Traveling to Israel

Israel is almost back to normal, following the COVID pandemic, and most restrictions have been lifted. At present only visitors traveling with pre-arranged groups are permitted to enter Israel, but (if all goes according to plan) by July 2021 all travelers complying with certain conditions will be welcome to Israel. Bein Harim tours will be available from August 2021. International visitors must fill in an online entry form; have a COVID vaccination or recovery certificate, and a negative PCR COVID test at least 72 hours before their flight. On arrival, they must take a Serological COVID test at the airport.

Israel has visa exemption agreements with over 90 countries (including the USA and UK). Many national airlines and charter airlines have regular flights to Israel. When traveling to Israel, pack for warm weather, and occasional chilly nights. Dress casually, but bring some modest clothing for visiting religious sites. Israel is a modern country where stores carry Western brands, and you’ll be able to find any items you’ve forgotten to pack.

Plan your itinerary to include a few Israel day tours intended for independent travelers who want the input of a knowledgeable guide, or to visit hard-to-reach places, like Masada, or Bethlehem. Alternatively, take an Israel tour package that covers all your time in Israel, from the moment you land at Ben Gurion. Tour packages include accommodation, transportation, and sightseeing, as well as a few free days.


Herzliya

Herzliya is a city in the centre of Israel, just north of Tel Aviv, and is easily reached from there by car, train or bus. Home to around 100,000 people, it is prosperous - owing to its thriving start-up culture - and also close to a number of beaches. It covers around 21 square kilometres and its western suburbs are home to very wealthy neighbourhoods, where the tree-lined roads are filled with ‘villas’ (spacious homes that are a rarity in Israel).Yachts in Herzliya Marina.Photo credit: © Evgeny BrizeliHerzliya and its most wealthy suburb - Herzliya Pituach - is a city in which many diplomats live (it is home to a number of prominent embassies) as well as successful Israeli and international entrepreneurs. It is affluent and pleasant and according to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, one of the wealthiest cities in Israel. With its pristine beaches, endless amenities and close proximity to Tel Aviv (with no traffic, Tel Aviv can be reached in 20 minutes by car and 15 minutes by train) it is considered to be a desirable location, both for living and holidaying.Herzliya was founded in 1924, initially as a kind of farming co-operative ‘moshav’ in Hebrew), and named after Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. By 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, its population had reached around 5,000 and in 1960, when it reached 25,000 it was declared to be a city. Today, it is home to football and rugby teams, all kinds of amenities - including excellent restaurants, shopping malls and beaches - and each year hosts the ‘Herzliya Conference’, which brings together business leaders, academics and politicians from across Israel and the globe.The Mediterranean seashore north of Herzliya, Apollonia National Park.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinTop Herzliya AttractionsHerzliya Marina - Israel’s largest and most prestigious marina, here you’ll see hundreds of vessels moored and - in warm weather - hundreds more out on the Mediterranean. The Marina is a great place to stroll, stop for ice cream or a light bite, do a little shopping or grab dinner as the sun goes down. There are sports bars, live music venues and great views of the water.Apollonia National Park - Apollonia, also known as Tel Arsuf, is a hidden gem in the area. A national park, looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, it dates back to Crusader times. Visitors can explore the fortress inside, along with a moat, furnace and Roman villa, and walk along a coastal trail. Look out for gazelles, porcupines, red foxes and star lizards and enjoy the lavender bushes and eucalyptus trees.Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art - Opened in 1975, this building was constructed partly as a memorial building and partly as a museum/cultural centre. Its focus is on contemporary art produced by young artists, both from Israel and abroad, and it also has a sculpture garden.Apollonia National Park.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinKfar Shmaryahu Caves - Samaritans lived in Apollonia/Arsuf as far back as the 5th century and here, in these caves, they buried their dead. A number of these graves can still be seen today (although there are no skeletons!) and are still preserved in a rather good condition, thanks to the limestone. A fun hour or two can be had with kids here - there’s also free admission and plenty of parking.Museum Beit Rishonim - meaning ‘Founder’s House’ in Hebrew, this museum documents the history of Herzliya, from the time it was settled in 1924, onto when it was declared a city in 1960. An interesting exhibition about the ideology of Zionism and Herzl’s vision of what a Jewish state might look like.Sidna Ali - the Sidna Ali mosque is located in the old village of Al-Haram, in the northern part of the city. Inside are vaulted arcades dating back to the 13th-15th century and the tomb of a local saint, Ali Alim. The mosque is popular as a pilgrimage site with Israeli Arabs from Galilee. A playground in Herzliya. Photo credit: © Natalia BrizeliWhere to Stay? Best Herzliya HotelsPopular with tourists year-round, there’s a variety of accommodation in the city and along with no-frills apartments there are also a number of high-end hotels in Herzliya, should you be willing to splash the cash. Here are a few we’d recommend, for a pampering stay:Ritz Carlton - this luxury hotel has beautiful spacious rooms and elegant bathrooms and is only a 3-4 minute walk from the beach. The waiters at the poolside area serve free bottled water and the weekend breakfast runs to 12 midday. Great lobby bar, as well as a spa and their signature restaurant, the ‘Herbert Samuel’.Dan Accadia - close to the beach, with a large pool, the Dan is elegant yet not ostentatious. Vegan visitors rave about their food, especially the breakfasts. The Dan lounge, for members, offers light snacks and drinks. There’s also a lovely beach patio to eat out on, in the later afternoon.Publica Isrotel - the rooms are of small size, but thoughtfully designed and elegant. The infinity pool is beautiful, and the hotel offers colourful and functional workspaces for those arriving with laptops! Visitors rave about the comfortable beds and gym facilities.Herods - Comfortable rooms, excellent buffet breakfast and helpful staff make this hotel on the beach a tried and tested favourite. They offer a free shuttle to the mall and visitors report they are very child-friendly.Dan Accadia Hotel, Herzliya.Photo credit: ©Dan Accadia HerzliyaOkeanos - overlooking the beach, this ‘aparthotel’ is ideal for the business traveller or anyone who likes to keep to their own schedule. All spaces have fully-equipped kitchens and separate spaces for working, sleeping and living, as well as all the amenities of a modern hotel. Visitors rave about the pool and Okeanos also offers a 24/7 fitness centre. NYX - Attractively designed, with an excellent kosher dairy-fish restaurant and cocktail bar area. As well as a pool and spa, the NYX offers free bikes to its guests. The hotel has a business lounge and their stylish rooms all come with a Nespresso machine. Expensive but worth it!Daniel - this is an old favourite for many visitors to Israel. Close to the beach and the marina, they offer spacious rooms (many with fridges) and an excellent buffet breakfast. Visitors often comment on the friendly staff and the well-maintained sauna and jacuzzi facilities.Sharon - with its large outdoor pool, giving direct access to the beach, free bicycle hire and beautiful views of the Mediterranean, the Sharon comes highly recommended. Many of the bedrooms have been recently renovated and the breakfast buffer services an astonishing array of food. The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya.Photo credit: ©The Ritz-Carlton, HerzliyaA Day at the Beach - Herzilya’s Finest StretchesThere is a number of spectacular Herzliya beaches, all with powdery white sand and clear water. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities, a sporty time or some seclusion, there’s something for everyone - and they’re all public, with quite a lot of free parking close to hand, so you don’t have to break the bank. Hasharon Beach, Herzliya - probably the city’s favourite beach, with lots of facilities, including beach chairs for rent and lots of places to eat nearby. Popular with those learning to surf, the waters can occasionally be rough here so watch out! Acadia Beach, Herzliya - Clean sand, clear waters, good working showers and a lookout make this a great place to spend a day. Pick shells, borrow a book from the public library van or just sun yourself. For those looking for an adrenaline rush, there’s also a surf school.Zvulun Beach, Herzliya - not too noisy and not too crowded, you can take shade here in the mornings from the hotel nearby. In the winter, it's a popular spot for kitesurfing. The grassy areas are also ideal for picnics.Marina and Boats Beach, Herzliya - very close to the marina, and with the shopping area and many restaurants nearby, these two interconnecting beaches are always popular and this is the place to go if you want to sail or jet ski.Apollonia Beach, Herzliya - with its empty stretches of sand and green-coloured water, Apollonia is an incredibly beautiful - and very quiet beach. Access to it is by clambering over rocks Great for a long, philosophical stroll or a romantic sunset walk, gaze up at the ancient ruins and lose yourself for a moment.A girl in Herzliya. Photo by Or Hakim on UnsplashFree Time - Things to Do in Herzliya:Shopping - Herzliya has plenty for the shopper, including the Arena and Seven Stars malls. Branded stores include Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West, Timberland and Nautica. Inside are plenty of eateries as well as activities for kids and some free workshops and shows in the summer. Water sports -Whether you want to sail, surf or take out a kite, you can do it here. Yachts can be chartered here, there’s a surf school that offers classes year-round and there are plenty of attractions for kids, including surfing in Herzliya.Israel Day tours from Herzliya -Israel is a compact country, and you can go on day tours around Israel from Herzliya to the most popular destinations like the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Galilee. Day tours from Herzliya to various places depart daily and are offered in several languages.Bars and restaurants in Herzliya:Sebastian - with its Mediterranean vibe, and delicious dishes that include arancini, chicken liver terrine and salmon with capers, Sebastian isn’t cheap but it’s definitely popular.Meat Bar - the perfect place for carnivores, specializing in steaks (T-Bone, New York, Porterhouse steaks) and the lamb chops and chicken are popular too.A girl at Herzliya Beach.Photo by Pauline on UnsplashZozobra - serving all kinds of Asian fare, particularly Ramen and curries, you sit at long tables and dishes arrive as soon as they are cooked. Reasonable prices and tasty food.Giraffe - if you like sushi, noodles or gyoza, this reasonably priced Asian fusion restaurant is perfect. Try the Orange Thai curry or the ‘Afghan’ with goose breast.Meat and Wine - this smart kosher restaurant has lots of South African inspired meat dishes, including steak, duck and goose liver. The upscale atmosphere with a good selection of wines and tasty non-dairy desserts.Getting to HerzliyaThe number 90 bus runs directly from Tel Aviv to Herzliya, beginning at the Carmel Market, through Dizengoff Street and the Namir Road and costs 10 NIS (3 USD) one way. Allow 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. Trains also leave regularly from Tel Aviv Savidor, Hashalom and Hahaganah stations and a one-way ticket costs 14 NIS (4,5 USD) and takes approx. 13-18 mins. By car, the journey will take between 20-30 minutes on Route 2 (Namir Road).If you are interested in visiting Herzliya as part of an organised private tour, we offer a number of day tours. Also, feel free to call us on (972) 3 542-2000 for more detailed information.
By Sarah Mann

How to Travel Israel on a Budget

Budget travel in Israel is possible with careful planning. You can avoid the tourist traps and instead enjoy your Israel vacation without worrying too much about going over budget. The major cities have plenty to see without paying entrance fees; cheap-eats are in abundance and even day-tour prices are reasonable.A tourist looking at the Wailing Wall.Photo credit: © ShutterstockTravel to Israel Off-SeasonAs with all travel destinations, it is cheaper to travel off-season. For Israel, this means avoiding the national holidays and the July-August summer high season. During any of the holiday periods and in summer prices of airfares and hotels are higher. Don’t worry about traveling in the shoulder or low-season as Israel has good weather throughout most of the year and attractions stay open year-round (except some that close on national holidays and Saturdays). Another way to get low-cost flights to Israel is to check out flights to the new Ramon Airport near Eilat.Budget Accommodation in IsraelLow-cost accommodation in Israel includes couchsurfing which is popular in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There are plenty of hostel options but even the hostels are a bit pricey in Israel. Luckily many of the hostels are centrally located and of a high standard. You can find hostels along Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Street opposite the beach or in Jerusalem’s stunning Old City or historic YMCA. Try to book accommodation that comes with a free breakfast or alternatively with access to a kitchen. This will cut down on your food expenses.Rush hour in Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo byShai PalonUnsplashBudget Transportation in IsraelIsrael has an extensive public transportation system that is reasonably priced. You can reach most parts of the country, even the smallest communities on the Israeli bus system for just a few shekels. For example, the cheapest way to travel from central Israel to Eilat is by bus. The next cheapest transportation option is a sherut taxi or a shared taxi. Sherut taxis are mini-buses that run along popular routes or take you directly to your address. The only drawback is that the sherut will stop for all passengers thus making it a long journey. There are sheruts between the major cities and inner-city routes in large cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa that follow a set route. Although not as extensive as the bus system Israel’s train system is also useful for reaching some locations and is budget-friendly when touring Israel alone. You will also find that many of Israel’s cities are walkable.Eating on a Budget in IsraelIsrael has some of the healthiest street food in the world – and plenty of it! You can’t go far on any street in Israel before coming across a falafel stall, hummus shop, or shawarma restaurant. You can indulge yourself with delicious street food options and still keep to your budget. Also, make use of Israel’s markets like Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Here you can buy fresh produce and other ingredients to make your own meals.Street food in Jerusalem. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on UnsplashIsrael Daily ToursOne way to save money and time is to take the occasional daily tour to locations that are harder to reach by public transport. Of course, there is the added advantage that you will have a tour guide telling you all about the various landmarks and arranging all the transportation logistics. For example, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea are both locations that are more difficult to reach than places like Tel Aviv and so why not rely on a local tour company to do all the hard work. There are Israel daily tours specially designed for budget travelers.Free Attractions in IsraelAlthough Israeli museums are relatively expensive you can enjoy many of Israel’s top attractions simply by walking the streets. Wander through the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and discover the quaint churches and biblical landmarks like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. You can enjoy many free attractions in Israel including the beaches, markets, religious landmarks, and natural wonders like the Sea of Galilee.And more hot budget tips for travel in Israel….If you’ll be in Israel for an extended period buy a local SIM card. Ask in one of the many phone stores or even at the airport on arrival. Alternatively, you could make use of the extensive free WiFi options in Israel. Almost every café, restaurant, hotel, or store will have WiFi.If you’re shopping in an Israeli market be sure to haggle over the price.Alcohol is expensive in Israel so you could do what many Israelis do and get your alcohol in the local supermarket instead of in a pub or nightclub.View of Haifa from Carmel Mountain. Photo byPiotr MusiołonUnsplash
By Petal Mashraki

Touring Israel Alone

When you book a trip to Israel, you need to decide whether you’ll be touring the country alone, taking a package tour for the entire trip, or combining independent travel with the occasional day tour. If you take Israel tours or stick to touring Israel alone, you will still want to cover the countries highlights. There are advantages and disadvantages to all these travel styles.Tourist on a solo trip to Israel. Photo credit:© ShutterstockGetting Around Israel When Traveling AloneArranging transportation is one of the major differences between independent travel and using a tour company. If you touring Israel alone you will have to navigate the Israeli bus system and plan your time according to the public transport schedules. Israel’s public transport system is excellent, but it does not reach all the top attractions outside main cities. Since Israel observes Jewish holidays and Shabbat, public transport is extremely limited (and in some places non-existent) between Friday sundown and Saturday sundown. With an organized tour of Israel, you are not faced with this problem.Jerusalem Light Rail.Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinRenting a Car - Renting a car in Israel requires a valid driver’s license from your home country, and you must be over 24-years-old. Parking in Israel is complicated, with various curb markings, and car stickers allowing only certain cars to park on the street at certain hours. Pango is a parking fee-paying app that could help you navigate the pitfalls of parking in Israel. Driving in Israel can be challenging if you are not familiar with driving on the right-hand side or Israeli drivers!Using Taxis - Using taxis within large cities is a good option, but traveling by taxi between major cities would be excessively expensive. For example, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by taxi could cost you about 70€/$85. Inner-city taxis must use the meter, but the driver can usually tell you a fixed price for journeys between cities. Most Israeli taxi drivers speak some English, and tipping is not customary. Taxis operate on Shabbat but with a higher tariff.Israeli Railway System - The train system is efficient, clean, and not expensive, but the routes are limited. The southernmost train stations are Be’er Sheva and Dimona. The northernmost point on Israel’s train line is Nahariya. This means that top attractions like Eilat, the Dead Sea, Masada, Rosh HaNikra, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, and Nazareth cannot be reached by train.Israeli Bus System - Israeli buses reach every corner of the country, although the schedules are often inconvenient. Tickets are relatively cheap but you can no longer pay with cash on Israeli buses. Instead, you have to buy a reloadable RavKav transportation card. Once you have the card you can “load” it with credit that is deducted each time you use the bus or train. There are many disadvantages to the RavKav card, the main one being buying the card in the first place, and understanding the system.Old busesatEgged Bus Museum in Holon, Israel. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinTraveling between Major Cities in IsraelIntercity buses are the fastest and most convenient way of traveling between the cities in Israel. They are generally frequent and air-conditioned but sometimes slow due to traffic congestion.Public bus in Haifa, Israel. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinTel Aviv to Jerusalem - Buses leave Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Station and Tel Aviv Central Bus Station every 10-20 minutes and arrive at Jerusalem Central Station about 50 minutes later. The new high-speed King David Line connects Jerusalem’s Yitzhak Navon Station with Ben Gurion Airport in about 20 minutes and continues to Tel Aviv HaHagana Station in about 45 minutes. There is also a slow, scenic route that takes almost 2 hours.Tel Aviv to Acre - There are no direct buses, but with transfers, the journey can be done in about 3 hours. There is a direct train from Tel Aviv to Acre which takes 1.5 hours.Tel Aviv to Nazareth - A bus from Tel Aviv to Nazareth takes almost 2 hours. If you want to use the train, you will have to travel to Haifa and from there continue the journey by bus. The total time for this journey would be 2.5-3 hours.Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea - There are no trains that reach the Dead Sea, but you could take a train from Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheva, and from there continue the journey by bus. There are buses from Tel Aviv (and Jerusalem) to the Dead Sea. Bus 421 leaves Tel Aviv Arlozorov Terminal, Sunday to Friday, twice daily. The journey can take 2-2.5 hours.Tel Aviv to Bethlehem - There are no direct buses connecting Tel Aviv and Bethlehem, but you can get there with transfers. You could take bus #21 from East Jerusalem, although this route is not reliable. Bethlehem is in the Palestinian Authority territory, so visiting from Israel requires crossing a checkpoint. There are no trains to Bethlehem and you cannot take a taxi from Israel into the Palestinian Authority to Bethlehem.Old bus atEgged Bus Museum in Holon, Israel. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinPros and Cons of Group ToursIn many ways, an organized day tour in Israel is better than traveling alone in Israel. Independent travel can result in missing out on top attractions, just because of logistics. Traveling alone can also make a vacation hard work.Guided tour of Bahai Gardens, Haifa.Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinHere are some of the pros to joining a tour package in Israel:All transport is arranged for you, there is no need for you to find parking, fathom bus schedules, or spend long hours reaching attractions.On a group tour, you’ll have a professional guide, with extensive knowledge, giving clear explanations in the language you have chosen for your tour. It is not worth standing in front of a 2,000-year-old structure if you have no understanding of its history or significance.Reach attractions that are off-the-beaten-track, without having the stress of planning transportation. Many other top Israel attractions like Rosh Hanikra or Caesareacan be too complicated to reach on your own, so it's better to join a guided coastal tour combining both of them.You may think you are saving money by traveling in Israel alone, but there are added extras and unexpected expenses that you could avoid with a guided tour.With an organized tour, the guide will arrange entrance tickets to attractions and you can skip the lines.Christian and Jewish tour packages in Israel include free days in top destinations like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as days with the tour guide.Day tours fit in all of the top attractions in one day. This saves you time and you won’t need to decide where to go, as the tour company has chosen the best of the best for you to see.On a group tour, you will travel in modern, air-conditioned, comfortable vehicles, with Wi-Fi and not on packed public transport.Organized tours are an excellent opportunity to meet fellow tourists and make new friends from diverse backgrounds and cultures.Masada and the Dead Sea day tour by Bein Harim Tourism Services. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinWhere Can You Go with Israel ToursYou might be wondering what group tours cover. The simple answer is – everything! You can find day tours that cover specific destinations in fine detail, like Jerusalem tours and Tel Aviv tours. There are also tours geared towards Christian sites, Jewish or Islamic gems. Other excursions focus on a theme, such as archeology, or a region, like Galilee tours or West Bank tours. If you prefer to book a package tour that covers your trip from the time you land at Ben Gurion to the time you leave, then opt for a package group tour. These tours include all transportation, accommodation, and sightseeing. They also give you a few days to explore the country on your own. You could even choose a package tour that includes a short visit to Petra in Jordan.A tour guide explaining the trip plan to tourists for Jerusalem Tour by Bein Harim. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinInclude Day Tours in Your Israel Itinerary or Opt for a Package TourGive yourself a real break from the rat race, and take Israel tours. You don’t need to spend your vacation managing your itinerary and logistics as you tour alone in Israel. What you need is to sit back and let someone else do the work while you enjoy the sites of Israel.Tourists in Masada on a Masada tour by Bein Harim.Photo credit:© Dmitry Mishin
By Petal Mashraki

