My first trip to Israel was in November 2016. I spent just a week there, visiting Jerusalem and falling in love with Tel Aviv. I liked it so much that even before leaving, I vowed to go back as soon as possible. So, I made sure to travel to Israel again in the spring. I stayed longer then, and explored much more of the country.
Yet, that wasn’t enough for me. I went on my third trip to Israel in December 2017. Yes: I have been there 3 times in little over a year. So often I visit Israel that friends started suspecting the existence of an Israeli better half – there isn’t, I’m afraid.
I suppose I am just in love with the country. I feel incredibly comfortable in Israel – starting with the fact that I can easily pass for a local. I like its food, its people, the overall vibe and way of life, which is so similar to the one I am used to. Besides, there’s so many things to do in Israel, so many places to visit in Israel, that I am never quite done exploring.
Most people who travel to Israel limit themselves to the main cities. They go to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and little else. I love both cities; but there there are so many more interesting things to see in Israel, that it would be a real pity not to enjoy them.
Whenever I travel to Israel, I am amazed by how a small country has such an incredible variety of landscapes and sights. Just think about it: Israel is right on the Mediterranean; but it also has a window on the Red Sea. The North is all hills and forests; while most of the South is desert. Some cities are incredibly modern; others are a walk through history. This is a country of contrasts, and I love them all.
Things To Consider Before A Trip To Israel
Planning a trip to Israel is easy. The country offers a great variety of options that suit any kind of traveler. It really is just a matter of deciding to go, and things typically fall into place then. In any case, it’s always useful to have a good idea of what to expect before and during the trip, so here’s a few things that those who travel to Israel should consider.
Safety in Israel
Every time I travel to Israel, someone has to say it. “Watch out for the bombs.” This joke is so old that I can’t possibly hear it one more time, especially in a time where terrorist attacks can really – and sadly – strike anywhere and the whole world is a target.
Sure enough, though, safety is a common concern for those who are considering going on a trip to Israel. Foreign affairs government websites list it as a high risk area, too. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact that countries that are geographically closer to Israel, such as Syria and Iraq, are in conflict, and that others such as Jordan, Egypt or even Turkey are (wrongly) perceived as dangerous doesn’t help.
I find Israel is a safe country to visit, and those who travel to Israel realize it the minute they get there. Even on my most recent trip, after President Trump’s declaration of his intention of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the subsequent protests, I didn’t perceive any sort of danger.
I was walking around the Old Suq in Jerusalem in January, supposedly during the most heated times, and I met several Italian families traveling with small children who opted for a trip to Israel against their friends and families’ advice, and they typically commented that they felt safe.
What about the presence of soldiers everywhere, then? Well, first of all, soldiers aren’t everywhere in the country. They are typically monitoring the most famous places to visit in Israel. And they are there to keep everyone safe. Their presence is hardly obtrusive, and more often than not they are up for a friendly chat.
Finally, those who are thinking to visit Israel should keep in mind that there is a real difference between the life of the average Israeli and Palestinian, and the decisions taken by political authorities. Media reports typically stress incidents that occur in the West Bank or Gaza, while life in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and all the other places to visit in Israel carries on as normal.
My two cents? Those who are considering a trip to Israel should absolutely go ahead, and discover this enigmatic, beautiful country – and hopefully grasp a bit more of its difficult history and current situation. I am convinced they will fall in love with it.
When to visit Israel
Any time of the year is good to travel to Israel, to me. I have been there in November, and Jerusalem was pleasant, while Tel Aviv still felt like summer. I have visited in March and April, and it was pretty much the same – save for a terrible heat wave that hit the country at the end of April. I went in December and January, and the temperatures were mild, though it rained a few times.
While it regularly snows in the winter in Jerusalem, the country never gets unbearably cold. On the coldest day of January, Jerusalem temperatures were around 9 degrees during the day, while Tel Aviv averaged a pleasant 16. On the other hand, the country apparently does get terribly hot in the peak summer months (July and August), so I’d advise against a trip to Israel during those months.
Traveling to and from Israel
Israel is well connected to the rest of the world through its Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Aiport. Low cost flights land both there (at terminal 1) and also in Eilat, in the Red Sea. This makes it incredibly easy and fairly cheap to travel to Israel.
One thing that those planning a trip to Israel should consider is that security for flights to and from Israel tends to be stricter than average, especially on El Al (Israel’s national airline) flights. Whether flying to or from Israel, plan to be at the airport well in advance.
In my experience, depending on the stamps on the passport, the questioning and searches are more thorough. The way to go about it is pretty obvious: answer the questions in all honesty and just be patient, as the security staff are just doing their job. Besides, one of the last things to do in Israel is challenge security or police officers.
