Israel

Since its creation as a modern state in 1948 Israel has never been far from international attention.  A combination of Promised Land, postcard beaches and political powder keg, everyone has their own perception of what Israel should be.  The capital, Jerusalem is a sacred place to Jews, Muslims and Christians but it is as much a modern city as a concept, as full of living, breathing people as ghosts and biblical figures.  And behind the political headlines is a bustling, noisy, modern country.

Best time to visit Israel

The summer months are warm but during major Jewish holidays the country fills up with pilgrims, accommodation prices double and travel between cities is impossible.

 

Experiences in Israel

  • Being dazzled by the golden view of Jerusalem’s Old City at dawn
  • Hitting the clubs or shopping in Tel Aviv, Israel’s most cosmopolitan city.
  • Saying a prayer for peace at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall
  • Escaping to Hula Valley and Nature Reserve, a beautiful valley with unique wetlands wildlife.
  • Splashing out at the water-sports capital of Eilat, with coral-fringed beaches for swimming, windsurfing, parasailing and water-skiing.
  • Witnessing the many security fences and walls dividing Israel and Palestine.

 

Eat

Malawach, a buttery pastry served with fillings or spicy tomato salsa

 

Drink

The ubiquitous sahlab, a milky, spicy concoction originally from Egypt but drunk everywhere in Israel.

 

Interesting facts about Israel

The Star of David adorning tanks, troubled war-zone, international kids on kibbutzim; dark-clothed Hasidics sweltering in the heat; diplomatic imbroglio

A fifth of Israel’s landmass is national parks – there are 300 of them.

 

Israel

 

Located geographically and culturally at the intersection of Asia, Europe and Africa, Israel is a melting pot of diverse ethnicities and religions. Despite its small size, Israel holds a plethora of spectacular natural landscapes, archaeological treasures, and historical religious sites. Soak up some sun on a Mediterranean beach, hike the Israeli National Trail or ride a camel through Israel’s hauntingly beautiful deserts. With its snow-capped mountains, coastal gems, ancient artefacts, bustling markets, striking cityscapes and laid-back locals, Israel is an ideal travel destination.

 

Jerusalem

 

Jerusalem holds high significance for three major religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) and as a result offers a multitude of historical attractions to interest both pilgrims and secular tourists. The walled Old City, with its narrow cobble-stoned alleyways, beautiful bell towers, and charming hidden courtyards, is the epicentre of Jerusalem. Despite it’s small size, the Old City is home to a plethora of ancient sacred sites. These include the Garden of Gethsemane; the Western Wall; and the Dome of the Rock from which Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven. Step out of the Old City and you will find yourself thrust back into the twenty-first century. All of these historical sites contrast to make Jerusalem a fascinating and inspiring travel destination.

 

Sea of Galilee

 

Resting in the east of the Galilee region, the Sea of Galilee is Israel’s largest freshwater lake. Known in Hebrew as Yam Kinneret, this picturesque lake is famed for its religious significance as the area surrounding this vast body of water is where Jesus is said to have conducted most of his ministry. It was here that he is believed to have walked on water, miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes, and delivered the Sermon on the Mount. As such, the lake has long been a popular pilgrimage site offering a multitude of holy sites of Judaism and Christianity such as Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, the Tomb of Habakuk, and the Tomb of Rabbi Akiva. Its beaches are also a prime recreational spot for Israelis and foreigners alike offering great opportunities for swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, cycling and visiting the popular shoreline water parks. For all its beauty and splendor and for the rich history that it harbors, the Sea of Galilee is a sight not to be missed by anyone embarking on a tour of Israel.

 

Nazareth

 

Resting in Lower Galilee in the heart of a valley surrounded by mountains that embrace several of the most important Christian sites in the world, Nazareth is a city known for not only its religious significance but also its long and captivating history, its fascinating archeology, and its modern culture and Middle Eastern charm. The city offers an intriguing combination of the timeless and the topical. What was once the small Jewish village where Jesus Christ spent much of his life is now the largest Arab city in Israel proper with a mixed but relatively harmonious Christian and Muslim population. Popular sites in the area include the city’s first church – the Church of the Annunciation at the traditional site of Joseph and Mary’s home; the local market with its colourful stalls and wide variety of merchandise; and the Old City, built in the mid-19th century in a charming Middle Eastern architectural style complete with narrow streets lined with picturesque little houses. Whether you are seeking a spiritual experience, some ancient historical treasures or a healthy dose of authentic Middle Eastern culture, Nazareth has plenty to satisfy all tastes and inclinations.