Beaches in Israel

One of the top reasons to take a vacation in Israel has to be its fabulous beaches - whether you’re in the north, south or centre, there’s always a spot where you can don a bathing suit or bikini and spend a day sunning yourself or splashing around in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, or the Sea of Galilee.Caesarea Aqueduct Beach.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinIsrael’s beaches are glorious - with their white sand and clear water, they’re the ideal place to kick back for some relaxation or bring the kids for a fun day (or longer!) out. And many of them are close to other attractions too - snorkeling and dive spots, national parks, and even archaeological sites - which means you can mix up a day’s activities if you’re so inclined. Let’s take a look at some of the top beaches in various parts of the country - we’re confident there are going to be a few you’ll long to visit...Top Tel Aviv BeachesWhatever you’re looking for in a beach in Tel Aviv, we’re pretty sure this city can offer it. With beautiful white sand and clear blue water, whether you’re keen on calm or looking for a sporty adrenaline rush, want live music, or a deserted stretch of coast, you’ll find a Tel Aviv beach you will fall in love with. Here are some of our favorites:Tel Baruch Beach, Tel AvivWide and clean, this beach has some great cafes and restaurants and a wide, sandy area to sunbathe. You can hold barbecues on the lawn nearby and there’s also plenty of parking!Hilton Beach, Tel AvivOne of Tel Aviv’s most popular beaches, this is a great place to kayak, surf, or paddleboard. Traditionally, it has been a popular spot for gay travelers, but it’s also beloved because its waters are calm and clear. The Hilton beach also contains a section where dogs can run freely.Banana Beach, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinMetzizim Beach, Tel AvivThis is the most northern beach in the city and close to Tel Aviv Port (Namal) full of eateries and boutique stores. It has a playground, a cafe, showers and, with its shallow waters, is ideal for families. This is a good place to visit at night if you want privacy since it is situated off the main promenade area.Gordon Beach / Frishman Beach, Tel AvivOpposite the Sheraton hotel, this beach is a great choice for those who love volleyball, ‘matkot’ (an Israeli tradition), and a wonderful outdoor (saltwater) pool. If you go on Saturday mornings, you’ll also see locals folk dancing on the promenade! Chairs, loungers, and parasols for rent (as with every Tel Aviv beach).Banana Beach, Tel AvivThis beach is great for flying kites, surfing, body-surfing, and looking for seashells. The southernmost of all these beaches, you can easily walk to Jaffa from here.To see the complete list of Tel Aviv beaches feel free to check out this article.Metzitzim Beach, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinRecommended Mediterranean Beaches1. Ashkelon BeachesWith its long beachfront, you’re free to choose from a number of beaches here - Bar Kochba, Delilah, the Rock, and Surfer’s beach amongst them. It’s also great for kids - not just the boardwalk but also a lovely children’s playground and a skating area. Well maintained, with clean sand and pristine restrooms. Beach Chairs and umbrellas can be rented all the way along and there are shallow waters, for the most part. Ashkelon Archeological Park is minutes away.2. Palmachim Beach near Rishon LeZionWhat this beach lacks in facilities, it makes up for in sheer beauty. With amazing cliff views to the south and Tel Aviv views to the north, this secluded sandy area views of cliffs to the south, this white sand, crystal clear water beach is perfect for a day out. The nearby national park is great for exploring sand dunes, unusual flora and fauna, and limestone ridges.3. Ajami Beach in JaffaJust south of Old Jaffa lies the Ajami beach, which is popular with locals - a mixture of Jews and Arabs. The water is clear and if you get bored of sunning yourself, head off and explore the Jaffa port, Jaffa flea market,and Artists' Quarter. Not far away is the famous seafood restaurant ‘the Old Man and the Sea’ - they don’t take reservations but it’s worth waiting in line!Ashkelon Archaeological Park.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Apollonia Beach near HerzliyaLocated under a cliff, overlooking the sea, this pretty beach, with green-colored water, can only be accessed by walking across rocks, and so it’s ideal for those who want some ‘alone’ time. Nearby is the national park Tel Arsuf (Apollonia National Park), dating back to Crusader times.5.Beit Yanai Beach, near NetanyaThis perfect sandy beach is not far from the moshav Beit Yanai named after the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (known in Hebrew as Alexander Yanai). There is an old dock and decent facilities: bathrooms, showers and a fish restaurant. Keep in mind that sometimes waves can be particularly high, as the beach is not protected from the open sea.6. Mikhmoret Beach, near NetanyaThis quiet stretch of beach, close to Netanya, has natural rocky barriers which block large waves (making it safe for kids) and there are acres of sand dunes to explore. It’s great for kite flyers but can be a little rocky (so bring flip flops). Mikhmoret has a Sea Turtle Rescue program and if you’re lucky you might spot one.7. The Aqueduct Beach, CaesareaIt doesn’t have many facilities but it does have a long row of beautifully preserved stone arches that served as an aqueduct and date back to Roman times. Undeveloped and pretty, you can swim here but there’s no lifeguard.Apollonia Beach. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin8. HaBonim Beach near Zichron YaakovWith more bays and inlets than any other in Israel, the coastal strip of Dor HaBonim, not far away from Zichron Yaakov, is picturesque and magical, with a nice campground that makes it perfect for overnight stays. There’s also a walking trail on the kirkar (calcareous sandstone) path and Tel Dor - an ancient city and harbor - close by.9. Dado Beach, HaifaWith a long promenade, full of restaurants, clear water, and helpful lifeguards, this clean and spacious beach in Haifa is not usually too crowded. Great for relaxing and walking on the boardwalk.10. Akhziv beach near Nahariya Arguably one of Israel’s finest beaches, Akhziv beach with the Akhziv National Park, is about 15 km north of Acre and near to Rosh Hanikra. It has cliffs, lagoons, and coves, all full of marine life - the kids will love the rock pigeons and swifts and in the summer, you might even spy a sea turtle on their way to lay their eggs. Akhziv has a campground, showers, lifeguards, and a cafe.Akhziv National Park. Photo credit: © Yaniv Cohen. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityTop Dead Sea BeachesDead Sea beaches are quite unique since they’re filled with water that is 9.6 times saltier than the ocean, meaning you can’t swim in them but you most definitely can float! Whilst you will need some decent beach shoes (because there are rocks around), you can also take advantage of the black mud on the shores - it’s perfect for slathering yourselves in if you want a free body treatment! Another wonderful activity tourists can enjoy is exploring the amazing salt deposits all along the sea’s edge - they form all kinds of strange shapes - white ‘icebergs’, strange sculptures, and flat platforms. There’s no doubt about it, with its extraordinary natural features and situated at the lowest point on earth, a trip to a Dead Sea beach is something you can’t miss out on, whilst on vacation in Israel.1. Ein Gedi Spa BeachThis very popular spa resort is a great place to enjoy the Dead Seanear Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Ein Gedi Spa offers many treatments and activities including thermo-mineral sulfur pools, as well as dramatic east-facing views over the waters, towards Jordan. In our opinion, one of the best beaches of the Dead Sea.2. Ein Bokek BeachFree of charge, this beach has plenty of shade and is well-equipped. The whole Ein Bokek area is very clean and if you bring your own padlock, you can use one of the free lockers. The water here is somewhat saltier than at the northern end of the Dead sea but it's also crystal clear. Whilst you won’t find too much black mud here, you can always buy it elsewhere and smear it on yourself for an authentic experience! Ein Bokek Beach. Photo by Tristan MIMET on Unsplash3. Biankini BeachThis private beach is part of an upscale resort with luxury suites, terraces, and gardens with panoramic views and a good place to consider if you want to stay overnight. The entire atmosphere is Moroccan - the decor, the food, and the music and there are plenty of family-friendly activities, including a swimming pool and a kid’s club.4. Neve Midbar BeachThis beach has showers, bathrooms, a boutique, and a beach bar that serves drinks and snacks. It also has plenty of natural black mud on its shores. Be aware that there are a few slippery steps to clamber down, and wear sturdy shoes because there are rocks all around.5. Kalia BeachWith a good selection of places to eat and quite a few shops, Kalia beach is less crowded than the other Dead Sea stretches and even the opportunity to go camel riding nearby! It is easily accessible with a Masada and Dead Sea Day Tour.Kaila Beach, the Dead Sea.Photo credit: © ShutterstockTop Eilat BeachesEilat is a great getaway spot and its beaches offer restaurants on the sand, water sports, and excellent diving in the Red Sea:1. Migdalore Beach, EilatAway from the tourists, therefore a little less crowded, this is a lovely beach for relaxing and also snorkeling. You can rent chairs and loungers and food is served at reasonable prices. Fun fact: ‘migdalore’ in Hebrew means ‘lighthouse’. Look up the hill and you’ll see it...2. Dolphin Reef Beach, EilatThis beautiful area is worth the cost of the admission, because you get to see dolphins up close and personal, even being able to pet them. There’s plenty of shade and a bar that serves food and drink. If you want, you can pay to take a 20-minute snorkel or dive with these beautiful and friendly creatures. The perfect place to visit in Eilat - whether as a family, a couple, a group of friends, or a solo traveler.The Lighthouse in Eilat.Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash3.Coral Beach, EilatIf you like the idea of snorkeling amongst coral reefs, you found the right spot. Eilat Coral Beachis a private beach that has warm water showers, clean bathrooms, a snack bar, and plastic chairs (included in the price). There are lots of covered seating and family areas roped off. Access the water via a long jetty over the reef and enjoy the endless colorful fish.4. Princess Beach, Eilat Possibly the best free beach to snorkel in Eilat, there isn’t much shade but there’s plenty of coral and fish in the water. The fact that it is the last beach in Eilat before the border with Egypt means it’s less crowded than other places, and a little more ‘wild.’ Not too many facilities but a great place to visit.5. Mosh Beach, EilatThis pretty pebbled private beach offers visitors good food and music, as well as a relaxing atmosphere. If you like coconut cocktails and a chilled-out atmosphere, this is where you should come.Paddleboarding in Eilat.Photo by Josh Appel on UnsplashTop Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) Beaches1. Gofra Beach, KinneretWith calm and scenic views over the lake, this rocky beach on the east of Galilee is full of eucalyptus trees, making it popular with campers (who always like their shade!) Just be aware that Gofra Beach is not a recognized beach and therefore does not provide lifeguard services.2. Ein Gev Beach, KinneretThis private beach is on the eastern shore of the lake and is next to a kibbutz with a fine fish restaurant, surrounded by lush green lawns and a short drive from a number of Galilee Christian sites. Enjoy the mini harbor and lovely boardwalk.3. Bora Bora Beach, KinneretThis beautiful private beach lies on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee and is surrounded by natural spring waters. Facilities include lounge chairs, hammocks, sofas, a Polynesian-style bar (serving all manner of drinks), a cigar bar, and a restaurant. There are water sports available (including kayaking, boat sailing skiing, banana skiing, tubing, water skiing, jet skiing, and windsurfing) and even a dance bar.Sea of Galilee.Photo credit: © Shutterstock4. Tsemach Beach, KinneretOn the south of the Kinneret, this family-friendly beach is perfect if you’re looking for activities to keep everyone occupied, particularly on hot spring and summer days. There’s a water park with slides and an indoor swimming pool, sun umbrellas, lockers rooms, and a range of water sports too - tubing, kayaking, and floating on mattresses. There’s plenty of parking and places to stay overnight, whether you’re a camper or looking for lodging. 5. Rotem-Shizaf Beach, KinneretSituated on the eastern shore, between Kibbutzes Haon and Ein Gev, its white sands, picnic tables, and parasols make it the ideal spot for a quiet day. There are toilets, a grocery store, and a kiosk too but no lifeguard!This list of beaches in Israel is incomplete - there are 137 beaches in Israel in total and most of them are famous for clear blue water and great beach facilities.To visit Kinneret beaches book a Private Sea of Galilee TourView on the Sea of Galilee at sunset.Photo by Dave Herring onUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

