Israel has many famous places, luring the tourists every year. But what's the best of the best, you can't miss, come rain come shine?
As always, I have you covered with my list, that provides you with just the right places for your best Israeli trip. Let's dive into the Israeli must sees that will take you through the history as well as show you some nature wonders, you'll remember until the rest of your life.
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The miraculous Sea of Galilee
Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to be swept off your feet by the enchanting Sea of Galilee, where miracles (allegedly) happened. Now, let's dive into the wonders of this "not-so-sea" but rather the biggest freshwater lake with the second lowest point on Earth—making it a close second to the neighboring Dead Sea in the prestigious Best Day Trips from Tel Aviv competition. It's a tough battle between salty and fresh.
The Sea of Galilee isn't just a body of water. It's a holy haven surrounded by many sacred sites of multiple religions. Pilgrims and tourists alike travel to these sites, hoping for their own divine encounters or at least a good selfie with a biblical background.
During our visit around Christmas, we were pleasantly surprised by the Sea of Galilee's mild winter climate. I was so ready to take a dip myself, but then I witnessed the enthusiasts being baptized in the Jordan River. Let's just say I didn't want to steal their thunder, or in this case, their holy water. So, it was a hard pass for me.
We spent three days exploring the area of the Sea of Galilee, which was just enough to see all the important attractions. The Mount of Beatitudes stole my breath away with its breathtaking view. I couldn't help but wonder if the Jesus' sermon on the mount included a mention of how to capture the perfect Instagram-worthy panorama. Magdala, oh Magdala, you won me over with your modern architectural wonders. And Capernaum, the place where Jesus supposedly walked on water, let's just say it didn't quite live up to the hype. Not that impressive Jesus, the lake is quite shallow—I could've done that and wouldn’t start a religion around it.
There is a lot to see and do around here!
However, the surrounding mountains, fantastic restaurants with menus inspired by biblical feasts, and the delightful 25°C weather made this place truly extraordinary. I even considered opening a seafood restaurant and naming it "The Fisherman's Catch" in honor of those biblical fishing tales. Who knows, maybe I could've turned water into wine too.
A noteworthy spot is the Arbel Nature Reserve, which offers a captivating rim hike leading to one of the most beautiful views in Israel. The hike took us approximately one hour, and the scenery was stunning. The nearby ruins of Beit She'an are among the remarkable remnants left by the Romans.
Beware—it is usual for many places in the area to accept cash only. This was the only place in Israel where I was not able to pay by card, so remember this tip (out of many tips for your travels in Israel) and have cash on hand.
I honestly didn’t understand why everybody loves this place so much. What's so special about a lake that's 10 times more saline than a sea? Well, everything—now I know, and I'm telling you, you have to add the trip to Dead Sea on your Israel itinerary, for sure.
The swimming temperatures are pleasant year-round, making it the perfect spot for a dipping session, no matter the season—one of the best things to do in Israel. Just be warned, you might emerge from the water feeling like a human oil slick, but hey, it's all part of the experience.
Now, let's talk about the landscape situation. The Dead Sea is surrounded by some majestic mountains, creating a dramatic backdrop that will leave you amazed. And despite being a whopping 450 meters (1,470 feet) below sea level, the Dead Sea somehow manages to feel incredibly mountainous. You'll find yourself staring in awe at those nearby mountains, reaching heights of 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level it's nature showing off and I was all in for that!
One thing I certainly didn't expect was hot water showers on most of the beaches. Well done, Israel, for keeping your citizens nice and warm, free from colds and runny noses. What could you expect from a country with one of the highest-quality healthcare systems in the world—US, you should take some notes here, okay?
Swimming in the Dead Sea feels like floating on a cloud
So, my fellow travelers, visiting Israel without dipping your toes into the legendary Dead Sea is like passing through a land of miracles and missing out on the best one of all. Like why are you even there then? It's a must-do, that will leave you floating on cloud nine—quite literally. Grab your swimsuit, prepare for that oily sensation, and get ready to add some serious bragging rights to your travel tales. The Dead Sea awaits and it's time for you to dive in.
