Israel may be a tiny country, but the amount of sites it offers can make planning a trip an overwhelming endeavor. Don’t fret! We’ve combed through the country from east to west and north to south to bring you the definitive guide of not-to-be-missed attractions. From sandy beaches and archaeological sites, to bridal boutiques and food markets, you'll never run out of things to do in Israel.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Masada marks the spot where 1,000 Jewish rebels entered one of the final episodes of the Great Revolt against Rome two millennia ago. Instead of fighting, the rebels chose to commit suicide. The scenery surrounding Masada is just as dramatic as its backstory, with Herod’s palace overlooking an immense gorge and the expanse of the Dead Sea. It’s no wonder that Masada continues to be one of Israel’s biggest tourist sites.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Jerusalem has been the cultural, religious and historical epicenter of the world for millennia. Don’t worry about getting lost, it is, after all, the point and even veteran Jerusalemites lose their sense of direction in the labyrinth of winding, cobblestoned alleyways. Listen to the ancient walls as they whisper their millennia-old stories. Soak up the intensity as you elbow your way through the mosque-going masses on Fridays. Witness the black hats bob and the ritual fringes sway as the ultra-Orthodox quorum prays at Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall. Divided into four quarters, Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarter, the Old City is replete with sites that jump straight off of the pages of the Bible, such as the Temple Mount, the City of David, King David’s Tomb, and the Last Supper room.
One of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean basin, the Old City of Jaffa stands on a cliff that protrudes from the water, puncturing the Tel Aviv skyline. The sheer range of attractions in Old Jaffa is startling, from mosques and churches to ancient clock towers; wishing bridges; sculptures; yoga classes; museums; galleries; trendy restaurants and bars, the list of things to do in this new-old city is never ending.
The Coral Beach Underwater Observatory Marine Park offers a myriad of activities connected to a spectacular underwater universe, incorporating underwater observatories, a nature museum, 40 fish tanks, a sea turtle/stingray pool and a shark pool. There's even a darkroom specifically designed to showcase the fascinating flashlight fish: a bioluminescent fish that carries a glowing bacteria beneath their eyes, enabling them to "turn on and off" at will by raising or lowering a small flap of muscle. 100 meters from the shoreline is the underwater observatory containing two observation decks located below the surface, and one located above. Climb 90 steps to the Peace Terrace for expansive views of Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Science-lovers will ooh and aah at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve’s Oceanarium: a virtual-reality, science-fiction movie with interactive moving seats and a large screen.
Built on the site revered by Christians as the location of Jesus' resurrection, the church has been a location of pilgrimage since the 4th century. Christians of all denominations and people from around the world can be seen visiting its various frankincense laden vestibules and chambers.
The tour of the Kotel Tunnels unveils hidden sections of the Western Wall. Walking through underground passages, ancient water trenches, and streets from the Second Temple period. Stones were recently excavated revealing fascinating hidden passages. As a city that has literally been built layer by layer, traveling through these passageways unravels thousands of years of history.
The beautiful port city of Caesarea is known for its remarkable blend of ancient and new architecture. Built by King Herod in the first century BC and serving as the regional capital, today, the city invites you to dive thousands of years back into the past at its innovative, one-of-a-kind underwater park. There, you can view Herod’s elaborate port and marvel at sunken ships and ancient cargo that look as though they’ve been taken straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Archeological findings attest to the inhabitants’ high standard of living; the port, which encompasses no less than 50 acres, features the remains of pools, wave breakers, docking piers, a promenade and a lighthouse.
Dive into Jerusalem's fascinating past through a high-tech virtual reconstruction. Located in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, this center offers an in-depth, three-dimensional reconstruction of the Temple, based on excavations and ancient writings.
No visit to Jerusalem is complete without a visit to the Kotel. Considered to be the holiest place for the Jewish faith, a short walk through the Old City of Jerusalem will lead you to this sacred site. Be sure to write a wish or personal note on a scrap of paper and slit it in the cracks of wall as visitors have for years. The Kotel is the pulsing center of the historically amazing Old City of Jerusalem.
Permanent exhibitions tell the story of Jerusalem through specialized cultural events, activities, and tours. During the spring months, the exhibition “The Kaiser is Coming!" is on display, featuring archival images and history of Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany in 1898.
Beaches, pools, hot springs
This most peculiar body of water is located at the lowest point on the face of the earth (approximately 422 meters below sea level). Its extremely high salt concentration (33.7%!) makes it one of the saltiest seas on the planet. The Dead Sea is also chockfull of skin-friendly therapeutic minerals that reputedly combat the effects of aging and skin ailments. Pack your beach bag and head to the popular Kalia Beach, which has changing rooms, showers, lounge chairs, shady areas, a snack bar and a lifeguard. Indulge in a free mud bath, and slather yourself with the gooey mineral mud from head to toe for a great photo op.