Crossing the border to and from Jordan
A lot of people who travel to Israel often go to Jordan too, either to just visit Petra for a few days, or to explore the rest of the country. There’s 3 places to cross the border: Wadi Araba between Eilat and Aqaba, in the South; Allenby / King Hussein Bridge; which is the closest one to Jerusalem and Amman; and Sheikh Hussein at the North, closer to Nazareth and Lake Tiberias.
Crossing the border is relatively easy and pain free (there’s a small exit fee on both sides, but in Jordan that depends on the duration of stay); but keep in mind that while it is possible to travel to Israel from the 3 borders, it is only possible to leave Israel from the North and the South borders.
How to travel across Israel
My Israeli friends will likely disagree, but like me, those who travel to Israel are generally impressed with the good infrastructure and the efficient yet cheap public transportation system. Buses and trains go literally everywhere in the country.
A thing to keep in mind during a trip to Israel, however, is that public transportation doesn’t work at all during Shabbat, which pretty much signals the weekend in Israel and starts right before sunset on Fridays and ends right after sunset on Saturdays. I’d say it is best to avoid flying to and from Israel on Saturdays, because getting to the airport then can be a real hassle (and expensive).
Renting a car is one of the most common things to do in Israel, and quite cheap to do (though gasoline isn’t). I don’t mind driving there at all, though keep in mind I am Italian and I am used to being surrounded by crazy drivers (I am quite sure most would define me a crazy driver too!). Israelis also rely on sherut, or shared taxis, when public transportation isn’t available.
Currency in Israel
The Israeli Shekel (NIS) is the official currency of Israel. At the moment of writing, $1 USD is NIS 3.5 and €1 euro is around NIS 4.4. Before a trip to Israel, it is best to check what the bank commissions are to withdraw money, and to also consider credit card commission. ATMs are easy to find, though some don’t accept foreign cards.
Paying by credit card may be one of the handiest things to do in Israel, especially as credit card payments are accepted pretty much anywhere in Israel, even for small transactions. Keep in mind that a signature is often not required.
The costs of a trip to Israel
There’s no other way to put it: Israel is an expensive country and a trip to Israel is never going to happen on an extreme budget. In fact, it is one of the most expensive countries I have visited. The costs of traveling around Israel are similar to those of European countries such as Italy and the United Kingdom, and North America.
The average cost of a dorm bed is around €25, but that includes breakfast – by the way, eating breakfast is one of the top things to do in Israel. A meal at a restaurant typically costs no less than €17, to which it is necessary to add the customary tip to the waiter. Having said so, during a trip to Israel it is an absolute must to try the local eateries and markets, where food is much cheaper (around €7 for a meal).
Good news! Wifi works really well in Israel, and it is basically available in the entire country. Hotels, hostels, restaurants, bus and train stations, buses and trains all have wifi. Even most cities have free wifi. Not having to worry about a decent connection to look for basic things such as the location of a place on maps, or other apps, makes a trip to Israel incredibly easy.
Shopping and scams
One of the nicest things to do in Israel is shopping, and Israel may well be shopping paradise, were it not for the fact that it can be expensive. Having said so, other than regular (beautiful shops), there’s also many fantastic markets to buy souvenirs (though watch out for the real thing, a lot of stuff is not made locally) as well as spices and other local produce (hint: Israelis are nuts about nuts).
Though haggling in Israel is hardly a thing, it is acceptable (and in fact a must thing) to do that at markets. I still think I should have haggled way more fiercely during my last trip to Israel, when I bought a leather bag at the Old City suq in Jerusalem.
Although scams are not common in Israel, I’d recommend watching out for taxi prices and advise anybody who is planning to travel to Israel to get update information on taxi fares, for example within the city and from the airport. Same thing with markets: as I have already said, haggling is probably the best way to avoid being ripped off.
People in Israel
Those who visit Israel don’t take long to realize that it is a multi-cultural country. There are 3 main groups, which can be identified with the monotheistic religions that are most widely practiced in Israel: the Jews (some religious, others secular), who are the majority of the country; the Muslims and the Christians.
People in Israel are generally friendly and welcoming, though there is an aura of mystery about the stricter religious groups. The fact that virtually everyone speaks English is a major bonus, as it makes communication incredibly easy. Of all the places to visit in Israel, I found that people in Tel Aviv and Eilat are the most relaxed – must have something to do with the sun!
Eating and drinking in Israel
There’s no doubt that one of the greatest things to do in Israel is eating. Food is just delicious here. The combination of great ingredients such as top quality olive oil; fresh produce; and simple yet tasty recipes makes it a paradise for foodies. There is an incredible choice of vegetarian, vegan and overall healthy food options.
An unmissable meal during a trip to Israel is breakfast. Forget the Italian cornetto and cappuccino; and set aside all sugary cereals. Israelis love breakfast, and there is no weekend without a brunch invitation. Think eggs (shakshuka style); lots of salad options; fruits and good tea and coffee.
Hummus is another must try in Israel (though it actually is a Palestinian traditional food), and the real thing should be eaten as soon as it is made. Keep in mind that, traditionally, this is another breakfast food. So chances are that all good hummus places will close by 2:00 pm. Those who travel to Israel should never leave the country without trying it.
On top of all the great local food, Israel offers plenty of choices of international food. It won’t be hard to find good food on a trip to Israel. For guidance on what to eat in Israel, make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Israeli Food.”
When it comes to drinks, the options are just as good. Israel actually makes some very good craft beers – pub crawls and food tours typically include a couple of craft beer samples. Moreover, the climate is perfect for growing grapes, meaning that Israeli wines are good. In fact, wine tourism is growing and one of the nicest things to do in Israel is going on a wine tour.
Environmental protection and responsible tourism in Israel
Israel isn’t considered a wildlife destination, though it is possible to admire dolphins and other species in the Red Sea. Those who visit Israel and intend to dive in the Red Sea should always double check that companies that run diving expeditions are fully responsible. Attracting dolphins with food should alert responsible travelers as to the ethics of the company.
Israelis love animals and many of them own cats and dogs. It is quite common to see cats hanging around the streets of a city. Most of them are taken care by shelters: they are spayed and neutered; and the locals typically care for them with food and vet care. One of the nice things to do in Israel, if staying long enough, is to volunteer for an animal shelter.
With regards to environmental protection, Israel still has a bit of work to do. Recycling still isn’t a thing there, though locals are doing it more and more every day, and there is pressure to implement proper environmental protection policies. During my trip to Israel last spring, I noticed that aside from the typical garbage found in all big cities, there is an issue of big waste being abandoned where it shouldn’t be – forest, the highway, and similar places.
The 10 Best Places To Visit During A Trip To Israel
There are many places to visit during a trip to Israel. I have my favorite ones, those that I keep going to every time I travel to Israel. But I also love discovering new, less visited ones. That’s the beauty of visiting a place more than once, and getting to know it really well.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of places I recommend visiting during a trip to Israel.
Tel Aviv and Jaffa
Tel Aviv is the obvious starting point of a trip to Israel, as this is where most people arrive anyways. It is a fantastic, lively city that has a lot to offer to its visitors. The vibe in Tel Aviv is simply great, so much so that I fell in love with it, and it quickly became my happy place, and my home away from home.
The center of Tel Aviv is packed with interesting sights and historical landmarks, such as Habima Square and the Rabin Memorial. I recommend those that travel to Israel to go on a city tour of Tel Aviv, which will give some insights on its history as well as its uniqueness, such as the Bauhaus buldings.
One of the nicest things to do in Israel is biking around: each city in the country has plenty of bike lanes that make it super easy to go from place to place. Tel Aviv certainly is the best place to do that, and a great way to discover the city is by going on a bike tour.
When the weather is pleasant (which is almost every day, in Tel Aviv), one of the top things to do in Israel and for which Tel Aviv is amazing is going to the beach. There’s something going on in any season: people playing beach volley; surfers catching waves; some going for a run and others simply catching the sun.
Jaffa, the oldest side of Tel Aviv is one of the unmissable places to visit in Israel. There’s daily free tours of Jaffa that leave at around 2:00 pm from the Clock Tower. It’s a nice way to explore the oldest part of the city, which has a wholly different feel from Tel Aviv – though equally fun.
Those who want to enjoy Tel Aviv nightlife during their trip to Israel should definitely go on a pub crawl. There’s a wealth of cool bars and clubs around town. Sputnik and Radio are quite famous and can get crowded, but they are fun.
These are the best tours of Tel Aviv and Jaffa:
- Tel Aviv City walking tour
- Old Jaffa and Tel Aviv segway tour
- Full day on bike with museum visits and lunch
- 3-hour White City food self guided tour with app
- 2.5 hours vegan food self guided tour with app
- Secrets of magical Arabic cuisine
- Traditional dinner in Old Jaffa with locals
- Israeli cuisine workshop and meal with a local
- Tel Aviv pub crawl
For a more in depth guide of Tel Aviv, check my post “20 things to do in Tel Aviv.”