 

Safed

Situated in Northern Israel in the scenic mountains of the Upper Galilee, the ancient city of Safed (also spelled Zefat or Tsfat) offers stunning panoramic views of the Golan, Mt Meron, the Amud Valley, Tiberias and the spectacular Sea of Galilee. As one of the four holy cities of Israel, Safed has played a significant role in the history of the Judaism. Much of this long and rich past remains evident in the city’s Old Town area with its winding maze of cobblestone streets brimming with medieval synagogues and its nearby forest and nature reserve dotted with the graves of numerous righteous holy people known in Hebrew as Tzaddikim. The city is also known for its numerous art galleries as some of Israel’s best known artists and artisans make their homes in the city’s ever-expanding Artist Quarter. While Safed is a delight to visit at any time of the year, Shabbats and Jewish holidays are especially enjoyable occasions as the town’s synagogues and residents welcome visitors to join them in lively celebration.

 

Netanya

 

Idyllically located on a cliff side overlooking Israel’s magnificent Mediterranean coastline, the lively resort city of Netanya is known for its panoramic views, its host of museums, its pristine beaches and its spacious promenade lined with parks, flower gardens and water features. The city’s central geographic location allows for convenient access to the area’s surrounding tourist sites. Just south of the city you will find several nature reserves: the Iris Reserve, where purple irises flower in February and March; the Nahal Poleg Reserve, with fauna unique to the area; and the Udim Reserve, which is home to numerous turtles, fish, and a startling array of bird life. Netanya’s beautiful natural surrounds provide an ideal outdoor playground for numerous activities such as nature walks, paragliding, parachuting, jeep tours, horseback riding, surfing and sailing. Add to this: some warm and welcoming locals, a pleasant climate, and an impressive culinary scene, and it is not hard to see why Netanya has fast become one of Israel’s most desirable tourist attractions.

 

Ein Harod

 

Situated in northern Israel, Ein Harod is a kibbutz set in the Jezreel Valley near Mount Gilboa in Israel. It is home to a renowned art museum and a hillside guesthouse offering beautiful views over the valley. Visitors flock here for its unique and tranquil country atmosphere. It serves as a great base from which to explore a number of attractions in the scenic surrounds including Harod Valley springs, Mount Gilboa and Gideon’s Cave. Visitors can look forward to viewing the collection os amazing art at the Mishkan Museum of Art, visiting the Well of Harod, also known as the Spring of Harod; and browsing the fascination displays at the Sturman Museum.

 

 

Eilat

 

Located at the southernmost tip of the country, Eilat is primarily a resort town offering excellent snorkelling, diving, kitesurfing and swimming opportunities in its turquoise-tinted waters. For those who prefer to view marine life without getting wet, there is an underwater observatory where you can catch a fascinating glimpse of life above and below the water. Eilat offers plenty of other attractions to keep you busy, including an aquarium, a theme park, tax-free shopping and an array of outdoor activities which showcase the breathtaking local desert scenery.

 

Acre

 

Acre is a picturesque, historic port city in the northern coastal plain region of northern Israel, at the northernmost point of Haifa Bay. The city is situated on the exquisite coast of the Mediterranean Sea, traditionally linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. In crusader times it was known as St. John d’Acre after the Knights Hospitaller of St John order who had their headquarters there. The remains of the crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost entirely intact, providing an exceptional picture of the layout and structures of the capital of the medieval Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem. A tour of Acre is an essential addition to any Israeli itinerary as this fascinating city offers an intriguing combination of East and West, new and old, modernity and ruins, all adding to unique character and charm of this lovely resort city. The sheer range of tourist attractions on offer combined with the city’s annual calendar filled with lively cultural events, make Acre a truly enchanting holiday destination with a new adventure or captivating attraction hidden around every corner.

 

Caesarea

 

Idyllically located on the picturesque Mediterranean coast of Israel, approximately 50 kms from the vibrant capital of Tel Aviv, the small affluent town and extensive archaeological site of Caesarea is devoted to tourists and luxurious living. The town boasts some of Israel’s most extravagant homes, an upmarket hotel, long stretches of pristine beaches, a range of excellent galleries and high-end boutiques. Caesarea is well-known as an archaeological site preserving the remains of numerous time periods, including fascinating Byzantine Archive Buildings, bath-houses, a renowned Roman amphitheatre and a historical harbor. Perhaps most interesting of all Caesarea’s sites is the Ancient Caesarea Maritima, a giant city and port created over 2000 years ago by Herod. Much of this Roman city remains, including an aqueduct, theatre, as well as countless of excavated houses, mosaics, palaces, balustrades and towers.

