8 Must-See Holidays Destinations in Israel
Imagine waking up in a country that gives you access to historical landmarks and world-renown sites, rich with story and culture, that are only hours apart from each other. A country that allows you to start your day by skiing up north and end your day by swimming and diving down south. Cities that have boutique vineyards for a fine-dining experience and street vendors that allow you to get an authentic taste of the local cuisine. Where you can visit real-life castles and enjoy the sun along some of the most stunning beaches in the world. That is what makes Israel such a tantalizing holiday destination – it is a country that keeps on giving.
Israel is overflowing with deep religious history and landmarks that call out to millions of travellers every year. You can cover several of these destinations in a matter of hours as travelling the length of the country takes about 8 hours and travelling the width of it can be done in less than an hour. Regardless, we can guarantee that a single visit to the country won’t be enough to satisfy the true traveller.
Being a single holiday destination with multiple attractions, you have the choice of renting a car, travelling solo or getting package tickets to country wide tours. Either way, in about two weeks you can visit everything from Golan Heights down to the Red Sea.
If you have been waiting to visit the holyland but wasn’t too sure where to get started, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a list 8 landmarks that you can refer to as a beginner’s guide to the wonders of Israel.
1. Jerusalem’s Old City
Let’s start with one of the most well-known cities of the world, Jerusalem.
A city of deep religious roots, Jerusalem is home to the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith. The old city resides inside protective walls that were built hundreds of years ago by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Due to the firm belief in the locals, the area has been divided into four quarters to house the Christians, Muslims, Jews and Armenians. Being present amongst these groups allows you to witness some excellent representations of culture within the streets of the old city.
The Western Wall is the remaining remnant of the Second Temple, which is sacred to those of Jewish faith. Christians from all over the world travel to the old city to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which holds great significance to them as the location where Christ was both crucified and resurrected. The Via Dolorosa is another landmark with religious importance in the Christian faith as it is believed that Christ walked along that route, stopping at various points referred to as the “Stations of the Cross”. Temple Mount is considered to be Islam’s third most holy site as Mohammed is believed to have flown over it on his way to Mecca.
You can visit the man-made Western Wall tunnels, water cisterns, Ramparts, the Tower of David, the Byzantine Cardo and other smaller churches as well. The atmosphere of the Jerusalem bazaar is unlike anything most first-time visitors have ever experienced. The rich culture and beautiful sights, sounds and aroma leave an unforgettable impression on those lucky enough to visit.
We highly recommend taking one of the packaged tours through Jerusalem as the guide has intricate knowledge and expertise that you will never find on Wikipedia or Google. The old city will take your breath away.
2. Bahai Gardens in Haifa
Considered to be the jewel of Israel’s north, the Bahai Gardens are our second must see holiday destination in Israel.
The Bahai Gardens attract countless visitors every year for its beauty and its religious significance as being the most holy site of the Bahai faith. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Gardens have 19 terraces with beautifully groomed greenery leading up to a white shrine under a golden dome. The landmark slopes all the way down Mount Carmel, down to the foot of the sea and acts as the final resting place of the founder of the Bahai faith, known as ‘The Bab.’
Untouched woodlands encompass the stunning landmark to ensure peace and tranquillity remains within the garden grounds. The gardens consist of many exotic flowers, fountains and sculptures contained in nine concentric circles. The number 9 is considered a sacred number to the Bahai faith and is the fundamental detail in the garden’s design. There are 999 steps along the garden path and there are 9, 19, and 99 counts of any element in the whole garden.
You can either take the day tour, which is available in English, or take a more luxurious private tour of Haifa and the Carmel, with a visit to the Druze village of Dali-et-Carmel.
3. The Dead Sea
A merciless body of water, also known as the lowest point on earth, floating on the waters of the Dead Sea is an activity you do not want to miss out on. Imagine showing photos of you on water that doesn’t allow you to sink with a backdrop of the Negev Desert to top it all off? Your Instagram feed will be something to die for!
The Dead Sea tour also takes you to Masada, Ein Gedi and the Judean desert. If you are not looking to move around as much and would like a day of relaxation, booking a room in one of the Dead Sea Hotels at Ein Bokek is the way to go. You can also pamper yourself with their popular spa treatments for some much-needed rest and recovery before moving on down this list.