Where to sleep and eat in Tel Aviv
Whenever I visit Israel, my go to place in Tel Aviv is Abraham Hostel. I love the relaxed atmosphere; the modern and comfortable rooms; the cozy and spacious common areas; the fabulous bar and terrace, and the variety of events they have all the time. Not to mention, the location (on Levontin, right by Rotschild and not far from Neve Tzedek) is excellent.
As far as hostels go, Little Tel Aviv is a good alternative. For a more upscale place to stay at during a trip to Israel, Dan Hotel is a great choice. It is right by the beach and centrally located. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the breakfast buffet simply outstanding.
The following is an essential list of the best places to stay in Tel Aviv:
One of the coolest things to do in Israel is eating and the good news is that Tel Aviv is packed with excellent restaurants. I have my favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv, where I go as soon as I am in town, but I love discovering new ones. For Vietnamese food I go to Vong, on Rotschild. If I crave Thai, I head to Thai House on Bograshov: the portions are very generous and the food oh so tasty.
Eating gourmet burgers is one of the fun things to do in Israel. Burgers are great at America Burgers, on Allenby – I just love the vibe there. Prozdor, on Mendele Mokher Sfarim, is another good option. Finally, Vitrina, on Shlomo Ibn Gabirol, has some great burgers and to die for fries: they grate lemon skin on top of them and the result is extra yummy.
As far as local food, the best hummus in Tel Aviv is in Jaffa, at Abu Hassan. Miznon has several locations across town: it offers good stuffed pita and delicious grilled cauliflower, though the music is really too loud to be able to stay there for long. It is popular among locals as well as among people who travel to Israel for work or for fun.
Carmel Market is the go-to place for street food during the day. Since one of the most fun things to do in Israel is trying all the street food, Tel Aviv has taken it to the next level and opened an entire street food market between Rotschild and Allenby. It’s a cool place to hang out and also have a drink.
Getting to and around Tel Aviv
Traveling by public transportation is one of the easiest and cheapest things to do in Israel. Ben Gurion Airport is well connected to the city. The best way to get to Tel Aviv city center is certainly by train. There’s several stops in town, all more or less central, such as Tel Aviv University or Savidor Center, from where there’s buses to other locations in town.
Tel Avivians typically complain about the poor public transportation in Tel Aviv. True, there isn’t a metro. But the buses go everywhere, and a ride only costs NIS 5.90. Anyways, it is worth repeating that one of the best things to do in Israel is biking around, and since there’s bikes for rent pretty much everywhere in Tel Aviv, and good bike lanes, I suggest biking as the best way to move around.
Believe it or not, there’s people who go on a trip to Israel and only plan to visit Jerusalem on a day trip. To each their own I suppose, and it certainly is doable. But Jerusalem deserves way more than a day trip. In fact, it deserves more than a trip – take it from someone who’s been there four times and is still not done with it.
Jerusalem is a timeless city, and it has some of the most amazing places to visit in Israel. This is where to go to get at least a basic understanding of the country’s culture and history; to appreciate how multicultural it is; and to unveil some of its mystery. Besides, it is simply gorgeous and photogenic.
A good day city tour of Jerusalem includes visit to all its most important landmark, such as the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as the Old City. It’s a good way have an introduction to the city, and one of the things to do in Israel – though by no means it goes to all the places to visit in the city.
Among the unmissable places to visit in Jerusalem during a trip to Israel, there’s Temple Mount. It takes a bit of standing in line to enter, but it is worth it. It opens every day (except Fridays, during prayer time) from 7:00 to 10:30 am, and from 12:00 to 1:30 pm. The best view over Temple Mount is from Mount of Olives, a historic cemetery in East Jerusalem, at sunset. There’s even tours of Mount of Olives.
Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum are both a must for those who travel to Israel for the first time, as they give insights into the history of the holocaust as well as into that of the country. For a better understanding of the history of Jerusalem, from its foundation to modern times, the Tower of David and the City of David are two excellent archaeological sites – and they both offer incredible light shows. Tours of the City of David and underground Jerusalem can be booked online.
The Old City Suq and Mahane Yehuda are incredible markets, and those who travel to Israel should not miss them. I especially love the buzz of Mahane Yehuda on Friday mornings, when people are shopping right before the start of Shabbat. Come to think of it, tourists can even join a Shabbat experience tour nowadays.
Jerusalem’s nightlife is great, too. A pub crawl tour is a good way to discover it. Good places to go for a bit of action are Mahane Yehuda market – I love the Beer Bazar; Machneyuda, which is a favorite of the locals; the Great Gatsby for a bit of jazz. Discovering Jerusalem’s night life is definitely one of the nicest things to do in Israel.
