The Perfect Itinerary - What to See in Israel in Five Days

By Sarah Mann | Published on 1/1/0001

If it’s your first time visiting Israel, and you don’t have too much time on your hands, you might be a little worried that you’re not going to be able to visit all of ‘top attractions.’ And it’s true that there really is a lot to pack in, in less than a week, but the fact is that with an Israel guided trip, you’re going to pack plenty into your days and nights.

Five days in Israel is just enough to give you the perfect introduction to the Holy Land - a taste of the history, culture, food and people that make up this extraordinary country.

In it, you’ll explore the ancient and extraordinary Old City of Jerusalem, visit the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem), tour a magnificent Herodian fortress in the Judean desert, chill out in the Dead Sea and pound the sidewalks of Tel Aviv, enjoying street art, markets, Bauhaus architecture and learning why it’s called ‘the Non-Stop City.’

Here’s what we think makes up the perfect itinerary for those who’ve just five days in Israel and want an introduction to what makes this tiny piece of land so very special.

Day One - Jerusalem

After you’ve landed, head for the Israeli capital to get settled in. If you don’t want to break the bank on a private transfer from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem, a quick, simple and cheap way to make the journey is with the high-speed railway that can wizz you there in less than 30 minutes for less than $5!

Beat your jet lag by adjusting to local time and visiting some of the New City’s best attractions - the Israel Museum is a world-class institution and home to fine art, a sculpture garden, a model of the Second Temple and - most famously - the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in 1947, by a shepherd boy, and today housed in a specially-commissioned building which, itself, is an architectural wonder).

Then visit the Mahane Yehuda Market, for a taste of local life - everything from spices to traditional Judaica (perfect if you’re looking for a souvenir of Israel) is there, not to mention cafes, bars and the charming backstreets of the pretty Nachlaot neighborhood, just a stone's throw away.

Jerusalem at night has plenty for the visitor - whether you want to see the Bridge of Chords lit up, sit in a cafe on the famous Ben Yehuda street and watch the world go by, or take in a light show at the Tower of David, close to the Jaffa Gate. But don’t go to bed too late, because tomorrow's going to be action-packed.

Day Two - Jerusalem and Bethlehem 

No classical Israel tour could be without time in the Eternal City of Jerusalem, followed by an afternoon in the West Bank. If you want to get the most out of your day, we’d suggest taking a day tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem which means you don’t need to worry about transport between the two, letting you really maximise your time, not to mention having the services of knowledgeable, government-accredited guides who really know their history!

Start at Mount Scopus, enjoying panoramic views of the city, before continuing on to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony), where Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion. Walk through the beautiful and evocative Old City, passing by the Byzantine Cardo (an ancient Roman street) then retracting Jesus’ footsteps to Calgary on the Via Dolorosa, culminating at the breathtaking Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

Onto Bethlehem, which lies just 9km (5 miles) south of the capital, where your local guide will bring you to Manger Square. Here you will visit the Basilica of the Nativity - inside, you’ll be able to see an original excavated mosaic from the 4th century and the spot where Christ was born.

Back in the capital, rest your weary feet then head out to one of Jerusalem’s top restaurants for dinner then back to your hotel in preparation for another early morning alarm call!

Day Three - Masada and the Dead Sea

An imposing ancient fortress in the Judean desert and a body of water so salty nothing can survive in it are two of Israel’s top attractions, and with good reason. Renting a car in Israel is easy but if you don’t want to drive yourself then consider taking a day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea so you can see both of these outstanding sites easily. 

Masada is simply astonishing - it’s a Herodian fortress built on an enormous plateau in the heart of the Judean desert.

Dating back 2,000 years, it’s impossible to describe how beautiful it is, either on the cable car ride up or once you arrive at the top and look down. Your guide will take you round the archeological ruins, filling you in on the whys and hows of the fortress, including the history of Jewish rebels who committedsuicide en masse here,rather than surrender to the Roman army.

You’ll then continue onto the Dead Sea for some famous ‘chillout time’. Don your bathing suit and hop into the water - along with a book or a newspaper - and enjoy the experience of floating (seriously, you cannot sink!) whilst looking over at Jordan, which borders its other side.

The Dead Sea is also home to salt formations (astonishing)and there’s black mud all along the shores, which is free to slather over yourself (it’s excellent for the skin). If you’re thirsty, grab a coffee or beer at the ‘Lowest Point on Earth' bar before returning to Jerusalem as night falls. Grab your case, head off to the station and take the 42 minute train journey to Tel Aviv, in anticipation of another busy day.

Day Four - Tel Aviv

If Jerusalem is the city where Iraelis pray, Tel Aviv is the city they go to have fun. With its pristine sandy beaches, clear blue water and gorgeous promenade, no wonder sun-lovers flock here. But this is a city that offers much more than a ‘beach break’ - It’s home to edgy street art, fantastic restaurants, bustling food markets, blinding-white Bauhaus architecture and hundreds of quirky independent cafes.

Tel Aviv’s also an ideal place to get in your daily steps (it’s compact and flat) so why not consider taking a Perfect Tel Aviv Walking Tour? You’ll begin in beautiful, magical Jaffa, full of winding alleyways which house artists’ studios, the famous Flea Market (‘Shuk ha Pishpeshim’) and the renovated port. After learning about the city’s five thousand year old history, you’ll visit St. Peter’s Church, cross the Wishing Bridge and take in the view of Tel Aviv from Andromeda’s Rock.

The next stop is the Carmel Market, a must-visit for anyone interested in Levantine culture and all foodies. It’s the beating heart of the city, loved by locals, and your guide will take you to some of its most special spots, to try out hummus, Yemenite breads, halva, cheese and spices, whilst explaining the market’s long history, dating back to the 1930’s.

Finally, your tour will end at Nahalat Binyamin, next door to the Carmel, which is filled with thought-provoking street art, beautifully renovated buildings and (on Tuesdays and Fridays) a crafts market where everything is handmade by local artists. It’s yet another perfect opportunity to get out your camera, in the bustling, cosmopolitan and colourful city that is Tel Aviv,

Spend your evening strolling on the famous Dizengoff Street, which is home to endless fashionable restaurants, cocktail bars and cafes - and if you aren’t in the mood for a sit-down dinner, try some delicious and wallet-friendly Israeli street food.

Day Five - Free Day in Tel Aviv or Northern Israel

You;’ve one day left and it’s yours to do with exactly as you choose! If you’re a city culture vulture, then visit some of Tel Aviv’s top museums and galleries - from ANU, Eretz Israel and the Palmach to Ilana Goor, Nahman Guttman and the Rubin Museum, you’re spoiled for choice. 

You can also take advantage of the city’s shopping scene - it’s full of trendy boutiques and stores showcasing Israeli designers such as Ronen Chen, Dorin Frankfurt and Elie Tahari. Or, as we said before, enjoy a day on one of the city’s famous beaches.

But if you’ve still got energy, and want a taste of the north of Israel, then step back in time and take a day tour of Caearea, Rosh ha Nikra and Akko. Once a Herodian port, Caesarea today is a beautiful national park, full of archaeological ruins (including an amphitheatre) which look over the Mediterranean sea

Rosh ha Nikra gives you a chance to see underground marine grottoes, created by the sea on white chalk rock, over thousands of years - the waters are crystal clear and turquoise blue. Then an afternoon in Akko, a Crusader city that today boasts attractions such as the Templars tunnels, the White Mosque, a CItadel, Turkish baths and the ancient harbour.

Who knew you could fit so much in on a five-day Israel trip?

Feel free to contact us by email or phone for more information and if you’re curious about Israel, read more about life here on our blog.