Masada gave me one of the best experiences in Israel
Well, well, well, Masada, you sly little surprise. I had no idea what to expect, but you managed to blow me away. Masada is a true gem that exceeds all expectations. I didn't expect it to be so goddamn good at all. It checks off all the boxes of a perfect destination in my book. Significant historical importance? Check. Breathtaking views? A giant check! A pleasant hike? An ultra gigantic check! Nearby the Dead Sea? Check—I don’t seek that one in other places obviously, or my blog would be emptier than a Scottish pay toilet.
So, what exactly is Masada? Oh, just one of the most stunning natural desert fortresses I've ever laid my eyes on. It's the kind of place that makes you believe in fairy tales and ancient legends. No wonder it has earned its spot as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's got history, culture, and those breathtaking views that leave you weak at the knees.
Masada is monstrous! Be prepared to dedicate a good chunk of your day—five hours at least—to fully explore this magnificent fortress. From the top, the views are nothing short of overwhelming. Cast your gaze upon the Roman forts that played a crucial role in suppressing the Jewish revolt. As a European, I must confess, I have a soft spot for Rome in this particular scenario. How would you react if some peasants challenged your authority? Considering the shameful mass suicide carried out by the Jews at the end of the revolt. The rebels said they would rather die than fall into captivity of Rome oppressors. Surely, women and children would have shared the same sentiment.
We explored Masada inside and out and we absolutely loved it!
But let's not dwell on the dark times. Masada's surroundings are what dreams are made of. The mountain's summit, incredibly well-preserved thanks to the dry weather, invites you to explore the Roman reservoirs and the grand palaces of the one and only Herod the Great. Talk about architectural aspirations! I can't blame the guy for wanting to build a palace and monument to celebrate his own greatness. And what says, "I'm the king around here!" more than a massive fortress in the heart of the desert? And let's give credit where it's due—positioning the fortress strategically atop a steep and rugged cliff was a super-smart move. Herod clearly knew how to make an entrance.
Now, if you're up for a little sports action, I highly recommend taking the Snake Path hike—especially during winter when temperatures are reasonable. On hot days it's a real living hell there. The Snake Path offers a nice hour-long hike, give or take, depending on how fit you are. The trail is very well-maintained, and when your knees have had enough, you can conveniently descend using the gondola. Saving those joints from unnecessary struggle is always a win.
The harbor in Akko
Ah, Akko, a place that holds a special spot in my heart. As a self-proclaimed biggest Roman history geek and a lover of the Middle East's rich past, Akko was a perfect fit for me, and I believe it will be for you too! What it doesn’t lack in historical significance makes up in the cultural richness and beauty. I call this a win-win game.
So, what's one of the best places in Akko, its crème de la crème—the Knights' Halls. Picture this: it's just a big cellar, but oh my, what an impressive cellar it is. The Knights' Halls are a collection of chambers, including the magnificent Dining Hall. Step into this grand space with its lofty ceiling and impressive acoustics, and let your imagination run wild. Legend has it that the knights would gather here to hold important meetings. Or just drink liters of beer, eat wild boar, and share stories about who killed more people—I mean, introduced Jesus to them—on their crusade. Ahh, simple Medieval times.
Akko's Old Town is a treasure full of fascinating monuments. Exploring this area feels like you've stepped back a hundred years in time. The central part is very compact and easily walkable, so strap on your fitness watch and get ready to close those activity rings. Stroll through the narrow, picturesque streets and alleyways, allowing the sights and sounds of this historic place to charm you.
While you’re in Akko, you have to visit the Turkish baths and Citadel!
Before waving goodbye to Akko and leaving to your hotel Crowne Plaza in Tel Aviv (where you get the most delightful sleep!) make sure to test some of the local culinary delights. Israel is a gastronomic wonderland, that impressed even me, the harshest food critique. What's even better is that Israeli cuisine caters to both vegans and meat lovers alike. So, regardless of which group you belong to, prepare your taste buds for a delightful journey. From savory falafel to succulent shawarma, your palate will be treated to a symphony of flavors that will leave you craving more.