The Ideal Vacation in Tel Aviv

We take vacations not just because we have free time, but to escape the daily grind and change our reality. We all have dreams about what our ideal trip might be and what we’ll do there to make it an amazing experience. Of course, so much depends on the place you’re going to and the fact is that few people don’t enjoy a vacation in Tel Aviv. With its non-stop vibe, stunning Bauhaus architecture, cosy, independent coffee houses, friendly locals and kilometres of sandy white beaches, it’s hard not to fall in love with this city.Panoramic view of Tel-Aviv Beach. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Huffington Post once hilariously remarked, “New York and Ibiza had a sexy baby and they called it Tel Aviv”. But they hit the nail right on the head. This is a city with atmosphere, charm, style, and buzz. A city for those in love and a city for those who want to fall in love. Come to Tel Aviv and see for yourself - step outside your comfort zone, meet the locals, and create memories of this Mediterranean city that you’ll never forget. Here are a few pointers, in the meantime.Romance or Relaxation?Tel Aviv is a paradise for lovebirds - stylish boutique hotels, world-class eateries, cocktail bars galore, and fabulous Mediterranean sunsets. Stroll the streets of charming Neve Tzedek, wander through the historic Jaffa, take a paddleboat down the river in Yarkon Park, or just head to the seashore. Each Tel Aviv beach has its own vibe - whether for surfers, drummers, the LBGT crowd, or the volleyball aficionados. Grab yourself a sunbed and umbrella, slop on some protection then lie back and count the shades of blue in the sea, whilst your sweetie lies beside you. Few things can be better.And fear not, if you’re alone (or at least not ‘loved up’) Tel Aviv still has plenty of charm for friends or solo travelers. With its endless streets cafes, lively promenade (with dedicated bike lanes, making for a perfect cycling outing or a Tel Aviv bike tour), and two port areas - the Namal and Jaffa port, it’s easy to while away the daylight hours strolling around, stopping for a light bite, cold lemonade or a cleverly-designed cocktail.Young woman walking on the beach in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockFrom Street Eats to Elegant DiningOnce the sun goes down, Tel Aviv really comes into its own with dining options. For those who keep kosher (i.e abide by the Jewish dietary laws), you’ll find plenty of options - from pizzerias to steakhouses, you won’t go hungry. The basic premises of ‘kosher’ means not mixing milk and meat products so if you’re curious to eat in one of these Tel Aviv kosher restaurants, you’ll need to choose first whether you’re in the mood for some creamy cheeses and milky desserts, or a schnitzel, steak or shawarma!As for vegetarians and vegans - well, Tel Aviv is a veritable paradise. The city is a world capital when it comes to plant-based eateries, drawing on its reputation for Mediterranean cuisine - for starters think olives, green vegetables, juicy fruits, hummus, falafel, sabich, tahini, and potato bourekas!If you’re on a budget, stop at Ha Kosem (which, in Hebrew means ‘The Magician’) - it’s one of the best falafel joints in the city, and the recipe for their chickpea ball creations is a closely guarded secret! For elegant vegan cuisine in Tel Aviv, try Meshek Barzilay in Neve Tzedek - creative plates combined with boho chic make for a memorable meal.Flowering magnolia tree in Jaffa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockTel Aviv Street Tours - Eating Like a LocalWhether you’re traveling as a part of a couple, wandering the city with a friend, or venturing out alone, if you’re a foodie then there’s no better way to see Tel Aviv than with a local guide, who can give you a whole new perspective on what’s good to eat. Join aTel Aviv street food tourif you need guidance.One of the most popular spots in the city is the Carmel Market - selling everything under the sun (from lemonade, pomegranates, and exotic spices to Shabbat tablecloths, toys, and souvenirs, a new and popular activity for foodies is to take a culinary tour. One tour we’d recommend is with Tal Goring, of ‘Loca Local’. Not only will she take you around the market, explaining its history and introducing you to the stall-owners, she’ll then help you buy produce from them. After this, you’ll stroll back to her house, have some mint tea, and then be taught how to prepare a few local dishes. Once cooked, you’ll all sit at her table and enjoy the fruits of your hard work. You’ll meet some new friends too, all fellow foodies! It doesn’t get more authentic than this.If you’re not a fan of cooking, then why not takeCarmel Market Food Tour? You’ll indulge in all kinds of local treats - from Yemenite bread and a variety of hummus spreads to purple olives, local cheese, and fine wines. Don’t fill up too fast either - the baked goods and sweet treats are to die for.Carmel Market Fruit stalls.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinHave an AdventurePart of the allure of a vacation is the chance to get out of your comfort zone so why not have an adventure and explore one of Tel Aviv’s diverse neighborhoods on your own? The streets are safe, almost everyone speaks English and we guarantee that the locals will be delighted to meet you - your average ‘Tel Avivi’ is notoriously friendly.Sarona- once home to German Templars, in Ottoman Palestine, Sarona boasts a covered market that’s a foodie’s paradise, and the architecture isn’t bad either!Florentin -hip and happening, this is the best place in the city to take a street art tour and see why Tel Aviv’s a rising star in this field. Florentin is named for Solomon Florentin, who owned this land in the late 1920s.Neve Tzedek -one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, and full of tiny, winding streets, it's hard not to fall in love with this place. Literally, the name of the neighborhood means Abode of Justice, it is also one of the names for God.The Namal- Tel Aviv Port, known in short as the Namal, is one of the most popular attractions in Tel Aviv with 4.3 million visitors annually. It has a boardwalk and a lively food market.Jaffa- with its winding alleys, picturesque galleries, charming flea market, and ancient buildings, this is a must-visit attraction when you’re on vacation. Wander at leisure, or take a Jaffa Flea Market TourRothschild Boulevard- this elegant and stylish boulevard is home to a number of extraordinary beautiful 1930s and 1940s buildings, renovated and remarkable. Take a classic Bauhaus tour and find out just why Tel Aviv’s known as the White City.Classical Bauhaus Architecture, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockOut on the TownTel Aviv’s got a well-deserved reputation for bars and clubs, and the mixology that’s going on is quite impressive too. Cocktail bars that you have to try include ‘Spicehaus’ (where drinks are served up in chemistry beakers), the Imperial (upscale and plush, with Asian-inspired bar bites), ‘Bellyboy’ with its outlandish and innovative drinks menu, and the classy ‘Library Bar’ at the Norman Hotel (which, arguably, serves the best martini in Tel Aviv).Jaffa and Florentin, in particular, are hotspots for nightlife and, in case you didn’t know, Tel Aviv has some fabulous bars and nightclubs. Florentin is a particularly young and trendy neighborhood, where a lot of 20-somethings live and when the sun comes down, it really starts to get lively. You can party to your heart’s content here until the wee small hours; indeed, some Tel Avivis go to ‘morning raves’ at the end of a party night out. Just remember, the real nightlife doesn’t get going here until about 2 am.Our tip: have a power nap before you head out!DJ in one of Tel Aviv clubs. Photo credit: © ShutterstockPrinted MatterIf you want to understand more about the vibe of Tel Aviv, there’s plenty you can read about (via the internet, or with books). We recommend:Tel Aviv Noir’ by Etgar Keret & Assaf Gavron -14 extremely readable stories, giving you the chance to see a more ‘hidden’ side of the city.‘When I Lived in Modern Times’ by Linda Grant -the story of a young girl arriving in Palestine as a state struggles to be born.‘Rhyming Life and Death’ by Amos Oz -the evocative story of an author who, bored with his fame, has traveled to Tel Aviv to promote his latest book.‘The Way to the Cats’ by Yehoshua Kenaz -a story of aging and uncertainty, which is a delightful read.Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinCulture and HistoryWhether you’re staying a couple of days or a couple of weeks, it’s always useful to figure out your itinerary and decide what your ‘must visit’ and ‘must do’ activities should include. Tel Aviv’s not just about beaches and food joints - it’s also the perfect place for a cultural odyssey, in the form of museums, galleries, and performance venues. When it comes to museums, you can take your pick! The Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art houses impressive permanent and temporary exhibitions, Nahum Gutman’s house in Neve Tzedek showcases his paintings, the Steinhardt Museum is full of treasures of nature, the Ilana Goor Museum (Goor was self-taught and never studied art) is full of beautiful sculptures and the Rabin Centre gives you a little history into the life of Israel’s famous Prime Minister, who was tragically assassinated in 1995. If it’s a performance that you’re hankering after, then check out one of Tel Aviv’s numerous music and dance venues - Yarkon Park and the Nokia and Bloomfield Stadiums and the Zappa Club host live music and have hosted the great and the good, including Madonna, Ringo Starr, and the Rolling Stones. For classical music, take in a performance at the Mann Auditorium by the Israeli Philharmonic or some opera at the Cameri Theatre.Ilana Goor Museum, Jaffa.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinTheatre lovers won’t be disappointed at productions hosted by the Gesher troupe (who marry Russian classics with contemporary Israeli playwrights) or even some Yiddish theatre. And when it comes to dancing, you should not miss a performance of the famous Batsheva troupe, whose home is the beautiful Suzanne Dellal Centre in Neve Tzedek.You should also leave enough free time to wander around some places of historical interest unless you want to book a private Tel Aviv tour Israel’s Hall of Independence, on Rothschild Boulevard, is where David Ben Gurion proclaimed the famous Declaration of Independence in 1948. The Palmach Museum lets you experience the gripping story of the years leading up to the creation of Israel, by following a group of friends on their journey. And the Diaspora Museum is a must for anyone fascinated by the history of the Jews, spanning over two thousand years, from the time of Abraham to the modern-day state. A trip to any of these places will really give you a sense of modern-day Israel and help you understand the history of this fascinating country a little better.Minaret of a Sea Mosque in the Old City of Jaffa, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinRelax and Kick BackIt’s often been said that Tel Aviv’s the kind of city that tends to grow on visitors...at first glance, it seems noisy, crowded, and a bit chaotic, leaving you wondering if you should head for the hills! But as you get to know it, its charm and flair tend to seep inside you...leaving you craving just one more day on its streets. Of course, many people who visit the City that Never Sleeps don’t have too much time to stand still, so here are a few tips on how to get the most out of 2 days in Tel Aviv.Finally, whether you’re having a romantic break, exploring with friends, or spending some quality time with yourself, the most important thing is to relax and have a great time. The weather is so good for much of the year that you can walk everywhere (or be adventurous, and hire a City Bike or electric scooter). Soak up the atmosphere, grab an iced coffee or some mint tea, and hit those streets. Decide on one of various Tel Aviv day tours. After your obligatory falafel, stroll on the promenade and chillout time, gaze at a glorious sunset over the Mediterranean, take a breath and remind yourself that you’re on vacation - and you deserve to be enjoying it.Tourist on the beach, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

