Israel, without a doubt, is one of the most fascinating countries I’ve been to. The places to visit in Israel make you feel like you are in the capital of human history.
The Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) find their origins here. And even if you are not from one of those religions, everyone has heard of Jesus, and our calendar system is divided by His birth. I’m sure you want to see the place where it all started!
As a person who is not affiliated with any religion, I found the holy sites utterly captivating, and you will love them too.
Then, there is modern eclectic Israel. With a population from all around the world, the country is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurialism. Plus, it offers a lively nightlife and a laid-back beach lifestyle. It definitely stands out from the rest of the region.
If you are thinking of taking a trip to the holy land, continue reading to learn about the best places to visit in Israel.
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Best Places to Visit in Israel
Places to Visit in Israel: Tel-Aviv
Tel Aviv is best known for its endless beaches, animated nightlife, and diverse population of immigrants. Israel has some of the most relevant historic places in the world, but if you want to experience the present lifestyle of modern Israelis, then this is the city for you.
It is officially known as Tel Aviv-Yafo. The city offers from upscale spots like the Rothschild Boulevard, full of chic restaurants, cafes, and bars, to laid-back and bohemian streets, like the ones in Florentine neighborhood.
Jaffa (or Yafo) is a conjoined old city and one of the oldest cities in the world. It is filled with historic sites, important religious landmarks, art galleries, and amazing panoramic views. Jaffa contrasts a lot with modern Tel Aviv which is barely a hundred years old, and it feels like stepping into another world.
Places to Visit in Israel: The Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea is a major bucket list item! You must experience it to know what I’m talking about. The sensation you have while floating (or trying not to) is very unique. It is disappearing (because it’s evaporating), so more of a reason to get yourself here soon.
The salinity level is of 34%, which makes it impossible for animals to live in it, hence the name the Dead Sea. It is located 423 meters (1388 ft) below the sea level, making it the lowest point on dry land. How cool is that?
You are probably familiar with the great number of beauty products that come from the shores of the Dead Sea. Basically, what this means is that you will have your own open-air spa to enjoy during your visit. Look for soft black mud and cover yourself for about 30 minutes. After that, I swear your entire skin feels baby smooth!
Here are a few suggestions you should keep in mind before going:
- Bring an old bathing suit. The combination of mud and salt water can be rough on the fabric.
- Don’t shave that day or the day prior. The salty water would make your skin burn.
- Wear some sort of water shoes. The seafloor has many sharp salt crystals and may be unbearable to walk on it without any protection. We love these water shoes because they come in many different colors and are perfect to be able to walk in the Dead Sea.
- Never put your head under the water. Let me just write that again. NEVER put your head under the water. Even with your eyes closed, water will touch your eyes and the burning will be intense.
Places to Visit in Israel: Masada
The ancient fortress of Masada is situated in the Negev Desert overlooking the Dead Sea, and it remains as a symbol of freedom and courage in Jewish history. Learn about how Herod the Great built his extravagant palace on this towering plateau and used it later as a fortress for the last remaining Jews in Israel. They chose to die free rather than to live as slaves to the Romans. The story is fascinating, AND the views are stunning.
Masada is located on top of an isolated rock plateau, so you only have two options to get there. One, the easiest, is with a cable car. The second is through the Snake Path, a walk up the mountain through stairs. They say it takes about an hour, but I would’ve probably taken 3 (if not dying on the way up). If you are up for a challenge, this option is for you!
The history of Masada is fascinating, so you can benefit a lot from going with a guided tour that will explain all the important events that occured in this iconic site.
You can have a day-trip that includes also transportation to the Dead Sea. Not every area of the Dead Sea is open to visitors, so you save a lot of time with their transportation. If you prefer exploring with a guide, here’s one Masada – Dead Sea tour from which I got plenty of good comments.