I would describe Yad Vashem as a place of poignant beauty, where an eerie atmosphere makes a weird combination with the weight of a twisted history. I expected a lot from Yad Vashem before I approached this renowned memorial, mainly because of its significance and the stories it holds. Little did I know that what was ahead of me would be an emotional and thought-provoking journey through the depths of human suffering and resilience. It's undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Israel.
Yad Vashem represents a testament to the horrors of the Holocaust, a haunting reminder of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during World War II. As I walked along the Avenue of the Righteous dedicated to individuals who risked their lives to save Jews from persecution, the echoes of Schindler's List—aka my favorite movie I think every non-ignorant individual should see—resonated within me. The atmosphere felt very heavy.
To truly understand and appreciate Yad Vashem's impact, I recommend allocating at least 3 hours for your visit. It's an experience that will allow you to dive deep into the layers of history and understand the factors that led to the emergence and rise of antisemitism as a scapegoat for ignorance and poverty of people in the past. I have to warn you to prepare yourself for a truly challenging journey through the haunting images of concentration camps and ghettos and especially for the emotionally charged Children's Memorial—an homage to the young lives lost during those dark and cruel times.
I consider myself to be quite an unemotional person, but the stories portrayed within Yad Vashem are depicted with an intense and undeniable humanity. It was an extraordinary experience that brought me to the brink of tears on many occasions. These were not just tales of the past—they were real stories of real people. And that can be hard to comprehend for a while.
The ruins in Avdat Natoinal Park
Makhtesh Ramon initially seemed unique, but then realized its uncanny resemblance to Canyonlands National Park in the US. Both Makhtesh Ramon and Canyonlands got me with their natural beauty and captivating, dramatic shapes. It was a delightful déjà vu of some epic views.
For me, Makhtesh Ramon was a pleasant surprise because I had this picture of Israel being a rugged and harsh land. But instead, I discovered the lush greenery of the Sea of Galilee and the bustling streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Finally, Makhtesh Ramon greeted me with the authentic desert experience I couldn’t wait to have in Israel.
Makhtesh Ramon, an unbelievably huge canyon, reveals its grandeur best from the rim near the visitor center. As I stood there, ready to soak in the view—and shooting some sweet pics, I was greeted by a surprising chill in the air. I mean, it's a desert—aren't they supposed to be flamming hot? But hey, I'll take a cool breeze over a sweltering heatwave any day. It was a nice change as well.
Looking down to the Makhtesh Ramon in Israel
While you can drive down into the canyon and take a self-guided tour of about an hour long, let me be honest—it doesn't hold a candle to the outstanding views from the rim. So, don't succumb to laziness. Up you go, and trust me, the reward is worth every sweaty step.
If you feel like you haven't experienced breathtaking views or witnessed jaw-dropping scenery in a while, join me at Avdat National Park trip. This place offers not only superb views but also boasts beautiful Roman and Nabatean architecture that will transport you back in time. What truly sets Avdat apart is its special location.
Just imagine, you're standing amidst enchanting ruins on a balcony, gazing out over the vast desert below. And if you time it just right, you'll witness a mesmerizing sunset that paints the sky with a colorful palette. Trust me when I say that this moment, witnessing nature's canvas unfold before your eyes, will become one of the cherished memories from your time in Israel, just as it became mine.
Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
Western Wall is undoubtedly one of the most famous and important holy places in Israel for Jewish people. Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world and many of the significant places bound up with it are in the spiritual center and holiest city—Jerusalem. So, if you are on a scavenger hunt for souvenirs from religious places, you should definitely start there.
I have to say, my expectations for the Wailing Wall (aka Western Wall, duh) were sky-high—perhaps even higher than the wall itself. And without any further ado or an awkward drumroll pause, I can confidently tell you that it surpassed all expectations with flying colors, earning an A+ on my strict test!
