Golan Heights: let’s leave the controversy and see the real beauty of Israel’s wine country

About 6 months ago, I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the 5 bloggers to visit Israel through Vibe Israel. Golan Heights is one of the best places I’ve visited in this country (without knowing what is it all about, I usually just jump) and I’d love to share this experience with you!

Visiting the Golan Heights

What is it about Golan Heights that's in the news?

I didn’t want to go to this topic but you deserve to know. You are already knowledgeable about how I continuously express my undying love for Israel but the Golan Heights controversy is about bordering Syria and Lebanon – aka, the war-torn countries. If you try to Google the Golan Heights, you will see an endless string of negative news but if you ask me if it’s safe, well, I was there and definitely didn’t feel threatened.

It feels a little weird to be sipping wine and eating grapes with no hands when you can see Syria, not from a far distance but what can we do? Don’t make yourself feel bad about visiting Israel’s wine country and don’t you ever feel scared because it is truly a place you should pay attention to. If you think Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are the only places to visit when you travel to Israel, it’s up to you. But I am telling you, Golan Heights is worth a shot.

Here are some of the amazing things I’ve seen and done during my visit

Visiting the Golan Heights

4x4 jeep tour

I didn’t know where we were going but when I saw the jeeps upon alighting the bus, it already smelled fun. I immediately called for shotgun. At times like this, the front row is always the best seat. The jeep had this foldable windshield feature that came handy when I was almost drowning in dust. Of course, what else do you need when doing rides like this? Music. The jeep had fecking usb plugs and speakers where I freely put my roadtrip playlist on. The driver was kind enough to offer his humble sound system and didn’t mind whatever I played. He even sung to “No Scrubs!”

It’s dusty, it’s rough, it’s bumpy but we drove around for hours seeing endless fields and impressive mountain views. This is where the diversity of Israel comes in. I proved it to be true that this small country has everything. From beaches to deserts to forests – Israel has it all!

In one of the stops, we saw huge windmills overlooking Syria. We had a chance to sit there and listen to silence. “It’s a peaceful day today, thank God,” our tour guide said. On normal days, you can hear lound bangs in that area because of its close proximity to Al-Harra, a small town in the south of Syria. Look at my jumping pic above. You can literally see this town!

Visiting the Golan Heights

Cooking classes with an Israeli chef

After the bumpy ride, we arrived a vineyard thinking assuming lunch is set. The mighty Chef Nir Margalith of Puzzle Israel surprised us by saying that we will have to make our own lunch. I love to cook with all my heart but all I wanted to do at that moment was to eat!

As a world citizen who wants to be part of the experience, I took the plunge. Chef Nir assigned us to chop a lot of veggies while the rest of his crew was already searing and grilling meat that I secretly tasted while everyone was busy chopping. There were strong winds in between I didn’t know if the vegetables we were chopping were clean but feck it – Chef Nir makes it easy. We didn’t have to do much. He did everything!

I got really confused when food was served. Different dishes were flying left and right and they didn’t look familiar. “Where the hell are the vegetables I cut?!” was the only thing I can think of. The dishes were so gorgeous there is no way that I did that.

Visiting the Golan Heights

Wine tasting

“Wine conveys a feeling of its source from within. The region in which the grapes are grown is embedded in the taste, aroma and color of the wine. Wine, therefore, has the power to embody the culture, language, scents and people of its region.”  – Victor Schoenfeld

As if we didn’t have enough wine in our system (we were drinking since noon that day), The Golan Heights Winery invited us for another treat – wine tasting in their very own factory. In here, we got a chance to have a private tasting with the cool winery peeps that gave us nothing but the best experience.

Did you know that wine civilisation started in this area? Not really in Israel but no matter how many regions and countries in the world are claiming wine originated from them, it is definitely Assyrian. I wonder why every time wine comes up, it’s always France, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and not Israel or Syria. No matter how famous these countries are for wine, as a wine enthusiast, I think Israel’s wine country should be in that map.

Visiting the Golan Heights

Music festival at a vineyard

I told you the drinking never stops (sorry, mum). Can you imagine that super long day of drowning in wine didn’t end there? After the wine tasting, we immediately went to a party at a volcanic crater in the Golan Heights. Yep, volcanic crater. More sand. More wine. More fun.

On most of the photos above (please check the slideshow, I promise it’s fun!), you will see me rocking and rolling because this event was with unlimited wines! Upon entry, we were given plastic wine glasses which we can refill as we please. Music was super upbeat and this was the time when I slowly discovered the heart of the artistry of the Israelis.

I don’t really remember how the night ended but I do remember the day after – I was hung over and slowly concluded that I wanted to live in Israel.

And I did.

Have you been to the Golan Heights? If not, what did you hear about it? Will you ever consider to visit? I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave it on the comment box below!

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

Comments

  • April 22, 2017

    I have to admit I have never considered Israel as a destination but it looks an interesting country and I would love to do the wine tasting

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  • April 22, 2017

    I have not heard of Golan Heights before, but would definitely consider a visit. What a lovely place and great adventure you had. I didn’t even know they had wine there. Will put it on my list!

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  • April 22, 2017

    That looks like such a fun day! I actually think it’s interesting that Golan Heights is situated so close to Syria, and I agree it’s nice to explore more of Israel than just the typical tourist spots.

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  • April 23, 2017

    What a beautiful place! I had not idea that Israel had a wine country…Also it looks like you had a fabulous time exploring Golan Heights! I will have to read more about it. Thanks for sharing! 😀

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  • April 23, 2017

    Golan Heights seems like a cool and hip place. In fact, all of Israel is starting to have that cool hip vibe. The cooking class and jeep tour looks like the kind of place you could go with your mates and share a good laugh.

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  • Carol Colborn
    April 23, 2017

    So you can still have lots of fun at the Golan Heights! I was thinking of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem instead.

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  • April 23, 2017

    I hope that Israel is going to be one of my next destinations. And I’m sure that there is a lot more to see and do than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Those tours seem like a very nice idea of activities to add to my Israel bucket list.

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  • April 23, 2017

    I have been to the Golan Heights, but not THIS Golan Heights. I had know idea their was a winery and I don’t remember the windmills. I do remember rolling green hills with pretty little red flowers… and a field with active mines signs everywhere

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  • April 24, 2017

    Hi! What an interesting post. Reading blogs of travelers inspires me. I like traveling and Israel just became my new target! This country is one of those counties that managed to save the national character and traditions. I hope that my plans will come true and soon I will describe my new vacation in my blog.

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  • Chrysoula
    April 26, 2017

    I have never heard about this place before in the news but I might not remember the name as well. It looks amazing. I am fan of wineries so it is a place I would love to visit.

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  • April 26, 2017

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure to a part of Israel we read so little about by travellers lately. It is good to know you felt safe and had fun.

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  • Holly
    April 26, 2017

    Looks like a ton of fun. Love the windmills too. Maybe one day I will get there.

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P.S. I'm On My Way is a blog by Trisha Velarmino. She didn't
quit her job to travel the world. She made a job out of traveling and you can do it, too.

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