Israel is a diverse country that is jam-packed with enough attractions to make any tourist happy. Unfortunately every visitor isn’t able to spend enough time in the country to truly see everything Israel has to offer. That’s where we come in! In our mock itinerary we have plotted out a country-wide journey through “Land of Milk and Honey.”
[Also see our travel article “Ten Days in Egypt“]
Days 1-2: See why they call it the Holy Land in Jerusalem
Stepping foot in Jerusalem is like entering a time capsule. Walk the Old City streets made of Jerusalem Stone, witness the stunning architecture and haggle with the hundreds of vendors in the Arab Souk. Of course, no visit to Jerusalem would be complete without also touring the religious sites. Even atheists would find it hard not to be inspired by Jerusalem’s holy history. The Western Wall is believed to be the last standing remnant of the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem and it is a popular pilgrimage point for devout Jews who come to pray at its base. Another must-see, especially for Christians, is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is traditionally believed to be the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Old Jerusalem is divided into four quarters – Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian. Because of current political instability, some caution should be taken when exploring the Muslim quarter. To stay safe and get the most out of their visit to this fascinating part of the city, tourists should hire an experienced guide who is familiar with the area.
Day 3: Feel alive in the Dead Sea and visit Masada
Smack in the middle of the Negev Desert, Masada is a ‘must-see’ on any trip to Israel. This enormous fortress is best known for the mass suicide of Jewish rebels that took place during the first Jewish-Roman war. Besides the archaeological ruins at every turn, it also happens to be one of the best lookouts over the Dead Sea and the Negev in all of Israel. Visitors can hike the path up to the top of the fortress, or beat the scorching heat by hitching a ride on one of the cable cars that go up and down the mountain. Just make sure to dress for very warm weather and to wear a lot of sunscreen year-round.
Once you’ve looked out over the Dead Sea, spend the second half of the day experiencing it up close. Swimming in the Dead Sea is a bit of an unreal experience, not only is it the lowest point below sea-level on earth and steeped in history, but the high salt content makes it impossible to sink! Not a swimmer? No problem. Anyone can wade into the Dead Sea and effortlessly bob on top of the water without so much as a blink. Take care to coat yourself in the therapeutic mud loaded with minerals before venturing into the water, as it can sting a little to expose unprotected skin to this super salty sea.
Photo credit: Pete / Wikimedia Commons
Day 4: Have a wild time in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is the most modern and progressive city in the Middle East, so it goes without saying that it’s the region’s party capital! Israelis like to say that while “Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays” – and play you will. Enjoy the city’s laid-back atmosphere, perfect your tan on the beach and bounce in the Mediterranean swells. One popular beach activity in Israel is to play matkot, a game that is something like a cross between ping pong and volleyball.
After a full day of sun and sand, slink away from the beach and stroll down Dizengoff Street, past the clothing stores and coffee houses, and all the way to Shuk HaCarmel. Bustling with thousands of merchants and shoppers, the Carmel Market is similar to Jerusalem’s Arab Souk in feel, but with exponentially different merchandise. Think funky accessories and casual clothing at rock-bottom prices.
Make sure to fill your stomach with some Israeli cuisine staples like hummus topped with Ful and Tehina or Ptitim, a type of pasta also known as “Israeli couscous”. Many travelers, like Chantal Royer, say that taking the time to enjoy some of the local food from the marketplace is a great way to mix with the locals and immerse oneself into a new culture. If you’re nervous about trying something completely new, try asking some locals for recommendations. Israelis are a friendly bunch and they’ll be happy to help travelers experience their local cuisine.
As the sun begins to set, it’s time to find out why Tel Aviv is consistently ranked as one of the top party cities in the world. The city boasts hundreds of bars and nightclubs of absolutely every style – so whether it’s an authentic European clubbing experience or a hilarious night of karaoke, a great time awaits. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, stop by TLV – the club most popular amongst young Israelis and tourists alike. It’s known for its memorable parties featuring world-renowned performers such as Paul Oakenfold and DJ Tiesto.
One interesting time to visit Tel Aviv is during its annual gay pride parade. Usually held in June, Tel Aviv Pride is a weeklong celebration of diversity and is the largest event of its kind in the Middle East.
Photo credit: Flavio/ Flickr
Day 5: Enjoy nature and visit Tiberias at the Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is Israel’s largest freshwater lake and it is also surrounded by some of the best nature trails in the country. So lace up the hiking boots and try out the Peaks of Arbel. The trail features several scenic lookouts over the Sea of Galilee and the end of the trail is marked by the historic Arbel Caves. These caves played an important role in the story of Hanukkah, as, according to Jewish tradition, it was in these caves that Judah Maccabee and his followers got ready to fight against the Greek-Macedonian Seleucid Empire.
Photo credit: Ami Ventura / Wikimedia Commons
After the hike, head over to Tiberias and visit this city that dates back to the time of Christ. Have a look at the beautiful Sea of Galilee, which is said to be where Jesus’ disciples witnessed his walk on water. Afterward cool off with a swim at one of the many gorgeous beaches of Lake Kinneret, as the Sea of Galilee is sometimes called.
Days 6-7: Experience paradise in Eilat on the Red Sea
End your trip with a bang by catching a flight down to Eilat and relaxing on one of its many phenomenal beaches. Eilat is a port city that is located at the very southern tip of Israel, bordering the Sinai Desert and Jordan. The Northern Red Sea was actually named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World in 1989, and for good reason, its coral reefs are some of the most spectacular in the world, making snorkeling or scuba diving in Eilat an absolutely thrilling experience.
Those who aren’t keen on swimming or are traveling with children can stop by the Coral World Underwater Observatory to visit a “real world aquarium”. Other attractions in Eilat include visiting the Dolphin Reef, camel rides, the King’s City Theme Park, skydiving or catching a film at the IMAX theater.
Photo credit: Sendelbach / Wikimedia Commons
Israel is a truly remarkable country that cannot be compared to any other. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, even if you aren’t traveling in the summer, and make sure to stay hydrated at all times. Although you can easily get around Israel speaking English alone, it may be fun to pick up a basic Hebrew phrasebook before you leave. Tiheneh B’Yisrael… have a good trip!