When it comes to historical sites, a holiday to Israel spoils you for choice. It’s home to Old Jerusalem, one of the world’s most important cities, which needs more than a day to explore so you can discover the Tower of David, the winding alleyways of the Jewish and Christian quarters, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Nearby Mount Zion is also a real highlight, providing incredible views across Jerusalem. In Tel Aviv, set some time by to visit Jaffa’s Old City, which is set by the sea and features historic narrow alleyways that are now home to little galleries and shops.
Day and night, Mahane Yehuda Market is a hive of activity. During the day, the bustling market offers stalls laden with goods including olives, freshly made pastries and sweets, and crafts. Try a spot of haggling or simply enjoy the exciting atmosphere and wait until nightfall when the restaurants and bars open with tempting menus and a unique ambience. If you want to pick up some authentic souvenirs, olive oil or Israeli wine is a great choice, while local crafts such as jewellery and fabrics are excellent mementos. Head to Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market for its bi-weekly arts and crafts market where you can find handmade jewellery and other slightly quirkier items.
You may not instantly think of beaches when you think of Israel, but there’s no better way to enjoy the country’s excellent climate. There’s a surprising variety of beaches to choose from during a holiday here. Lapped by the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv’s beach is popular for visitors and tourists alike, offering a lively atmosphere backed by an urban landscape. The more unusual Caesarea Aqueduct beach boasts the ruins of an ancient Roman Aqueduct, so as well as soaking up the sun you can soak up a little history too. For something completely different, head to the Dead Sea – technically not a sea, but a large salt lake – you can float effortlessly in the water, and enjoy the rejuvenating properties it is famed for.
Israel’s wine heritage dates as far back as biblical times. The fantastic Mediterranean climate, which features hot sun-drenched days and cooler nights, creates the perfect wine-growing environment. There are a number of wineries you can visit here, but the Galilee mountain ranges feature a number of vineyards that produce award-winning wines. Here you can see how traditional and modern methods are used in harmony and of course, enjoy a tasting.
Its name meaning ‘Hill of Spring’ in Hebrew, Tel Aviv is an icon of how Israel has evolved. The city’s Mediterranean coastline provides some of the best beaches in the world, while its vibrant nightlife is definitely worth experiencing at least once during your holiday here. For something a little more sedate, soak up a little culture with the architectural delights of the ‘White City’ and the creative collections of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which houses works by an array of international artists.
With a diverse, and at times, divisive history, Jerusalem is a spiritual centre where you can discover Israel’s ancient heartbeat. Holy to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, touring the Old City is a must, with important sites such as the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount proving the city’s significance. The city is also modernising, with the pedestrianised Ben-Yehuda Street providing a vibrant contrast to the ancient sites, with restaurants, cafés and boutique stores.
Israel’s cuisine is fresh and light, and also particularly healthy too, with falafel and hummus common fixtures on the menu. Aubergine is a staple in Israeli cuisine, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is as baba ghanoush, where the aubergine roasted before it is mixed with tahini, lemon juice and garlic and served with bread such as pitta or lechem.
Set upon a high plateau above the Dead Sea, the ancient fortress of Masada is one of Israel’s important archaeological sites. If you want to visit, you can walk up to the plateau using the ‘snake path’ or choose the more popular (and far easier) option of cable car, which allows you to enjoy some fantastic views. Try to visit at sunrise where you’ll be rewarded with staggering views of the Moab Mountains and the Dead Sea beautifully lit in the morning sun.
Also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, the Baha’i Gardens are the final resting place of the spiritual leader of the Baha’I faith and are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This beautiful oasis features expertly-tended formal gardens that flow down 19 terraces to a domed shrine, providing stunning views of the city below.
Temperatures are usually milder in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) which makes exploring more comfortable for visitors.
You don’t need a visa to enter Israel as a tourist. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/israel/entry-requirements
In Israel, the currency used is the Israeli new shekel (ILS).
The main language spoken is Hebrew.