Top 10: Best Things to Do in IsraelBy Angelica Malin
Israel is a rich, beautiful country. There’s nowhere on earth quite like it – there’s simply so much to do, see and taste (hello, falafel). I grew up on exploring Israel with my family, and it has a very special place in my heart – not only for being the country where I first discovered frozen lemonade. If you’re wondering what to do in Israel, below are my favourite places to explore in this wonderful country. And if you’re looking for a more educational experience in Israel, Masa Israel organizes amazing internships and programmes in Israel. Here’s what a recent participant said of their trips:
“I am doing the Masa Israel programme, Destination Israel Internship programme in Tel Aviv. I am 23 and I decided to come on the programme because I have always wanted to experience Israel independently and I think that being able to explore the Israeli workplace means that I can be more integrated into society instead of simply being a tourist. I love that in Israel people are warm-hearted and not afraid to show their emotions.” Shuli Elbaz
Now let’s talk travel. Here’s the my favourite experiences in Israel you simply cannot miss:
Tel Aviv is a bustling, lively city, with great restaurants, beaches, bars and nightlife. Often considered the “New York of the Middle East”, there’s a really young, open culture in the city and it’s great for first-time visitors. We’ve put together a perfect weekend guide to Tel Aviv here, which includes the best places to sleep, eat and relax in the city on a long weekend. This is one city that loves to eat – there are so many fantastic great breakfast spots in Tel Aviv, and brunch for Tel Avivians is life – discover Tel Aviv’s best brunches here and read more about Tel Aviv on About Time here.
Jerusalem is a magical place, with an old world charm and sense of history running through its very streets. You can’t miss Jerusalem on a trip to Israel; the city has a huge religious significance, as a place of pilgrimage and worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims since the biblical era. There’s so many amazing sites to see here, located around the Old City, including the Temple Mount compound, Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, a 7th-century Islamic shrine with a gold dome. A much-needed experience is visiting Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It’s an incredibly moving experience, and necessary for all those who want to delve deeper into Jewish history. When you’re weary from sightseeing, head to Mahane Yehuda Market for some much-needed grub – they do some of the best falafel pittas, freshly baked breads and warm pastries in all of Israel.
This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Dead Sea, which borders on Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, is not like any other sea on earth. It’s famously hypersaline – which means you literally float in the water – for the ultimate calming, relaxed experience. What’s more, the sea is great for a pamper session, as its mineral-rich black mud is used for therapeutic and cosmetic treatments. The Dead Sea is roughly 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, and has been known to help with illness – so there’s no excuse not to indulge in a long soak.
For another amazing swimming experience, you must try swimming in the Kinneret. The Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. Stretching 53 km in circumference, this beautiful lake attracts tourists and locals alike every weekend to bathe in its still waters. The beaches surrounding the Kineret are stunning – and fantastic for exploring the natural beauty of Israel. You can visit nature sites such as Jordan Park, the Beit Tsida Nature Reserve, Khamat Gader and Naharayim whilst visit the Kinneret, as well as the historic Golan Heights, which has streams, sights and nature reserves a plenty.
I love Nazareth; it’s probably my favourite place to visit in all of Israel. Beautiful 3000-year old Nazareth is the capital and largest city in the North of Israel, with a rich history and significance to Jews, Arabs and Christians alike. Reported to be where Jesus spent his boyhood, Nazareth has many religious sites to visit, including Basilica of the Annunciation, Holy Caves of Nazareth, Nazareth Village and the Ancient Bathhouse in Nazareth. You can see history come to life at Megiddo National Park, which is well worth of visit. They also have cracking street food in Nazareth – try to find the rose water soaked mini pancakes with cream cheese, they are a local delicacy.
Markets in Israel are so, so good and a really important part of the culture. You’ll be able to find a decent food market in most areas, but some of the best are Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market and Jerusalem’s Yehuda Market. In Tel Aviv, the Port Market is fantastic for foodies, and the antique market in Dizengoff Square for finding old treasures. Jaffa Flea Market is a bargain-hunter’s paradise, with lots of unusual goodies to discover. In Jerusalem, the Famers’ and Artists’ Market is great for handmade products and local crafts, whereas the Old City Souk is the place to pick up souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. Winner.
Oh, is there anything better than swimming with dolphins? I think not. If you fancy swimming with dolphins in Israel, Eilat is the place to come. Eilat is fun, young area in Israel; a southern Israeli port and resort town on the Red Sea, it’s got great beaches and natural beauty. Areas such as Dolphin Reef are a big attraction for tourists and the summer months are full of families enjoying the beaches and taking in the sea air. There’s so much fantastic sea life to discover here, with the Coral Beach Nature Reserve showing underwater trails for the fish-filled reefs and the Coral World Underwater Observatory Marine Park for observe all the natural bounty of the area.
Bethlehem is a place of huge religious significance, and a must-visit on any trip to Israel. The Palestinian town south of Jerusalem in the West Bank, is considered to be the biblical birthplace of Jesus, and has huge tourist appeal. As such, it’s a major Christian pilgrimage site and thousands of visitors flock here to view the spot which marks Jesus’ birth, under a 6th-century Church of the Nativity. Other famous attractions include Manger Square, with the 15th-century Church of St. Catherine and the 1860 Mosque of Omar! Don’t forget to visit Rachel’s Tomb while you are here.
For something truly unique to the country, try a Bedouin experience in Israel. At Kfar Hanokdim, you can spend the night with Bedouin in the Kana`im valley, which is in the Judean desert, between the city of Arad and ancient Masada. Much thought has been put into creating an authentic Bedouin experience, with colourful fabric rugs, salt crystal lamps and wooden furniture, shaded by palm streets in the dessert. You will enjoy local life whilst staying in the Kfar, including meals, post-feast dances, campfires, camel treks and sleeping in traditional Bedouin tents. A must-do in Israel.
For somewhere fun for all the family, try a day trip to Tiberias. Tiberias can be found on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, with lots of attractions, restaurants and family-friendly activities. There’s lots of sights to see, including the Tomb of Maimonides and Abulafia (Etz Chaim) Synagogue, although the city’s waterside restaurants are the real pull. Enjoying exploring the restaurant-lined Yigal Allon Promenade, a marina and a fish market, and taking it the beautiful ocean views as you wander. Waterfront perfection
Sponsored post in assocation with Masa Israel as part of #MasaIsraelMonth