If you are like me, then the city of Haifa probably doesn’t immediately come to mind as a destination when thinking of Israel. To be completely honest, I had never even heard of Haifa until I started researching Israel just a few months ago, but that does not mean that it should be ignored. In fact, the more that I researched Haifa, the more that I knew I had to visit.
Haifa is in northern Israel and happens to be the third largest city in the country. It also has a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is the main reason that I wanted to visit, and an impressive selection of hotels and things to do. I stayed in Haifa for the first two nights of my trip, which was perfect because this was an ideal place to relax and try to get over the jet lag. If you are looking to visit Haifa as a wheelchair user, here are my suggestions on where to stay and what to see –
WHERE TO STAY
Located at the top of a mountain with unbelievable views of the Mediterranean Sea, the Dan Carmel Hotel surely has the best location of any hotel in Haifa. My journey from the airport in Tel Aviv to this hotel took about 2 hours (thanks Israeli traffic!), but as we climbed the mountain to the hotel the suspense was killing me. I couldn’t wait to find out if the Dan Carmel would really live up to my expectations.
Upon pulling up to the hotel, I noticed a flight of stairs to get in the hotel. At first I wasn’t sure how I would get in because no ramp was in sight, but the kind staff soon informed me that there was a lift to get me up the stairs. This was a hydraulic lift and it worked very well, although it wasn’t the fastest lift in the world. Better safe than sorry though! Once I reached the top of the stairs I entered the exquisite lobby where the staff greeted me by name. Checkin was a breeze and I was soon escorted to my room.
I stayed in room number 601, a wheelchair accessible suite that set the bar extremely high for any other hotel stay that I may ever have. The room was large and I had plenty of space to maneuver around. There were two beds, a living area, and a desk/work area. While I am physically lifted to get in bed, the beds looked to be a perfect height for wheelchair users that need to manually transfer. They were not too high or too short.
There was also a balcony, but it was not accessible unfortunately. It had a small step to get out onto it. If I could make any suggestion to the Dan Carmel, it would be to make the balcony accessible. However, I was still able to enjoy the views from my room. I could see the city of Haifa with the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, and I also had a view of the hotel pool.
This room actually had not one, but two bathrooms. One had a bathtub (not accessible) and the other bathroom was completely accessible. It had a nice roll-in shower with a shower chair, grab bars all around the toilet, and a pull-under sink. As you may know, my mom joined me on this trip and it was nice that both of us had our own bathroom.
After a restful night’s sleep, we woke up and went to the continental breakfast, which is served in the hotel’s restaurant, Gan Dan. Now this is where I was really impressed! Israeli people know how to do breakfast. There was a huge variety of choices including hot items (waffles, potatoes, etc), yogurts, pastries, fruits, vegetables, and much more. It was tough deciding what all to get every morning, but luckily you can go back for seconds. Gan Dan also serves dinner, which I was able to enjoy one night. It was buffet style and again, there was a big selection of choices including meats and sides. I should note that Gan Dan is a kosher restaurant, so you will not see both meats and dairy being served together. I made the mistake of trying to order a cappuccino after dinner (where meats were served), but was told that they can’t serve dairy. It was okay… just a little embarrassing to make that rookie mistake. Haha!
The Dan Carmel also had a large pool and yes, it had a chair lift so wheelchair users can easily get in the water. I was impressed to see this feature, as many hotels in America don’t even have this at their pools. Way to go, Dan Carmel! If you want to lounge around and have a pool day, which I’d recommend if you’ll be visiting in hot August like I did, you will also be happy to know that there is a poolside bar. It serves both drinks and snacks.
WHAT TO SEE
Okay, so now you know how accessible the hotel is, but let’s get to the real highlight of the property: the location! Aside from being on a mountaintop with fantastic views of the Mediterranean, the Dan Carmel Hotel is also just a short walk away from the world famous Baha’i Gardens. These gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the center of the Baha’i faith. They happen to be a major tourist attraction in Israel and are why most people come to Haifa.
The terraces (also known as the Hanging Gardens) are on the slopes of Mount Carmel and extend almost a kilometer up the mountain, so they are quite big. You can walk or roll from the pool area at Dan Carmel to a trail that leads straight to the Louis Promenade. This promenade is about a five minute stroll from the hotel and offers incredible views of the Baha’i Gardens. The Louis Promenade is wheelchair friendly and you’ll be able to have a perfect view of everything below. Sadly, the actual garden terraces are not wheelchair accessible, due to many stairs, but this fact really didn’t bother me because the view from the Louis Promenade is so breathtaking.
As I sat in awe looking down at the beautiful gardens, our guide from Israel4All (a tour company that focuses on wheelchair accessibility in Israel) shared some facts with me about the Baha’i faith. It is a monotheistic religion and emphasizes that all humans have been created equal. The Baha’i faith says that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. I love that!
To get a different perspective of the Baha’i Gardens, head to the bottom of the mountain and see them from below. You will get a splendid view from Haifa’s German Colony, especially at night. The Gardens are lit up every night and it certainly gave me a new appreciation for them. After you look at the gardens from the German Colony, you’ll also want to explore this area, which is full of shops and restaurants. The German Colony is a bustling area that shouldn’t be missed during your visit.
Of course, Haifa has a lot more to offer including museums, but these were the highlights of my stay in this gorgeous city. And as you can see, from wheelchair accessible accommodations to impressive views of world famous sights, Haifa is a city for all visitors that shouldn’t be missed during any visit to the Holy Land.
*Thank you to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Israel4All, and the Dan Carmel Hotel for making this trip possible. While my stay at Dan Carmel was complimentary, all opinions are my own.
*A Note from Curb Free with Cory Lee: This post includes affiliate links. When you click on a link, I may receive a small compensation, which will help this blog grow into a better resource for disabled travelers.