These are the best tours of Jerusalem:
- Jerusalem Old and New city tour from Tel Aviv
- Holy City tour
- Jerusalem City Pass skip the line museum entry
- Full day Jerusalem and Church of the Holy Sepulcher tour
- Jerusalem and Bethlehem full day trip from Tel Aviv
- Jerusalem small group full day tour
- Full day city tour of Jerusalem
- City of David and underground Jerusalem
- Jerusalem like a local
- Mount of Olives tour
- Beyond the walls tour with food tasting
- Tastes of Old Town tour with breakfast
- 3 hour self guided food tour with app
- Jerusalem pub crawl
- Shabbat experience tour
To discover more amazing things to do in Jerusalem, read my posts “Alternative and traditional things to do in Jerusalem” and “My Jerusalem: places I love in this timeless city.”
Where to sleep and eat in Jerusalem
Inbal is my go to place during a trip to Israel. Its rooms are spacious and comfortable, the location is exellent, the breakfast buffet is to die for and there is a 25 meters pool that a swimmer like me has to love.
Another place I recommend for those who travel to Israel with a higher budget is the Mamilla hotel, which is located very near the Old City. Rooms are incredibly cozy there, and as always the breakfast is fabulous.
And for those who are on a budget trip to Israel, Abraham Hostel is the perfect choice, with its comfortable dorms, excellent common areas and the possibility of meeting like minded travelers. Oh, and the breakfast is great there too.
The following is an essential list of the best places to stay in Jerusalem:
Eating is one of the greatest things to do in Israel, and Jerusalem has a fantastic choice of restaurants. The best hummus is found in the Old City, at either the tiny Abu Shruk, or at the nearby Lina. They both close at around 2:30 pm.
A good way of discovering the various flavours of the city is that of going on a food tour. There’s even the possibility of taking self-guided and completely customizable food tours around the city – definitely a cool thing to do during a trip to Israel.
As far as restaurants go, the best in town are Adom, located at the First Station, Anna Ticho, on Ha’Rav Hagan, and Machneyuda, which is located by Mahane Yehuda market – which, by the way, is packed with good small eateries and bars and pubs.
Getting to and around Jerusalem
Jerusalem is very well connected to anywhere in the country, as anybody on a trip to Israel will see. There’s regular buses leaving from Tel Aviv HaHagana or Savidor Center and a one way ticket costs NIS 16. Jerusalem is connected to Ben Gurion Airport by bus 485, which leaves every hour and every day except on Shabbat, right outside the main bus station (on Jaffo street).
The best way to get to know Jerusalem is walking. Having said so, the public transportation system is quite efficient and those who travel to Israel are typically impressed with it. There’s a light rail that connects the main points in the city, and buses that go everywhere. A single ride costs NIS 5.90.
Hebron (West Bank)
Hebron is located in the West Bank, and it is one of the most highly contested cities in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Visiting Hebron definitely adds to a trip to Israel (though it actually isn’t in Israel) as it is a good way to get two different perspectives of what is an incredibly complicated issue.
I am not saying that visiting Hebron will shed some light on the issue – in fact if anything, everything will become even more blurry. It took me days to be able to digest all the information I received when I went, but I am glad I did, and I feel that those who travel to Israel should add it to their itinerary.
Hebron is divided in two parts: 3% of it is inhabited by Jewish settlers, while the rest of the city is Palestinian. The city is definitely interesting and visiting is one of the most unique things to do in Israel (or better, the West Bank). This is where the Abraham Avinu Synagogue and the Sanctuary of Abraham are located (the latter, a holy place for both Jews and Muslims). The feeling one gets when walking around, especially on the settlers bits, is that of an eerie, at times abandoned city.
The city can be easily visited on a day tour from Jerusalem – the best one is the dual narrative tour, which sees an Israeli guide leading the group on the Israeli bits of the city; and a Palestinian guide leading in the Palestinian parts. The Dual Narrative tour is by far one of the most interesting things to do in Israel.
These are some of the best tours of Hebron:
- Full day tour of Hebron and West Bank from Jerusalem
- Best of the West Bank full day tour from Jerusalem
Where to sleep and eat in Hebron
Those who visit Israel yet wish to spend the night in Hebron may not have too many options in terms of accommodation. H2 Hostel Hebron may be the most suitable place. When I visited, I ate at a local family – a lovely, home cooked meal. There’s however a few budget eateries in town.
Getting to and around Hebron
Hebron can be easily reached by public transportation from Jerusalem, though expect a few road checks on the way. Once in the city, there’s regular check points to point the division between Israeli and Palestinian territory – definitely an interesting experience to have during a trip to Israel.