A Guide to Some of the Oldest Churches in Israel

For many visitors to Israel, whatever their religious background, one of the highlights of the trip will be exploring the country’s many historical and religious sites. Israel has countless churches open to the public, many of them dating back hundreds of years, and as well as a great number in the capital, Jerusalem, there are some beautiful and fascinating buildings across the country. ForChristians visiting Israel on apackage tour, walkingin the footsteps of Jesusis an incredibly moving experience, and theexpedition of a lifetime. But you don’t have to be a Christian to find these sites extraordinary. Here, we look at ten of the most ancient churches in Israel and why tens of thousands of people each year flock to them, to gaze in awe at their architecture, mosaics, artefacts and let themselves be transported back in time…Church of Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. Megiddo, Jezreel ValleyThe Meggido church, in the Jezreel Valley, is located near Tel Megiddo in northern Israel and was found in a dramatic archaeological discovery in 2006. Its foundations date back to the 3rd century, making it Israel’s oldest church (even older than Jerusalem’s famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre). Astonishingly, it was found behind the doors of a maximum-security prison - indeed, some inmates helped archaeologists with the excavations!Findings there included an elaborate, well-preserved mosaic, which is unusual in that there are no crosses there, rather a picture of two fish lying side by side. Historians say this is the sign of a very early symbol, dating back to the period before Christianity was officially recognized as a religion (i.e. before Saint Constantine’s rule). There is also the inscription on the mosaic which names a Roman army officer - Gaianus - who donated money to the building of the floor. Combined with atrip to Nazareth, a visit to Megiddo is well worth your time.Tel Megiddo, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock2. Ein Avdat, Negev DesertSituated in a canyon, in the heart of the Negev Desert, the southern church there was part of the Byzantine Monastery or St. Theodoros. According to inscriptions found on the church floor, historians estimate that the church dates back to the 6th or 7th century. Archaeological findings show that the Ein Avdat church was inhabited both by the Nabateans and Catholic Monks. Historically, Avdat was a stop along the ‘Spice Route’ which transported spices and perfumes from the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Gaza. Because the area had many springs, a water supply was plentiful and the area quickly prospered. Little is left of the church today but we do know that reliquaries - containers holding a sacred relic - were kept inside. Once the oil had been poured over the relic, it was collected in bottles for pilgrims to keep as a souvenir.Ein Avdat, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Matz3. Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, GalileeMuch of Jesus’ ministry and preaching was carried out in the Galilee and this church - situated in Tabgha, on the northwest side of the lake, the Church of Multiplication is famous for being the spot where the miracle of the ‘two fishes and fives loaves’ were multiplied, in order to feed 5,000 people. This extremely old Byzantine church contains beautiful mosaics, depicting animals, plants - particularly the lotus flower - and geometric figures, all adding to its charm.The church underwent excavation in the 1930s and a new building was inaugurated in May 1982, to commemorate the sacred space as well as to accommodate the thousands of visitors who wanted to visit each week. Today, it is one of the most popular places to visit for tourists traveling around Galilee and Nazareth, either on historical or Christian day tours. Fun fact; the church windows are not made of glass, rather of stone! For a moment of quiet reflection, visit the pool in the backyard, which is full of fish. Other churches in the area can be visited with aChristian galilee tour.Church of Multiplication, Tabgha.Photo credit: © Shutterstock4. Church of the Pater Noster, JerusalemSituated at the top of the Mount of Olives, the history of the Pater Noster dates back to the rule of Emperor Constantine, who erected a simple building on this site in 330 known as ‘Eleona’. ‘Pater Noster’ in Latin means ‘Our Father’ and according both to tradition and the Gospel of Luke, the cave forming the grotto (under the church) was where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, which begins “Our Father, who art in heaven...”In 1874, the present church (which is part of a Carmelite Monastery) was erected. This credo is represented on the walls of the church, in the form of the Lord’s Prayer translated into close to 130 languages, all painted on ceramic tiles. The gardens are well landscaped, full of olive trees, and this tends to be more peaceful and (generally) less crowded than others in Jerusalem. Ideal for a visit on a day tour of Jerusalem.Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock5. Church of the Nativity, BethlehemThe Church of Nativity, a famous Bethlehem basilica, located just 10 kilometers from Jerusalem, is loaded with significance in that Christians believe it to be the birthplace of Christ. Built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian, it replaced Constantine the Great’s original structure (dedicated in 339 CE), and today is the oldest complete church in the Christian world.The interior of the church is somewhat minimalist (no pews in which to sit) but the wall mosaics - depicting saints and angels - are stunning and have been restored. The roof is held up by red limestone pillars (the stone obtained from local quarries). Two sets of stairs will let you descend to the Grotto of the Nativity where there you will see a 14-point silver star. This marks the exact spot of Jesus’ birth. This sacred spot is well worth a visit, perhaps by joining a Bethlehem half-day tour?Church of Nativity, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Church of the Transfiguration, Mount TaborThis church is located on Mount Tabor in Galilee and is recognized as the place where Jesus was transfigured in the presence of his disciples, Peter, John, and James (notated in the Gospels). Because of its location along the major trade routes, the area was always of strategic importance in wars. The entire surrounding area, including Tsipori and Beit Shearim,is well worth exploring on a private tour.The Church of the Transfiguration is perched very dramatically atop the mount, offering visitors stunning views, and was built over the remains of previous churches from both Byzantine and Crusader times. The current building was erected in 924 by the Franciscans and boasts an impressive mosaic and chapels dedicated to Elijah and Moses. The smaller Greek Orthodox church nearby is not usually open to the public.Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor.Photo credit: © Natalia Brizeli7. Church of the Ascension, JerusalemThe beautiful Church of the Ascension, run under the auspices of Russian Orthodox nuns, is situated in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives. Dedicated to the ascension of Jesus (the day that Christ physically departed Earth, in the presence of 11 of his apostles) its tower - at 64 meters - was constructed at the end of the 19th century, so that pilgrims who could not walk as far as the Jordan River could at least climb its steps and take in the view. At the tower’s top is a belfry and inside it a heavy iron bell, the first-ever Christian bell to be rung in Ottoman times.The original structure was built in the 4th century but most of its inside, today, dates back to Crusader times. On the floor inside is a slab of rock, with an imprint inside which is considered to be Jesus’ footprint. This is known as the ‘Ascension Rock.’ After Muslims took control of the chapel from the Crusaders in 1188, they converted it into a mosque - look carefully and you will see a minaret. The Mount of Olives has three other churches that are associated with the ascension, and an excellent way to see them is on a private walking tourof the area.The Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dan Porges8. Church of the Holy Sepulchre, JerusalemWithout a doubt, the most famous church in Israel and a highlight of any visit to the capital, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sits within the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Famed for being the place not just at which Jesus was crucified but where he was also buried and resurrected, it is a focal point for Christian pilgrims, particularly at Easter when pilgrims retrace Christ’s last walk along the Via Dolorosa (the last four ‘Stations of the Cross’ are within this church).Built by Constantine the Great in 326 CE over a tomb believed to be that of Jesus, it took nine more years before commemoration and the wooden doors of the church are original. Inside the magnificent interior are a number of sites including the tomb of Jesus (which sits under the largest dome in the church) the Anointing Stone (tradition says that this is the spot where Christ’s body was prepared for burial) and Calvary itself (which has two chapels, one of which houses the Rock of Golgotha, which can be seen through the glass. The jurisdiction of the church compound is divided between the Catholic, Armenian, and Greek Orthodox Churches. (Interesting fact: look out for the thousands of crosses, scratched into the walls by Crusaders traveling to the Holy Land from Europe). Truly one of Jerusalem’s most breathtaking sites and a must-see on a tour of the Old and New City.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin9. St. George's Monastery, Wadi QeltSt. George's Monastery, one of five monasteries in the Judean desert this extraordinary building has been carved into the edge of a cliff in the north-eastern part of a huge canyon in which it sits. To reach it, you walk down a somewhat steep but paved hill and across a bridge - the location is extraordinarily picturesque and impressive and even overshadows the monastery itself.The monastery itself was settled in 420 CE, by Syrian monks, in the emptiness of the desert. It is, however, named after Saint George of Choziba, a Cypriot monk who lived there in the 6th century. Inside, the chapel remains in its original form. The monastery is multi-layered, with two churches, both of which contain icons and mosaics, and the doors in iconostasis date back to the 12th century. Following the stairs down from the courtyard, you will find the Cave of Elijah. It is possible to explore this monastery alone but not easy or particularly advisable because of its remote location so probably best to take a private guided tour. St. George's Monastery, Wadi Qelt. Photo credit: © Shutterstock10. St. Joseph’s Church, NazarethSt. Joseph’s Franciscan Сhurch is located in Nazareth, the town of Jesus’ birth, and was built, according to tradition, over what was once the carpentry workshop of Jesus’ father, Joseph. The site was converted into a place of worship in Byzantine times and after the Crusaders arrived, in 12 CE, another church was built over it. After the Crusaders were defeated by the Arabs, the church was destroyed and was not rebuilt until 1914, by the Franciscans.Inside, the apse of the church has three paintings of interest: The Holy Family, The Dream of Joseph, and The Death of Joseph in the Arms of Jesus and Mary. Down a stairway lies a crypt where visitors can see caverns through a floor grille. A few more steps along leads to a black and white mosaic floor - some historians think that it was in use as early as the 1st-2nd century, and used as a pre-Constantine Christian Baptistery.St. Joseph is situated north of the Basilica of the Annunciation and close to the large Franciscan convent Terra Santa. It can be visited easily, along with other places of interest in Nazareth, and perhaps combined with a visit to the nearby Sea of Galilee. A perfect fit would be theNazareth and the Sea of Galilee Tour.St. Joseph’s Church, Nazareth.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are Israel’s two largest cities, as well as being huge tourist centres, meaning that the majority of visitors want to see both. Luckily, the two cities aren’t far apart - in fact, by European or North American standards, travelling between them is easy and cheap. Making a day trip takes minimal effort (indeed, some Israelis commute between the two cities five days a week) and whether you want to plan ahead or just wake up and decide to head off, it’s your choice. Here, we look at some of the different ways you can make the 54 km (33 mile) journey.A statue of King David playing harp, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1.How to Travel Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem byBusThe Tel Aviv to Jerusalem bus service is highly recommended since it’s inexpensive and efficient, with buses leaving every 15 minutes from early morning to late at night. The Egged company runs this very popular service and if there is no traffic your journey should take between 45-55 minutes. If you want to know if it’s safe to travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then the answer is a resounding yes. Bus drivers are trained to high standards and, moreover, if any kind of problem arises, someone will inevitably offer you assistance - Israelis are very hospitable people and love to help! There are two central bus stations in Tel Aviv that operate this service:- The Central Bus Station (Tachana Merkazit) located on Levinsky Street in the south of Tel Aviv, close to HaHagana train station. This operates bus line 405- The Terminal 2000 station, on Namir Road/Arlozorov Street, in the north of Tel Aviv, which operates line 480.Either you can pay the driver when you board the bus (cash is fine) or use a Rav Kav card. These cards can be purchased at many points in the city and loaded up with credit which can be used on buses within the city as well as longer journeys around the country. You can also buy a ticket beforehand from a machine (most machines have an ‘English’ option) or a staff member at one of the counters. The cost of a one-way ticket is 19 NIS and there is a discount if you buy a return-trip ticket.All buses arrive at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, which is very close to the main highway and the Bridge of Chords. From here, it is very easy to navigate your way around Jerusalem - either by bus, the light railway (which runs all the way down to the Old City), or a taxi. The Jerusalem bus station also has an array of shops selling clothes, electronic goods, and food/beverages, so if you're desperate for a coffee or you’ve forgotten your phone charger, never fear.As with all cities in Israel, there is no public bus service on Shabbat i.e. from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening, after dark.Old City market, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock2.How to Travel Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by TrainAfter decades of talks that came to nothing and plans that regularly collapsed, the high-speed rail link connecting Israel’s two largest cities opened in 2019. The Tel Aviv to Jerusalem train is, without a doubt, a fantastic way to travel between the cities - it’s a direct service, using a spacious two-level train and it takes between 36 and 43 minutes, depending on which of the three Tel Aviv stations you depart from. These stations are:- Savidor Center - like the Terminal 200 bus station (see above), Savidor is on the corner of Namir Road and Arlozorov Street.- Shalom train station - close to the famous Azrieli Towers, this station is located on the HaShalom Interchange on the Ayalon Highway - HaHagana railway station- the most southern of the three stations is also located on the Ayalon Highway, north of Highway 1 and 200 meters easy of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.A one-way ride costs 23.50 NIS and for much of the day, the train runs every 15-20 minutes. As with the Egged buses (see above) you can use your Rav Kav card or buy tickets from cashiers or machines in the station. You will arrive at the state-of-the-art, Yitzhak Navon station in Jerusalem, complete with modern design, vaulted ceilings, and beautiful wall mosaics. It’s also one of the world’s deepest stations (80 meters deep) and conveniently located on Jaffa Street, with access to city buses, taxis, and the famed light railway, which will transport you to downtown Jerusalem and the Old City in just a few minutes. Jerusalem light railway, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Taxi - Shared or PrivateIn all of the major cities in Israel, you will see small yellow vans standing at their main bus stations. These are called ‘sheruts’ and basically, they are ‘shared taxis.’ They take 10 passengers and are not owned by the government, which means that they run on Shabbat (unlike Egged buses and trains, which stop between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening). All you need to do is climb in and pay the driver in cash (22 NIS). Once the seats are all filled, off you go! (Bear in mind that you might have to wait a few minutes for the sheruts to fill up). Sheruts leave from the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station on the ground floor, just outside the main entrance, and can drop you either close to the Jerusalem bus station or downtown, close to Tzion Square and a short walk from the Old City.For more comfort (and if you’re willing to pay a premium) then it’s possible to take a private taxi from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Either ask your concierge to arrange this service for you or download the Gett Taxi app (as yet, there is no Uber in Israel). Expect to pay around 350 NIS door to door (and more at night or on Shabbat). Buses on Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock4. Private TransferA Tel Aviv to Jerusalem private transferis a comfortable and convenient way to travel and is easily organized through a trusted tour operator. You will be driven in a vehicle that is comfortable and air-conditioned and, of course, if you wish to make a detour along the way (to visit the village of Abu Gosh, for example, or grab a cup of coffee at the ‘Elvis Diner’ then that’s your prerogative). You should expect to pay around 700 NIS for this service.5. Organized Trips to JerusalemIf you’re based in Tel Aviv, but want to visit Jerusalem and see as much as you can in a set period of time, it’s really worthwhile considering one of the many Jerusalem tours on offer. Taking a guided trip in Israel really takes the hassle out of everything - you’ll have a driver, a guide and - whether it’s one, two, or three days - the chances are you’ll get to see quite a bit more than if you’re traveling under your own steam. There are all kinds of Israel day tours and Jerusalem tour packages available - whether you want to explore the Old City, visit ancient churches, wander the world-class Israel Museum or take a stroll in the vibrant, bustling Mahane Yehuda market, there’s something that will suit you. Jerusalem is a city that offers a taste of everything - culture, history, architecture, food, and scenery. It’s probably one of the most extraordinary cities you’ll ever visit so soak it up.The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin6. Rent a CarRenting a car in Israel is not difficult - there are plenty of companies around and prices are reasonable. GalCal, Hertz, Shlomo Sixt, and Hagar are some of the most reputable names, and booking via their websites (all in English) is easy. All you need is your international driver’s license, your passport, and a credit card. Allow about half an hour to sort out the paperwork and then you’ll be good to go.There are two major routes that you can take - either Road 1 or Road 443, via Modiin. Traffic is notoriously bad on these roads early in the morning and later, after the workday ends, so try and plan your journey in quieter hours, otherwise, your journey could double in time. Also, bear in mind that parking is limited and expensive in Jerusalem itself, so if you’re visiting just the Old City itself (rather than combining your city trip with a tour of Masada and the Dead Sea for example), you’ll be better off using public transport or taking an organized Jerusalem tourfrom Tel Aviv.Montefiore Windmill, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