An institution in Tel Aviv, Gordon Pool is an Olympic-size swimming pool located on the boardwalk right by the marina with the seascape in the background. If you like the atmosphere, but want a clean and organized place to do some serious swimming, this is the perfect place to strap on your goggles and join the locals as they breaststroke their way through the day. Dating back to 1956, this legendary pool underwent thorough renovations a few years ago and the facility now includes pools for children and toddlers as well as a modern wooden deck with sun beds, chairs and large parasols for when you want to rest a little or soak up the sun.
With an assortment of caves and powder-soft sand as well as a small community of fisherman on the Northern end of the beach, this oasis is a peaceful and romantic getaway in central Israel. Sidney Alley Beach is not only for those looking to relax, the beach provides a prime spot for those looking to fish. If you’re looking for a getaway near all of the action, this beach provides the perfect solution.
Eli Avivi is the self-declared ruler of Achzivland, an independent, albeit unrecognized, micro-nation just north of Nahariya. The eccentric former seaman first became smitten with this beautiful stretch of beach at the northern edge of Israel in 1952. Convinced this was the spot for him, he soon built himself a home there. In 1970, after a string of mishaps with the government (one of which involved a bulldozer), Avivi, a born renegade, declared his 2.5 acres of land and its populace, "Achzivland." Not surprisingly, the spot is known to draw a crowd of young, hippie-inclined internationals and Israelis, making late night parties, concerts and drum circles a part of Achzivland's cultural heritage.
The Banias Nature Reserve contains an abundance of natural and historical beauty, from the ruins of ancient cities to the roaring Banias Waterfall – the biggest waterfall in Israel. Found in the Upper Golan between the fertile Hula Valley and the Mount Hermon area, the Banias is a favorite for those visiting the Golan. Hours can be spent here; walking the trails, exploring the ruins and picnicking in the plush green woodlands. The falls and the springs are what makes this reserve so exceptional. The Banias Spring emerges at the foot of Mount Hermon and flows powerfully through a canyon for 3.5 km, eventually leading to the waterfall, the most impressive cascade in Israel. This is quite a site and makes this hike truly worthwhile. A stepped path near the spring leads to the Banias Cave where visitors will find the remains of a temple built by Herod the Great.
Known in the Talmud for their curative powers, these mineral-rich waters are now paired with modern accoutrements, including indoor/outdoor thermal pools, a lap pool (heated in winter), free beach access, gym, dry and wet sauna, mud wraps, massage and more.
If you’re seeking a more adventurous water activity to pass the time, the Kfar Blum wet river experience and attraction centre in the Galilee has just the thing. From high-speed “kayaking” (rafting) down fast-flowing waters to lazing down the Hatzbani stream, Kfar Blum guarantees fun for the entire family. For an additional adrenaline rush, don’t miss their "Top-Rope" adventure park. The site also offers campground accommodations for a reasonable price.
Located in the Golan Heights at the base of Mount Hermon, the Dan River is a wonderful destination for nature lovers with abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy. For those in the mood to relax, rent a tube and float along the cool waters. If you have a thrill for excitement, kayaking or white water rafting provide a great adrenaline- boost. Whichever you choose, a trip down the river makes for a lovely summer’s afternoon. A true highlight of the area is the famous Dag al HaDan (fish from the Dan) restaurant, which is nestled amidst the trees on the river serving freshly caught fish and a delectable array of refreshing Israeli salads. Nearby, located on the ruins of the biblical city of Dan, the Tel Dan National Park is a remarkable place to experience nature and archaeology all in one place. Visitors are offered a glimpse into ancient life through ruins and artifacts. In addition, the reserve also offers dozens of streams and hiking trails.
Located beyond Eilat’s port area, the Dolphin Reef offers an awe-inspiring atmosphere and experience for animal and nature seekers. Not only can you observe the dolphins from the floating piers and observation points, but you can also snorkel and dive among them. This ecologically unique site for both Israel and the world, houses a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins, where onlookers can witness them living first-hand in their natural habitat: playing, hunting and socializing. 10,000 square meters of open-ended sea allow the dolphins to come and go at will – none of them are captive.
The southernmost city in Israel, Eilat, has been blessed with a spectacular coral reef. The Eilat coral reef, the northernmost reef in the world and a unique Israeli attraction, is the beating heart of the one-mile long nature reserve that stretches across the gulf of Eilat. Diving or snorkeling near the reef, you will see colorful coral gardens home to a variety of multi-hued tropical fish: parrotfish, butterfly fish, giant shellfish and a wide selection of intriguing species that only come out in the dark. About a ten-minute walk from the Egyptian border, you’ll find the southernmost scubadiving club in Israel, a small venue with plenty of peace and quiet. The club offers an introductory underwater excursion for those who have no previous diving experience.
