Tourism is growing again in Israel and along with it the awareness of eco-tourism. Long-time residents or tourists to the Holy Land looking to travel a bit off the beaten path, should consider the one-week cycling and winery tour laid out by the Ministry of Tourism.
Although the onus is on you to map out your route and find places to lodge at night, a fairly detailed outline on how to do that, while sampling the wine from some of the country's better establishments is mapped out here: Cycling Through Israeli Wine and Biblical History.
What makes this bike tour particularly exciting is that it bisects one of the most enchanting regions in Israel –– the Ella Valley –– where the story of King David and Goliath took place.
Organize a tour alone or with a pack of your traveling buddies and while you're soaking up the biblical history of the region, you can also sample some of its better wine, including wine from at least one vineyard that is certified organic.
For those on a limited budget, consider pitching a tent along the way. Just remember, not to drink and drive!
Here is a sample itinerary:
Bar Giora to the Beit Shemesh Area Approx 30 Km.
The area surrounding the town of Beit Shemesh is home to about 15 wineries. We recommend devoting day two and three to exploring and tasting the wine of this area.
From Bar Giora, head down road #475 which will take you down into the Ella Valley and the Judean Plains. Turn into Kibbutz Nativ Ha’Lamed He and the Ella Valley Winery (and future home to Vertigo’s Eco-Village).
Archeologists have found proof that in this very location, wine was made in the times of King David.
You could head to the nearby Agur Winery located in an ancient inn and then follow road #38 towards Beit Shemesh. Enter the Beit Gemal Monastery, where in addition to local honey and olive oil, you will find the Cremisan Winery, with wine made from grapes of the Bethlehem area.
Continue towards Beit Shemesh and turn into Kibbutz Tzora. End your day by visiting one or all of the three wineries of this valley. In Kibbutz Tzora you will find the Tzora Winery made from local grapes.
Also in the Kibbutz you can find the Teperberg 1870 Winery, which is one of the first wineries in the old city of Jerusalem.
At the end of the road you will find the Catholic monastery of Dir Rafaht. Here, between the vineyards and olive groves, the Mony Winery sits atop a small hill overlooking the area (Tel: 02-991-6629).
Overnight in the Tzora-Beit Shemesh area.