4. The Judaean Desert
The historical fortress of Masada lies less than an hour’s drive away from Jerusalem. From there, visitors are exposed to some of the most breath-taking views of the Judean desert around them. Masada is considered a historically significant location for those of Jewish faith as it was there that they took a last ‘heroic stand’ against an invading Roman army.
The fortress lies on a mountaintop, which can be accessed via climbing a winding, snake-like path or by travelling up on a cable car. The views along the way to the top are unforgettable and, once at the top, the historical artefacts give visitors an opportunity to witness history in real life.
A Canadian tour includes its Herodian palace, bathhouse and historical mosaics. Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea Tour comes highly recommended by us whereas adrenaline adventure-seekers should sign up for the Judean Desert Jeep Tour.
5. The Crusader City of Acre
If you are seeking a getaway full of intrigue, mystery and rich history, The Crusader City of Acre is a must-see holiday destination for you. The city is surrounded by ancient walls that house narrow alleyways, backstreets and fascinating stories of history. The Knights Halls, Ahmed Al-Jazzar Mosque, St. John’s Church, the Templars tunnel a bathhouse, also referred to as a hammam and a lively bazaar (shuk) called the Acre Old City market all provide visitors the opportunity to be part of the local culture while learning about the long history of the city.
The market hosts a large variety of vendors with the atmosphere filled with the aroma of food and spices. Walking through the market, you will find yourself at the port with beautiful and calming views and a fantastic selection of seafood restaurants to choose from.
We recommend joining the Caesarea, Acre and Rosh Hanikra Tours to further explore the north of Israel.
6. Sea of Galilee with its Christian sites
A worldwide attraction for Christian pilgrims and secular tourists alike, The Sea of Galilee gives everyone the opportunity to be amongst people who believe in something greater than materialistic possessions.
A popular holiday destination is Israel, The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus is believed to have spent most of his adult life preaching the word of God to the local public and his disciples. The site is still regarded as a historical and religiously significant location to this day. Also known by its biblical name ‘Kinneret’, the Sea of Galilee also includes stops such as Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus is thought to have given a Sermon, St. Peter’s Church in Capernaum and Kibbutz Ginosar.
We also recommend that you take our Sea of Galilee Christian Tour as that includes a stop at Cana of the Galilee, the location where Jesus famously turned water into wine.
6. Tel Aviv Promenade
Considered the beating heart of Israel, Tel Aviv has to be included in every travel itinerary to the country. A hub for everything from cafes, boutique stores, museums, galleries, and gorgeous coastline beaches, visitors get to experience the more established and hybrid culture of Israel on the beautiful boardwalk of Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is also known as the White City due to its collection of 4000 buildings with a Bauhaus influenced architectural styles designed by Jewish architects from Europe. Other famous landmarks are:
- the Rothschild Boulevard, considered to be the most expensive street in the city
- Yitzchak Rabin Square, where the tragic assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister took place
- the Hall of Independence, where Ben Gurion announced the State’s creation
- the banks of Yarkon River at Yarkon Park
- the busy Tel Aviv Port known as Namal
Tel Aviv is also known for its dedicated bike lanes that allow anyone to bike from north to the south, if shopping and the city life isn’t your cup of tea. Finish your day with a comforting cup of iced tea or fresh beer and enjoy the glorious sunset views only available in the Mediterranean.
The region of Galilee has great significance in religious history while also boasting picture-perfect scenery as well. Packed with attractions, tours and archaeological sites, there is something for everyone even if religious history isn’t your forte. Hot pools, lakeside scenery and hiking in the hills are just some of the options available to those actively seeking adventure.
For those of the Christian faith, Galilee holds a special place in their heart due to the vast collection of churches that were built in locations where Christ was said to have carried out many of his well-known miracles. There are tours that will take you to Nazareth, the city of Christ’s birth. You will also be shown the impressive Church of Annunciation in Nazareth and the Multiplication Church in Tabgha, where it is said that Jesus performed the miracle of feeding a crowd of five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fishes.
If you make your way to Yardenit, you will get to witness thousands of pilgrims standing along the Jordan River, dressed in white and waiting to be baptized as it is believed that John baptized Jesus at that very location. With an incredible atmosphere of faith and hope, a visit to Galilee is sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated.