Top 10 Destinations in Israel
OUR PICK #1
The capital city of Israel is one of the oldest cities in the world. With a history spanning thousands of years, Jerusalem is a city of unique neighbourhoods each with its own distinct religious and ethnic composition. Jerusalem is home to three of the world’s biggest religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam – all which co exist in this fascinating city. The UNESCO World Heritage Listed old walled city has winding alleys and several revered sites such as the Western Wall, which attracts thousands of Jewish worshippers each day, the Church of Holy Sepulcre - considered one of the holiest places in Christian religion, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.
OUR PICK #2
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.
OUR PICK #3
Just an hour away from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv could not be more different. While Jerusalem represents the heritage of Israel, Tel Aviv signifies the new, fresh and liberal personality of the country. This vibrant city brings together a contemporary art scene, delicious fusion dishes, an exciting nightlife, glitzy shopping malls and a golden stretch of beach along the Mediterranean Coast. However there are still parts of the country’s intriguing past to be found. One of the city’s first districts Neve Tzedek has been beautifully restored and updated with Parisian style cafes and fashionable designer boutiques whilst keeping its old charm. The buzzing nightlife is not to be missed, taking you into the early hours of the morning in the city which never sleeps.
OUR PICK #4
Located in the Galilee region, the town of Nazareth is where the Virgin Mary lived and raised Jesus and is therefore an important centre of Christian pilgrimage. The town sits between the hills of the Lebanon range, a beautiful spring called St Mary’s well and various Jewish tombs on the northwestern side. Today, white 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 to Mary that she would give birth to the son of God.
OUR PICK #5
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 add to its appeal. 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.
OUR PICK #6
As Israel’s prime beach getaway, Eilat is sun, sea and sand galore and perfect for adults and children alike. With warm temperatures even during the winter months, this seaside town makes the perfect retreat for those seeking to escape the snow and frost that descends elsewhere in the world during this time of the year. While sun-bathing and kicking back on the beach are two of the main activities here, those seeking something a bit more active are spoilt for choice. Diving and snorkelling at Aqua Beach are two popular choices thanks to the crystal clear water and near perfect visibility found there. If you want to marvel at the marine life but would prefer to stay dry, the Underwater Observatory Marine Park is an absolute must. Alternatively, travellers can trek through the Red Canyon, check out the Timna National Park or go on a wild jeep safari.
OUR PICK #7
The picturesque, peaceful and progressive city of Haifa is a model of harmony between the different communities that live there and the perfect embodiment of cultural tolerance. Haifa’s beauty pervades every corner of the city but nowhere is it more present than the UNESCO-listed Baha’i Gardens. Lush and colourful, this oasis is considered one of the top sights in the entire Middle East. The city’s radiance can also be soaked up by a stroll along one of its promenades. If you time your walk well, you might also get to witness the spectacular sunset as it stains the water pink. For those looking for a dose of culture, a visit to Elijah’s Cave is a must as is popping in to one of the 240 synagogues and numerous mosques that pepper the region. For exquisite views of the city, make your way to the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery on Mount Carmel.
OUR PICK #8
Confusingly, the Sea of Galilee, also known as Kinneret, is not actually a sea but a large freshwater lake, located roughly 650ft below sea level. While most people know of this body of water because of its biblical significance and status as a site of Christian pilgrimage, there is plenty of modern excitement to be found both on the lake itself and in the surrounding area. Watersports are popular here and travellers can spend the day in a canoe or kayak or go windsurfing along the temperamental ripples of the water. If you want water that’s a bit warmer, the nearby Tiberias hot springs are perfect for relaxing and also offer massages and mud treatments. Other nearby attractions include the Galita Chocolate Farm, where travellers can take part in a three hour chocolate making workshop, and the Korazim National Park.
OUR PICK #9
Travellers to Jaffa are in for a treat, from the sound of the Mediterranean Sea crashing against the rocks that line its waterfront, to the exquisite architecture that fills the Old Town. Despite being just a stone’s throw from the buzzing metropolis of Tel Aviv, Jaffa belongs to a different time and has beautifully preserved its old world charm. The best way to get to grips with the area is simply to wander through its narrow, cobbled streets - you’ll be surprised by what you stumble across. Once you’ve absorbed as much culture as you can, it’s time to hit the eateries and make the most of Jaffa’s biggest draw card - its gastronomic scenery. Culinary delights hide behind almost every door and include, allegedly, the best hummus in the world, shwarma and falafel, all Israeli staples that you’ll just love getting to know.
OUR PICK #10
Situated in the Judaean Desert on a magnificent rock plateau, Masada is a fortress that holds a special place in Jewish history as the last site to fall to the Roman army, after being valiantly defended by a group of soldiers known as the Zealots. Within the Masada complex are the remains of the lavish palace that was constructed for King Herod the Great in a classical Roman style. This site is said to be the finest and most complete example of this kind of architecture that has ever been found in the Roman world. The easiest way to get to Masada is by taking the cable car, however, this will not get you there in time to see the sunrise. Alternative routes are the Roman Ramp and the much more strenuous Snake Path, which should be climbed at 4am in order to arrive at the summit in time to see the sun come up.