ALIVE WITH ENDLESS HISTORY, STUNNING VIEWS AND EFFERVESCENT CULTURE, THE TINY COUNTRY OF ISRAEL HAS MORE TO OFFER THAN THE AVERAGE TRAVELER MAY KNOW, AND WITH INTERNATIONAL VISITOR NUMBERS CLIMBING TO ALL NEW HIGHS, ISRAEL HAS BECOME ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD, RIGHTFULLY SO.
By Katie Dingersen
Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s most populated and vibrant cities, known for its remarkable beaches and eclectic community, is the perfect place to start. Begin the morning with a bike-riding adventure, made simple with the European style 24-hour bike rental services strategically placed throughout the city. Make your way to the ever-lively Rothschild Boulevard which leads to the chic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek and the cobblestoned Shabazi Street. Follow the tiny streets that lead to the Kerem HaTeimanim, a hidden treasure full of delicious culinary discoveries– don’t miss Shlomo and Doron’s for hummus. Leave with a full belly and continue your journey along the beautiful beachfront promenade lining the coast from the Southern port in Jaffa all the way to the Namal, or the Northern port.
From Tel Aviv’s center, travel 45 minutes north to visit the picturesque The quaint cobblestoned Ha-Nadiv and Ha-Meyasdim streets in the town’s center are lined with charming restaurants, chic boutiques and original moshav houses—a perfect place to stop, poke around and indulge in some authentic Israeli cuisine. Explore further to find streets dotted with private family-owned wineries offering special tours and tastings.
This small country is packed with unique activities and excursions for every traveler.
Next, hit the Mediterranean fortress city of Acre for a unique blend of modern restaurants and boutique hotels placed smack in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site bursting with antiquities and historical significance. Enjoy the city’s colorful outdoor market boasting fresh produce and authentic family restaurants, including Humus Said, considered one of the best hummus establishments not only in Israel, but in all of the Middle East. The history-minded traveler will especially enjoy the vast historical aspects of Acre, beginning with the Crusaders and then the conquest by the Ottomans. To see it all, take advantage of the newly launched boat service connecting Acre and Israel’s third-largest city and port, Haifa.
Not far from Acre sits the 2,000 year-old city of Tiberias, situated on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel’s lower Galilee region. After touring the city’s beachfront restaurants, boutiques and bars, and engaging in water sports along the shore, take off to explore the Old City and the marina while the sun sets for a romantic promenade stroll. Be sure to visit the Hamat Tiberias National Park to experience the relaxing effects of 17 mineral-infused hot springs, known for their healing qualities, found only in this area and used for over 20,000 years.
One of the most historical cities in the world, Jerusalem, is packed with fascinating museums, historical sites and views, as well as a thriving gastronomic scene. Take a stroll through Jerusalem’s Old City to visit such world-renowned sites as the Western Wall, the City of David and the vibrant markets that line the ancient city walls. The Ramparts Walk is a great way for active travelers to experience the Old City of Jerusalem from above. With a bird’s eye view of the city walls and gates, as well as the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and American Quarters, Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives, visitors can see it all. Jerusalem is known for its world-class museum exhibitions, including the King Herod exhibition at the Israel Museum, which is on display through January 2014. The Burnt House Museum, located 20 feet underground in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, houses artifacts dating back to the Second Temple Period. Food enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy Jerusalem’s legendary Machne Yehuda open-air food market—a gourmet wonderland, featuring more than 250 food stalls and vendors boasting local produce and delicacies from all over the world.
Discover some of the world’s most striking landscapes as you venture south into Israel’s vast Negev Desert. With the abundance of activity and adventure available in this section of the country, it’s easy to satisfy just about any traveler’s desires. The Ramon Crater, a landform exclusively found in the Negev and Sinai deserts is surely a sight to see. The Ramon Nature Reserve offers a plethora of guided tours, where visitors can hike, drive, or bike-ride through the awe-inspiring landscape. Nearby, the adventurous tourist can journey deep into the desert on a specialized Negev Jeep Tour. With the help of an experienced guide, scale the dunes and hike unspoiled areas of the desert that even the jeep drivers can’t reach, while taking in the mind-blowing scenery, breathing the fresh desert air and basking in the peacefulness of the desert around you.
To end the trip, relax on the shores of the Red Sea in the resort city of Eliat. This city has travelers coming back each season with the promise of beautiful weather, magnificent beaches, and luxurious hotels to top it off. Take advantage of the Eliat Coral Reserve just off the shore and discover dozens of tropical fish and sea life right at your fingertips. With access to any and all water sports along the beach, children will be begging their parents to stay for one more day.
From hiking in the desert, to shopping in Tel Aviv and tasting culinary treats in Jerusalem, this small country is packed with unique activities and excursions for every traveler.