There is no shortage of luxury hotels along Israel’s Mediterranean and Red Sea beaches, but it is a very different story on the shores of the country’s only freshwater lake. Apart from one or two urban hotels in the city of Tiberias, there have been no 5-star lakeside properties in the Galilee — until now. The Setai Sea of Galilee — sister property of the impressive Setai boutique hotel in the old city of Jaffa — is the first and only truly luxurious hotel right on the water where Jesus walked.
Guests arriving at the Setai Sea of Galilee are greeted in style. At the end of the spacious, bright lobby leading straight to the infinity pool is a station dispensing a welcome drink of cava, along with snacks of dried fruit.
From the lobby, guests are ferried by club car (golf cart) to their accommodations, which are in guest units called villas. Each two-story villa consists of a ground-floor unit with private plunge pool, plus a separate upper unit with a deck containing a hot tub big enough for four. All units boast views of the Sea of Galilee, and on clear days, of the city of Tiberias, on the opposite (western) side of the lake.
The villa interiors reflect a level of opulence only occasionally found in Israel’s largest cities, and very rarely in the periphery. The furnishings include an outrageously comfortable king-size bed, large desk, personal safe, mini-bar with free juices soft drinks, a “Nespresso” coffee machine and 55-inch IPTV. The giant screen is on a swivel, making it visible from both the bed and the sitting area, which contains a sofa that converts to a bed that sleeps two children or one adult.
The bathrooms are equally luxurious. Along with the spacious shower stall with two shower heads — one “rainfall” and one massaging — and double-sink vanity and countertop, there is a deep, wide bathtub with a view of the giant TV screen in the main room — and an electrically operated shade, in case you prefer privacy.
There are complete sets of personal amenities: cotton robes, handsome slippers, private label toiletries, even loofahs. Especially noteworthy are the multiple sets of towels, including bath towels the size of sheets.
Free WiFi not only reaches all units, it blankets the entire grounds. A really nice perk is in-room complimentary international phone calls to numerous destinations.
Exploring the property is fun and easy, whether by chauffeured club car available on request, or complimentary use of bicycles. And there are plenty of places on the sprawling property worth visiting: a bar and lounge area designed in Balinese style; a lakeside bonfire pit; an Olympic-length infinity swimming pool with separate pavilion housing a kiddie pool; and perhaps best of all, a free-standing, two-story spa complex.
The spa building contains an indoor pool with semi-submerged chaise lounges; a 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center; a whirlpool bath; a steam room modeled on the traditional Turkish hammam; and a changing room whose lockers operate on electronic wristbands.
The second floor houses the treatment rooms, as well as a relaxation area that beckons before and after indulging in one of the many pampering treatments. There is an extensive menu of massage and beauty treatments, including unique signature massages administered by friendly and professional therapists.
The main dining room serves three kosher meals a day, starting with the lavish complimentary breakfast buffet, which features a wide variety of hot and cold dishes, artisan breads and both sweet and savory baked goods. There is even a whole honeycomb, dripping with fresh, pure honey.
Time flies by at the Setai Sea of Galillee, and the staff will bid you farewell with complimentary bottled water for the road — a gesture common at five-star properties in the US, but not often encountered in Israel. Just another, final touch that sets this Galilee newcomer apart in more ways than most.
Number of units: 88 Kinneret Villas (plus an additional 47 to open in April, 2019), 22 standard rooms (Standard rooms are not sold separately, but as connecting units with select villas.)
Published rates: $530 – $670 (breakfast included). Compare rates at Hotels.com.
Text by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of The Setai Sea of Galilee for purposes of review. Photos courtesy of The Setai Sea of Galilee.