Are you searching for the best things to do in Israel? Care to include a little spiritual growth and history in your travels? Mind you, increasing tourism in Israel has made it more than just a site of religious pilgrimages. It is a fine vacation destination for history buffs, foodies, shopaholics, and those who simply enjoy relaxing on the beach. Here to help you flesh out your travel bucket list, are some of the top things to do in Israel.
1. Visit Old Jerusalem
Old Jerusalem’s one of the world’s holiest cities, it’s where the three most significant monotheistic religions meet. There are attractions for both traditional tourists and the younger crowd.
This place spans an area of only 0.9 square kilometers. Here within an ancient wall erected during the Ottoman Empire, you’ll be able to see such sites as Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall, the Church of the Sepulchre, and stroll through the Old City market to pick up a unique souvenir too.
2. Swim in the Dead Sea
This is another must-do in Israel. This famous salt lake is bordered by the nation of Israel to the west and the country of Jordan to the east. The saltwater here is so dense you can’t help but float.
However, you’d better book your trip there soon. The dense water is reported to be vanishing due to issues concerning water scarcity and mineral mining. The water level is said to be dropping nearly one meter each year.
3. Explore Tel Aviv
Backpackers report this city on the Mediterranean coastline is a great place to set up your base camp. No matter how you travel though, it is a must-see. It’s the country’s technological center too. Backpackers like it because of its noteworthy nightlife and because while accommodations are otherwise expensive, you can easily book a budget hostel that feeds you breakfast. If you’d rather stay elsewhere and skimp on meals, you can get inexpensive falafel at the nigh-famous Falafel Razon.
4. See the Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is actually a freshwater lake. It is the lowest on the planet with levels between 209 and 215 meters. It’s a popular tourist attraction, especially for Christians.
Here people can see where Jesus Christ performed the miracles made famous in the New Testament such as calming the storm, feeding the multitude, and walking on water. Since 2011, the country has offered travelers a 40-mile hike in Galilee known as the “Jesus Trail.” It ends at the fishing village of Capernaum where Jesus taught his disciples.
5. Journey to Bethlehem
Bethlehem is one of the area’s top attractions. It is especially popular during the Christmas season. It is then that Christians from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the world-famous Church of the Nativity, considered to be the location of Jesus’ nativity.
There’s also Rachel’s Tomb at the northern entrance. It is the burial site of the well-known biblical matriarch Rachel. Don’t miss the graffiti-plastered occupational wall either. It is thought-provoking and even includes work by Banksy.
6. Explore the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
There are two Christian holy sites here at the famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here you will find the actual site where Christ was crucified and his empty tomb as well. You’ll also find the famous final four stations of the processional route known as Via Dolorosa. There’s also the Stone of Unction–where Christ’s body was washed, and the Rock of Calvary altar which stands where the cross once stood.
7. Wander to the Western Wall
Some also call this the Wailing Wall. Jewish people consider the Western Wall to be the world’s most important religious site. Built over 2,000 years ago in 70 A.D., it is the Temple Mount’s retaining wall.
The Temple itself was actually torn down when the Jews were thrown out of Jerusalem. By the time they returned, they had lost the location of the temple. Thus, they began praying at this outer wall.
8. Visit the Mount of Olives
The world-famous Mount of Olives is just outside of Old City Jerusalem. This famous hillside provides visitors with an exceptional view of Jerusalem. It’s also where you’ll find a large Jewish cemetery.
It’s the world’s oldest continually used cemetery. Many Jews believe that when the Messiah comes, the Jews buried here will be the first to be resurrected. Beyond that, there are beautiful gardens, and seeing the sunset from here is an incredible experience.
9. Travel to the City of David
If you’re a history buff or just intrigued by ancient attractions, this active archaeological site is a must. It’s here where King David built the first Jewish temple. Explore the dry, narrow, Warren Tunnel and the wet, more adventurous Hezekiah’s Tunnel too. Be sure to see The City of David Light Show as well. It’s an interactive way to learn about Jerusalem via a movie projected on the walls and ruins of the city.
10. Visit Jaffa
Jaffa is actually the oldest and southern part of the ancient port city of Tel Aviv. Those in the know claim it is rife with culture and “Arabic vibes.” Enjoy the street art almost everywhere you turn. If you have seen the major attractions and are in the mood for someplace a bit off the beaten track, then visit the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood. Some say this is actually one of the most interesting spots in the country.
11. Relax on the Beaches
Don’t forget to hit the beach! After all, you’re in Israel, nestled on the magnificent Mediterranean Sea. Israel has some beautiful beaches.
If you’re concerned about related costs, head away from Tel Aviv. (If you hit Gaza, you went too far!) One popular place to find relaxing beaches is Haifa. The top three are Dado Beach, Meridian Beach, and Bat Galim Beach. Learn to play their pseudo-national sport–matkot or just relax and enjoy the sunset.
If you enjoy organized tours, there are many available here. What are some of the things you would do in Israel? Let us know!