Biking through the Holy Land in Style
By Rivka Borochov
The get-on-the-bus, get-off-the-bus way of traveling today has lost traction with many people. New and authentic experiences where you can touch the earth, open your lungs and contact the local surroundings have a much broader appeal. And while the idea of a cycling holiday in Israel might not spin your wheels at first thought, a hotel in Israel’s northern Galilee region has opened up the possibility for amateur and professional cyclists alike.
Offering affordable accommodations for groups up to 30, as well as singles, couples and families, the HooHa Cyclists House is the first of its kind in Israel. It allows people of any age and experience level to take rental gear, maps and an experienced guide on a cycling holiday without having to haul equipment with them.
One of the guests writes on the website’s guest book: “The perfect place to crash after a day exploring the Galilee, this ultramodern guesthouse at the foot of Mount Tabor is run for cyclists by cyclists –– people who understand that sore bums and tired muscles demand a good pool, comfortable leather couches and a library filled with cycling maps to plan the next day’s ride. For those without a set of wheels, HooHa rents out bikes.”
For six years running, HooHa has been giving tourists and locals the chance to cycle in some of Israel’s most beautiful countryside. Especially after the winter rains, the area around Mount Tabor springs to life with water, red flowers, greenery and wildlife, offering a window into Israel that even those born in the country don’t often get to experience.
And trips can be tailor-made, says Dror Nevo, the hotel’s co-founder. He can take cyclists in his vehicle to drop spots and pickup points, so travelers can experience the best parts of Israel, along the Jordan River or up to the Sea of Galilee.
Certainly it takes a cyclist to know a cyclist. When Nevo thought of the idea of HooHa in 2005, he was on a three-month cycling holiday in New Zealand with his veterinarian wife, Hadas. Biking along the pastoral vistas, Nevo had a dream of dropping his demanding job as a high-tech VP and rolling, at age 30, in a new direction. He decided to open a cycling hotel and enlisted his wife to support his dream.
“During this trip in New Zealand we slept in guest houses and then we said to ourselves that we didn’t know if there could be special hotels for cycling and thought about [opening] one in Israel. It started as a joke because we both had careers, but during the trip I decided that I was going to take this seriously,” he says. “When I came back, I quit my job and devoted myself to the project.” Nevo himself leads groups on the trails, including a single-track trail that he built along with the Jewish National Fund.
Today up to 70 percent of the guests are cyclists, or people who want to add cycling to their holiday. Israelis comprise up to 85% of the guests checking into HooHa.
As far as he knows, Nevo was the first in the world to create a cyclists hotel and, since its founding, others in Italy and Czechoslovakia sprung up. He even consulted for an Israeli couple who chose to open a cycling chalet in Switzerland.
“We are kind of pioneers. We didn’t learn from any other place,” he says.
“Now,” he adds, “I am trying to build a network for sports tourism, and not only for cycling. We want to open more branches for diving and skiing. I don’t know of any other firms that are going in this direction and I am looking for partners and investors.”