Israel is both fascinating and beautiful, rich in culture, steeped in history and home to some of the world’s most holy sites, at the cornerstone of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. The revered Holy Lands have been a sought-after destination for pilgrims across the world, from ancient times until today, and its no wonder why. This week’s photo showcase features our top ten pick of the best things to do and sights to see on any journey through Israel, from ancient Jerusalem and Bethlehem to cosmopolitan Tel Aviv and the beautiful Hanging Gardens in Haifa – plus don’t forget that tasty Israeli cuisine.
What would be your top pick?
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1. Explore the Old City in Jerusalem
The ancient walled city of Jerusalem needs little introduction. Stroll through the picturesque Old City with its remarkably preserved architecture and exquisite holy sites – such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (pictured), and lose yourself in the maze of narrow alleyways and busy bazaars.
2. Take a day trip to Bethlehem
From Jerusalem cross the West Bank over to Bethlehem, the cradle of biblical history. Make your way to Manger Square in the heart of the city, where you’ll find two of the most important landmarks in Bethlehem, the famous Church of the Nativity (pictured) and the Mosque of Omar.
3. Float in the Dead Sea
The unusually warm, incredibly buoyant waters of the Dead Sea have been attracting visitors for centuries and floating like a cork in the Dead Sea is an obligatory part of any visit – including yours! Plus why not slap on some Dead Sea mud and let its therapeutic properties get to work.
4. Visit the desert fortress of Masada
Take a cable car ride up to Masada, an ancient cliff-top fortress in the Judaean Desert that overlooks the Dead Sea. This ruggedly beautiful site houses the remains of classical Roman architecture built during the rule of Herod the Great and is well worth exploring.
5. Soak up the sun in Tel Aviv
Draped along a stunning stretch of the Mediterranean coast, the metropolis of Tel Aviv is a charming confluence of old and new. Underneath the splendour of Tel Aviv’s modern exterior, uncover ancient sites like Old Jaffa, one of the oldest ports in the world and a gorgeous coastline.
6. Marvel at the ruins of Caesarea
Set on the stunning Mediterranean coast half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Caesarea is one of the great cities of antiquity and is brimming with archaeological treasures. While away the hours exploring ancient churches, the theatre, aqueduct and more.
7. Stroll through the Hanging Gardens in Haifa
Situated on Mount Carmel, the beautifully manicured Hanging Gardens of Haifa surround the Shrine of the Bab and are an important pilgrimage site for the Bahai faith. Stroll through the garden grounds, terrace by terrace, and take in the encompassing beauty and incredible views.
8. Hike around the Sea of Galilee
The picturesque Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and is best known for its Gospel associations with Jesus Christ and continues to be an important pilgrimage site for Christians today. Follow one of its hiking trails and discover the beauty of this sacred spot.
9. Discover holy sites in Nazareth
Perhaps best known as the home of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, Nazareth is brimming with sacred sites just waiting to be explored. Check out the imposing imposing Basilica of the Annunciation (pictured), the attractively decorated St Gabriel’s Church and the unassuming Greek Catholic Synagogue-Church.
10. Tantalise your taste buds
Food in Israel is extremely diverse and full of flavour. A well-known favourite is falafel – small fried balls of mashed chickpeas served inside pita bread with humus. Other popular dishes include Shawarma – sliced turkey meat served in pita bread, and Me’orav Yerushalmi – which contains several types of meat.