 

Judean Mountains

 

This remarkably remote and rugged mountain range extends from the Judean Foothills to the Jordan Valley Rift and encompasses some well known cities such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah. Visitors typically use the popular historic city of Jerusalem as a base for exploring this vast wilderness area which provides plenty of opportunities for adventurous outdoor activities. Spend your days marvelling at the wonderful national parks, exploring some fascinating ancient caves, participating in exciting archaeological digs or visiting ‘Mini Israel’ where you will find a miniature replica of the entire country complete with tiny reconstructions of all of its major attractions.The Judean Mountains provide an ideal getaway where you can relax and unwind away from the hustle and bustle of the city in a spectacularly scenic natural environment.

Jordan Valley

 

 

Stretching over 100kms from the outlet of the mighty River Jordan at the Sea of Galilee to its inlet into the Dead Sea, the deep cleft of the Jordan Valley has supported human settlement since antiquity, sustained by the rich soil that, to this day, makes farming a prolific pursuit. While this agricultural tradition has remained at the heart of the area’s economy, today the presence of both cattle ranchers and Basque families remains significant, and the Jordan Valley has become a popular service hub for travelers exploring the rugged Owyhee canyonlands. Must-see sights in the area include: Gilgal Argaman, an Iron-age ceremonial site; the famous Roman ruins and caves of Qumran; and Jordan-Jericho, the southern section of the Jordan river which hosts many ancient monasteries and chapels and is believed to be the site of the Israelite crossing to the Holy Land.

 

Beit She’an

 

Situated in the Beit She’an Valley in the Galilee region, the large town of Beit She’an is a not-to-be-missed itinerary item for any tour of Israel. While the town offers upmarket hotels, contemporary shopping malls and all the facilities one would expect from a modern town, it is best known for its numerous archeological sites displaying remnants of various fascinating time periods. Beit She’an was rebuilt as a Hellenistic city about 2,300 years ago and the remains of this magnificent city can be clearly seen at the city’s premier tourist site, the National Park of Beit She’an. This park preserves the extensive remains of both the Caananite and Egyptian city on the high city-mound, and the extensive, well-preserved Romano-Byzantine city below. Unlike some archaeological sites that turn out to be just piles of rocks, ancient Beit She’an makes history come alive with its fascinating ruins, complete with ancient pagan temples, public theaters, a Roman amphitheater, a Byzantine-styled street fully equipped with period columns, several Roman bathhouses, a Byzantine basilica, numerous intricate mosaics.

 

Herzliya

 

Herzliya is a large, vibrant city on the stunning Mediterranean coast of Israel. The city is blessed with the most exquisite beaches in Israel. Dotted with luxurious resorts and its streets lined with extravagant residences, Herzliya Pituach is the area in which most tourists choose to spend their time. Many water sports are on offer including scuba diving, sailing, kayaking and fishing. For a more traditional Israeli experience, visitors can head to the centre of the city, which brims with falafel stores and charming cafes, and is lit with a kaleidoscope of colourful lights. Must-see attractions include the Founders’ House museum, depicting the everyday life of the town’s first settlers, and the Herzliya Museum of Israeli Art and Sculpture, which exhibits the work of contemporary Israeli artists.

 

Ashkelon

 

The vibrant and modern city of Ashkelon is situated in the Southern District of Israel, on the Mediterranean coast. It is located south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. As one of the oldest cities in the world, the ancient seaport of Ashkelon is steeped in history. The city center features ancient sites, alongside green agricultural areas that stretch out towards the horizon. The more modern areas of the city feature state-of-the-art shopping malls, numerous recreation and tourism centers, the country’s largest national archeological park, an impressive promenade as well as numerous other tourist attractions. Ashkelon’s location between the sea and the desert assures a comfortable climate year round. Throw in a range of magnificent golden sand beaches lapped by warm turquoise waters and it is easy to see why Ashkelon has become one of Israel’s most popular resort cities.

 

Tel Aviv

 

The juxtaposition of old and new is common in Israel and nowhere is this more apparent than in the city of Tel Aviv. The towering skyscrapers and state-of-the-art architecture in this cosmopolitan metropolis stand in stark contrast to the cobbled streets and old-world charm of the surrounding areas. Tel Aviv is the financial, technological and economic hub of Israel. Known as a “party capital”, the city is the perfect destination for the hedonistic traveller looking to play in a vibrant, dynamic city that never sleeps. Visitors spend time marveling at the plethora of contemporary art galleries, engaging in retail therapy at artisan boutiques, or relaxing in the sun on one of the blissfully balmy beaches, before heading to Tel Aviv’s many restaurants, bars and exclusive nightclubs after dark.

