Israel is already referred to in the Bible as the land of milk and honey for good reason. At the junction between the three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa lies this fascinating country, which is home to an unbelievable variety of cultural and religious treasures.
Despite its small size, parts of Israel are considered “holy land” for the three world religions Christianity, youth and Islam. But even apart from the important pilgrimage sites, Israel has a wide range of sights to offer. It is therefore advisable to experience the beauty and diversity as part of a round trip.
In the following we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Israel.
1. Jerusalem – the city of world religions
The center of Jerusalem is very lively: an abundance of restaurants, bars and beautiful buildings make a longer stay in the city very pleasant. Strolls through the numerous shopping streets or the colorful Mahane Yehuda market are particularly recommended.
The most important sight and boiling point of cultures is the old city of Jerusalem. Behind the massive walls and the winding labyrinth of small alleys, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Armenians live in their own quarters. A visit to the Western Wall and the associated tunnel system, a tour of the David Citadel and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are a must.
2. Bathing in the Dead Sea
A bath in the Dead Sea is undoubtedly one of the absolute peculiarities of a trip to Israel. The high salt content of up to 33% gives you so much buoyancy that you can virtually float weightlessly on the water. The funny snapshots and souvenir photos are also taken at the Dead Sea in Israel, in which tourists cross their legs and read a daily newspaper in the middle of the water.
Even if it is certainly not healthy to swallow the water, the Dead Sea is said to have many healing properties. The minerals in water and mud are particularly beneficial for the joints and skin. Some resorts have consequently devoted themselves entirely to the area of wellness and spa, offering, among other things, mud cures. Incidentally, the Dead Sea is actually not a sea at all, but the deepest lake on earth!
3. Bethlehem – the birthplace of Jesus
The Church of the Nativity was built under the Roman Emperor Constantine at the place where Jesus is said to have been born. It is one of the oldest buildings from the early Christian era and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. You get in via the humility gate, which is so small that adults cannot pass it upright.
From here you get to the altar room, which is strictly divided into denominations. Other sights include the nativity grotto, in which the birthplace of Jesus is marked with a star. In addition to these sacred buildings, the historic old town is also worth a visit. Bethlehem is officially on Palestinian territory, but tourists can explore it without any problems due to a special agreement.
4. Eilat – swimming and diving in the Red Sea
The southernmost city of Israel, Eilat, is located on the mild coast of the Red Sea and has developed into a real holiday retreat in recent decades. The city is modern and colorful, with a long promenade with regular markets and live music. A large number of upscale restaurants have also made a name for Eilat in culinary terms – seafood is particularly popular here!
But the Red Sea is even more exciting underwater. The large coral gardens in front of Eilat are among the most exciting diving areas in the world and impress with their enormous biodiversity. The Coral Beach nature reserve is just one of the many hotspots, the caves and the sunken Satil wreck also offer unique diving spots. If you want to slowly get to grips with the underwater world, you can of course go on a snorkeling excursion!
5. Negev desert – the great fascinating nothingness
Actually, you are doing the Negev desert an injustice to describe it as a great “nothing”. Because the more than 12,000 square kilometers large area takes up more than half of the total land area of Israel and hides rugged mountain ridges and craters, but also the secrets of the former frankincense route. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Although the Negev desert is to be regarded as hostile to life at first sight, after all there is almost no water, with a bit of luck highly specialized animal species can be found here. Even Arab wolves, ibex and hyenas have already been photographed in the Negev. In addition to a desert tour by jeep (or camel), an excursion to the large Ramon crater is worthwhile.
6. Haifa and the hanging gardens
Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and stretches from the slopes of Mount Carmel to the Mediterranean coast. You can enjoy a breathtaking view from Stella Maris with the lighthouse and the historic Carmelite monastery. In good weather, you can see from here as far as the Lebanese border. If street art is your thing, take a stroll through Wadi Nisnas.
The most important attraction of Haifa, however, is the Hanging Gardens of Baha’i, which extend over 19 picturesque terraces on the northern slope of Mount Carmel. The breathtaking gardens were laid out around the shrine of the and lie majestically over the Bay of Haifa. In addition to the Bahai Gardens, a stroll along the beach promenade is also worthwhile. Great restaurants can be found on Ben-Gurion and Moriah Avenues.
7. Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial
Just outside of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, a central Israeli memorial site, was opened in 1953. It was built in memory of millions of murdered Jews during the Second World War and is one of the most important sights in Israel. Visitors are informed in great detail about the history of the Holocaust; an audio guide, which is also available in German, is particularly recommended.
Several memorials have been set up on the outside area. A freight car in which Jews were once brought to the concentration camps is a reminder of the terrible crimes of that time. Meanwhile, the trees on the “Boulevard of the Righteous of the Nations” symbolize the many people who actively helped, protected or saved Jews at that time. Well-known representatives are Oskar and Emilie Schindler, known from the film “Schindler’s List”.
8. Masada Fortress
The cable car takes you about 400 meters up to the mountain fortress Masada above the Dead Sea. It was built by King Herod in the 1st century BC to protect his winter palace from enemies. Masada is also legendary as the historical place of resistance of the Jewish Zealots in the war against the Romans. It was only after three years of bitter struggle that more than 900 Jewish fighters committed collective suicide.
Those who are good on foot should choose the snake path (around an hour’s ascent) instead of the cable car and enjoy Masada at sunrise before the large tour groups arrive. Since 2001, the long-forgotten Masada has been part of the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Humanity. In addition to the fortress and the Roman siege works, important excavation sites can also be found in the national park today.
9. Tel Aviv – liberal, colorful and modern
If you want to experience the Mediterranean metropolitan flair in Israel, you can of course not ignore the liberal and colorful Tel Aviv. The city stands like no other for change and progress in the country. Great beaches, beautiful architecture, hip bars and restaurants and a vibrant nightlife are just a few of the many special features of Tel Aviv.
The “White City” in the center is characteristic, many buildings were built here in the Bauhaus style and can still be admired today. UNESCO also declared this important sight a World Heritage Site. Be sure to experience the oldest part of the city, Neve Tzedek, which has now become an important bohemian quarter. You can get an impression of the many culinary influences at Tel Aviv’s popular Carmel Market.
10. Jaffa – an old port city is flourishing
Jaffa (Yafo) has officially been part of Tel Aviv since 1950, but the former port city has developed its own charm and extraordinary identity. Once known as the “gateway to Israel”, Jaffa has now become an interesting retreat for artists and hipsters. The harbor, one of the oldest in the world, can still be admired today and is, in a sense, a landmark of the district.
The sights in Jaffa also include the St. Peter’s Church as the most striking building and the Simon House, where, according to tradition, the Apostle Peter had his vision for Christian proselytizing. But it is also quite irreligious: Jaffa offers inner courtyards with galleries and studios in its labyrinth of small alleys, in which handcrafted works of art and jewelry can be purchased. And even the night clubs and bars have long enjoyed cult status.