Not sure where to go for your next vacation? I’m considering this beautiful country along the Mediterranean coast? Israel is a great melting post of culture, religion, history and architecture, all topped off by an incredibly vibrant city life in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel offers a wide range of sights, sounds, food and culture. From jagged mountains, to sandy deserts to clear blue seas, there is something for everyone’s tastes. Also, it is quite a small country, so you can explore a lot of it in one trip itself. Contrary to what you see and hear in the international media, this is one country you must put on your wish list. Here is a list of things you must see and do on your trip to the Holy Land.
Jerusalem is one of those rare places that combine ancient history with a bustling modern city. This incredible city offers archeological relics, spiritual landmarks and world-class cuisine all in one place. Experience the amazing Old City market lanes, as well as the main sites holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, such as the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Not to be missed!
Church of Holy Sepulchre
As the most important pilgrimage site for Christians for centuries, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a must-visit for Christians, history buffs and art lovers alike. It is believed to be the location of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection, and the interior of the church is covered in breathtaking mosaics.
Dome of Rock
The golden dome at the centre of the Temple Mount is a work of art and can be seen from around the city and is the third-holiest site in Sunni Islam. Muslims believe this to be the spot where Muhammad was transported from Mecca during the Night Journey.
Also, called the ‘Manhattan of Israel’, Tel Aviv is a modern metropolis that still retains its historical charm. It has all the amenities and entertainment of a modern city. The people are young, hip and trendy. Visitors can relax on the beach, dine in one of the many cafes and restaurants, or sample the wild nightlife for which Tel Aviv has now become renowned. Tel Aviv also offers beautiful street art which has been made famous by Rami Mieri. Jaffa, an artist colony with stunning views of the city and sea is a must see for Tel Aviv.
Famous for being the place of Jesus Christ’s birth, celebrated in Christmas carols and hymns down through the centuries, the bustle of modern Bethlehem can be a surprise for some visitors. The major sightseeing attraction here is the Church of the Nativity, and for anyone – religious or otherwise – who has ever celebrated Christmas, it really is a must-do. Afterwards, complete the experience by standing on Shepherd’s Field, which has incredible panoramas across the surrounding countryside. Then journey on to the marvellous Mar Saba Monastery with its domes that seem to have sprung organically from the sheer cliff face.
The place where Jesus spent his childhood and youth. Nazareth, in the lower Galilee, is located in the heart of a valley surrounded by mountains that embrace several of the most important Christian sites in the world. This is a city of religion and faith, of spirituality and holiness, but also a city with a rich history, fascinating archeology, modern culture and Middle Eastern charm.
MUST SEE/MUST DO
Float in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth and is one very special place. It is one of the seven wonders of the world. You can literally float on the warm water, no swimming and splashing required. Just bring a book to read while floating freely for that perfect picture opportunity. You can also rub some mud from the beach on your skin. The minerals in it have great exfoliation properties.
Sunrise hike to Masada
The history of Masada is rich and the views that it offers are incredible! The hike to Masada provides endless stunning views of the Dead Sea. Masada makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. You can watch the sun rise over the crevice and hear your voice echo around the surrounding cliffs. The main fortress of Masada is on a rock plateau. There is also a cable car ride you can take to the top.
Spend a night or two in a Bedouin tent in the Negev Desert for a surreal experience. Also a part of this experience will be a traditional Bedouin dinner and hang out with camels.
Enjoy a Kibbutz experience
A Kibbutz is a collective community based on agriculture. A stay in a Kibbutz in Golan Heights is a culture experience that will enable you to enjoy traditional Israeli cuisine and the lust green surroundings. The Golan Heights also has many hiking trails for fitness buffs. There are also waterfalls close by and the areas surrounding are stunning with vegetation and flora and fauna.
Scuba in the Red Sea
You can explore amazing coral reefs, beautiful fishes, and crystal clear waters with great weather all year round. If you don’t want to go underwater there is the underwater observatory and of course beautiful beaches.
Baha’i Gardens in Haifa
The magical terrace gardens of Baha’i in Haifa should definitely be on your list of must visits of Israel. The Baha’i gardens must be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world and are a memorial to the founders of the Baha’i Faith, attracting pilgrims from around the world.
Sample some fantastic local wines while taking in the gorgeous landscape. The Judean Hills’ climate is perfect for the wine process with warm days and cool night-time temperatures. With over 20 wineries in the Judean Hills area, each can tell a story behind the wine and biblical connection to the region.
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv both have many places you can shop, but the most notable are the Shooks. Here you’ll find tons of food, spices, jewelry, clothes and souvenirs.
The most important thing for me: eating the local food! The food of Israel is simply unique. Rich, full of flavors, and surprisingly if you’re vegetarian: this is one country you will have a lot of choice. Many Israelis have adopted a vegetarian lifestyle, so they have incredible choices in their cuisine. Hot hummus, falafel, eggplant dishes, chicken curries, shawarma wraps, and laffas are so delicious.
Start planning your trip to this surreal magical land now. For more information, go here.
[This post was brought to you by Go Israel, which you should do for your next adventure!]