Israel Spectacular Panoramas, Historic Sites, and Dynamic Cities
Although its territory is small, Israel offers many attractions — spectacular panoramas, historical sites, thrilling cities, and holy places of the great religions. It is difficult to list the mandatory sites, because it depends on your individual tastes:
- If you are on a pilgrimage, you won't miss visiting Jerusalem and Galilee.
- If you prefer to dive, you will find paradise in Eilat.
- If you want to party, you will probably extend your stay in Tel-Aviv.
The following itinerary combines several highlights, but you can concoct the mix that's the best for you — stay longer here or there and avoid what's not appropriate for you.
Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) is located close to Tel Aviv, on Highway No.1 which connects Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no more than 54 km apart. Once in Israel, the capital and largest city of the country is easily accessible.
Built on several hills, Jerusalem is a fascinating and complicated city, home to Jews, Hasidic, and laypeople, Christians and Muslims. The city extends over a large area with relatively low buildings. All of them, even the most modern ones, are clad in rustic stone, which gives the city a distinctive appearance. With its massive walls and labyrinth of cobblestone streets, the Old City is at the top of the mandatory sites list. Be sure to visit the famous sites:
- the Wailing Wall and Tunnels
- the Tower of David
- the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, etc.
Other important sites are Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial of the victims of the Holocaust; the Israel Museum, with its exceptional collection of ancient artifacts, Judaic works of Israeli and international art; and the colorful market of Mahané Yehuda, with its many local produce counters and small restaurants.
From Jerusalem to the Dead Sea
The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea dipping rapidly to the lowest point on earth, 427 m below sea level. In the end, you arrive Route 90 along the shores of the Dead Sea, with several beaches on the way. That is an opportunity to dive in the super salty water and see if you are floating.
An arid desert, sublime panoramas, black mud for skincare, and infinite serenity — this is what makes the Dead Sea a unique destination. You can stay in one of the large hotels overlooking the beach, at the nearby kibbutz hotel, or pitch a tent in a campsite. There is not much nightlife in the area — no restaurants, shops or entertainment — but the desert is the perfect place to spend the night and forget all the trouble.
The "must" to see is Masada: the fortress at the top of the hill is a striking site (take the cable car to get on and off on foot), with captivating views of the desert and the Dead Sea.
Eilat or Tel Aviv
You have two options: Take Route 90 to Eilat to the south or drive north on Route 31 and join the highway to Tel Aviv.
If you love diving and the desert is enchanting, crossing the Arava Valley by car is highly recommended. The city of Eilat is full of hotels, restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions, but its most spectacular feature is the Red Sea, with its rich marine flora and fauna.
The coral reefs of the Red Sea are among the most beautiful and colorful in the world, and Eilat offers countless opportunities to get a glimpse of this wonderful universe. The Coraux Beach Nature Reserve, at the southern end of the city, is home to one of the most beautiful reefs, with brightly colored corals and fish. Several other dive sites are recommended:
- The Caverns
- The Garden of Eel
- Satil Wreck (missile ship)
You can also swim with dolphins at Dolphins Reef.
Whether you prefer to leave directly from the Dead Sea or spend a few days in Eilat, Tel Aviv will seduce you. The most cheerful and energetic city in Israel is full of cafes, bars, and restaurants, and its streets are always busy, day and night.
One of its greatest attractions is its golden sandy beaches, which stretch from its northern neighborhoods to Jaffa on the south. Its long seaside promenade is suitable for walking or cycling, to watch people pass or to contemplate the panorama of the sea. Neve Tzedek is one of the neighborhoods that must be seen: it is the first Jewish quarter built outside of Old Jaffa. Today, its narrow streets are filled with baroque stone houses, galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Old Jaffa, clearly visible from the Tel Aviv Promenade, is another fantastic place to visit. At the Jaffa Flea Market, the trade is in full swing during the day, and the atmospheric restaurants enliven the nightlife. The green boulevards of Tel Aviv, especially Rothschild Boulevard, are ideal for walking or cycling around the city, with a break for a cup of coffee.
The Baha'i Gardens
Exit Tel-Aviv northbound. You will reach your first stop after 90 km of road. Haifa's neighborhoods fan out from the seashore and climb to the summit of Mount Carmel. You will see the Baha'i Gardens, arranged in terraces, stretching from the German Colony to the top of the mountain.
Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, these beautiful, well-kept and perfectly symmetrical gardens are home to the golden-domed Baha'i Temple and 19 lush greenery terraces, flower beds, fountains, and other elements. The most famous view of the gardens is that seen from the Ben Gurion roundabout at the bottom, near the German Colony (unique atmosphere at night, when the place is gracefully lit).
From Haifa, head north on Route 4 towards Acre. The Old Town of Acre is surrounded by massive walls that plunge into the azure blue of the Mediterranean. These walls have many points of interest — churches, mosques, museums, Halls of Knights (Order of St. John), bustling markets, etc. Take time to stroll through the baroque shops of the Turkish Bazaar and the narrow alleys of other markets, and don't leave without having enjoyed an excellent hummus at one of the local restaurants.
This verdant and waterlogged region covers all of northern Israel. You'll find everything you need for a great outdoor vacation:
- High mountains (Israel's highest)
- Vast forests
- Birding opportunities
- Rafting by the Jordan
To get to all those lost corners of Galilee, a rental car is highly recommended. Must-sees are the Rosh Hanikra caves and some beaches of Western Galilee (Betzet and Achziv), the Safed Artists 'Quarter, the old village of Rosh Pina, the Hula Park (Birdwatchers' paradise ), the Tanour Falls near Metoula and the Tel Dan Nature Reserve.