Masada, Ein Gedi Reserve and the Dead Sea
The Masada is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Israel. This archeological site is an old fortress built around 30 B.C. and which overlooks the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert. The views from up there are simply breathtaking.
While it is possible to visit the Masada throughout the day (the cable car to get to the top starts running at 8:00 am), I recommend an early wake up call and getting there while it is still dark, to walk all the way to the top (the hike lasts around one hour, depending on how often one stops) to admire the sunrise from it. It’s one of the best things anybody can do during a trip to Israel.
The Ein Gedi Reserve is not far from the Masada. The park is home to various species of animals, and there’s a few beautiful waterfalls too. There’s 9 different hiking trails that can be followed. It is an overall incredibly quiet, pleasant place to visit during a trip to Israel to get away from the chaos of the cities.
Visiting the Dead Sea is a must during a trip to Israel. This is the lowest place on earth, and the heat is strong, even during the winter months. There’s several beaches, offering different experiences. Some have the famous mud pools, where it is possible to literally cover oneself in the mud that has great benefits for the skin and the body. Other beaches are more traditional, with clear waters.
In both cases, the Dead Sea is a fun experience and floating there is one of the most fun things to do in Israel. Beware: the water is incredibly salty and it’s really not recommended getting it into the eyes or mouth.
Tours of Masada, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea depart daily from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Here’s the best tours:
- Masada and the Dead Sea full day tour from Tel Aviv
- Masada, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea full day tour from Tel Aviv
- Masada sunrise, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea full day tour from Tel Aviv
- Masada and Dead Sea tour from Jerusalem
- Masada sunrise, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea full day tour from Jerusalem
Be’er Sheva and the Negev Desert
Not many visit Be’er Sheva when they travel to Israel. But during my last trip to Israel, I thought I’d want to add to my knowledge of the country, and decided to go on a little day trip. To be fair, it isn’t exactly the most beautiful city I have ever visited. But it certainly is interesting and I had an overall good time there.
Though not the ultimate among the places to visit in Israel, Be’er Sheva has the advantage to get hardly any tourists, and being almost entirely local. It is the biggest city in the Negev Desert, home to a university – which makes it packed with students and quite lively. Among the most interesting places to visit, there’s the Old City, which has some lovely cafés, and the Bedouin Market. Abraham’s Well is located in the Old City, in a pleasant little square.
Where to sleep and eat in Be’er Sheva
As I wandered around Be’er Sheva with my friend, I stumbled upon a little place near the university that was packed with students and decided to give it a try. It’s called Hahomos Shel Thina and it is located in HaBaitBe Matityahu 70. It serves lovely hummus, falafels and salads at really good prices – remember, eating hummus is one of the yummiest things to do in Israel and this is a good place to do it!
Coca Bar is a good place to have a drink later during the day, or at night, as well as Nachman Jungle. As for hotels, I only spent a day in Be’er Sheva, but as I walked around I noticed there’s some decent looking ones and small guest houses that those who travel to Israel may want to check out. Here they are:
Getting to and around Be’er Sheva
Be’er Sheva can be easily reached by train from Tel Aviv. The ride is inexpensive and lasts around 1 hour and 30 minutes, on comfortable and clean trains that also have wi-fi. Once in the city, buses are quite efficient, talking to all the most interesting parts – though it is also pleasant to walk. As I have said before, traveling by public transportation is one of the top things to do in Israel.
Eilat and Timna Park
I would have hardly imagined before visiting, but I actually really enjoyed Eilat and I would definitely add it to a trip to Israel if there’s enough time. Eilat is Israel’s outpost on the Red Sea, and it is part of the Southern Negev Desert.
Israelis call it “Eilat Vegas,” to refer to how much entertainment there is in the city. Many dismiss it, thinking it isn’t really one of the places to visit in Israel. It’s a pity: this is a pure fun place, but it is not tacky. Eilat is the perfect place to relax, to 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.
If one of the things to do in Israel is visiting the desert, then Eilat is the perfect starting point to do that. Timna Park is located at around 30 km from Eilat, and is a fabulous combination of an archaeological site and a natural site with unique rock formations.
To read more about Eilat, check my post “Why I love Eilat.”
Where to sleep and eat in Eilat
As one of the most fun places to visit in Israel, Eilat is packed with good accommodation options. These are some of the best places to stay:
As for food, the choice is just as wide and goes once again to prove that eating is one of the nicest things to do in Israel. My favorite restaurants in town are Pastory, which serves superb Italian food (take it from an Italian picky eater); Colonia, which serves delicious salads and seafood; and the Fish Market, also serving fabulous seafood and fish. The choice of bars for drinks and live music is wide too.