Those looking for a unique and colorful way to start the day and get acquainted with Israel’s vast landscapes can hover over the country in a hot air balloon. Israeli company Rize is the largest hot air balloon company in the country, widely experienced with flights in Israel and around the world. Expeditions can be arranged for sunrise and within two hours of sunset, accommodating one to ten passengers. Help inflate the balloon with the pilot and crew, then get comfortable for a 90-minute adventure. Ballooners roam the skies at altitudes of up to 2000 ft, and follow the sunrise tour with a trip into the fields, orchards and wooded areas of the Jezreel Valley, where a homemade breakfast is the ultimate icing on the cake. Other options include “fiesta flights,” where the balloon remains tethered to the ground.
This mobile underwater observatory, which is attached to a luxurious tour vessel, combines sailing with the spectacular underwater scenes visible through the submerged transparent sides of the boat. These impressive sights are accompanied by explanations and background music (and sometimes live performances). These vessels leave from the marina and spend about two hours cruising the calm waters between the Jordanian and Egyptian borders. You can kick back on the sun deck, perhaps with a beer or a coffee from the snack bar, and enjoy panoramic views of Eilat from the sea. Sail along the Eilat Bay and enjoy the underwater views of the coral reef and the Japanese Gardens, which are considered the most well preserved diving site in Eilat. The gardens encompass about 500 square meters of corals located on two different levels (the shallower level beginning almost at sea level and going 6-8 meters deep). The reef is a mix of labyrinths and small canyons boasting an abundance of life and color.
For adventurous locals and vacationers, Tel Aviv’s Begin Park offers Lake TLV, a man-made lake with world-class cable waterskiing facilities. Though the lake, open year-round, hosts tournaments for athletes in October and May, July is the high season for families and beginners. First-time visitors watch a short instructional video and receive safety tips from instructors before diving in. Some quick learners might advance to the lake’s seven obstacle courses, which contain jumpers and gliders frequented by professionals. But if you’re exhausted, you might conclude your visit by sipping a cold drink at Lake TLV’s quaint outdoor bar-café. For young athletes, Lake TLV provides one and two-week long summer programs, where campers learn Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and acrobatics as well as cable water skiing.
Ramon Crater, known also as Mitzpe Ramon, is arguably Israel’s most dazzling site, located in the heart of the Negev Desert. Near the crater and the tiny Mitzpe Ramon village is the Alpaca Farm, an ideal starting point for desert rides. Most rides require neither riding skills nor special fitness, and the farm’s horses are known for their calm temper. All tours are led by experienced guides and advanced booking is needed.
Parks and gardens
New York has Central Park, London has Hyde Park, and Tel Aviv has it’s very own Hayarkon Park. The popular green lung (also known as Ganei Yehoshua Park) is nestled in the north of the city with the Yarkon River running through it. Swathes of joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and young mothers taking a stroll, pack the park every day, making it come alive with its own unique personality. Pitch a spot on the grass and spend the day basking in the sun while watching the beautiful people of Tel Aviv go by – something we definitely recommend. But if you’re up for something a little more adventurous, this urban park has plenty on offer for nature lovers right through to extreme sports enthusiasts. Tucked away in the eastern part of the park lies one its biggest surprises – a Rock Garden hosting over 3,500 species of plants, including a massive area dedicated solely to cacti, interspersed among different rock formations. Just across from the Rock Garden is a five-acre Tropical Garden full of palm trees, orchids and vines as well as a lake full of fish. Not far away, also on the east side of the park, is a bird safari known as Tsipari, set in lush gardens with a beautiful mini-lake, as well as a petting zoo, a bird sanctuary, and a large soft play area for kids complete with a climbing apparatus.
Israel in general is famed for its many hiking trails winding their way over breathtaking heights in the north and lunar-like lows in the south. The routes are a fantastic way to see the country's beautiful landscape, and they all link up to form one giant hiking path that traverses the entire country, known as the Israel National Trail. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border, and it extends to Eilat at the country's southernmost tip on the Red Sea. The trail is marked with three stripes (white, blue and orange) and has been named by National Geographic as one of the world’s best hikes.
Ninety years of archaeological research in the area has uncovered an astounding archive of early human life, including cultural deposits representing at least 500,000 years of human evolution, attesting to the unique existence of Neanderthals and evidence from numerous Natufian burials and early stone architecture. These represent the transition from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to agriculture and animal husbandry. Not to mention the breathtaking beauty of the Carmel Range. The nature reserve is well worth a day’s hike.
