Though Israel is a small country, it offers tremendous cultural and geographic diversity, as well as countless attractions and sites worthy of a visit. Thanks to the short distances, it won’t take you long to explore the country’s fascinating destinations. As wild as it may seem, if you’re up for the challenge you can go skiing on Mount Hermon in the early morning and take a late evening dip in the Red Sea!
The area surrounding Jerusalem is ideal for a short escape if you don’t want to stay overnight. Though officially part of the city, Ein Karem is a charming village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Popular with Christians as the site where John the Baptist was born, it also attracts artists drawn to the magical feel of the place and hikers who enjoy the breathtaking scenery. For foodies, Abu Ghosh is a must. This Arab-Israeli village in the Jerusalem Hills takes pride in more than a dozen hummus restaurants, one of which has been awarded the Guinness World Record for the largest dish of hummus!
Located only 40 kilometers from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea may very well be one of the most incredible places you’ll ever visit. Not only is it the lowest point on earth, but also one the saltiest lakes on our planet. Due to the high salinity, you’ll float in the water. If you’re already in the area, don’t miss Ein Gedi, one of Israel’s most popular nature reserves and its largest oasis, where you can spot ibexes and hyraxes while swimming in some of Israel’s most refreshing springs and waterfalls. Another highlight near the Dead Sea is Masada, an ancient clifftop fortress in the heart of the Judean Desert. Once the site of the Jewish revolution against the Roman occupation, Masada is an awe-inspiring site to visit, offering a remarkable archaeological exhibit, a thrilling night show, and stunning views of the Dead Sea from above.
It only takes 45 minutes by bus or train from Jerusalem to reach the Mediterranean Sea. Israel’s uncontested hotspot on the coast is Tel Aviv, which has a lot to offer beyond its 16 beaches. Tel Aviv’s White City, the largest collection of Bauhaus-style buildings in the world, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Culture lovers will enjoy first-class institutions such as the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art or ANU – Museum of the Jewish People. If you like dance, theater and music, you’ll have a hard time choosing from the city’s jam-packed events calendar. Tel Aviv is also a perfect place for going out in the evening or on the weekend, to Dizengoff or Allenby Streets or the trendy neighborhood of Florentin.
In Yafo, an ancient port city that forms part of southern Tel Aviv, you’ll encounter a completely different vibe. This lovely, culturally diverse neighborhood is rich in historical gems, small galleries and exquisite restaurants, and boasts a colorful and bustling flea market.
With lush scenery, Israel’s sole ski resort, cities and villages of religious and ethnic diversity, and some of the most significant Christian sites – there’s so much to discover in Israel’s northern region that it will be tough to choose.
Some of the region’s most interesting sites are located along the coast. Caesarea is an ancient city famed for its magnificent Roman theater and harbor. If you travel further north, you’ll reach Israel’s third biggest city, Haifa. Known for its relaxed vibe and coastal views, and valued as a peaceful home to Jewish, Muslim, and Christian neighbors, the city also includes the breathtaking Bahai Shrine and Gardens. From there, it is only a short bus ride to Acre, in whose fascinating Old City you’ll discover a wealth of sites from the Hellenistic-Roman, Crusader, and Ottoman periods.
Leaving the coast and traveling eastwards, you’ll reach the Sea of Galilee. The area surrounding this idyllic lake is where many famous stories from the New Testament are set, and you’ll find a large number of historical churches in the region – in Tabgha, Capernaum or on the Mount of Beatitudes, to name a few. A little further off lies one of Christianity’s most important sites, the town of Nazareth, home to the Church of the Annunciation.
Two of Judaism’s holiest cities are located in this region, including Tiberias and the mystical town of Safed. Thanks to its gorgeous national parks, the Galilee is a top destination for hikers seeking refuge from city life. Additionally, some of Israel’s oldest and most historic kibbutzim, such as Deganya, can also be found here.
Most people associate Israel with hot climate and the desert; but in the very north of the country, on Mount Hermon, you can even go skiing in winter. If you’re interested in experiencing Israel’s cultural diversity while there, we highly recommend a visit to one of the region’s many Druze villages, famed for their warm hospitality and tasty food.
Those who like it really hot should head to the Negev Desert, which covers more than 60% of Israel’s territory. Here you can marvel at out-of-this-world landscapes including the Ramon Crater, the world’s largest erosion crater.
At the southernmost point of the country lies Eilat, Israel’s sunny entertainment paradise on the Red Sea, where you can enjoy hotel resorts, go snorkeling in coral reefs, or swim with the dolphins. Don’t hesitate to make the worthwhile day trip to Timna Valley to take in its bizarre sandstone formations and striking desert views.
The Palestinian territories are home to several sites of great historical significance. Visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and maybe even attending a Christmas service are highlights for many Christians students. Jericho is not only mentioned in the Bible, but also considered to be one of the oldest cities on earth. If you’re interested in visiting the West Bank, you can join one of many organized tours that depart from Jerusalem.