When it comes to thrill-seeking outdoor activities, Israel may be one of the world’s most underrated gems. From hot air balloon rides to white water rafting and sand-surfing, the Middle Eastern country is quite the adrenaline-pumper these days, all set against the beautiful, majestic backdrops of some of the region’s most illustrious locales. Whether by land, by sky or by water, here are some of the country’s can’t-miss activities for adventure-lovers.
Whether you prefer the mile-a-minute, heart-pumping rush of skydiving or the slow and scenic pace of a hot air balloon, Israel has an aerial option for you. Israel Extreme is one company offering excursions for the former (clearly), taking visitors on tandem jumps in the Western Galilee. This means the views are overwhelmingly beautiful as you plummet towards the Earth, with panoramic vistas of the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, Haifa and Hermon Mountain, Israel’s highest — and typically snow-capped — peak.
The company also offers paragliding trips, which is a nice middle ground between fast-paced free-falling and leisurely gliding. Rides are totally customizable per your preference, so they can either be slow and calm or more intense and rapid.
Another prime leisurely alternative is a ride on a hot air balloon. Rize Up, the first company to offer such rides to the public in Israel, will whisk you away above the gorgeous Jezreel Valley. With capacity for between four and 16 riders, each awe-inspiring trek lasts between 40 and 90 minutes. If craggy mountains are more your jam, visit Skytrek to embark on a balloon ride alongside Mount Hermon and Mount Carmel, along with views of the mountains of Jordan over the Eastern border.
Make a Splash
A little closer to Earth, Israel offers numerous options for those who like their adventures on the aquatic side. One highlight is the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand up paddle board at the lowest point on Earth, on the Dead Sea. Through companies like Supaway, paddle boarders can trek out into the vivid blue waters and bask in its nourishing salt crystals. If you lose your balance and fall in, that’s totally fine, because the famously salt-rich sea will keep you perfectly afloat. Along the shores of Tel Aviv, visitors can kick things up a notch with a surf lesson through Israel Surf Club.
Israel also offers ample kayaking and rafting options as well. Venture to the Upper Galilee for Kfar Blum Kayaks; they’ll hook you up with everything you need for a boat or raft. The former seats two, while rafts can accommodate up to six on a more challenging, white water route through dense vegetation and wilderness. Each rafting trip runs about two and a half hours, starting with a quick spree through rapids, followed by coves, pebble beaches and slow-paced pools to linger in and swim.
On land, rock climbing is a particularly thrilling foray for anyone looking to amp up their adrenaline by scaling sheer cliffs and craters. One such highlight is Ramon Crater, the world’s largest erosion crater in the Negev Desert. At the peak, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views that seemingly stretch forever, right before you suit up to rappel down the cliffs of Mitzpe Ramon.
For something a bit less vertical, Israel is filled with plenty of incredible hiking excursions as well. The David Stream Nature Reserve in the Judean Desert is a can’t-miss, with hiking trails that get visitors up close and personal with abundant vegetation, wildlife, waterfalls, brooks, cliffs and cooling springs. Depending on desired duration, the reserve has shorter hikes that last about an hour, like the Ancient Synagogue trail, or longer, more intensive routes like the Wadi Arugot or the upper section of the Wadi David.
Of course, this being such a desert country, don’t forget the sand-surfing potential. The Negev dunes are especially primed for this, through outfitters like Dror BaMidbar. Unlike actual surfing, of which there is lots of that along Israel’s myriad beaches, sand-surfing is great for families and novices thanks to how simple and straightforward it is. It can be done standing, sitting, lying down or even backwards, as riders glide through silky-soft sand to the bottom of the dunes. Once you’re done, treat yourself to a little picnic of fresh pita, tea and cakes.
All photos courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism