Best Places to visit in Israel
Exploring Israel through the ages
As a returning visitor to Israel, I experienced once again this beautiful country that offers an incredible variety of landscapes and sights. Israel is right on the Mediterranean but 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 and others are a walk through history. Israel is a safe country to visit and those who travel to Israel realize it the minute they arrive.
In January, Israel’s tourism industry saw an 11 percent increase in tourism entries, which brought $413 million in revenue to the Israeli economy. More than 4.1 million tourists visited Israel in 2018, an increase of 14 percent from 2017 and a record-breaking number for incoming tourists, with the growth 38 percent higher than in 2016. Israeli Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin stated that “the first month in 2019 continues the consistent record-breaking trend in incoming tourism to Israel that we have witnessed over the last two years and represented an unprecedented success of the Tourism Ministry in promoting Israel around the world in countries such as U.S., Germany, Russia, Italy, England, China, Ukraine, Brazil, and the Philippines.”
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the arrivals come from everywhere, and most North American travelers to Israel are not even Jewish, but rather Christians who are often connecting with the land of the Bible. From North America, Jews comprise about 40 percent to 44 percent of the travelers, while Christians generally hover at about 61 percent year to year and 40 percent of tourists have already visited Israel before. The largest number of tourists to Israel came from the U.S. with 813,500, France with 320,000, Russia with 303,200, Germany with 259,500, Britain with some 200,000, and from China with about 100,000, and the total keeps climbing. Tourism air connections would be essential for Israel as well as for its international viability. TAP’s new routes will contribute significantly to this segment.
The following are some of the many places to visit in 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 spots.
Tel Aviv and Jaffa
Tel Aviv is the obvious starting point of a trip to Israel, as this is closest to Ben-Gurion Airport. It is a fantastic, lively city that has a lot to offer its visitors. The center of Tel Aviv is packed with interesting sights and historical landmarks, such as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which is Israel’s leading museum of modern and contemporary art, and home to one of the world’s largest collections of Israeli art. Sarona, originally a German Templar colony, lies in the heart of the city, a small green oasis amid the glittering skyscrapers and city traffic that has quickly become one of the hottest destinations in Tel Aviv, with the restored buildings housing charming boutiques, galleries, a visitors’ center, and the modern Sarona Market building hosting an array of eating and drinking destinations.
Jaffa, the oldest part of the Tel Aviv municipality, is one of the must-see places in Israel. It’s a nice way to explore such a charming part of the city, which has a wholly different feel from the neighborhoods to the north – though equally fun. You will love wandering around Jaffa’s winding alleyways interspersed with art galleries, historic stone buildings, mosques and churches, the Jaffa Flea Market, and the Jaffa Port, which is one of the most ancient port cities in the world.
The Jaffa Hilltop and Garden Peak Park Gan HaPisga. Jaffa Park is on the hilltop is where the ancient city of Jaffa is located. On a clear day, from Gan HaPisga (Peak Garden), you can see all of Tel Aviv. Kids will also enjoy the Wishing Bridge, between the Jaffa hilltop and Kedumim Square. At the entrance to the bridge is a beautiful stone mosaic depicting the 12 astrological signs. The bridge is built at the location of an old fountain that was considered a wishing well according to local legend. If you put your hand on your zodiac sign and make a wish, it is supposed to come true.
Heading north to modern Tel Aviv, The Carmel Market is the city’s largest market. A vibrant outdoor souk, or marketplace, where traders sell everything from clothing to spices to fruit and electronics. There are also some really great restaurants, juice shacks and food stalls around the market – just wander along and nibble as you go. The hustle and bustle, vibrant noise, colors, and smells, as well as its reputation as the largest authentic Middle-Eastern style souk in Tel Aviv, all combine to make the Carmel Market a favorite destination for everyone.
A few blocks away is Nahalat Binyamin Market, which opens every Tuesday and Friday and is one of the best places in the city to find original, handmade items. Located in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Nachalat Binyamin features a massive range of different arts and crafts items, including jewelry, presented by over 200 artists to offer fascinating creations to the public. It is a perfect place to shop and enjoy the flavor of the city. Visiting the Dead Sea, a two-hour drive from Tel Aviv, is a must during a trip to Israel. This is the lowest place on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. There are several beaches, each offering different experiences. The salty water of the Dead Sea is renowned for its health and healing properties and is so heavily concentrated with mineral salts that one can float naturally in it. It is one of my favorite places in the world and a must-see destination when in Israel!
Masada is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Israel and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This archeological site is an old fortress built around 30 B.C.E., famed as the site in which the Jewish rebels chose death by suicide over surrendering to the Roman army around 73 C.E. The views from the mountain, which overlook the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert, are simply breathtaking.
A jeep tour in the Judean Desert in southern Israel with Barak Horwitz (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) really brings the region to life. For many travelers, the first glimpse of the rocky desert landscape of southern Israel will be their initiation into the desert, and the best way to explore it is by venturing off the road and into the hills and dry streams. It is an experience that will be hard to forget. It was absolutely incredible!
Finally, the timeless city of Jerusalem creates an unforgettable travel experience. This is an essential city to visit to ascertain a basic understanding of the country’s culture and history, not to mention a gorgeous and photogenic city. Every traveler should visit its most important landmarks, such as the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the surrounding Old City neighborhoods. Another must-see place and site of many a photo op for its stunning overview of the city is Mount Scopus, home to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A fabulous way to explore the Old City is by exploring the Ramparts Walk, a gem hidden from locals and tourists alike. Hard to find, the Ramparts Walk is one of the most rewarding activities in terms of history, beauty and a greater sense of the geography of the place. The walk covers the Armenian Quarter and ends at the Jewish Quarter before the Dung Gate. Included in these sites are many of the Armenian churches and important historical buildings such as the Dormition Abbey and the Church of St. Peter. Visitors can walk over the stables, a flashback to the times of the old British and Jordanian rule, now the site of an Israeli police station. Descending before the Dung Gate it is just a short walk to the Western Wall (Kotel) and the surrounding sites.
Rebuilt Jewish Quarter and Cardo – The Cardo is an area in the Jewish Quarter that has been excavated to reveal an ancient Roman road. All that really remains are some stone columns and arches that probably were entrances to shops. There is a mosaic on a wall from an ancient synagogue depicting the entire Cardo area as it appeared in ancient times. Today the area has many shops and galleries with incredibly beautiful Judaica for sale. A beautiful place with a treasure trove of history, it is a combination of old and new Jerusalem.
New York Jewish Guide