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The Valley of Lazy Days

Oscar Marvin visits the idyllic region where people try to move at a snail's pace

Fishing from the banks of Asi River; and indulge in a delicious kosher breakfast or barbecue
Fishing from the banks of Asi River; and indulge in a delicious kosher breakfast or barbecue

It is the perfect retreat from the fast pace of city life, with its warm natural springs and unique brand of “slow tourism”.


The Valley of the Springs is where Israelis go to swim outdoors, fire up the barbecue and generally chill out. And despite its northern Israel location it is very easy to reach from the centre of the country, as it is served by the new Beit She’an train station. 


Foreign holidaymakers are few and far between, and the area has so far remained largely untouched by the big hotels chains. Chalets are the popular, and more down-to-earth, option.
At Gan Hashlosha National Park there are three large natural pools to wade in, with greenery on all sides. Families camp out there for the day, enjoying picnics and barbecues and the water, which remains at a warm 28 Celsius even in the winter.


At Spring Valley Park, known locally as Park HaMaayanot, you can hire golf buggies, bicycles, and special bikes that take several passengers. 


Explore different springs round and about, bathing or paddling in each, or if you prefer a little more adrenaline, opt for an ATV tour near Park HaMaayanot. 


If you fancy a change from the springs, take a short hop to… Australia. Right next to Gan Hashlosha, you can meet the kangaroo kibbutzniks. 


At Gan-Garoo, Israel’s most unusual animal attraction, you can meet, pet and feed kangaroos. 


Watch koalas at feeding time and  take a look at kookaburra, pteropus (or flying fox, as it is commonly known) cockatoos, cassowaries, wallabies and emus. There are places to picnic and a maze to dispatch the children to, as you enjoy a quiet hour or three, depending on their navigational skills.


You can thank the children’s author AA Milne for this park. In the early 1990s, kibbutzim across the country were looking to diversify their businesses to survive. Yehuda Gat, of Kibbutz Nir David, loved Winnie-the-Pooh, and wanted to set up a Hundred Acre Wood attraction.


It was too niche to succeed, but two of the characters stuck in his head: Kanga and Roo. In 1996 he headed to Australia to learn about kangaroos and find out how to care for them. Soon after he returned home, Gat led his kibbutz in to kangaroo tourism.


Not far away, Kibbutz Nir David brings in tourists with its Country Lodge of 50 chalets by the banks of the Asi River. 


They are more comfortable than many in Israel. The bedroom features a jacuzzi and there is a living room with a sofa and dining table, and a ladder to a loft area where children can sleep. 
There are kitchenettes, but little need to use them. Cross a bridge over the river in the mornings to go to a kosher breakfast, with a plentiful buffet that is heavy on local salads and cheeses. 


And come the evening, everyone heads outside to the table-and-barbecue stations that are set up all ready and waiting by the river. 

The Valley of the Springs recently adopted a logo with a snail and a call for “slow tourism” — a movement that encourages people to invest proper time into getting to know a single area, instead of attempting whistle-stop tours. It is right. This is the perfect place to slow down the pace of life.

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