There are many beautiful places to visit in Israel.
Israel is home to some world famous tourist attractions – places you have heard about on the news, or saw in documentaries etc. With Jerusalem being a Holy City to the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – many tourists go there on pilgrimages to visit the temples and other religious sites.
But if religion is not the purpose of your trip you can still visit the religious sites and you will also find some other incredible places to see. Continue reading for my selection of places to visit in Israel.
This list includes a few destinations in Palestine, as many people traveling to Israel usually take the chance to cross the border and explore there as well.
20 Fantastic Places To Visit In Israel
Jerusalem should be the starting point of your trip to Israel, to get a basic understanding of the country’s culture and history; to appreciate how multicultural it is; and to unveil some of its mystery.
Not nearly as big as other capitals, this is city of contrasts: trendy and modern; but also traditional and religious. This timeless city has an incredible concentration of places of interest, and it will take you a few days to explore it and take in all its swiping views, narrow alleys, markets, churches and museum.
Among the many landmarks in Jerusalem, make sure not to miss the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock are open daily, except on Fridays (when Muslims go there to pray) from 7:00 to 10:30 am and from 12:00 to 1:30 pm. Access is free but you will have to go through airport style security. Read read my post What You Must Know Before Visiting Temple Mount And Dome Of The Rock for more information.
The Tower of David and the City of David are two excellent archaeological sites that will help you get a better understanding of the history of Jerusalem, from its foundation to modern times. Both of them offer light shows.
Join a guided tour of the City of David and underground Jerusalem such as this one to make the most of it.
For incredible views of the city head over to Mount of Olives, a historic cemetery in East Jerusalem, right before sunset. You may even want to join this Mount of Olives tour for a deeper experience. On the way there, stop at the Garden of Gethsemane – the site where Jesus prayed with his disciples.
Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum are the best museums for first timers in Israel, as they give insights into the history of the holocaust and the country.
If you enjoy markets, you’ll appreciate getting lost inside the Old City Suq and – in the modern city – Mahane Yehuda. The latter one is particularly lively on Friday mornings, when people are shopping right before the start of Shabbat.
To discover more amazing things to do in Jerusalem, read my posts:
Jerusalem is an excellent starting point to visit Bethlehem, where you can see the Church and the Grotto of the Nativity, the Chapel of the Milk Grotto, the Separation Wall with its many murals (including Banksy) and Herodion Palace; Hebron, one of the most fought over cities in the region home of the Abraham Avinu Synagogue and the Sanctuary of Abraham and other places in the West Bank.
Check out my posts:
- Everything You Need To Know Before You Visit Palestine
- What You Should Know Before Doing A Hebron Tour
Tel Aviv is a fantastic, lively, open minded city that has a lot to offer to its visitors and definitely one of the most fun places to visit in the country. Blessed with fantastic weather pretty much year round, Tel Aviv has a wonderful beach with a waterfront that attracts locals and tourists alike. On any day, you can spot people playing volleyball, matkot (a popular padel ball game), surfing or just hanging with friends.
The center of Tel Aviv is packed with interesting sights, beautiful historic quarters (I am a big fan of Neve Tzedek) and historical landmarks, such as Habima Square and the Rabin Memorial. You will also want to spot the gorgeous Bauhaus buildings.
Tel Aviv is very bike friendly so go ahead and rent one of the city bikes or join a bike tour such as this one.
If you are a fan of festivals, try to visit Tel Aviv during Purim (Israeli Carnival) or the Gay Pride week. It’s a lot of fun!
Don’t forget to make the most of Tel Aviv nightlife!
Make sure to check out my posts about Tel Aviv:
- The 13 Best Day Trips From Tel Aviv
- Where To Stay In Tel Aviv: Recommendations By An Almost Local
- Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv: A Complete Review
- Tel Aviv Vegan Food Guide: The Best Vegan Restaurants In Tel Aviv
Jaffa, the oldest side of Tel Aviv, is one of the most famous places to see. It’s a very scenic part of the city, with narrow cobbled alleys, small art galleries and souvenir shops, and lots of history. Don’t miss the Flea Market (one of the nicest in the country) and the Bridge of Wishes!
Free walking tours of Jaffa depart daily at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm from the Clock Tower. Although they are free, you must book your tour – do so here – and you may be asked to leave a small tip.
15 Km south of Jaffa, Bat Yam is another nice town with a lovely beach and where you can enjoy plenty of water sports. It has a nice promenade, a well curated museum of contemporary art and the Havayedda science center.
One of the lesser known destinations, Ashdod is a pleasant city on the shores of the Mediterranean, at little over 30 minutes drive south of Tel Aviv. Its highlights include Ashdod Yam Park, the fortress at Metzuda Beach and Gil Beach. If you like shopping, you will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Don’t miss the Eye of the Sun, a massive statue which is beautifully illuminated at night.