Its profound importance strikes you like a spiritual lightning bolt, urging every ounce of your being to grasp its significance, even if you're not religious. Standing before this sacred structure, you can tangibly feel the weight of its history and the devotion it has inspired.
Stepping closer to the Wall was an experience that left me feeling somewhat peculiar. First and foremost, it's important to note that the Wall is divided into two sections, not exactly equal in size—one for men and one for women. You can probably guess which part is bigger.
As I entered the designated section for men, I couldn't help but feel as if I had entered someone's most intimate moments. Jewish people head to the Wall to pray, placing small pieces of paper with written prayers and wishes into its crevices. Call me an outsider, but watching individuals sway back and forth was an unexpected sight. It had this strange, yet amusing charm to it. I couldn’t help but chuckle inwardly, appreciating the uniqueness of it all.
Here’s an important tip—don’t ever turn your back towards the wall! It’s disrespectful. Walk backwards if you must, but don’t be an uninformed tourist and check out some of my other tips for your Israel vacay.
Me, being handsome and checking out the edge of Israel—Rosh HaNikra
This place will take you literally on the edge... of Israel, and yours if you are afraid of heights. Welcome to Rosh HaNikra, a captivating natural wonder on the Mediterranean coast, right near the Lebanese border. And the best way to explore it? By riding the cable car, of course! Rosh HaNikra is a bit off the beaten path, and I probably would have missed it if I hadn't done my research beforehand. Luckily for you, I did, so I can offer you not only a picture of me being handsome there, but also some nice and helpful tips.
First things first, the cable car is your gateway to this destination. Fun fact: it's said to be the steepest cable car in Israel. This means you'll not only enjoy the ultimate view but also have the potential to induce a panic attack in sensitive souls, like the lady who sat next to me. So, if you happen to be that kind of person, I suggest bringing a little bag to breathe into. Safety first! And the sanity of people around you second...
One of the many grottoes in Rosh HaNikra
But let's focus on the real star of the show— the breathtaking views of the turquoise sea and the coastline with white rocks. It’s a ride you won’t soon forget! You know those places that appear like paradise on Instagram but disappoint in person? Well, Rosh HaNikra is the real deal. It's so nice that I couldn't resist visiting twice—and trust me, I never go see something twice. That should speak about its beauty!
Once you arrive, make sure to explore the grottoes—a series of sea caves carved out by the waves over thousands of years. They are filled with crystal-clear water, and the colors and shapes of the rocks are going to entertain you for a while. I recommend taking your time leisurely strolling along the designated path through the caves to soak in every moment of this incredible place. Plan for about an hour max, even if you decide to move at a sloth's pace—no judgment here!
The most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen...
The Tel Aviv Promenade—a place that simply cannot be skipped on your Tel Aviv itinerary or even Israel itinerary, because this place is taking the front bars on the Israel beautiful places list. Let me tell you, it's what stole my heart and charmed me the most about this vibrant city—the Port and its adjacent promenade.
It's a picturesque area with charming bars and restaurants serving mouthwatering Israeli delicacies. As you wander along the promenade, you're treated to top-notch panoramic views of the sparkling sea. It's like stepping into a living, breathing postcard your auntie has hanging on her fridge. Take some snaps for social media to make your friends green with envy.
I have to admit that the Tel Aviv Promenade isn't a place packed with thrilling activities. It's a destination where you can leisurely stroll or bask in the breathtaking views while relaxing on a restaurant's porch. But hey, is there any better way to end a busy day after walking all around Tel Aviv? I think not. It's the perfect setting to unwind, soak in the beauty of the surroundings, and let the tranquil ambiance wash over you like a gentle sea breeze—and have a drink or two, right?
