she stayed nine miles up the coast at the Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya, perhaps in the hopes of having a quieter beachfront experience. To date, this is the only Ritz-Carlton in Israel and you couldn’t ask for a dreamier setting overlooking the posh marina of Herzliya and its adjacent beach. All rooms have private balconies with many overlooking the marina and sea — for the best views, head to the 12th-floor rooftop swimming pool. The hotel also has in indulgent spa with an epic sea view chill-out zone and an excellent (kosher) gourmet restaurant, Herbert Samuel Herzliya. Plus, with The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, you can get two complimentary nights in a Tier 1-4 property after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account. Rates from $451 or 50,000 Rewards points per night in November.
4. Beresheet Hotel in the Negev Desert
If you thought Israel’s Negev Desert was the exclusive province of camels and sand, it’s time to revise your thinking with a detour to one of the most dramatically situated hotels in the Middle East. Located near the frontier-like desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, the five-star Beresheet Hotel is perched on the edge of the Makhtesh Ramon, one of the largest craters in the world that was created by natural erosion — while many of the suites here come with their own swimming pools, the big one has an incredible, eminently Instagrammable view of the crater. The resort’s main restaurant features organic ingredients and stunning desert views from its floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Beresheet is popular with Israelis, and there aren’t many hotels in the area, so make your reservations here as far ahead of time as possible. Rates from $392 per night in November.
5. The Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel in Zichron Yaakov
The little town of Zichron Yaakov, located about 43 miles north of Tel Aviv and 21 miles south of Haifa, is situated on a ridge overlooking the Mediterranean and surrounded by vineyards. To this idyllic setting came the Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel in 2015: Arts patron Lily Elstein saw a sprawling former sanitarium as the perfect venue to showcase the best in contemporary Israeli art. The breezy interior design is the complete opposite of the heavy concrete exterior, and the sea views from the 95 guest rooms rival the artwork — paintings, photographs, sculptures — that are on display everywhere on the property. There’s also a world-class spa with eight treatment rooms and a heated indoor pool with soothing sea views. Rates from $284 per night in November.
6. Scots Hotel in Tiberias
Despite or perhaps because of its location by the Kinneret, otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee — and because Israelis love a beach, any beach — the city of Tiberias has taken tacky and overdeveloped to levels of almost Biblical proportions. So you can thank heaven for the continued existence of the luxurious Scots Hotel, originally built as a hospital in connection with the Church of Scotland in 1885, because here the atmosphere is deliciously restful. There are 18 rooms in fusion of 19th-century basalt stone buildings in one area and a modern section with 50 guest rooms in the modern wing. Access to the swimming pool is by elevated walkway over exquisite gardens and from the pool itself, you can look out over the Sea of Galilee all the way to the Golan Heights. The spa is excellent and the church still manages the entire property, meaning that, unlike most of Israel’s larger hotels, it doesn’t keep kosher — so as you peruse the famously lavish breakfast buffet, brace yourself for bacon. Rates from $385 per night in November.
Where are your favorite places to stay in Israel? Tell us about them, below.
Featured image courtesy of The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem.
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