Israel offers a whole lot more than amazing age old ruins and a swathe of biblical sites. Consider, heading off the beaten track to take a dip in the Dead Sea or a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee or for time out, Tel Aviv's beautiful beaches are sure to impress. Below we've listed some of the best places to visit in Israel, some familiar, some new. We hope you'll love them too.
Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, is one of the oldest cities in the world. The old walled city is a mix of small alleys and has several revered sites such as the Western Wall, the Church of holy Sepulcre, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. It is considered a holy city for the Islamic, Christian and Jewish faiths and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
The Western Wall (better known as the Wailing Wall) attracts thousands of Jewish worshippers each day, who come to pray, write notes to God and place them between the ancient stones of the Wall because they believe that the presence of God resides there. The Holy Sepulcre is a beautiful church built in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. It is considered one of the holiest places in Christian Religion as it believed to be the site of Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial. Inside the church is a rocky outcropping which is the traditional place where the cross was placed. Inside the lavishly decorated church is the opulent marble tomb (Sepulcre) of Jesus, where you will find many pilgrims in prayer and paying homage.
A short drive south of Jerusalem into the Palestinian Territory is Bethlehem. Christians believe Bethlehem to be the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The main sites of interest are Rachel’s Tomb (considered the third holiest site in Judaism), Manger Square in the city centre and the Church of the Nativity, which has the Star of David etched into the floor and is reputed to be the oldest church in the world and the site where Jesus was born.
Draped along a stunning stretch of the Mediterranean Coast, the metropolis of Tel Aviv is Israel’s cultural capital. This liberal city has much to offer, with excellent cuisine, glitzy shopping malls, wonderful theatres, and golden beaches, not to mention a thriving nightlife. Underneath the city’s modern demeanour lies an ancient essence with sights like Old Jaffa, one of the oldest posts in the world. It would be a sin to miss Tel Aviv, a cultural and vibrant beach side city that never sleeps.
Nazareth is a town in Galilee where the Virgin Mary lived and raised Jesus and it is therefore a centre of Christian pilgrimage. The town sits between the hills of the Lebanon range and a beautiful spring called St Mary’s well, and various Jewish tombs on the northwestern side. Today, white and clean modern houses run up the hillsides and are spread out in the shape of an amphitheatre, set in a green framework of vegetation. Nazareth is also the capital and largest city in the North district of Israel. A must see in Nazareth is the beautiful Church of Annunciation, a Byzantine church that was built over the place where it is believed that the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary.
Straddling the border between Israel and Jordan, this dramatically beautiful body of water is the lowest point on earth and a natural phenomenon due to its incredibly high mineral and salt content. The Dead Sea's unusually warm, buoyant waters have been attracting visitors for centuries - and its vivid turquoise waters and rugged landscape aren't too hard on the eyes either. A visit to the Dead Sea is a must-do on any trip to Jordan or Israel, where you can float like a cork on its buoyant water and give yourself a pampering mud mask.