Jerusalem Old Town
Well, I had high expectations for Jerusalem, and it somewhat delivers. It possesses an incredible amount of history, possibly the greatest offer and the most important holy sites in the world. However, the monuments felt sometimes a little underwhelming. The best one, for sure, is the Old Town with its four quarters, where the Arabic quarter stands out as the largest, and interestingly, the only one with fully armored police officers (cough, cough).
On the other hand, I wasn't particularly impressed with the famous Via Dolorosa, which turned out to be just a large marketplace. But I did enjoy the Church of the Sepulchre. It combines multiple churches into one, and it houses the grave of Jesus Christ. Needless to say, it attracts quite a few tourists every year. Fun fact: The keys to the church are owned by a Muslim family. Let that sink in, I’ll wait...
Another parts I appreciated were the City of David and the Mount of Olives, which I found truly spectacular. I particularly preferred the Jewish and Christian parts of the Old Town. They were cleaner, but that more expensive. But don't skip the Arabic part and the tasting of all the Arab sweets and fresh pomegranate to experience the essence of Jerusalem.
These are my top 4 in Jerusalem Old Town.
While the walls that surround the Old Town undoubtedly make an impressive sight, I couldn't help but feel that their purpose was purely functional—it's just a wall, nothing that impressive, okay? The eight gates looked cool, but there wasn't much to do apart from staring at them.
The Old Town of Jerusalem is a captivating area full of testaments to the city's history and cultural diversity. It has its ups and downs, some places you like, some you almost hate. But that's the magic of Jerusalem, I guess.
Caesarea is a renowned historic city known for its archaeological sites and their cultural significance, as well as its picturesque views. Now, I have a confession to make. My experience in Caesarea didn't quite live up to my expectations. Don't get me wrong, there were certainly some captivating and beautiful places within the city that even managed to impress me—and trust me, that's quite an achievement. Thus, it rightfully earns a spot on the list. However, I couldn't help but feel a slight sense of underwhelm throughout my visit.
Perhaps my expectations were set a tad too high for Caesarea. It's an impressive site with its array of ruins, but what annoyed me the most was the feeling that they didn't fully maximize the potential of the place. And there's nothing I hate more than a wasted opportunity. I firmly believe that this place holds far greater historical significance and could benefit from more informative signs—seriously, they should consider firing the person responsible for that lackluster job.
If I were capable of it, I could even fall asleep standing up while reading the few and uninteresting pieces of information provided on-site. Let's be honest, this place has a very rich history. Is it so difficult to make its visit entertaining and educational for others? I guess I'm asking for too much.
I wasn’t very impressed...
But my grumpiness instantly turned into excitement once we visited the local caves. If you had seen the hundreds of small, adorable bats inhabiting these caves, you wouldn't be able to stay angry for much longer either. I was so ready to shove one of them into my backpack and take him home.
What I appreciated—so I don’t criticize the whole time—was the video explaining the history of Caesarea, providing some context for the site that is so missed on the actual site. On the other hand, I was not a fan of the fact that parts of the ruins had been transformed into restaurants and cafes, which felt somewhat out of place. Capitalism really popped off on that one.
A vibrant oasis in the heart of desert—that's natural reserve Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi is a haven of lush greenery in the middle of droughty landscape, that is already getting on your nerves. Enough with the endless sand that the wind throws into your face and bothers you in a way you can't explain without getting furious. Let's go wandering through this whimsical oasis, surrounded by palm trees, colorful flowers, and refreshing waterfalls. It's like stumbling upon a secret paradise you're not supposed to know about. But you do, because you read the best travel blog there is.
Located along the coast of the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi makes for an ideal combination with your Dead Sea excursion. But I think that it would be a mistake to snort both those trips into one. There is simply too much to do and explore in Ein Gedi to rush through it. Brace yourselves for an adventure-packed day!
I have to mention the hiking trails that crisscross the nature reserve as the top activity there. Whether you're a leisurely stroller or an athletic hiker, Ein Gedi offers trails of varying difficulty levels. Each trail unveils a unique wonder, including great cascading waterfalls, serene pools, and breathtaking viewpoints.