 

Haifa

 

Situated on Israel’s picturesque Mediterranean coastline and stretching up the gentle slopes of the scenic Mount Carmel, the thriving port city of Haifa is a high-technology industrial hub as well as Israel’s third largest city. However, Haifa isn’t all work and no play. The city has some stunning beaches, a popular cable car, and a gorgeous seaside promenade. Culture enthusiast will have plenty to keep them busy with a wide range of impressive museums on offer including the Mane-Katz Museum, the Museum of Prehistory, and the Tikotin Museum, which exhibits some fascinating Japanese art. Haifa is also home to the ancient Carmelite Monastery which dates back to the 12th century and offers panoramic views of the city as well as a small museum showcasing local archaeological artifacts. Once you have got your cultural fix, head outdoors to explore the world’s longest hillside gardens on display at the Baha’i Complex. The complex is home to the golden-domed Baha’i Shrine and provides spectacular views of Haifa Bay and the glistening Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

 

Tiberias

 

Tiberias is a popular tourist resort located on a steep hillside overlooking Israel’s only freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee. No pilgrimage would be complete without a visit to this holy city, it’s significant religious sites around the lake, and the charming Old City. Aside from its historical monuments, Tiberias is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing summer holiday with numerous leisure activities and watersports on offer. The new city’s downtown area is a vibrant commercial centre complete with a variety of restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, bustling bazaars and live music venues. Take a horse-drawn carriage around town or rent a bicycle and spend the day exploring the gorgeous beaches and natural springs dotted along the shoreline.

 

Negev Desert

‘Negev’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘parched’ and this is certainly an apt description for the vast desert area covering the entire southern half of Israel. This remarkably remote desert wilderness is characterised by a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interspersed with deep craters, wonderful wadis, and colourful Bedouin encampments. The Negev also boasts an impressive number of ancient sites and visitors can explore the fascinating ruins of dramatically sited Nabataean cities, before heading south to the summer playground of Eilat on the Red Sea coast. The south features some exquisite limestone, chalk, dolomite, and granite mountains, with the Arava Valley to the east dividing them from biblical Edom, now part of Jordan. Despite its desert status, the Negev is far from barren: it supports a thriving agricultural community, a vibrant ‘capital’, and an intriguing desert ecosystem. If you are seeking a wild Israeli adventure complete with jeeps, camels and exhilarating excursions into the rugged outdoors, look no further than the vast desert expanse of the Negev.

 

 

Ramon Crater

 

The largest of the three Negev craters, the Makhtesh Ramon (also known as the Ramon Crater) is a breathtaking geological wonder situated at the peak of Mount Negev, some 85 km south of the city of Beersheba in the Central Negev. Although Makhtesh Ramon is usually referred to as a crater, it is not an impact crater from a meteorite but a ‘makhtesh,’ – a valley surrounded by steep walls and drained by a single ‘wadi’ or riverbed. In fact, the Ramon Crater is the largest makhtesh on earth. Shaped like an elongated heart, this remarkable geographical feature is 40km in length, between 2 and 10 kms wide, and over 500 metres deep. Makhtesh Ramon is a geologist’s dream with countless fossils, fascinating rock formations and volcanic and magmatic phenomenon dating back as far as 220 million years. Today the crater and surrounding area forms Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve.

 

Ashod

 

Situated along the Mediterranean coast of Israel, Ashdod is set between Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. It is the busiest and largest port and the sixth-largest city in the country. It boasts over 10 kilometres of coast crowned by a collection of magnificent beaches, numerous historical sites as well as nature reserves in the surrounds. Visitors can look forward to a variety of wonderful activities such as horse riding, 4×4 excursions, cruises and glass-bottomed boating tours from the marina. View the archaeological exhibition at the Korin Maman Museum, relax on the villa-dotted southern beach, and take a scenic stroll along the beautiful seaside promenade. Other highlights include: Ashdod Museum of Art, Yona’s Hill, the Struma Monument Plaza, and the ancient walls of the Kal’at El-Mina.