Places to Visit in Israel: The Holocaust Museum
Photo credit: M Rupe via Flickr
While you are in Israel, it’s important to learn about the harsh past of Jewish people. We all love to have fun activities during our vacations, but the Holocaust Museum (known as Yad Vashem) holds a big part of the country’s history and culture, which is why is so relevant to visit and learn.
Although the facts are extremely sad and almost unbelievable, every person should educate themselves about the savage consequences of intolerance and extremism.
Yad Vashem has no entrance fee and hosts many galleries with photographs, films, letters, art, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos.
Places to Visit in Israel: Nazareth
Photo credit: Petr Melnikov via Flickr
It might not be the Nazareth you imagined every time you got a Christmas card, but you won’t regret coming!
The main attraction of the city is the Basilica of the Annunciation. It is believed that this is the exact place where the angel Gabriel announced Virgin Mary about her pregnancy.
It is also supposed to be built over the remains of the cave-house where Virgin Mary lived during her childhood. Throughout the complex, you can find many mosaics with Marian representations of different countries.
Next to the Basilica, is the Church of St. Joseph, popularly believed to be built on the site of Joseph’s carpentry shop. A few minutes from there is St Gabriel’s Church, famous for its bubbling spring contained in a crypt that supplies the church’s well.
Places to Visit in Israel: The Dome of the Rock
It’s the most iconic landmark in Jerusalem. This building is the third holiest site for Muslims and it stands at the top of Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock can be seen from many spots of the city, so whenever I got lost, I just had to look for the shiny golden dome to find my way.
This is believed to be the place where Abraham (or Ibrahim) almost offered his son on God’s command but sacrificed a goat instead. Also, according to Muslim Tradition, prophet Mohammed ascended to Heaven from here.
Sadly, it is also a place where a lot of confrontation has happened, so it is not always open to visitors for safety reasons. Don’t get me wrong, Israel and Jerusalem are very safe to visit, but that is because there are always security measures operating. Make sure you visit this site as soon as possible when arriving in Jerusalem so you don’t miss the chance.
Everyone can enter the complex, but only muslims can go inside the temple of the Dome of the Rock. Opening days are Monday to Thursday
- Winter: 7:30 am – 10:30 am and 12:30pm – 1:30 pm
- Summer: 8:30am – 11:30am and 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Places to Visit in Israel: The Western Wall
The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites, but an absolute must-visit regardless of your religion. It is a very powerful experience to see so many people praying and connecting with this mystical Wall.
The reason why this Wall is so special is that this is where Solomon’s Temple was built. It was part of the expansion of Temple Mount (the Second Temple) by Herod the Great. Solomon’s Temple was then destroyed by the Babylonians, then rebuilt and then destroyed again by the Romans.
Don’t miss the walking tour through the tunnel. You need to be wearing ‘modest’ clothes (that means no visible shoulders or legs). They didn’t have something you can borrow to cover yourself the first time I went, so you may want to plan your outfit.
Places to Visit in Israel: Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Christian Quarter of Jerusalem was constructed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s the holiest site for Christians considering this is Golgotha Hill, the place where Jesus was crucified, buried in a tomb and resurrected according to the tradition.
There are many pilgrims, but this is a huge church, so you can easily wander around its beautiful areas. It was built as a big dome with light streaming down through all the arches illuminating all the golden decoration of the walls. Spectacular!
It opens early at 5 am so you can use that in your favor to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
Places to Visit in Israel: Mount of Olives
Photo credit: G Travels via Flickr
Another site from Jerusalem because this city is a never-ending treasure hunt. The name comes from the olive trees that formerly encircled its slopes.
The Mountain served as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and has around 150,000 graves. Surprisingly, the areas are very green and energetic.
The Mount of Olives has one of the best views of the Old City, especially next to the Church of Ascension.
By the way, it’s supposed to be the place where God will resurrect all the dead after the Messiah comes back for the day of Judgement. That’s only one of the many biblical references to this site.
Once you are there, remember to explore the Garden of Gethsemane. Apparently, some of the ancient olive trees are so old that they might have seen Jesus in person.
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Pinspiration for your trips!