The Masada is one of the most beautiful archeological sites in Israel. This fortress was built around 30 B.C. and overlooks the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert. The views from up there are simply breathtaking.
If you enjoy hiking, wake up before sunrise and walk the snake path to the Masada to admire an incredible sunrise. Make sure to read my post Masada Sunrise Guide: Hiking The Masada Snake Path.
The Masada is open Saturdays to Thursdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (4:00 pm in the winter); and on Fridays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm (3:00 pm in the winter). Ticket prices vary depending on whether you ride the cable car or not. The most basic option (just the entry fee) is 31 NIS (Israeli Shekels) (little over $9 USD). For guided tours, click here or here.
Ein Gedi Reserve
A short drive from the Masada, Ein Gedi Reserve is a gorgeous park to spend a day. Home to various species of animals and of a bunch of beautiful waterfalls, you will find various hiking trails and plenty of shade, making it an incredibly pleasant place to get a bit of respite from the chaos of the cities.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm from April to September; and from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm from October to March. Admission fee is NIS 28 (little over $8 USD). For guided tours click here or here.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is among the most popular landmarks in Israel. This is the lowest place on earth, and the heat is strong, even during the winter months. You will find several beaches, offering different experiences. Some have the famous mud pools, where you can cover yourself in the mud that has great benefits for the skin and the body. Other beaches are more traditional, with clear waters.
Either way, floating in the Dead Sea is a fun experience. However, beware the water is incredibly salty. Don’t get it into your eyes or mouth!
If you have a thing for Roman ruins, Caesarea National Park is a must. About one hour from Tel Aviv, the city and harbor of Caesarea were founded by Herod the Great during the first century BC. Clearly visible are still the thermal baths, the amphitheater, the hippodrome, the aqueduct, the royal palace and the temple of Augustus.
If you like diving, make sure to visit the underwater ruins!
Caesarea National Park is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 or 6:00 pm depending on the season. It closes at 4:00 or 5:00 pm on Fridays. Admission is NIS 39 (little over $11 USD). The site can be easily visited independently on day trips from Tel Aviv such as this one or this one. Most of them also go to Haifa and Akko.
Haifa is the third largest city in the country, and one of the nicest. It’s pretty, but what makes it special is the incredibly easy going, friendly atmosphere. Haifa has all the perks of Tel Aviv – beautiful beaches, a lovely city center, nice shops, a fantastic restaurant scene, good nightlife; minus the chaos.
Haifa best sight is the Baha’i Gardens, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The German Colony is a lovely part of town where it is pleasant to go for a walk.
You can easily explore Haifa independently – it’s easier to do if you have a car. If you don’t, or if you’d rather opt for a more hassle free solution, join a guided tour departing from either Nazareth or Tel Aviv such as this one or this one.
Acre (or Akko, as it is called in Israel), is a small city around 18 km from the border with Lebanon, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. For as small as it is, it has plenty of history and it is a lovely place to explore. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a maze of narrow alleys, hidden squares, and has a beautiful local market.
Among the best sights there’s the Citadel and the City Walls, originally built by the Crusaders and subsequently reinforced. The Al-Jazzar Mosque, which was built at the end of the 19th century, is another must see.
About 30 minutes drive north of Acre and literally on the border with Lebanon, Rosh HaNikra Grottoes are among the nicest Israel tourist attractions. Open daily (times vary depending on the season; early closure on Shabbat), admission is NIS 48 (little over $14 USD).
Acre is so nice that you will want to spend a couple of days there, just taking in the nice atmosphere. However, it’s so small that you can easily explore it in a day. You can either drive there or opt for a guided tour departing from either Nazareth or Tel Aviv such as this one or this one.
The ruins of Beit Shean are definitely among the best preserved in the country. The ancient city dates back to Roman and Byzantine times, during which it flourished thanks to its strategic position. You will be able to see the colonnaded streets, a nicely restored theater and even the remains of a bathhouse. Don’t miss Kohav HaYarden, a Crusader fortress.
Galilee, with Nazareth, Cana, Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, is a popular pilgrimage place for Christians.
Though Nazareth may lack the charm of other Israeli cities, it has some interesting sights. The Old City has been restored, yet as a result of the renovation works most of the shops have been closed and many have never opened again. It is nevertheless interesting to walk around, visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and Mary’s Well.
You should visit Fauzi Azar, a beautiful historic home converted into a boutique hostel. El Babour, a fantastic shop in suq style, with an antique mill and where they sell all sorts of nuts, dried fruits, teas and coffees is a fun place to visit too.
Nazareth is also a good starting point for walking the Jesus Trail, which goes through various places of natural, historical, cultural and archaeological interest and then finishes in Tiberias.
One of the four holy cities for the Jews, on the shores of Lake Kineret (AKA the Sea of Galilee), Tiberias is one of the most popular places to visit in Israel, both for local tourists and foreigners. The city has a nice promenade home of a light show taking place each evening. There also are some nice hot springs nearby, as well as Korazim National Park, where you’ll find a nice synagogue.
Galilee is packed with some of the most beautiful places to visit in Israel – natural sites, archeological sites, villages, churches and more.
Among the most interesting attractions in Galilee there are Zippori National Park – between Nazareth and the village of Cana – inside which you will find the Old Zippori Village; Cana, locally known as Kfar Cana, the traditional site of the wedding party where Jesus performed one of his miracles, turning water into wine and where you’ll be able to see the Franciscan Wedding Church.
Other must-sees include Moshav Arbel, a small village where you will find the ruins of a synagogue, and Mount Arbel, from where you can enjoy stunning views of the Sea of Galilee.
Closer to the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, is thought to be one of the most sacred sites in the Christian pilgrimage. There you can see the remains of an ancient synagogue and those of the Church and House of Peter. Don’t miss the churches of Tabgha!
Other places to visit include Nebi Shu’eib, the site of the tomb of Jethro (father in law of Moses and a prophet in the Druze tradition); and the Horns of Attin, the site where in 1187, during the battle of Hattin, the Crusaders faced the army of Saladin.
I explored Galilee during the Jesus Trail so I literally hiked and walked everywhere. Unless you also want to walk the Jesus trail, you are better off renting a car. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour such as this one or this one.
In the north of the country, the Golan Heights are a great place to escape the tremendous summer heat. This mountainous region is at its best in the spring months, when you can enjoy the many hiking trails and admire nature in full bloom. Mount Hermon is a popular ski resort in the winter months.
If you have time, head all the way north to Nimrod Fortress National Park, where you will find the remains of 13th century Muslim fortress which is the biggest castle in Israel. On the way to the Golan Heights, you may want to stop at Safed – locally known as Tsfat. It’s Israel’s highest city and one of the four holy cities in the country, where you can see synagogues and nice art galleries.
Located in the Southern Negev Desert, Eilat is the country’s only outpost on the Red Sea. Locally known as “Eilat Vegas,” it’s a place many unfairly dismiss as tacky. I find it to be the best place in the country to relax, enjoy the clear waters of the Red Sea – diving, snorkeling, and other water sports such as wind and kite surfing – and to explore the incredible surroundings.
Eilat is a great starting point to explore the surrounding region. For more information, click here.
If you are a fan of the desert, you will definitely agree that Timna Park is one of the best places to visit in Israel. About 30 km from Eilat, it is a fabulous combination of an archaeological site and a natural site with unique rock formations.
The best way to explore Timna is on a guided tour such as this one.
Makhtesh Ramon, or Ramon Crater, is located in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town in the Negev Desert. It is a massive crater of 40 km on length, a whopping 6 km wide in points – this being the largest erosion crater (also known as makteshim) in the world. It truly is one of the coolest places to visit in Israel!
The best way to explore Ramon Crater is during hikes that also go through the Ein Avdat – but be prepared for the terrible heat. Alternatively, you can explore it by jeep. There even are hot air balloon flights.
Be’er Sheva and the Negev Desert
Hardly one of the best known places to visit in Israel, Be’er Sheva has more of a local feel. It is the biggest city in the Negev Desert, home to a university – thus quite lively. Most attractions such as Abraham’s Well are found in the Old City, which has some lovely cafés, and the Bedouin Market.
It’s easy enough to reach by train from central Tel Aviv, so it makes for a unique day trip if you want to get off the beaten path. It is also a good starting point to visit the Negev Desert, where you can experience breathtaking sunrises or sunsets, but also ideal for adventurous activities – think hiking or ATV tours and 4X4 tours.
You don’t often see Netanya in a post about the best places to visit in Israel, but I go every time I am in the country because I enjoy its local atmosphere, the busy market, and the nice beaches. Most of the people living there are of Northern Africa origins, coming from Tripoli, Tunisia, Morocco. That means that you can find some really tasty Northern Africa style street food. And if you fancy the best hummus in Israel, head to Uzi Hummus.
Make sure to read my other posts to better plan your trip to Israel:
- How To Plan The Perfect Trip To Israel
- 33 Tips For Traveling To Israel
- A Complete Guide To Israeli Food
- The Best Airbnbs In Tel Aviv
- Where To Stay In Jerusalem