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Swim in mineral pools and hot springs enjoyed by Romans thousands of years ago. Hamat Gader provides a relaxed atmosphere that’s fun for the entire family!
09:11 (08/05/19) חנה דרורי קשי

When we travel to different attractions, as a parent I have certain general criteria in mind. First, given the 6-year age difference between our boys, it needs to be able to satisfy a wide array of activities and maturity levels. It is often challenging for us to find attractions that make both boys equally happy. Second, being the introvert that I am means that I don’t want to feel as though I am fighting crowds. Crowded, high-energy places typically leave me feeling physically drained and I avoid them like the plague. Third, food, drinks and bathrooms should be easily accessible. And lastly, the facilities (including water closets) should be reasonably clean. I can honestly say that Hamat Gader met all these criteria and more. Hamat Gader is located in the southern part of the Golan Heights, just south of the Sea of Galilee and east of the Jordan River. On a Saturday morning in early May, I traveled there for a quick visit with my husband and two young children, ages 7 and 13. We had never before been to natural hot springs or mineral pools, so this was definitely a first for us and it wound up being a memorable and unique experience. Hamat Gader contains many different attractions to suit a wide variety of both locals and tourists. There are the various pools, including Hamat Gader’s Water World, which boasts a 10-meter high splash slide. The pool was very clean, and the slide was a tremendous hit with our 13-year old, who traversed its chute multiple times. Usually, in the United States, we would have to go to a bigger, more crowded amusement park to experience a slide like this. So, it was a special treat for him to be able to use one in a relaxed setting, without significantly long lines. We also appreciated that they had multiple, well-positioned shades covering the pool to protect visitors from the sun. The Water World area felt spacious; it was easy to find places to sit and we never felt crowded. This helped add to the relaxed atmosphere of the park. While Water World was well received, the overwhelming highlight of Hamat Gader was the beautiful mineral pool and hot spring. My husband and I knew to expect the slightly sulphurous, rotten egg smell associated with such sites, but we weren’t sure whether it would bother our children and cause them to dislike the experience. They all noticed the smell, but it was mild and not overwhelming, and for the most part it went essentially unnoticed. The pools themselves are really a sight. Old culture and new culture collide in this setting. You can imagine how people bathed in these waters hundreds to thousands of years ago, and yet, here you are, cell phone in hand, taking photographs to capture a modern-day experience. I will admit my husband was slightly irritable when we arrived. To be fair, he was tired. We were nearing the end of our vacation, and as is often typical of vacations our packed itinerary had started to take its toll on everyone. In that sense, Hamat Gader was exactly what we needed at this point in our journey. You cannot spend time in these waters and feel tense. The waters themselves and the various strategically placed massage jets work it out of you, and we all relaxed in no time. The mineral pool felt like a warm, enveloping bath, and was suitable for all ages. The hot spring worked well for our 13-year old but would have been too much for our 7-year-old. That was fine though, because there were plenty of other water features to keep him satisfied. The water features in and of themselves would have been enough to make this trip a worthwhile family experience. However, Hamat Gader also has a small zoo, which was another wonderful highlight for the kids. Of particular note is Crocodile Farm. We were able to witness the crocodile feeding, which, when viewed by two young boys is pretty much the coolest thing ever. There were at least five different species of crocodile present. The petting zoo was also a hit, bringing out the inner child in all of us. In addition to its various attractions, Hamat Gader also has a wide variety of food options placed around the premises. With two wet boys anxious to see all that the site had to offer, we chose the quick option of eating at the restaurant by the mineral pool. In the states, an option such as this would have nothing but junk food (pizza, macaroni and cheese, burgers, etc), but here we were able to have a delicious, seemingly home-cooked meal, all at a reasonable price, and served in less than ten minutes. We had a sampling of a braised beef and carrots dish (similar to what we would refer to as pot roast in The States), roasted chicken, roasted baby potatoes, salads, and seasoned rice. It was all quite good, even satisfying my 7-year-old who is typically a picky eater. The one constructive comment that I have to offer is that it was at times challenging to navigate Hamat Gader with no knowledge of Hebrew or Arabic. If the owners are interested in attracting more non-native speaking tourists in the future, I would recommend, at a minimum, a site map with an English translation. There were symbols on the map, but they weren’t always intuitive to identify. In addition, the English skills of the staff that we encountered were not strong. However, we were able to make due in creative ways – for example, when trying to ask one of the staff how to get to the Crocodile Farm, I made a jaw like motion with my arms and hands and snapped my teeth. Needless to say, he quickly figured it out ... Overall, we would highly recommend a visit to Hamat Gader if you’re able to make it to the northwestern part of the country. It’s suitable for all ages, and you will walk away feeling more relaxed than when you arrived.

 
 
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