Stephanie Holmes stays at a working winery where guests are encouraged to try and survive without Wi-Fi.


In the Negev Highlands, about two hours from the Dead Sea and two hours from Tel Aviv.

Getting there: We drove from Jerusalem, via the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi Kibbutz, and up the steep and dangerous bends of the Scorpion Ascent trail through the mountains and ancient river beds of the Negev Desert. The scenery was spectacular.


Check-in experience: A couple of friendly dogs greeted our minivan, and young Israeli woman Sidet — one of two full-time staff who work with owners Hannah and Eyal Izrael — was there to welcome us. She put our bags on a golf buggy that she drove up the loose stone track to the cabins, and we followed on foot close behind.

What's so good about this place: It's a working winery in the middle of the Israeli desert.

The view is amazing and the place has a great ethos — it's one of many single-family homesteads established to reconstruct the agriculture and trade that once flourished in this region along the ancient Nabbatean Spice Route. It's now part of a wine route in the area. The farm was built on the ruins of an agricultural settlement that existed here 1500 years ago. As well as vines, there are olive groves, orchards, horses and a walking trail.

Plus, 25 shekels per night from the room rate will be donated to the EYAL (Israeli Epilepsy Association), a cause close to Hannah and Eyal's hearts.

And the bad? The rooms have loose pebble floors, rather than floorboards or carpets. If you're barefoot, it's pretty painful. Bring Jandals.

Room: A small, rustic cabin perched on a hill facing the desert highlands. It's basic but charming — there's a large wooden veranda with table and chairs, a garden seating area with low sofa and hammock, plus a small plunge pool, surrounded by flowering plants, trees, and native birdlife. Inside there's a seating area, well-equipped kitchen, and all windows have mosquito screens.

The outdoor living room and plunge pool at Carmey Avdat Farm, Israel. Photo / Stephanie Holmes
The outdoor living room and plunge pool at Carmey Avdat Farm, Israel. Photo / Stephanie Holmes

Complimentary Wi-Fi:

Not in the rooms — guests are encouraged to be off-grid and take time out to truly relax. For those who break out in a cold sweat at the thought, there's Wi-Fi available at the main farmhouse building.


Entertainment: There's no TV, but there is a stereo with an AUX cable so you can listen to music. But why bother, when you're surrounded by birdsong and the peace and quiet of nature? There's a walking trail that takes you up around the property and to rocks with ancient petroglyphs (and some that look not-so ancient).

Bed: A super-comfortable double mattress and orthopaedic pillows.

View: Vines, the desert plains, flowers and mountains. It feels like you're miles from anywhere, and is a wonderful nature escape.

Bathroom: A basic shower over a small tiled bath, but good water pressure, plenty of hot water and a window with that amazing view.

Toiletries: Basic shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and soap provided.

Food and beverages: The on-site shop sells icecreams, cheese and olives, plus there's wine-tasting in the barrel room. It's a very small winery and the wines weren't the best I tasted in Israel, but it's a nice experience nonetheless. Breakfast was delivered to my room in the morning in a chilly bin — it was packed with all kinds of goodies; freshly made omelettes, pancakes, oven-fresh sourdough, olives, tapenade, hummus, salad, muesli, cornflakes, fruit ... a veritable feast which we could construct ourselves and eat on the veranda in the morning sun.

Perfect for: Solace in nature.

In a nutshell: Turn off your phone and breathe.