34km (21 miles) N of Tel Aviv

Netanya is regarded as the capital of the Sharon Plain, the rich and fertile citrus-grove area stretching from the outskirts of Tel Aviv to Caesarea. Perched on verdant cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, it is also the center of Israel's diamond industry.

Founded in 1929 as a citrus center, the seaside town has for many years been a popular holiday place for Israelis. Over the years visitors (especially long-term visitors and seniors) have been joining them, for they've discovered that Netanya is quiet and convenient, geared to service, and within easy reach of several areas, including Tel Aviv and Caesarea. It's a sizable city, with all sorts of cafes, hotels, and shops -- but the real appeal remains the sunny beach and easygoing pace. (Note: Those with walking problems may find the stairs up and down the cliff to Netanya's beaches something of an obstacle. Elevators now go up and down the cliffs at strategic locations.) Those who decide to rent an apartment and stay in Netanya for a month or more will find the local English-speaking community extremely well organized. Many Israelis from France have also settled here. The population of Netanya has grown by more than a fifth in recent years with an influx of new immigrants from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, so Netanya has more of a European flavor than other Israeli cities.

A handsome park parallels the beach -- and the coast itself has become popular with Scandinavian visitors who take dips in December and January. Most everybody else waits until April or May, when the weather is almost perfect.