First time in Israel: Must see places

It’s indisputable - for a tiny country, Israel invariably punches above its weight as a holiday destination. Whether it’s religious and historical landmarks, glorious Tel Aviv beaches, astounding nature, skiing in the north and diving in the south, exploring boutique vineyards and Crusader castles or simply wandering the local streets, there’s enough in this country to keep you busy for several holidays. But what if you’re a first-time visitor, with a fixed amount of time to spend in this incredible country? What are the ‘must-see’ places in Israel for a newcomer? Well, there are many but some, of course, are stand-out destinations. And the good news is that Israel is pretty compact - you could drive the length of the country, from the Golan Heights, down to Eilat on the Red Sea, in about 8 hours. From east to west, it sometimes even takes less than an hour.The Church of the Beatitudes.Photo credit: © ShutterstockOne Holiday - Endless AttractionsThis means that whether you’re renting a car, travelling as part of a tour package or moving around independently, you’re going to be able to cover a fair bit of ground in one to two weeks. So with nothing more than a little planning, the fact is that you’re going to be able to combine all kinds of top-rated attractions in 7-14 days.Below is our list - we’re biased of course, but we’re certain you won’t come away disappointed after a trip to any of these incredible places. And whether you see them all or end up missing out on one or two, don’t worry - because you can see them again on your next trip - as well as few ones we haven’t mentioned! Let’s take a look:1. Jerusalem’s Old CityJerusalem is one of the most extraordinary cities in the world and the primary reason many tourists come to Israel. Home to three major world faiths and spectacularly beautiful, you could spend an entire vacation in Jerusalem, with much of it just within the Old City. Inside its walls (erected by Ottoman Emperor Suleiman, hundreds of years ago), the area is divided into four quarters - Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian - which you can spend hours wandering through (and getting lost in!)Within the Old City are treasures such as the Western Wall (sacred to Jews, as the last remaining vestige of the Second Temple), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (a beloved Christian pilgrim site, being where Christ was both crucified and resurrected), the Via Dolorosa, along which Christ walked, stopping at different ‘Stations of the Cross’ and the Temple Mount (Islam’s third most holy site, and known as the spot at which Mohammed flew over on his way to Mecca). There are also underground Western Wall tunnels, water cisterns, Ramparts, the Tower of David, the Byzantine Cardo, tiny churches and the Jerusalem shuk(bazaar) atmosphere itself which visitors often find overwhelming (in a positive sense!) because of its smells, sights and sounds. To get the most out of your time, we’d recommend taking at least one of variousJerusalem toursbecause the city guides have a wealth of knowledge and expertise at their fingertips and can really make Jerusalem come alive for you.One of the Stations of the Cross, Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock2. Bahai Gardens in HaifaThe Baha’i Gardens, at the heart of the beautiful Mediterranean city of Haifa, are a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and the highlight of any visit. Sloping down Mount Carmel, all the way to the foot of the sea, these impeccably manicured 19 terraces have, at their centre, a small white shrine, on top of which is the gold-coloured dome. This is the final resting place - and shrine - of the founder, ‘the Bab.’ Today, there are estimated to be around 7 million of his followers across the world.hebronThe terraced gardens are filled with exotic flowers, fountains and small sculptures and contain nine concentric circles. They are surrounded on either side by woodlands, to ensure the area remains peaceful and calm - a true spiritual site for followers of the Baha'i faith but loved by tourists and locals alike. (Fun fact: number 9 is sacred in this faith and this is reflected in the garden’s design - there are 9, 19, 99 of each element of the garden, as well as 999 steps along the path!). Either take the daily tour at midday (in English) or splash out on a private tour of Haifa and the Carmel - which also includes a visit to a Druze village of Daliat-el-Carmel. Haifa truly is the jewel in Israel’s north.Bahai Gardens, Haifa. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. The Dead SeaThe lowest point on earth and a body of water in which very little can survive, coming to float in the Dead Sea salty waters is an immeasurably fun activity for every new visitor. Surrounded by stunning Negev desert scenery, snapping a shot of yourself unable to put your legs down or slathering yourself in mud, is a guaranteed way to gain your friend’s envy on return home after your first time in Israel.Taking a Dead Sea tour will also give you a chance to see other attractions in the vicinity, including Masada, Ein Gedi and the Judean desert. Of course, if you’re looking for pure relaxation, you can always just settle in at one of the top Dead Sea hotels at Ein Bokek. The pampering spa treatments offered there will leave you rejuvenated and reinvigorated, trust us.The Dead Sea mud. Photo credit: © Shutterstock4. The Judaean DesertLess than an hour’s drive from Jerusalem lies the ancient fortress of Masada, affording some of the most spectacular views imaginable of the surrounding Judean desert, Masada is of great historical significance to Jews, as it is where they made a last ‘heroic stand’ against a Roman invasion. Whether you ascend via the winding snake path or travel up by cable car, it’s hard not to be taken aback by the sheer beauty of this mountaintop fortress and, once at the top, the archaeological artefacts are a real must-see. Tour Masada with its once-grand Herodian palace, view the bathhouse and mosaics and let yourself be carried away by history. To fit as much in as possible, we recommend taking our Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea Tour and for those who like an adrenaline rush, signing up for the Judean Desert Jeep Tour.Judean Desert, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock5. The Crusader city of AcreWith its endlessly intriguing backstreets, narrow alleyways, fortifications and fascinating history, the Crusader city of Acre is another destination we couldn’t pass over. Home to ancient city walls, the gothic vaulted Knights Halls, the Ahmed Al-Jazzar Mosque, St. John’s Church, the Templars' tunnel, an old Turkish hammam (bathhouse) and a lively ‘shuk’ (Acre Old City Market), visitors are blown away by the history they encounter at every turn.Walk through the main market area, breathe in the exotic smells, and end up at the port area, which has beautiful views and excellent fish restaurants. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and with beautiful vistas across the harbour, you may never want to leave. To see more of the north of Israel, we’d also recommend joining theCaesarea, Acre and Rosh Hanikra Tour.Ghattas Turkish bath, Acre, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin6. Sea of Galilee with its Christian sitesThe Sea of Galilee is a major attraction in Israel, both for Christian pilgrims and secular tourists. A beautiful place in its own right, this is where Jesus spent many of his adult years preaching to his disciples and ministering to the local population. Today, the area remains home to a whole host of sites, both of religious and historical significance.A visit to the ‘Kinneret’ (the biblical name for the Sea of Galilee) should always include stops at the Mount of Beatitudes (where Jesus is thought to have given his Sermon on the Mount), St. Peter’s Church in Capernaum, and Kibbutz Ginosar, where you can see the ‘Jesus boat’. Why not take our Sea of Galilee Christian Tour which even includes a stop at Cana of the Galilee, where Jesus turned water into wine.The Sea of Galilee, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock 7. SafedNestled in the lush Upper Galilee, and surrounded by pine forests, the ancient and mystical city of Safed is one of Israel’s four ‘holy’ cities (the others being Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias, all centres of Jewish life after the Ottoman conquest of Palestine). Safed was said to have been founded by one of Noah’s sons after the biblical Flood and today it remains not just a pretty and mystical place but also a site for those interested in ‘kabbalah’ (an esoteric Jewish philosophy).Wandering the backstreets of this tiny city, you’ll see bright blue doors and window frames, especially in the Artist’s Colony. In the cemetery, you’ll find the graves of many Jewish leaders, as well as pilgrims on their own spiritual voyages. And after you’ve finished exploring the many beautiful ancient synagogues, don’t forget to take a look at the old British Mandate buildings too. The entire area is incredibly beautiful, and a Galilee and Golan two-day touris an ideal way to pass some time.Synagogue in Safed.Photo credit: © Shutterstock8. Tel Aviv PromenadeYou can’t come to Israel and not spend at least a day in Tel Aviv, the beating heart of the country, packed with cafes, boutique stores, museums, galleries, as well as long stretches of wonderful beaches. But if you’re not the kind of person that wants to shop or bake in the sun all day, then why not try a Tel Aviv bike tour?Exploring theWhite Cityas its known (because of its abundance of Bauhaus buildings), you’ll familiarise yourself with the fashionable Rothschild Boulevard, Yitzchak Rabin Square (where Israel’s Prime Minister was tragically assassinated), the Hall of Independence (where Ben Gurion announced the creation of the State), the banks of the Yarkon River at Yarkon Park and the bustling Tel Aviv Port (Namal).There’s nothing like seeing a city at ‘street level’ and Tel Aviv has dedicated bike lanes, lined with trees affording you shade, which makes cycling from north to south a positive joy. And when you’re finished, you can treat yourself to an iced coffee, a fresh juice or a local beer, and sit by the Mediterranean, in anticipation of a glorious sunset. What’s not to like, we ask?Bauhaus buildings in the White City of Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Shutterstock9. JaffaJaffa is truly one of Israel’s most beloved tourist spots, not just because of its history (this is where Jonah fled God and ended up in a whale’s belly!) but because of its charm. Save for the cobbled streets, artist’s quarter and Jaffa port, there’s also the fabulous Jaffa Flea Market (shuk), a treasure trove of bric-a-brac, antiques, vintage clothes, designer furniture and even just plain, old-fashioned ‘junk.’The shuk is open six days a week, although Friday is by far and away the liveliest time to visit. On our Jaffa Flea Market Tour "From Shuk to Chic," you will have a chance not just to search for some treasure of your own but learn about the history of this flea market and how the area became the ‘hot spot’ that it is today.From ramshackled and out of favour to gentrified and bustling, you’ll see street art, wander in boutique stores and even get a chance to sample some of the incredible food on sale (our tip: if you’ve had enough hummus, try the spinach dumplings and jugs of lemonade at Puaa cafe, and finish with some sweet treats from Abulafia!)Jaffa flea market.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin10. GalileeThe Galilee isn’t just beautiful, but it’s also historic and well worth exploring, particularly on a Nazareth and Sea of Galilee Tour. This trip around the area will take you to Nazareth, the city where Jesus grew up, giving you the opportunity to see the beautiful Church of the Annunciation, before journeying on to the Multiplication Church in Tabgha, where Jesus turned two loaves of fishes and five loaves of bread into a feast for the five thousand.There’s also time spent at Yardenit, where thousands of pilgrims, dressed in white, wait each day to be baptised in the Jordan River, the very same place that John baptised Jesus. With its beautiful landscapes, lush greenery and charming villages, this is somewhere we’re sure you’re going to want to return, probably on aguided Galilee tour.The Wedding Church in Cana. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Christian Holy Sites in Israel

Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other faith, Israel’s holy sites should be part of your itinerary. There are sacred places spread across Israel, from Galilee in the north to Jericho in the south. This is where biblical events unfolded and where every place has some mystical, religious, or historical significance. So, plan your pilgrimage to the Promised Land today, and prepare to be awe-struck.The Sacred City of JerusalemThe best Christian tours in Israel always include Jerusalem, where Jesus spent the last week of his life and was crucified. If you have to pick just one destination in Israel, it should be Jerusalem. This incredible city is steeped in religious significance and thousands of years of history. When you tour Israel with a top-rated guide, you can see places you might not have found by yourselfThe Wailing Wall. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of the Holy Sepulchre - Without a doubt, this is the top Christian attraction in Israel. This impressive 4th-century church holds the last Stations of the Cross, including Golgotha and Christ’s tomb.Via Dolorosa - Walking along the same route Jesus took, bearing his cross to Calvary, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Follow the stone-paved lanes through Jerusalem’s Old City, pausing at the Stations of the Cross.Church of All Nations - You can’t miss the stunning golden mosaic on the facade of this church. Also known as the Basilica of Agony, this holy site is on the Mount of Olives, alongside the Garden of Gethsemane.Dormition Abbey - This impressive abbey and church, stands on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls. It is one of the largest and most beautiful Christian sites in Jerusalem.Garden Tomb - Protestant tradition holds that the rock-cut tomb in this serene garden is Christ’s burial site. Join a Jerusalem tour to visit the sacred tomb.Dominus Flevit - This is one of the most important Christian landmarks on the Mount of Olives. From here there are stunning views of the Old City, and it’s easy to imagine Jesus looking out over the city as he wept.Mount of Olives - The Mt. of Olives is a highlight for all visitors to Jerusalem, and it is home to several sacred sites. Tour the churches on the Mount of Olives, including the Pater Noster Church and the Chapel of the Ascension.The Lush Green Galilee’s Must-See Christian SitesTake a trip through the picturesque scenery of northern Israel, to the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus spent his ministry, going from village to village, teaching the word of God. It is also where he recruited his apostles and where Jesus performed unforgettable miracles like walking on water.Aerial view of Capernaum. Photo credit: © ShutterstockCapernaum -This ancient fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus based himself during his ministry. Discover the religious and historical treasures of Capernaum, starting with an ancient synagogue where Christ may have preached.Church of Annunciation - One of the most sacred Israel holy sites is the Church of Annunciation. It marks the spot where the Angel Gabriel told Mary of her future son, the Messiah. The church is in Nazareth, a popular stop on Christian Galilee tours.Jordan River Baptismal Site (Yardenit) - Christian pilgrims often stop at Yardenit, to be baptized in the Jordan River. Grab the opportunity to be baptized in the same river where John baptized Jesus.Church of the Multiplication - When you visit Tabgha, you can stand where Jesus shared the loaves and fish among the multitudes. It is easy to picture the Biblical scene that took place at this sacred site by the Sea of Galilee.Mount of Beatitudes - From here there are breathtaking views across the Sea of Galilee. The magnificent Church of the Beatitudes is rivaled only by the views from the mount.The Wedding Church - Learn how Jesus attended a wedding in Cana and turned water into wine. Israel Christian tours of the Galilee stop at the Wedding Church, which was built to commemorate the miracle that took place here.Magdala - Walk among the remains of this ancient city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and be transported back in time to when Magdala was a Biblical fishing town and home to Mary Magdalene.Visit Bethlehem, Where Christianity Was BornKids all over the world learn about the night before Christmas and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Join a guided tour of this iconic city, and see for yourself where Christ was born. With a Bethlehem tour, you can sit back and relax while your guide takes care of all the details and gets you safely, and conveniently to the most sacred places in Bethlehem.Basilica of theNativity.Photo credit: © ShutterstockNativity Church - Standing in front of the Holy Grotto where Christ was born, is an emotional moment for Christians. Travelers on to Israel say that the Nativity Church is one of their most memorable experiences.Shepherds’ Fields - Imagine those shepherds, 2,000 years ago, watching their sheep at night, on the first Christmas Eve in Israel. Christian tours pass by Shepherds’ Fields en route to Bethlehem.Milk Grotto -This unforgettable Israel holy site is where Mary nursed baby Jesus. The small, peaceful grotto, hollowed out from white stone, is the perfect place for a moment’s reflection.Church of St. Catherine - Discover the underground crypts beneath the church and see where Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve.The church stands where Jesus had his apparition of St. Catherine and foresaw her future martyrdom.Manger Square - Close your eyes for a moment and be transported back 2,000 years to when the Holy family arrived at the Bethlehem inn in the middle of the night. Surrounding Manger Square are ancient churches.Jericho - A Hidden GemCheck out one of the oldest cities in Israel. In the well-known biblical story, Joshua marches his troops around the walls of Jericho until they fall. And Jesus passed through Jericho performing several miracles on the way. Jericho is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, near the Dead Sea. The quickest, safest, and easiest way to visit Jericho, is with a guided tour. Sign-up today for a tour of Jericho to make your trip stress-free.Qasr Al-Yehud.Photo credit: © ShutterstockQasr Al-Yehud - Not far from Jericho is the Jordan River and the site of Christ’s baptism by John. Take advantage of the opportunity to be baptized at this sacred location.If you’ve dreamed of seeing where Jesus lived, or if you’re just curious, now is the time to book an Israel Christian tour. Come and explore the biblical sites of the Promised Land.
By Petal Mashraki

The Complete Two Week Israel Tour Itinerary

You’ve decided to visit Israel, that’s great! Now you need to plan your itinerary and the Israel tours you want to take. To cover all of Israel’s stunning sites from north to south you literally need to live here, but no panic, we have prepared a two-week Israel tour itinerary for you to enjoy the musts. The Holy Land is steeped with ancient history. There is a biblical landmark at every turn, and delicious Mediterranean food to tempt your taste buds in every city. This small yet vibrant country will surprise you with a holistic traveling experience.These are our recommendations for the Israel gems to visit and the top activities Israel has to offer.The Wailing Wall. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 1: Welcome to IsraelAfter landing in Israel, spend your first day settling in and exploring Tel Aviv. Use this free day to see a local show, take a walk in Yarkon Park, or relax on Tel Aviv’s stunning beaches that stretch for 14km. Tel Aviv has excellent markets and some world-class museums. Indulge in a delicious meal at one of Tel Aviv’s top chef restaurants or discover the local street food. On your first day in Israel, you could take a short excursion to nearby attractions, like the Ramat Gan Zoo, or the marina in Herzliya. At the southernmost point of Tel Aviv’s coastline is the old port city of Jaffa. Here you can wander the narrow stone alleyways, discover one-off art galleries, hunt for bargains in the Jaffa flea market, or take in the sea views.Overnight: Tel AvivZodiac Signs Fountain, Jaffa. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinDay 2: Tel Aviv City TourThere is no better way to get to know a city than on two wheels. Today, join a Tel Aviv Bike Tour for an urban adventure. Cycle through Tel Aviv’s well-known streets and see some of the hidden gems. The bike tour takes you to Tel Aviv Port, a vibrant repurposed space for recreation and entertainment. Ride your bike along Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade, and through the scenic Yarkon Park. Your guide will point out top landmarks, cultural sites, and some of the city’s famous Bauhaus buildings. You’ll see Rabin Square where Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated, and ride along chic Rothschild Boulevard. After today’s bike tour, you’ll know Tel Aviv’s back alleys as well as its most famous streets and monuments.Overnight: Tel AvivOptional tours for this day:Jaffa Flea Market tour, Graffiti and Street Art TourSee allTel Aviv toursTel Aviv Beach Promenade. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinDay 3: Highlights of Israel’s Coastal PlainToday is spent visiting some of the top tourist attractions along Israel’s Mediterranean coast. If you prefer comfort and hassle-free travel, this Caesarea, Acre, and Rosh Hanikra Guided Group Tour will be a smart choice. You will visit the ancient Roman ruins in Caesarea, and see the perfectly preserved Roman amphitheater. About 2,000 years ago, Herod the Great built an incredible port city at Caesarea. Nowadays, the Caesarea Archaeological Park holds the remains of a palace, bathhouse, hippodrome, and Roman temples. The next stop is the Old City of Acre. Walk through Acre’s traditional Middle Eastern market and see Ottoman-era structures like the exquisite Al-Jazzar Mosque. Admire the undergroundCrusader city built by the Knights Templar. Continue to the northernmost point on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Take a cable car down into the breathtaking limestone sea caves of Rosh HaNikra, and see waves crashing against openings in the rock.Overnight: Tel AvivOptional tours for this day:Acre and the Western Galilee Private Tour,The Carmel Coast and Druze Village Private TourSee allCaesarea Tours Rosh Hanikra caves. Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinDay 4: Highlights of the GalileeLeave Tel Aviv and travel north to the heavenly countryside of Galilee. Start your trip in Christ’s childhood hometown, Nazareth. If you join an organizedNazareth and Sea of Galilee Touryou will have a chance tovisit the magnificent Annunciation Church(the place where the Angel Gabriel told Mary of her future son) with a guide who will share its amazing history with you. In the crypt of St. Joseph’s Church, you will see the traditional site of Joseph’s carpentry and the Holy family home. Leaving Nazareth, continue toCana, where Jesus turned water into wine and the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Stop to see the excavated home of Saint Peter at Capernaum. And visit nearby Tabgha, the site of the Church of the Multiplication. Drive along the shore of the Sea of Galilee past Tiberias, a major city established in 20BC. Don't forget to make a stop where the Sea of Galilee meets the Jordan River, at the well-known baptismal site of Yardenit.Overnight: Galilee Kibbutz hotelOptional tours for this day:Sea of Galilee, Cana, Magdala & Mt. of Beatitudes Tour, Mt. Tabor, Tsipori, Beit Shearim Private TourSee allGalilee and Golan Heights toursSt. Joseph's Church, Nazareth. Photo credit:©Dmitry MishinDay 5: Golan Heights Tour from Tel AvivTravel to the Golan Heights mountain range which forms a natural border between Syria and Israel. The mountains are covered with woodlands, vineyards, farms, and quaint villages. YourGolan Heights tour takes you through picturesque scenery, past Hamat Gader hot springs, and to the Shalom Observatory. From here, you can see Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Make the next stop at Katzrin, a settlement known as the “Capital of the Golan.” Explore Katzrin’s ancient synagogue and excavated 3rd to 6th-century Jewish village. Visit Katzrin’s Golan Antiquities Museum and learn about the nearby Second Temple Era city of Gamla. Continue along the Golan Heights to Mount Bental. Once a Syrian outpost, this historical site still has trenches and bunkers from the 1967 Six-Day War. Throughout your tour of the Golan, you will have stunning views across Galilee.Overnight: JerusalemOptional tours for this day:Golan Heights Private Tour,Golan Heights, and Safed TourSee allGalilee and Golan One Day Group toursGolan Heights. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 6: Free Day in JerusalemThis is a free day to explore Jerusalem. You can visit the famous Mahane Yehuda Market, or maybe wander the lanes of Jerusalem’s Old City. If you love finding hidden gems, then visit the Montefiore Windmill, the American Colony Hotel, or the Museum on the Seam. Do some shopping in the huge Malcha Mall, the chic Mamilla Mall, or the Old City bazaar.Ein Kerem is one of Jerusalem’s most beautiful neighborhoods where stone houses drip with bougainvillea and quaint cottages have been turned into restaurants and art galleries. Ein Kerem is the traditional hometown of Saint John the Baptist, and this village within a city has several impressive churches. You might decide to use your free day to relax, or even go hiking in one of the spectacular nature reserves around Jerusalem.Overnight: JerusalemJerusalem market. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinDay 7: Full-Day Jerusalem TourOn day seven of this Israel tour itinerary, we recommend seeing the highlights of Jerusalem. Start with a view of Jerusalem’s cityscape from Mount Scopus. Next, enter the Old City and explore the top attractions (better with a guided Jerusalem tour) including the excavated ancient Roman Cardo, and the Western Wall. The wall (or Kotel) was once part of the Jewish Temple that stood on Temple Mount and is the most sacred Jewish site in the world. In the Christian Quarter, follow the iconic Via Dolorosa, as Jesus did when he walked towards Golgotha. The Via Dolorosa ends at the Holy Sepulcher Church, which is always a highlight for Christian travelers. This breathtaking 4th-century structure encompasses the final Stations of the Cross, including the site of Christ’s crucifixion, and His burial tomb. Leaving the Old City, the tour takes you for a drive through modern-day Jerusalem past important landmarks. The final stop on today’s tour is at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.Overnight: JerusalemOptional toursfor this day:In the Footsteps of Jesus Tour,Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock TourSee allJerusalem toursVia Dolorosa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 8: Visit the West BankVisit Bethlehem and Jericho from Jerusalem - better with a West Bank Tourthat will take you through the Judean Hills and past the Inn of the Good Samaritan. On route, you’ll see the Monastery of Saint George clinging to the cliffs of Wadi Kelt. Visit the biblical city of Jericho, built in c.8,000BC. According to the Book of Joshua, the Israelites made the walls of Jericho fall by marching around the city for seven days. The tour stops at the famous sycamore tree climbed by Zacchaeus who was trying to get a better view of Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). Leaving Jericho, continue to Bethlehem where the first stop is at Manger Square. Here you can enter the 4th-century Church of the Nativity and see the Holy Grotto where Christ was born. For Christian tourists, this is usually the most emotional part of the trip. Also visit the Church of Saint Catherine, where the annual Christmas Eve Mass is held. The return journey to Jerusalem takes you past Shepherds’ Field, where the shepherds received the news of Christ’s birth on the first Christmas Eve.Overnight: JerusalemOptional toursfor this day:Bethlehem Half Day Tour,Jericho, Dead Sea, and the Jordan River TourSee all West Bank toursNativity Church, Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 9: Masada and the Dead Sea from JerusalemOn day nine, head to one of the most popular destinations in Israel - to southern Israel. The first stop is at Masada, a flat-topped mountain, where King Herod built a fortress over 2,000 years ago. You can ride the cable car to the summit and tour the remains of Herod’s fortress. If you choose to join a Masada guided tour,your guide will tell you the moving story of Jewish rebels who made the last stand against the Romans in the 70AD Jewish-Roman War. The archaeological remains on Masada are incredible, and the views overlooking the Dead Sea are unforgettable. The second half of the day is spent at the Dead Sea; a bucket list item for most tourists. This unique body of water is nine times saltier than the ocean and packed with minerals. You’ll get time to relax on the beach, float in the water, and smother your skin with Dead Sea mud for a natural facial.Overnight: Ein BokekOptional toursfor this day:Full-Day Masada Private Tour,The Dead Sea Relaxation TourSee allMasada and Dead Sea Day ToursThe Dead Sea. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 10: Free Day on the Shore of the Dead Sea (Ein Bokek)One day isn’t enough to indulge in the delights of the Dead Sea. So, use this leisure day to spend more time lazing on the beach, getting a beauty treatment at one of the Dead Sea spas, or exploring the surrounding area. Nearby is the Ein Gedi desert oasis with lush vegetation, idyllic streams, and waterfalls. Other attractions in the Dead Sea region include Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered and the salt caves of Sodom.Overnight: Ein BokekThe Dead Sea Spa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 11: Free Day in EilatToday we recommend you to leave the Dead Sea and travel further south to Israel’s most popular beach city, Eilat. If you ask any Israeli where they’d like to spend their vacation the answer will be Eilat. This seaside resort on the shore of the Red Sea offers all the indulgent pleasures you’d expect from a top resort destination. Try watersports, dive among the coral reefs, or even swim with dolphins. Eilat is a tax-free city, so everything is cheaper! There are several excellent malls, including the Ice Mall, which has an ice rink in the center. A free day means time on the Coral beach, shopping, and maybe a camel ride. End the day with a sunset cruise, and a sumptuous fish dinner. Eilat is also known for its beach bars, laid-back atmosphere, and dynamic nightlife.Overnight: EilatEilat. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 12: Petra Tour from EilatAs part of this complete Israel tour itinerary, you also need to see Jordan’s top attraction - the ancient city of Petra, probably, better with an organized 1-day tour to Petra.Start day twelve early with a drive across the Arava border to the Kingdom of Jordan. Thousands of years ago the Nabataean people created Petra as a desert oasis that became a prosperous stop along the ancient Arabian trade routes. The buildings, ornately decorated temples, and tombs of Petra were carved out of red rock cliffs. Take a walk along Petra’s colonnaded main street, and be amazed by the rock facades that tower above you. On the return journey to Eilat, you’ll travel through Wadi Rum, a desert wilderness made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. There may be time for a brief panoramic tour of Jordan’s Red Sea city, Aqaba before returning to Eilat.Overnight: EilatOptional tours for this day:Petra One Day Tour, Small Group,Petra and Wadi Rum, 2 Days TourSee all Jordan tours from EilatPetra. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 13: Timna, Mitzpe RamonToday leave Eilat and travel north through the heart of southern Arava, to Timna Park. Historical archaeological sites and unique geological features cover Timna’s unique landscape. The park is best known for its strange natural rock formations created millions of years ago by tectonic activity when the Great Rift Valley was formed. Timna is home to the world’s earliest copper mines which were used over 6,000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians. At the heart of the park is Timna Lake where there are tourist facilities and activities. After an exhilarating day, the tour continues north to Tel Aviv passed Mitzpe Ramon, a town perched on the edge of the incredible Ramon Crater.The 40km-long crater was formed by natural erosion, over 220 million years ago. Standing on the rim of the crater and looking out across the Negev Desert is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.Overnight:Tel AvivMountain goat in Mitzpe Ramon. Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichDay 14: Tel-Aviv-Your Last Day in Israel, Free Day and DepartureWhat an experience! On your last day in Israel, you can relax in your Tel Aviv hotel and reflect on the Israel tours that have taken you from one end of the country to the other. Pack your bags at your leisure, and prepare to head off to Ben Gurion airport. Depending on the time of your flight, you might want to buy last-minute souvenirs or gifts for the family. Use this day to visit any places you still want to see, enjoy the Tel Aviv beaches, explore the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, or tour the Carmel market. Then, it's time to head off to Ben Gurion Airport and begin your journey home.Carmel Market. Photo credit:© Dmitry MishinIf you wish to cover the majority of these sites in Israel, go ahead and book aclassical 10-day Israel tour. If you are interested in visiting Jordan as well, check thisIsrael and Jordan Tour Package, 12 Days.You can see the country’s top attractions without having to worry about transportation, open hours, or hotel bookings. You’ll have a mix of free days to explore, and tour days with a knowledgeable guide to show you the sites. With this tour itinerary, you can see the entire country.
By Petal Mashraki

