Aug 24, 2015  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Go North,

Off the beaten path in the Western Galilee, Israel's Napa Valley, in photos

Photo: Grant Legan
Meeting the clans behind the Western Galilee's family-owned businesses and experiencing their homey hospitality is a treat. Pictured at Hefer Ranch, a site for camping, horseback riding, and outdoor team-building activities, are Eyal Hefer and wife Edna (left and third from left), their son Or, and Rachaeli, who works the horse stables.     

As part of our #JNF #SummerLovin series featuring lesser-known Israeli seasonal gems, we visit the beautiful Western Galilee in July.   

If you haven’t visited the Western Galilee, add it to the top of your list. If you have been there, well, you know it’s worth a second (or eighth) visit. Located in the north of Israel, the culturally diverse area has an incredible amount to offer -- from picturesque wineries to richly historic cities like Akko and breathtaking views in almost every direction.The warmth and openness of the people working and living throughout the region immediately make you feel welcome. 

Below are just a handful of the highlights. For lots more, visit the site for Western Galilee Now, a nonprofit organization that aims to connect visitors with the amazing opportunities in the area. Its website features a detailed map of what to see, as well as an updated list of events. And be sure to take a virtual trip to some of the region's treasures in our photo gallery at the bottom of this post (hover over any image to spend more time on it). 

Wine lovers, take a tour of Stern Winery, a family-owned boutique winery on Kibbutz Tuval. Owner Johnny Stern might even take you behind the scenes of the large facility to see where the delicious, and award winning, magic happens. Lotem Winery, another gorgeous boutique winery overlooking the Sea of Galilee, helps cultivate its wines by playing music 24 hours a day. "The energy and the frequency of the music affects the taste and quality of the wine," says Jonathan Koren, co-owner of the organic winery. "We only play music about love, peace, happiness. It matters." Follow Koren on Instagram to get a colorful personal look at life in the Galilee.

Hagit Lidror, a chef who specializes in healthy vegetarian cuisine, teaches cooking classes at her home. Looking for some inspiration? Check out her easy recipes for chocolate and banana ice cream recently featured as part of our JNF #RecipeOfTheWeek series.
Photo: Grant Legan
Fresh and local: Two words that define Aluma, 
and Western Galilee dining in general.

Rushka Cafe and Gallery combines the owners' love of art and food for one unforgettable experience. Visit Yuval Telem's blacksmith shop before heading upstairs to grab a delicious bite made by his wife, Mira, and served in a rustic space surrounded by Yuval's master handiwork.    

"The word alto means high, and that is the direction they aim for," reads the website for Alto Dairy. Indeed, this family-run dairy is off the charts. The products, made exclusively from goat milk, are all produced on Kibbutz Shomrat.

Looking to cool off? Head to Buza in Ma'alot-Tarshiha for a delectable treat. Buza, which means ice cream in Arabic, is co-owned by Adam Ziv and Alaa Sawitat, who also owns the gourmet Aluma Bistro just up the street and serves the kind of innovative local fare that has #JNFfoodie written all over it. Check out 14 of the most unique ice cream flavors in Israelall from the dessert geniuses at Buza. 

Take in a show at Zikit Theater. The actors rely mainly on puppets and objects to tell stories, a unique style and an engaging way to bring the community together. The actors also travel to various theater festivals worldwide throughout the year.

Treat yourself to some relaxation with Aya Natural. The beauty products are based on three main precepts: social, ecological, and health. This combination, inspired in part by the area's natural surrounding beauty, is the foundation for a range of high-quality lotions, soaps, lip balms, and more. After a hard day of wine tasting, horseback riding, and gourmet feasts, you might just need a bubble bath or two. 

Have you been to the Western Galilee? Tell us about some of yourfavorite spots in the comments section.