Just a few miles east of the Mediterranean shoreline, the southern foothills of the Carmel mountain range emerge with dramatic suddenness from Israel’s coastal plain. There, like a horizontal sentinel clinging to the cliff face, the stunning ivory contours of the Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel offer breathtaking views of orchards, vineyards, fishponds, and, of course, long stretches of white sand beach.
Elma — an acronym of Elstein Music and Art — is the brainchild of philanthropist and art collector Lily Elstein, who spent millions of dollars over eight years of renovations to transform a former sanitarium — itself an award-winning example of 20th century brutalist architecture — into a luxury hotel that is also a cultural complex housing concert venues, art galleries and exhibition areas for paintings and sculptures. The property’s current incarnation is arguably more impressive even than its predecessor, earning the hotel the distinction of membership in the curated collection of Design Hotels.
The design elements of the hotel are best appreciated in the main building, which contains two performance venues — a full-fledged concert hall, as well as a lounge with a stage; a fine dining restaurant in addition to the bar/lounge; gallery space for hanging art, and a library of art books; a wellness area; and slightly more than half of the hotel’s guest rooms. All guest units in the main building boast spectacular sea views
The hotel’s suites are located in a separate area of the property, in two-storey cottages with patios and balconies. Each floor of a cottage is an independent guest unit, although families may rent an entire cottage.
All guest units are equipped with hi-tech switch panels that control lights and other features, such as the floor-to-ceiling drapes; lights come on automatically when the room is entered. Digital thermostats control the air conditioning and heating. Rooms are equipped with large screen smart plasma televisions, iHome docking stations, writing desks, espresso machines and electronic safes large enough to accommodate laptops. Free Wi-Fi extends to all rooms and public areas.
Spacious bathrooms are similarly well outfitted: roomy shower stalls boast dual shower heads, both handheld and overhead raindrop, while fragrant amenities are by upscale Israeli company Sabon. Most pampering are the huge, thirsty, soft bath towels, along with robes and slippers. While rooms in the main building have only shower stalls, some guest units in the cottages also have bathtubs.
An entire wing of the main building is dedicated to wellness, complete with a state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and a spa staffed with expert massage therapists providing treatments inspired by the world over. The pool’s sundeck marks the northern end of a hillside promenade that extends along the whole length of the main building and leads to an outdoor amphitheatre.
Elma’s fine dining restaurant, Oratorio, recently underwent a major transformation, now offering lavish buffets at all meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oratorio’s wine cellar, visible along an entire glass wall of the restaurant, is stocked with virtually all of Israel’s leading vintages.
Situated only an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, Elma is located in Zichron Yaakov, a quaint town nestled among vineyards that is the birthplace of Israel’s modern wine industry. The hotel is also an ideal jumping off point for touring nearby Caesarea, one of the Holy Land’s most important archaeological destinations, with a magnificent restored Roman amphitheatre still in use today, and a harbor and ancient port that was at the center of Mediterranean maritime commerce — and conquest — for centuries.
No. of rooms: 95
Published rates: $360-490 per room (two people), including breakfast. Tickets to concerts on the premises are often complimentary for hotel guests. Book directly through the hotel or compare rates and make your reservations at Travelocity.
Text by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of the hotel for purposes of review. Photos courtesy of Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel.