We set out from Jerusalem, a city I’d come to love within just two days, and headed north alongside the Sea of Galilee, towards the Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights is a region bordered by Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan – the history of the area is extremely complex and if you’re interested in learning more about it i’d recommend doing a Wikipedia search. There’s a ton of good information.
We were headed to the Golan Heights however, not to delve into it’s history, but to find out more about it’s ‘second name,’ Israel’s “wine country,” have a little fun and enjoy the beautiful region.
4×4 Jeep Tour and wine tasting
So what better way to start a day out than jump into a few Jeeps stocked up with delicious fruit, wine, good vibes and take a 4×4 tour of the region with the team from Golan Heights Winery! Our drivers were loads of fun; racing around corners, full of laughs and also taking it slow in areas of exceptional beauty and dramatic views.
Our jeep tour was as fun as it was eye-opening. And although we never dug too deep into the history and conflicts surrounding Israel and the Middle-East in general, we did drive right alongside the border of Syria, encounter several UN defence trucks and had the most surreal wine tasting over looking the war-torn country.
We were parked in an incredibly dramatic spot with a picnic basket, blanket, fruit and delicious wine to enjoy – all the while with Syria in the distance. It was fairly far away but you could see sections of the country that had been bombed. This was possibly the most surreal situation i’ve found myself in. And it’s also when I realised how different life can be just across the border of another country. The refugee crisis takes on a whole new meaning when you see the destruction with your own eyes.
However, this was was not the point of our trip. We weren’t there to sip on wine and witness destruction, but as tourists we also weren’t able to ignore it. And that’s what I love about travelling: To our hosts, this was just an ordinary day, (in fact they said that sometimes you can see and hear missiles overhead) but to us it was something you only see on TV. I digress (again), but that was kind of the sentiment of this whole trip for me. The blending of what you see on TV versus the reality of a country like Israel, it’s citizens and the Middle East.
Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun on the tour and learnt so much about the region.
To book your own jeep tour and find out more information, please click here.
A meal to end all Meals with Puzzle Israel
Roughly two hours after we started our tour, our drivers dropped us off in one of the Golan Wineries vineyards for a late lunch. Little did I know that this was about to be lunch experience to end all lunches! Unbeknown to us, Vibe Israel had arranged for Chef Nir from Puzzle Israel to meet us in the Vineyard.
We got out of the Jeeps and made our way to what was a ‘pop-up’ private kitchen, constructed especially for us along with a stunning rustic table set up with plenty of cushions and PLENTY of wine and champagne from Golan Wines.
To paint the picture, we were right in the vineyard (bunches of grapes hung from the vines literally metres from the table.) It was around 4pm and Golden hour was just about to begin and my excitement levels were peaking in anticipation. I didn’t expect this at all.?
We all thought, “WOW”, we’re about to get served a beautiful lunch in this place. Which did happen, but not right away.
Puzzle Israel organises experiences like this all over Israel for tourists and travellers so if you are interested, please get hold of them here.
After introductions, Chef Nir instructed us to put our cameras down and head to towards the long preparation table they had set up, and to each grab a knife and a chopping board.
We were about to get a crash course in prepping some authentic Israeli dishes, which we would be eating eat afterwards. It turned out to be wildly fun. We juiced lemons, cut onions, carrots, mint separated pomegranate seeds, chopped up a bunch of other stuff and had plenty of laughs along the way. All in all, the prep went really quick and Chef Nir took over.
As the food cooked we got the chance to taste more wine and champagne from Golan Wines and take some photographs of the scene.
The meal was, hands-down, one of the best i’ve ever eaten. We laughed and enjoyed our time as the sun set behind us. We explored the vineyard, took lots of photos and just had an incredible time out there.
Again, if you want to experience authentic Israeli food in a way that you will never otherwise get the chance, please do contact Chef Nir from Puzzle Israel, he is an amazing man and you’ll have the time of your life.
Wine Tasting at Golan Heights Winery
The wine tasting in Golan Height’s wine cellar was fantastic – despite being South African, I actually don’t know much about wine so it was fascinating to learn about the process and the challenges of making wine in the Middle East.
Golan Wines are a massively respected brand of Israeli wine and if you are into wine, I definitely recommend going to their vineyards in the Golan Heights. They also run the Jeep Tours. ??
It was starting to get late and after a day of wine and sun, everyone needed a chance to get refreshed before the party. So we relaxed, used the wineries showers and drank coffee in preparation.
Side-note: Nobody knows how to party like Israelis. They are professionals in this area. Seriously.
Volcanic Crater Party
We headed out to the volcanic crater, not really knowing what to expect, and found a huge stage constructed out in the middle of nowhere. Thousands of people had driven from all around, including Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem and the vibe was electric.
All my fatigue from the day vanished as soon as Madboojah Project started playing and we had such an epic time that the tour organisers had to eventually drag me away from the party so we could go check into our hotel! I’m actually busy listening to Madboojah Project on Spotify – here’s the link.
This is was definitely one of my favourite days in Israel. We covered a lot in the day, but to be fair we were on a tight itinerary.??
When you visit Israel I can definitely recommend taking time to visit the Golan Heights, it’s another area of immense history and dramatic beauty. ?
Visit these sites for more info on what to do in the Golan Heights.