10 unique places to lay your head in Holy Land


Now that you can once again plan an Israel vacation, the question is where you prefer to stay.

The choices include five-star luxury properties, cozy capsule hotels, small boutique inns, apartment hotels, beachfront hotels, camping and glamping sites,kibbutz hotels, youth hostels and bed-and-breakfasts for all kinds of budgets.

Several new hotels recently opened, too.

But if you are seeking an offbeat place to spend a night or two, check out ISRAEL21c’s list of 10 truly extraordinary places to stay in Israel.

1. Bed down in a bus

The Zimmerbus bed-and-breakfast was created by an Israeli couple in the Negev hilltop village of Ezuz in 2013, using repurposed buses. Zimmerbus offers three converted, air-conditioned vehicles (one for couples, two for up to five guests) covered with natural adobe and date-palm leaves and complemented with patios.

A recycling system using wastewater from the Zimmerbuses irrigates an organic orchard. There’s a chlorine-free swimming pool, ping-pong table and other amenities for children. Located an hour from Beersheva, Zimmerbus is still a family-run hospitality business.

2. Ottoman authenticity

Akkotel is built into the walls of the Old City of Acre (Akko). The renovated historic building was constructed by the Ottoman Turks (who ruled Palestine in the 16th to early 19th century) to billet army officers, and later became a school and then a courthouse under the British Mandate.

Sixteen one-of-a-kind rooms combine stoned arches with handmade furniture. The roof affords a spectacular Mediterranean Sea view.

3. A real Crusader inn

The 14-unit Alegra Boutique Hotel in Jerusalem’s Ein Karem neighborhood consists of several buildings including an authentic Crusader inn that’s among the oldest structures in this historic neighborhood.

Each of the four floors has its own luxury suite built from the remains of different eras; the oldest floor is 800 years old and the newest 200 years old. The hotel offers a spa, sauna, sun terrace and lobby drinks.

4. Bedouin hospitality

Since 1991, Kfar Hanokdim in Arad, near Masada, has offered a range of earthy accommodations: A goat’s-hair Bedouin tent, 35 desert-style, air-conditioned guest rooms furnished with local wood, metal, stone and salt from around the Dead Sea; and designed lodges (sukkot) made with thick woolen sides and doors with decked wooden floors and futon-style beds for up to eight occupants.

5. Can’t hurt to try a yurt

Several sites in Israel offer yurts — Mongolian-style fabric-covered teepees with an underlying wooden structure.

Genghis Khan in the Golan, east of the Sea of Galilee, contains five air-conditioned yurts with attached private bathrooms. Four of them hold up to 10 people each, and one up to six. There is a communal kitchen with equipment for guests to use.

Also in the Golan is Indian Village. It used to feature Indian-style tepees (hence the name), but they’ve been replaced with air-conditioned and heated Mongolian tents for couples, families and groups for all seasons. Wooden cabins also are available. A kosher kitchen offers personalized meals for guests.

6. A night at the cinema

Tel Aviv’s downtown Cinema Hotel is an 83-room boutique hotel in the Atlas chain. It’s located in an original Bauhaus building that housed the Esther Cinema in the 1930s.

The hotel’s unique design is complemented by some of the original projectors and movie posters. Classic movies are screened in the hotel lobby — with popcorn, of course — to heighten the nostalgic atmosphere. Free happy hour and bike rentals.

7. Play in the mud

Kibbutz Neot Semadar’s Guest House offers 18 air-conditioned huts built of hay bales and homemade mud bricks, on the road to Eilat overlooking the Edom Mountains.

The kibbutz operates a boutique organic winery and produces cheeses from fresh goat milk. Its roadside restaurant, Pundak Neot Smadar, offers vegetarian food and sells the kibbutz’s organic products.

8. Sleep in an art gallery

The 95-room Elma Arts Complex & Luxury Hotel in Zichron Ya’akov encompasses two full-size concert halls and two expansive galleries displaying paintings and sculptures by artists from Israel and all over the world, as well as studios where artists in residence give master classes.

Artworks are scattered about the entire property which boasts spectacular views of the Mediterranean from guest rooms in its main building and private two-floor “cottages.” Like any luxury hotel, the Elma offers a spa, swimming pool, restaurant and pool bar, among other amenities.

The vintage 1968 building sits on 100 acres in the Carmel Mountain Ridge. Originally a convalescent home for Israeli laborers, it won its architect, Yaacov Rechter, the Israel Prize in Architecture.

9. Make your own kind of music

The Prima Music in Eilat stands out from many other hotels in this Red Sea resort city for its focus on harmony — literally. Each floor of the 144-room property features a different genre of music for guests to listen to in their rooms via an audio sound system with a smartphone connection.

The hotel has a recording studio where guests can record themselves singing to playback and take home their CD as a souvenir. There’s even a music club for kids with activities such as karaoke contests.

The Prima Music has a Retro Club where guests can spin LP oldies, and even the outdoor swimming pool is infused with underwater music. The décor is, of course, entirely music themed as well. Additional amenities include a spa, fitness center and shaded lawn lounges.

10. Fit for royalty

Scotland may come to mind when you think of lodging in a former castle, but this one is in Tiberias overlooking the Sea of Galilee. An authentic restored castle built in 1745 by the son of the Bedouin ruler of the Galilee, Dona Castle Boutique Hotel is located on a colorful street named for Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi, a 16th century Portuguese Jewish businesswoman who helped build up Tiberias.

Originally, the citadel was connected to the Ottoman-era wall that surrounded the city. In 1837, an earthquake damaged the castle, which was later rebuilt to house a Spanish school in 1925 and, more recently, an art gallery.

In 2007, the castle was converted into a boutique hotel and artist workshops. Its six suites are furnished in a hybrid ancient and modern style. You can have your breakfast served at the swimming pool or rooftop bar.