Speaking of great hikes with breathtaking viewpoints, let's talk nearby Mount Sodom. Did you know it goes by the nickname "Cooking Salt Mountain"? Yes, this colossal wonder is made up of several types of rocks, including salt. But what is the story behind this mountain-sized seductive salt lick?
The salty Mount Sodom
Legend has it that it all began long time ago when Lot's wife, unable to resist the temptation, looked back at the city of Sodom and was transformed into a pillar of salt. It seems her salty fate left an everlasting mark on the landscape. But fear not, you won't suffer the same destiny! You can safely venture into this salty spectacle, witness the captivating formations up close, and even explore some of its salt caves.
As for my personal experience on Mount Sodom, it was truly delightful. Or shall I say... delicious? Ah, no, I won't tell you whether I succumbed to the temptation of licking it to confirm its saltiness. Some mysteries are best left to the imagination.
Ruins of the once thriving city Tzipori
One thing about National Parks in Israel is that they deliver. You expect grandiose nature, nice ancient ruins with a touch of mystery, and it gives you exactly that. And nestled within this marvelous collection of parks is Tzipori National Park, an absolute gem that will fetch a cheerful mark in your memory. Trust me, it's a spot that simply cannot be missing on your Israel itinerary.
Once a vibrant and thriving city, Tzipori was renowned for its wealth, culture, and the sophistication of its residents. Just imagine a place where philosophers engaged in profound contemplation while savoring a glass of exquisite wine, and poets crafted verses that would resonate through the ages. It was the ultimate hangout spot for the cool kids, attracting the attention of Roman emperors and influential rabbis alike. If I had turned the clock back a few centuries, you would undoubtedly find me living in one of those houses, soaking in the intellectual and artistic ambiance.
As I wandered through the ruins, my eyes were treated to a magnificent sight—the splendid views that extended as far as the eye could see were like an advertisement for a blissful life. While it is said that the journey through Tzipori takes around 3-4 hours, I, an intrepid explorer, managed to conquer it in just 1.5 hours, relishing every moment and taking my time.
Top tip: Leave some space between cars when parking. Tourists can be careless everywhere as well as in Israel, and I ended up leaving the place with a seriously scratched side of the car. Thankfully, I had full-coverage insurance.
Nazareth—this is where Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived.
Nazareth is a town that holds a special place in the hearts of believers worldwide, you've probably heard of it once or twice, even if you live in a cave. And it's no wonder why. Legend has it that this humble town was a home of the holy trio themselves—Mary, Joseph, and the one and only Jesus. Just imagine the untapped potential for catchy t-shirts with "Hometown of Jesus" quote. Seriously, why hasn't anyone capitalized on this genius business idea yet? It's a goldmine waiting to happen!
Prepare to be dazzled by a myriad of religious sites that will have you hopping from one holy location to another. Trust me, if you're aiming to visit every church and every sacred spot, you might as well pack a sleeping bag because it's going to take you a while.
But the true pièce de résistance, in my humble and undoubtedly correct opinion, is the awe-inspiring Basilica of the Annunciation. This magnificent structure stands tall and proud, claiming to be built precisely on the very spot where Angel Gabriel paid a momentous visit to the Virgin Mary. Prepare to be amazed as you step foot into this sacred space. Even I, with my discerning taste for remarkable sights, was left speechless.
Here was the meeting of the Virgin Mary with the Angel Gabriel
Beyond its profound religious significance, Nazareth is a city that embraces its multicultural heritage. It's a place where different traditions intertwine, creating a vibrant tapestry of cultures. So, grab your adventurous spirit and get ready for an experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the wonders of the world.
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My expectations for Israel were as low as the Dead Sea because my past experiences with Jews were, let's just say, unremarkable. But surprise, surprise, they're actually pretty charming in their homeland!
I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand why everyone adores the Dead Sea so much. What could be so unique about a lake that’s ten times saltier than the sea? The answer is EVERYTHING! Keep reading to find out why!