 

Ashkelon

 

The vibrant and modern city of Ashkelon is situated in the Southern District of Israel, on the Mediterranean coast. It is located south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. As one of the oldest cities in the world, the ancient seaport of Ashkelon is steeped in history. The city center features ancient sites, alongside green agricultural areas that stretch out towards the horizon. The more modern areas of the city feature state-of-the-art shopping malls, numerous recreation and tourism centers, the country’s largest national archeological park, an impressive promenade as well as numerous other tourist attractions. Ashkelon’s location between the sea and the desert assures a comfortable climate year round. Throw in a range of magnificent golden sand beaches lapped by warm turquoise waters and it is easy to see why Ashkelon has become one of Israel’s most popular resort cities.

Nahariya

 

Founded in the mid-1930s by Jews escaping Nazi occupied Germany, Nahariya is the northernmost town on Israel’s coastal plain. This quiet little summer resort town makes an ideal base for exploring the northern coast and Western Galilee. Visitors will find a lively city center complete with lovely boutiques, interesting museums and a number of charming cafes and restaurants. Nahariya’s natural attractions include, unspoiled beaches, the Ga’aton River flowing through the centre of town, and the popular zoological and botanical gardens. A great way to explore the town is by horse-drawn carriage or on the tourist train which takes passengers on a round trip from the city center to the beach. Other popular activities include: wandering along the attractive seaside promenade, and sunbathing, swimming or enjoying a variety of watersports at any of the exquisite surrounding beaches.

 

Hula Valley (Upper Galilee)

 

In the far north of Israel’s Upper Galilee region, situated on a major bird migration route, the Hula Valley is renowned as one of the top bird-watching sites in the world. This remarkably scenic valley contains the Hula Valley Nature Reserve and provides plenty of opportunities for hiking, walking, mountain biking and simply experiencing the rejuvenating tranquillity of this exceptional piece of wilderness. The area is blessed with an impressive number of water sources including springs and as a result, the valley boasts some exceptionally green areas and a profusion of colourful flowers. Beyond these exquisite stretches of wilderness, visitors can explore: the popular tourist focused city of Kiryat Shoma; the numerous kibbutzim and moshavim; archaeological sites like Tel Hatzor; tourist attractions such as the Tel Hai Photography Museum; historical sites such as the Tel Hai Compound, and some great entertainment centres for children and families.

 

Tiberias

Tiberias is a popular tourist resort located on a steep hillside overlooking Israel’s only freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee. No pilgrimage would be complete without a visit to this holy city, it’s significant religious sites around the lake, and the charming Old City. Aside from its historical monuments, Tiberias is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing summer holiday with numerous leisure activities and watersports on offer. The new city’s downtown area is a vibrant commercial centre complete with a variety of restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, bustling bazaars and live music venues. Take a horse-drawn carriage around town or rent a bicycle and spend the day exploring the gorgeous beaches and natural springs dotted along the shoreline.

Golan Heights

 

 

Known as ‘The Golan Heights’, Israel’s mountainous northern region is one of the most spectacularly scenic and most travelled parts of the country due to its abundance of wonderful tourist attractions. These include, among others: gorgeous nature reserves teeming with wildlife; towering volcanic hills, breathtaking waterfalls and a host of fascinating historical and archeological sites. Winter brings plenty of skiers who flock here to enjoy the thrill of whizzing down the snow-covered Hermon Mountain, while summer attracts hikers who can explore the numerous wooded trails and swim in the many refreshing streams. If you are lucky enough to visit in spring you will be welcomed by endless plains covered in a glorious display of colourful flowers. Don’t miss the stunning Banias Waterfall, the 13th-century Nimrod Fortress and the Druze village of Mas’ada, which overlooks one of only two extinct volcanoes in the world which has evolved into a small lake. With all of these natural and man-made wonders on offer, it is little wonder that visitors to the Golan tend to return time and time again.

 

Jezreel Valley

 

With its magnificent towering mountain peaks and its fascinating artifacts showcasing its long and tumultuous past, the Jezreel Valley is nothing if not dramatic. This extensive inland and largely rural valley stretches from the spectacularly scenic Carmel Range, west of Haifa, to the Beth Shean Valley region in the east. Nowhere else in Israel is ancient biblical history, modern history and geography more intricately intertwined than in this extraordinary valley brimming with cultural, historical and biblical treasures. These include: the Tel Megiddo National Park; the exquisite mosaics at Beit Alfa and the Tzippori National Park; and the innovative historical museums at Kfar Tabor and Kibbutz Ein Dor. Kids will be endlessly entertained by the numerous family friendly attractions including the interactive silk and honey farm at Moshav Shadmot Dvora, while adults can treat their taste buds to some delicious farm-fresh food at the area’s excellent restaurants. Good food, countless cultural delights and jaw-dropping natural beauty. What more could you possibly wish for in a holiday destination?