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I am going to Tel Aviv. I've never been to Tel Aviv, nor to Israel as a whole. I am going for 10 days and flying around 27 hours without factoring in layovers. Total decision and booking time was about 15 minutes and the flights are only costing me $353.60.
Why? Because, in case you haven't already heard, El Al Airlines had an error in their online bookings earlier this week that left the fuel surcharge off of ticket prices, making a roundtrip from New York to Tel Aviv less than a roundtrip from New York to Las Vegas.
I scored this deal on Expedia as soon as news of it hit social media, as did thousands others. A friend who attempted to book after me had the deal pulled as soon as she clicked "purchase"; the trip price had rocketed up to $999. What compels me to discuss this now is not joy or bragging over grabbing the ultra-cheap flights, but to point out how El Al has handled the potential catastrophe and inadvertently turned it into what is quite possibly the best thing to happen to them in a while.
It turns out there are lots of good-looking people in Tel Aviv. Israel and Israelis long ago became a mainstay of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, and of course Tel Aviv itself is both a home and a dining destination for none other than Bar Refaeli. But some people remained unconvinced that Israel's largest beach city was an epicenter of attractiveness. Now there are numbers on this question.
Earlier this year online travel mag Travelers Digest published its roundup of global cities with the best looking men and women. The lists circulated around the Internet for a while, and then dropped off as these things do, and then were revived last week when they got picked up by an Israeli culture blog. Tel Aviv ranked 7th for hottest women and ranked 10th for hottest men. The writeup on the women's list included the phrase "exotic and appealing," which makes a lot sense since Israeli women are both of those things, and the men's list discussed "artistic Bauhaus architecture," which made less sense.
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And now a post about places in the United States, Europe, and Asia where you can visit baby giraffes. So zoos, parks, etc. Note also that we've embedded a couple of especially cute videos at the bottom, because baby giraffes.
Florida's Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay is at the top of the list, with a new baby born last December and then another one born in February. That's two baby giraffes, which you can see on one ticket. Very straightforward.
Gay Travel / LGBT Travel / Jerusalem Travel / Tel Aviv Travel / Israel Travel / Jerusalem / Tel Aviv / Israel / Green Travel / Green Tourism / → All Tags
Israel tourism has been in an upward spiral over the last few years. Every year brings a new crop of travelers to the Jewish Statereflected in now-routine "this was the best tourism year ever" headlinesand they go home and tell their friends. That's how you end up with niche surveys about the popularity of Israel travel, like Israel being the number two destination for Russians.
Obviously part of Israel's tourism revolves around the country being a destination for religion travel. Jerusalem is and will remain by far Israel's most-visited destination (see our insidery tips for making the most of a Jerusalem visit here and here). But other parts of Israel are becoming famous for appealing to other demographics.
Forest-filled Haifa recently got the nod of being Israel's cleanest tourism city, part of a campaign to bolster green travel to and around Israel (El Al passengers flying from LHR to TLV can even purchase carbon off-sets).
And then there's Tel Aviv, which has just been voted the world's single best gay travel destination.
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Jaunted contributor Sedona recently spent a week in Tel Aviv, which is throwing itself a year-long fiesta in honor of its 100th birthday. She headed to the Holyland expecting seven days of hummus, pita and falafel but she left pleasantly surprised by the city's fabulous food scene. This week she's filling us in on her favorite picks, none of which involve chickpeas.
Benjamin Siegel Bistro & Bar is neatly tucked into the Opera Tower (above) on Tel Aviv's famous beachfront promenade and it's a great alternative to the fast-food shacks and stands along the water. And yes, it was named for the famous Las Vegas mobster, Bugsy Siegel. (Something to do with the desert, say the owners.)
The decor is on the Baroque side with plenty of twinkly crystals and interesting knickknacks to keep it from being too dark. Also, the atmosphere's more on the elegant side, so don't wander in with sandy flip-flops.
Prices aren't cheap (around $20 for an entree) but the daily fish specials are worth it, prepped to order with a Mediterranean bent (usually a special sauce or dip). We say get there early and watch the sunset with a signature cocktail. Later on, a DJ will spin some tunes giving you the best of the both worlds.
The restaurant is open Sunday-Thursday from 12:30pm to 1am, Fridays from 9:30am to 2am and Saturdays from 9:30am to 1am.
· Benjamin Siegel [Official Site]
· Where Does Bar Refaeli Dine When She's Home in Tel Aviv? [Jaunted]
· The secrets of a successful bar [Jerusalem Post] [Photo: hanneorla]
One of the most-covered travel stories over the past few years has been the rise of voluntourism and do-gooder vacations. But we've also noticed an uptick in do-good-for-yourself vacations—scheduling a trip around a big athletic event like a marathon or bike race.
So as spring marathon season swings into full gear, we'll be looking at some of the marquee 26-milers around the world (especially the ones in places we love to visit).
Coming up on April 24 is a somewhat surprising entry—the Tel Aviv Marathon. The race is back after a 15-year hiatus, starting up again as part of this Israeli city's centennial celebration. The marathon course is appealing for anyone who wants to get a good look at this diverse city—it winds through the Old City and Park HaYarkon, ending along Tel Aviv's main draw—the stunning Mediterranean beachfront. The race, which also includes 5K and 10K versions, is expected to bring 15,000 runners.
· Run the Tel Aviv Marathon for 100 years of history [Israel 21c]
· Marathons coverage [Jaunted]
· Israel travel coverage [Jaunted]