Getting to and around Eilat
Eilat is well connected to the rest of the country via Egged, the main bus company for long distance travel that those who visit Israel are likely to use at least once. The buses are cheap and convenient, but don’t run on Shabbat. The city is fairly small and walkable, but in any case there’s public buses connecting the main points of the city and the beaches of the northern side to those of the southern side.
Not many people that travel to Israel visit Netanya. I go every time I am in the country because that’s where my friend Eyal grew up. We go visit his mother, eat at Uzi Hummus (quite possibly the best hummus in Israel) and just go for a walk to the market and at the beach.
Netanya isn’t a touristy place at all, and to be honest the city could do with some good reconstruction work. Yet, it retains the charme of a place that isn’t crowded with tourists, it has some interesting spots, so it may be an interesting addition a trip to Israel.
Most of the people living in Netanya are of Northern Africa descent – Tripoli, Tunisia, Morocco – so it is quite common to hear people (especially older generation) speaking a mix of French, Arabic and Hebrew. This is also reflected in the street food that can be found in the area around the market. Finally, if going to the beach is one of the nicest things to do in Israel, Netanya has quite a few good ones to pick from.
Where to sleep and eat in Netanya
Despite not being on the top of the list of places to visit in Israel, Netanya has a few good accommodation options. These are some good places to stay in town, most of them close to the beach.
Eating hummus is one of the top things to do in Israel, and Uzi is a great place for that. Other places to eat and have a drink in Netanya are The Goons, Red Burger and Uranus, which is a locals’s favorite.
Getting to and around Netanya
Netanya is very close to Tel Aviv. It takes around 30 minutes by car to get there, and there’s regular buses connecting the two cities (and actually, taking the bus is one of the recommended things to do in Israel to avoid being stuck looking for a parking spot). Once in Netanya, the public transportation works well, but the main attractions are all concentrated in the main street and right at the end of it there’s the beach, so I recommend walking.
No trip to Israel can be complete without a visit to Haifa. The third largest city in the country is 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 view of the incredibly well kept park and of the harbor from the terraces on the hills of Haifa is possibly one of the top things to see in Israel. The German Colony is a lovely part of town where it is pleasant to go for a walk.
These are some of the day tours of Haifa:
Where to sleep and eat in Haifa
Most people who visit Israel only go to Haifa on day trips. Yet, the city has a good selection of places to stay and of good restaurants and bars, scattered along Ben Gurion Boulevard and in the small streets around it and even along the beach. The following are some of the best hotels in town:
Getting to and around Haifa
Haifa is at about 92 km and less than one and a half hour drive from Tel Aviv. The city is well connected to the rest of Israel via trains and buses, and once in there, public transportation is efficient. The center is quite small, so it is pleasant to walk around.
I went to Acre, which Israelis call Akko, during my second trip to Israel. This small city is located at around 18 km from the border with Lebanon, and it is right on the shores of the Mediterranean sea.
One of the nicest things to do in Israel is getting to know the history of its cities, and for as small as it is, Acre has plenty of it and it is a lovely place to visit. It isn’t by chance that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Acre is a maze of narrow alleys, hidden squares, a beautiful local market. Among the best sights there’s the Citadel and the City Walls, originally built by the Crusaders and subsequently reinforced.
As Israel is a multi-cultural and multi-religious country, those who travel to Israel typically end up also visiting mosques. One of the nicest ones is Al-Jazzar Mosque, in Acre, which was built at the end of the 19th century.
Here’s some of the best day trips to Acre:
Where to stay and eat in Acre
Eating is one of my favorite things to do in Israel and Acre is a great place for it: right by the sea, there’s a good selection of seafood and fish restaurants right by the harbor and inside the market. Uri Buri is the place to go for fish; while the best hummus is at Hummus Said. The following is a selection of the best places to stay in Acre:
Getting to and around Acre
Acre is at about 120 km from Tel Aviv, and it is connected to the rest of the country via Egged buses as well as via trains. The center of the city is quite small and pleasant to walk around.
Nazareth and Galilee
A lot of Christians that travel to Israel on pilgrimages visit Galilee, heading to Nazareth, Cana, Tiberias and other places that have strong religious significance and that are located around the Sea of Galilee. I am an atheist, but I have always had a strong interest for the historical and cultural aspects of religion, so I decided to go.
I visited Galilee during my second trip to Israel, spending a few days in Nazareth and then walking the Jesus Trail with my friend Eyal. The trail starts in Nazareth; it goes through various places of natural, historical, cultural and archaeological interest and then finishes in Tiberias.
