“It’s a little too dark now, but in the daylight, you can actually see the alligators and crocodiles,” the guide told me.
Hold up, I thought. Alligators? Crocodiles? Really?
It was nightfall, and I was being led by one of the staffers at Hamat Gader — a sprawling spa, natural hot springs complex and alligator and crocodile farm, located at the southeastern tip of the Sea of Galilee — to a festive soiree at the main hot springs complex.
Hamat Gader is home to a sprawling hot springs pool complex // (C) 2010 Hamat Gader
When I arrived, the rollicking pool party for hundreds was already in full swing. Revelers surrounded the gargantuan pool complex, which featured multiple wading pools and waterfalls. In the steaming-hot, mineral-rich waters, some partygoers even received five-minute neck and shoulder massages by professional masseurs. Others opted to dine on a wide variety of foods, from sushi to hummus and pita.
I, for one, couldn’t wait to experience the healing waters of the park, so I quickly changed into my bathing suit and went for a dip. Stepping into the water, I noticed an almost-immediate change in how I felt. For one thing, my body temperature certainly rose, thanks to the toasty, geothermal-heated waters. And, because of the water’s high concentration of minerals, including sulfur, my skin felt baby soft to the touch. After about 20 minutes of wading, I decided to step outside and take a peek into some of the cooling baths, located just outside of the main pool in their own buildings.
The entirely refreshing experience was just what I needed after a long day spent on walking and motorcoach tours throughout the country. Although Israel is more widely known for its treasure trove of faith-based sites and activities, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is also home to numerous therapeutic spas and resorts that focus on a different type of healing, so to speak.
At places such as Hamat Gader, clients seeking to revive their spirits can do just that and much more. Hamat Gader, for instance, also has three restaurants; a special therapy center; a spa village with a private pool, saunas and spa treatments; and a 29-suite, chalet-style hotel. Guest suites surround a hot springs pool and each features a large Jacuzzi filled with water from the natural hot springs, a king-size bed, air conditioning, an LCD flat-screen television and a minibar; some also include a sauna. Hotel rates range from $220 to $260 per night.
Clients may also book spa packages that include two 45-minute massages per person, per day, and vary in price from $300 to $350 per day, depending on the length of stay. Spa treatments and accommodations may also be combined into tailor-made packages. The spa menu includes Swedish, shiatsu and hot-stone massages, as well as an Ayurvedic oil treatment and hydrotherapy.
Another plus at Hamat Gader is its family-friendly appeal. Children as young as age 3 can enjoy the hot springs (with parental supervision, of course). Children under the age of 16, however, are not allowed at the spa. And on most days, families can even catch a parrot performance featuring bicycle-riding birds, no joke. After a few days spent visiting Israel’s major historical and archaeological sites, families can relax, reenergize and entertain themselves, too. General admission (without booking accommodations) to Hamat Gader ranges from $19 to $21 per person, while access to the spa village is approximately $50 per person.
So, no matter what kind of healing your clients are seeking in the Holy Land, whether it be spiritual, mental or physical — or if they are just looking for some fun — I have no doubt they’ll find it in Israel or at Hamat Gader.