Also called the White City or the City that Never Sleeps, Tel Aviv makes an interesting discovery: sandy beaches bordered by a beautiful promenade, a lively night life, great restaurants, a charming old port with authentic flavors.
You cannot get bored in Tel Aviv, but if you want to get to know the different sides of Israel, you have to get out of the city. As religious tourism plays an important part in Israel, there are several day trips to Jerusalem. However, you will have many other options such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Dead Sea, Haifa, Acre, Tiberia and Tsfat.
A day trip to Jerusalem means a short immersion into the center of spirituality. A sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims, the Old Town of Jerusalem with its Wailing Wall (the only remaining of the Second Temple) is a must for any visitor of the Israeli capital city. Its landmarks are spread throughout the cobbled alleys of its four quarters (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian). On your way from one to the other, you can make a few stops to admire the diversity of products and to buy some souvenirs in the Arab Market.
If you want to see for yourself what life looked like in Biblical times, take a tour that includes the archaeological excavations of the City of David. For Christian believers, there is a tour focusing on the origins of the Christ. It includes sacred landmarks like the place of the Ascension on Mount Olive, Gethsemane Garden, the Way of the Cross, and the Church of the Holly Sepulcher.
Besides the numerous historical landmarks, Jerusalem has its share of attractions dating from more recent times. Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) and Israel Museum are a must for all those who want to understand Jewish history better. The colorful Mache Yehuda market is a way of exploring the Israeli authentic flavors. The Shrine of the Book – home to some ancient scripts discovered recently in a cave in the Dead Sea area – impresses by its architecture.
Recently included on UNESCO World Heritage List, Bethlehem is a compulsory visit for religious travelers. Its main attraction is the Church of the Nativity dating from the 4th century AD, erected on the place Jesus was born under Emperor Constantine’s order. Other landmarks in Bethlehem are Manger Square, the Milk Grotto (where it is said that Mary nursed Jesus), the Tomb of Rachel (third holiest place for Jews) and the Church of Saint Catherine.
Located a few km South of the Israeli capital, King David’s childhood town, Bethlehem can be combined with Jerusalem on a day trip from Tel Aviv. Pick this option only if you are short on time. Although half a day is sufficient to explore Bethlehem’s highlights, Jerusalem deserves at least a whole day.
Considered one of the modern world’s wonders, the Dead Sea is popular tourist destination for several reasons. Christian pilgrims visit the lowest spot on Earth as it is also the place where Jesus was baptized. The Dead Sea is also known for its therapeutic effects, due to the high concentration in minerals of its water and mud. However, if this is what you are looking for, it is advisable you visit the area for a few days at least.
A day trip to the Dead Sea from Tel Aviv combines relaxation and wellness hours with sightseeing opportunities and great scenic views over the Judean Desert, the ancient town of Jericho and the salt lake itself. Your panoramic experience will be completed by a cable car ride to Masada’s top, where you can explore the ruins of King Herod’s fortress dating from the yea 37 BC. After bathing yourself in the salted waters and after having covered your body in the therapeutic mud, don’t forget to take at least a drop of the Dead Sea with you. In the shore’s proximity, you will find plenty of spots from where to take great pics and shops where to buy some original Dead Sea cosmetics.
If you want to sample the whole Northern coast of Israel in one day, this day tour will certainly do that for you. Named after the famous Roman ruler, Caesarea is home to one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres and aqueducts in the world. Acre also has a well preserved old town enclosed by fortified walls. Here you can sightsee landmarks dating from the Crusaders’ times, Napoleon’s fortress and a Turkish bath. The view of the harbor is simply beautiful. More scenic views you will get from Rosh Hanikra, located close to the border with Lebanon. Here you can admire some limestone grottoes, naturally created by sea waves. Some of the tours also include a stop in Haifa – home to the Baha’i gardens. While touring them, stop to admire the view over the harbor.
The North of Israel is also home to some Biblical landmarks, which include Nazareth (a place mentioned many times in the Bible and where Jesus spent his childhood) and the Sea of Galilee (where Jesus made a few miracles happen, including walking on water). With such a wide range of options available, you can basically plan your itinerary and then make your pick.
If you are interested in Jewish landmarks, you might consider including Tsfat and Tiberias (two of the oldest Jewish towns). North of Tiberia, you can visit the tombs of some important rabbis (Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar), as well as that of Rambam (the father of Jewish medical science).
Petra is a magical place that justifies the trouble of getting on a plane, flying to Eilat (the most Southern town in Israel) and continuing with a road trip. You will certainly appreciate the beauty of the natural scenery featured by red rocks in which impressive monuments dating from the 6th century BC are carved. Petra’s Old town is full of wonders, historic and religious landmarks including the royal tombs, the monastery and the Khazneh (an impressive red building, home to the Treasury).
This day trip to the Golan Heights from Tel Aviv is a great way of exploring a less famous part of Israel, and of enjoying great views over Jordan River and Jordan Valley. Getting up the mountain, you can also catch some panoramic views over the Syrian territory. If you are traveling during winter, you might even see some snow. Mount Hermon is home to the single ski resort in Israel – Neve Ativ. This day trip includes a visit to the Talmudic City of Katzrin, home to an interesting archaeological museum.
Once you explored the numerous historic and religious attractions Israel holds, it’s time for an off the road experience. Get on jeep and take a ride to the Judean Desert. The bumps you feel on the way are part of the fun, but you will certainly appreciate the safari experience. The tour includes a visit to some Bedouin sites. Prepare to be surrounded by sand dunes up to the horizon.
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