Read more about my experience on the Jesus Trail in my post “Why I hiked the Jesus Trail.”
I do understand, however, that not everyone may have the time and energy to walk for days. The good news is that one of the nicest and easiest things to do in Israel is renting a car. It may be a good option for visiting Galilee, as it saves a lot of time getting from one place to the other. Otherwise, I recommend joining a guided tour. These are the best tours of Galilee:
- Biblical tour: Northern Israel full day tour
- Galilee, Nazareth and Tiberias tour from Tel Aviv
- Galilee, Nazareth and Tiberias tour from Jerusalem
- Christian gems around the Sea of Galilee tour from Tel Aviv
For those that still wish to travel independently, I recommend Nazareth as a starting point. This is considered one of the places to visit in Israel. The Old City has been restored, yet as a result of the renovation works most of the shops have been closed and they haven’t moved back yet. It is nevertheless interesting to walk around, visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and Mary’s Well.
My favorite place in Nazareth remains the Fauzi Azar, a beautiful historic home which has been converted to a beautiful boutique hostel. I also love El Babour, a fantastic shop in suq style, with an antique mill, where they sell all sorts of nuts, dried fruits, teas and coffees. Middle Eastern people in general have a passion for nuts, and eating them is definitely one of the things to do in Israel: El Babour is the place to go for that.
Zippori National Park is a nice addition to a trip to Israel. It’s on the way between Nazareth and the village of Cana. Inside the park there’s the Old Zippori Village, where excavations have discovered the ruins of a Roman Villa dating back to 200 CE.
Cana, or Kfar Cana as the Israelis call it, is known by Christians to be the traditional site of the wedding party where Jesus performed one of his miracles, turning water into wine. There’s a nice Franciscan Wedding Church that a lot of people who visit Israel for religious purposes go to.
Ilaniya is a tiny village along the Jesus trail, past the peaceful Beit Keshet forest. No more than 500 people live there. It was founded in 1899, during the first wave of immigration to the Holy Land, by the Jewish Colonization Association. It was a model farm and today it remains pretty much just a rural village. It’s a one of the pleasant places to visit in Israel to get away from the city.
Not many people make it to the Horns of Attin during a trip to Israel. In fact, nobody was there when Eyal and I visited. It is located on the way between Ilaniya and the village of Arbel, and it is in fact a volcanic formation that looks like the horns of a bull. This is where in 1187, during the battle of Hattin, the Crusaders faced the army of Saladin. The view from the site is splendid, and the place incredibly peaceful that it is worth a detour to visit.
Among the places to visit in Israel located along the Jesus Trail there’s Nebi Shu’eib. This is a beautiful building where the tomb of Jethro, who was the father in law of Moses and a prophet in the Druze tradition, is located.
Moshav Arbel and Mount Arbel are quite possibly my favorite places in Galilee. While not many people on a trip to Israel visit the village and the archaeological ruins of a synagogue right outside it, Mount Arbel gets more visitors. The view of the Sea of Galilee from there are breathtaking.
The surroundings of the Sea of Galilee, locally known as Kinneret, are packed with interesting sights. Many people that travel to Israel visit Capernaum, considered one of the most sacred sites in the Christian pilgrimage, to visit the remains of an ancient synagogue and those of the Church and House of Peter.
Where to sleep and eat in Nazareth and Galilee
Most people visit Galilee on day trips that start in Nazareth, so this is where most of accommodation options are. Yet, those who embark on the Jesus Trail during a trip to Israel are generally surprised with the quality of the places to stay located even in the most remote villages. In most cases, guest houses also serve food.
Here’s a list of good places to stay in Galilee:
- Fauzi Azar Inn, in Nazareth – has dorms and private rooms, it’s located in the Old City, in a beautiful historic home.
- Cana Wedding Guest House – it has male and female dorms and serves a delicious family style dinner.
- Yarok Az Ecolodge and Organic Farm – it has some lovely huts that sleep several people, common showers and toilets, a guest kitchen and serves delicious family style vegetarian food.
- Kibbutz Lavi Hotel – not far from Ilaniya.
- Arbel Holiday Homes – a lovely place in Moshav Arbel, with nice cottages, a pool and delicious home style food.
Getting to and around Nazareth and Galilee
Nazareth is well connected to the rest of Israel via public buses. The center of town, where all the attractions are, is small and can be easily walked. Unless walking the Jesus Trail, the easiest thing for those on a trip to Israel who also want to visit Galilee is to go on guided tours, as they save a lot of time in going from place to place.
Have you ever been to Israel? What do you plan to see on your next trip to Israel?
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