From the 1950s to 1970s, Israeli socialist communes called kibbutzim attracted idealist volunteers yearning to get back to nature. Everyone shared everything, from cars to income to babies born on-site, who were raised with other children their own age, away from their parents, in the so-called children’s house. Today, after an exodus and then the return of the kibbutz youth, these projects have, ironically, gone capitalist.

The kibbutz’s original vision for an egalitarian utopia didn’t last very long, but it hasn’t disappeared; it's morphed and modernised. Luckily for travellers, that means kibbutzim are opening their doors to outsiders who want to delve into these fascinating, and still-evolving, social experiments.

In these rustic, low-key rural resorts, you’re more likely to find high-tech workers than dirt-caked farmers. Instead of being put to work, you’ll be expected to relax at alternative healing spas or on hiking trails that wind through aromatic mango groves, lush botanical gardens or historical landmarks. While the Israeli kibbutz has changed in the past few decades grown up, some would argue it still offers visitors the chance to partake in classic kibbutz traditions, such as the hadar haochel, the communal dining hall serving the area’s organically grown agricultural products, all for a fraction of the price of nearby hotels.

Pool at Ein Gedi Hotel, Dead Sea
Unwind with a dip in the pool and a stint in the spa at Ein Gedi Hotel, near the Dead Sea © Shira Rubin / Lonely Planet

Ein Gedi Hotel, Kibbutz Ein Gedi

On the shore of the Dead Sea, the Ein Gedi Hotel is a veteran in Israeli desert hospitality. It was founded in the 1950s, at a time when the only access road was a dirt track, and since then, has made a point of keeping up with the times. Today, its accommodation ranges from basic rooms to luxurious suites that are outfitted with balconies and panoramic views of the nearby Nahal Arugot Nature Reserve.

Check the announcement board in the main lobby for information on guided tours of the kibbutz’s lush botanical gardens, home to nearly 1000 species of tropical flora from across the world, as well as biblical plants such as myrrh and frankincense. A pro tip: skip the free shuttle to the tourist-heavy, eroding and often unpleasantly hot Dead Sea beach and opt instead for the hotel's serene spa, where you can float in a Dead Sea pool rich in sulphur, magnesium and potassium while overlooking 500m-high mountain cliffs.

Doum palms (Hyphaene thebaica) near the border between Jordan and Israel
Palm trees stand guard in the Arava desert © gorsh13 / Getty Images

Keren Kolot Guest House, Kibbutz Ketura

The Keren Kolot Guest House is an oasis in the southern Arava Valley that has been at the forefront of Israel’s environmental movement for decades. Founded in the 1970s by Anglo immigrants, the basic, comfortable and English-friendly guesthouse offers bike hire and tons of advice for exploring nearby hotspots like the Methuselah, a date palm planted from 2000-year-old seeds that were excavated from the nearby site of Masada. Take advantage of the many seminars offered at the on-site Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, where Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian, American and other international environmentalists research innovations, including solar power plants or high-tech algae farming.

Desert accommodation at Kibbutz Lotan
Go off the grid at Kibbutz Lotan © Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn

Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn, Kibbutz Lotan

The blissfully peaceful Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn is a world away from the popular resort town of Eilat only 40 minutes away. A leader in sustainable ecotourism, Kibbutz Lotan offers low-cost sleeping in energy-efficient mud structures, plus the chance to feast on vegetables sourced from the on-site organic gardens. Against breathtaking views of the gorgeous desert sands and the nearby Jordanian Edom mountains, travellers can learn why thousands of migratory birds stop at this kibbutz while making their way to Africa and how both climate change and human development are threatening to change the landscape that makes it possible. It’s wise to take an afternoon power nap to escape the midday heat and also so that you’ll have energy for the midnight desert tour or the many meditation sessions that take place in the central geodesic dome. You might just fall in love with the place and opt to stay on longer; you wouldn’t be the first.

Mountainous rural village covered in mist, Carmel Mountain, Israel
Head for the hills and stay the night at Beit Oren Country Lodge on Mt Carmel © PhotoStock-Israel / Getty Images

Beit Oren Country Lodge, Kibbutz Beit Oren

Locals and visitors alike ascend Mt Carmel for the Beit Oren Country Lodge, whose beauty the Dadaist painter Marcel Jango called ‘staggering’. At an altitude of 400 metres, it offers a breath of fresh air and stunning panoramas of both the forest and the Mediterranean Sea. Beit Oren, which translates to ‘home of the pine’, opened its guesthouse in 1942 before the state of Israel was established. In the 1980s, it joined other kibbutzim in moving away from the socialist model of wage-sharing. Its pivot means that indulgence is the norm at Beit Oren, which offers spacious suites outfitted with Jacuzzis. It’s also within range of several picturesque hiking trails, horse-riding stables and the Ein Hod artists’ village, which is home to famous galleries and some 150 artists. After a day of exploring, book in for a relaxing sauna session and a holistic treatment at the Beit Oren spa that’s set in a house carved into local rock formations.

Kfar Giladi Hotel, Kibbutz Kfar Giladi

Perched high atop the Golan Heights, a plateau that Israel annexed from Syria in the 1980s in a move not recognised internationally or by the UN, the Kfar Giladi Hotel is one of the largest and oldest kibbutz hotels. Some of the rooms have views of the beautiful Mt Hermon, which can be skied on in winter, as well as the Upper Hula Valley, a natural reserve with abundant fresh water, which is an annual pit stop for roughly half a billion migratory birds travelling between Africa, Europe and Asia. The kibbutz’s staff can advise you on the best of the region’s activities, from kayaking down the Goshrim streams to the on-site Beit Hashomer Museum, which tells the story of the kibbutz.

Modern room at Nachsholim Holiday Village with a view of the sea and sunset
Nachsholim Holiday Village's modern rooms are set on a prime stretch of Mediterranean sands © Asaf Pintzuk

Nachsholim Holiday Village Kibbutz Hotel, Kibbutz Nachsholim

The Nachsholim Holiday Village Kibbutz Hotel is located on one of the most pristine white-sand private beaches on the Mediterranean coast. The low-slung bungalows are separated by hammocks and often include a wooden deck, an LED TV, outdoor showers and Japanese-inspired zen gardens. The premises are tastefully adorned with glass sculptures, which are a nod to the kibbutz’s historic bottle factory, founded in 1891 by the French philanthropist and Israel supporter Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Today it serves as an archaeological museum. Less than an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, Nachsholim is an easy escape that’s popular with well-heeled families, who are enticed over by the blue lagoons, charming coves, and fragrant banana and avocado groves.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter

Make the most of your travel with sightseeing tours and activities from our trusted partners.

Explore related stories

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 02: Participants take part in the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on March 02, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade began in 1978 as a march to commemorate the  1969 Stonewall Riots in New York and has been held every year since to promote awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. (Photo by Roni Bintang/Getty Images)


Pride 2024: 12 most LGBTIQ+-friendly cities in the world

May 21, 2024 • 11 min read