Nothing beats walking – or cycling – along the seaside promenade, breathing in the fresh, salty air of the Mediterranean. With Old Jaffa stamping the horizon to the south and the city’s skyscrapers to the north, it’s no wonder the Tel Aviv boardwalk is considered one of the world’s most beautiful. Sit on a bench and watch Tel Aviv life unfold before your eyes with beach-goers, paddle players and joggers doing their thing as the sounds of the waves gently crash on the shore.
A 62-acre zoo with a lake at its center, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo encompasses two levels, interconnecting pools and waterfalls. The zoo is surrounded by green hills and has grassy lawns with plenty of shade inside, and includes multiple research laboratories dedicated to wildlife conservation. Kids love the Noah’s Ark visitor center, a boat-shaped wooden structure with information and games pertaining to all the animals mentioned in the Bible.
Teddy Park tells the story of Jerusalem’s development during Teddy Kollek’s tenure as Mayor of Jerusalem. The special featured attraction, the Hassenfeld Family Fountain, has computerized water performances set to light and specially composed music. The fountain’s performances integrate 256 water hoses, 1,500 light bulbs and original music created by the New Jerusalem Orchestra.
In the center of Israel lies the Utopia Orchid Park, an enclosed and air-conditioned site with the sounds and smells of a tropical rain forest. The park is surrounded by big green hills, each with a different activity, including a two-level labyrinth, a French classical maze, and an herb path with seven biblical species. Within the garden itself there are thousands of beautiful and exotic orchids as well as other tropical plants, including carnivorous ones. There are also animals throughout the park, a reservoir and a performing water fountain.
Located just north of Eilat, Timna Park covers around 15,000 acres. At its center lies Mount Timna, approximately 1500 feet above sea level. The site has a range of attractions, including ancient rock formations like The Mushroom, The Arches, Solomon’s Pillars, The Valley of Rock Drawings, and offers activities like rappelling, zip-line, and bike tours. For those who want a total desert experience, overnight camping is available.
Arts and culture
Gracing the walls of this museum are Israel’s most comprehensive collections of modern, contemporary, and Israeli art. The museum boasts an impressive collection of the old masters, diverse temporary exhibitions, displays of photography, design & architecture, a performance hall, and a beautiful, calming sculpture garden to wander around or relax in. When visiting, don’t miss the newest addition to the museum, the Herta and Paul Amir Building, which was designed by professor Preston Scott Cohen. Built around a spiraling, 90-foot high atrium, the Herta and Paul Amir Building is an architectural wonder. The interior space provides a unique setting for the display of contemporary art, a center for architecture, and a gallery.
Arguably Israel’s most magnificent cultural asset, the Israel Museum is consistently ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums. Housing encyclopedic collections with works dating from prehistory to the present day in archaeology, fine art, and Jewish art, this is the place to get schooled on Israel’s 5,000-year history.
Meticulously curated exhibits display the utmost of thoughtful and esteemed contemporary works. Famed architect Ron Arad's winding spiral of modernity encompasses one of Israel’s most stand-out venues for progressive art and design. A short drive from downtown Tel Aviv, it's definitely worth the visit.
The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art addresses a multitude of genres, including painting, photography and architecture with a special emphasis on installation and digital media. Four exhibitions are held each year, comprising 50 solos showcasing the work of veteran and up-and-coming artists and their relation to current events.
Yad Vashem’s 45-acre campus comprises indoor museums and outdoor monuments, exhibitions, memorial sites, gardens, sculptures, and world-class research and education centers – all devoted to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The hollowed-out cavern with a single candle reflected by a series of mirrors commemorates the 1.5 million children killed.
Purpose-built for kids, this museum offers a range of activities for kids aged 2-12. Unlike conventional museums, children are encouraged to touch all of the displays, and even play a role in the exhibits. Not-to-be-missed are the famous 'Dialogue in the Dark' and 'Invitation to Silence' exhibits, two experiences that provide emotional and telling insight into the worlds of blind and deaf people.
A visit to the Carmel region without a stop in Ein Hod would be remiss. This village really has it all. As well as being an artists’ colony jam-packed with dozens of galleries and museums, Ein Hod affords views of the Mediterranean Sea and even has a crusader fortress. The range of workshops visitors can take part in is astounding – anything from sculpting, printing, silk-screening, ceramics and pottery, blacksmithing, lithography, mosaics, design, stained glass, as well as several music workshops. There are often free jazz concerts in the outdoor amphitheater. A host of cafes and restaurants offer great cuisine.