What is the Best Month to Go to Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is a fantastic travel destination at any time of year, but each season has its own special charm. In summer, the weather is great, there are special attractions, plus high-season crowds and prices. Fall (autumn) has the Jewish High Holidays. In winter Jerusalem is magical, and what could be better than visiting Bethlehem for a white Christmas. Spring is considered the best time for Jerusalem tours, as the weather is pleasant and there are tons of activities to choose from over the Easter/Passover period.Visiting Jerusalem in Summer (Average Temp 19°-29°C/66.2°-84.2°F)The advantage of a summer vacation in Jerusalem is the warm weather, vibrant atmosphere, fun festivals, and all the city attractions are open. The downside is the heat that can be uncomfortable, high-season hotel prices, and the crowds of tourists. Israeli schools close for July and August, making these the busiest months in Jerusalem.June - Summer in Israel officially starts on the 21st of June and lasts until the 22nd of September. June is the coolest of the summer months. And Israeli kids are still in school, so you can enjoy fewer crowds. The Israel Festival is held in June, with three weeks of performances around the city. In June, you can also catch the spectacular Jerusalem Festival of Light, when light installations are projected on the ancient Old City walls.July - As summer progresses, Jerusalem can experience extremely dry, hot weather, known as khamsin. Thankfully, there are plenty of Jerusalem attractions where you can cool down. For example, the City of David & Underground Jerusalem Tour takes you below ground into the excavated City of David. You can also cool down with a walk through ancient water channels to the Siloam Pool. When the sun goes down, the temperatures drop, and it’s time to relax at the Jerusalem Wine Festival.August - This is the peak tourist season when hotel prices are at their highest, Israeli kids are out of school, and the city streets are bustling with activity. The high season brings with it a huge choice of activities, Jerusalem tours, and festivals. The International Film Festival, the Puppet Theater Festival, and the Jerusalem Beer Festival are all held in August. Despite the crowds and the heat, for some tourists, August is the most convenient time to visit Jerusalem and offers the largest selection of activities.Tourists on a Jerusalem Tour. Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinVisiting Jerusalem in Fall (Average Temp 12°-28°C/53.6°-82.4°F)Jerusalem has perfect weather in the fall, and fewer crowds. Nature-lovers can enjoy fall foliage in the nature reserves around Jerusalem. The disadvantage of visiting Jerusalem in the fall is that you need to plan your trip according to the Jewish High Holidays. During the High Holidays, Jerusalem hotels prices rise, there are shorter open hours, and a few national holidays when the city closes down. The Jewish holidays are a bonus for visitors who want to experience a genuine Jewish celebration.September - Summer often extends into September, with daily temperatures hovering around 22°C/72°F-28°C/82°F. The dates of the High Holidays are determined by the Jewish calendar, so they can be in September or October. In the Jewish month of Tishrei, there is Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year); ten days later there is Yom Kippur (Day of atonement), and five days after that is Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), a week-long celebration. Israel observes Rosh Hashanah and the first and last days of Sukkot as religious national holidays when almost all attractions close. On Yom Kippur, the country closes down completely for 24 hours, obviously, no Israel tours are operated then. There is hardly any traffic on the roads and almost all businesses are closed. In the week of Sukkot, Israeli kids are on vacation and there are tons of special events. If you plan to visit Israel during September book your flight well in advance, as Israel welcomes masses of Jewish tourists during this period. Probably the best solution not to get lost in the chaos of the Old City labyrinth crammed full with tourists would be to join a guided Jerusalem tour. Rosh Hashana decoration in the Old City, Jerusalem. Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinOctober - The temperatures cool down, evenings become chilly, and there can be several days of rain in October. The Manofim Contemporary Arts Festival is held in October. Depending on the Jewish calendar, Sukkot can be in October, and you can enjoy special events like the Jerusalem March. Outside of the High Holidays, Jerusalem hotel prices are low and together with the comfortable weather, this can be a good time to visit Jerusalem. You can explore the Jewish Quarterand admire the traditional festive decorations with Jerusalem Old City Private Jewish Tour.November - By November, winter is in the air, and the nights are cold but days are still sunny with average daytime temperatures around 15°C/59°F-19°C/66°F. This is great for sightseeing if you prefer cooler temperatures and don’t mind the occasional rain. From the last days of October, through to the end of November, Jerusalem’s Old City hosts a magnificent Knights’ Festival. The streets are decorated with medieval pageantry, and stages are set up for shows of jousting, puppets, light installations, and more. This is one of the top annual family events in Jerusalem. This would probably be the best month for awalking In the Footsteps of Jesus TourThe Jerusalem Knights Festival. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinVisiting Jerusalem in Winter (Average Temp 6°-14°C/42.8°-57.2°F)Don’t rule out a trip to Jerusalem in winter, you might even be lucky enough to have a white Christmas. In winter, Israel celebrates Hannukah, the Jewish festival of light, and Jerusalem’s streets are decorated for the occasion. Christian pilgrims should take a tour to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Winter is the best time for budget travelers to visit the capital when hotel prices are at their lowest.December - December temperatures in Jerusalem average between 6°C/43°F and 14°C/57°F. The weather can be unpredictable and in the past has reached 29°C/83°F as well as -1°C/30°F! December is the month with the highest likelihood of snow. The Jewish Film Festival and Jerusalem Jazz Festival are held in December. During the week-long Hanukkah holiday, Israeli kids are on vacation, and all attractions stay open. Hanukkah is characterized by candelabras displayed in the windows of all Jewish households, and delicious jam doughnuts sold on every street corner! Christmas is celebrated with moving religious services in the city’s churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A highlight for most Christian touristsis attending a midnight Mass in Bethlehem onChristmas Eve in Bethlehem Tour. New Year is celebrated in Jerusalem with parties in nightclubs, and restaurants.Christmas Tree in Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockJanuary - Although January is Jerusalem’s coldest month, it is still mild compared to climates in other parts of the world. Temperatures hover around 12°C and can even get as low as 4°C. January has an average of nine days of rain. Israeli Arbor Day (Tu b’Shvat) is marked by events and tours celebrating nature. This is the best season to try Israel’s famous citrus fruit, which comes into season in winter. If you want a laid-back, quiet trip, visit Jerusalem in January when there are fewer crowds and lower hotel rates.February- By February the weather has warmed up and most of the month you can expect clear skies with a chill in the air, and an average of eight days of rain. It has been known to snow in January and February (including in 2021). During the four-week-long Shaon Horef Festival, Jerusalem streets come alive with exciting cultural events. February is a great time to explore the surrounding area and see blooming wildflowers at the Darom Adom (Red South) festival in northern Negev. If you travel south from Jerusalem in winter, be aware of flash floods and sinkholes that can happen in the Dead Sea region when there is heavy rain. Consider that when planning a tour to Masada or traveling to Ein Gedi.Church of the Holy Sepulchre in winter. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinVisiting Jerusalem in Spring (Average Temp 9°-25°C/48.2°-77°F)Together with fall, spring is one of the best times to visit Jerusalem. The weather is perfect for sightseeing. Spring is a time of festive celebrations including Purim, Passover, and Easter. Spring is not considered the high season (except for Easter week and Passover week), so you may find some special hotel deals and low-cost flights.March - As Jerusalem shakes off the last of the winter's cold, spring can be felt in the air. March is the coldest of the spring months in Jerusalem, with an average of 6 days of rainfall. You can visit the Jerusalem Arts Festival in March, see the Jerusalem Marathon, and enjoy the colorful Purim celebrations. The Jewish festival of Purim is celebrated with fancy dress costumes, parties, and parades.Guide on a Jerusalem Old and New Tour operated by Bein Harim. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinApril - The weather begins to warm up, and although the nights are chilly, the days are perfect for outdoor excursions. Towards the end of March or the beginning of April, Christians celebrate Easter. Tourists can take the Jerusalem Palm Sunday Procession Tour, and join the traditional procession from the Mount of Olives following the route Jesus took when he entered Jerusalem.Easter services are held in the magnificent Holy Sepulchre Church and Baptists head for the Garden Tomb to mark the resurrection of Christ.Passover is celebrated in late March or early April. Most businesses are closed on the national religious holidays at the beginning and end of the week-long Passover holiday. During Passover, Israeli kids are on vacation, and there is a festive atmosphere with plenty of activities. But it also means a week when bread, and other baked goods, are not sold in most Israeli stores.The Palm Sunday Procession, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Jenny Ehrlich May- As Jerusalem eases into summer, the temperatures average 25°C during the day and 16°C at night. The comfortable weather makes May the perfect time to explore the rural areas around Jerusalem and even take anexcursion to the Dead Sea. During spring the countryside is covered with a carpet of colorful wildflowers. And it is great weather for picnics in the park.In May, Muslim tourists can join the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations in Jerusalem. The end of Ramadan is marked by feasts of delicious Middle Eastern delicacies and communal prayer in Jerusalem mosques, including theAl-Aqsa MosqueonTemple Mount. On Jerusalem Day, the city is festooned with decorations and flags. In late April or early May, the country celebrates Israel Independence Day with street parties, pop-up markets, and colorful firework displays.Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockWhen Should You Visit Jerusalem?Jerusalem is a great place to visit at any time of year; each season has its advantages and disadvantages. If you want a cool climate and likelihood of snow, with all the fun of the festive season visit in winter. For time outdoors in the sun, with high-season crowds and prices, visit Jerusalem in the summer. If you’d like to catch some special deals, explore the surrounding areas, and see Jerusalem without crowds, then you should visit in spring or fall. Plan your Jerusalem vacation today, book Jerusalem tours, and no matter whenever you visit, you won’t be disappointed.Tourist at the roof of Austrian Hospice enjoying the view of the Old City, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Petal Mashraki

Holidays in Israel - A Short Guide to What, When and Why?

The Jewish calendar has a surprising number of holidays and they are observed today in Israel in a wide variety of ways. Whilst some of the population are more observant of religious tradition than others, there is a cultural element even to the most solemn holidays and, across Israel, you will find families and communities coming together to celebrate them in their own different ways.Pomegranates, traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit. Photo byDelfina IacubonUnsplashIn the Home, in Schools and in the Street….Celebrations!Holidays in Israel aren’t just celebrated in the synagogues either - in the home, families raise glasses to them, in schools children learn about them and in the streets, people dance to celebrate them. Such holidays are woven into the fabric of everyday life, and it’s worth remembering that many of them have been practiced for over 2,000 years! Each one has its own traditions and special quirks and here’s a short overview of what they are, when they happen, and why Israelis love them so much…Shabbat, the Day of RestThe Jewish Shabbat is celebrated weekly and always begins on a Friday night (when dusk falls). It is just as important as any other holy day in the festival calendar and, many argue, the cornerstone of Jewish tradition. Jews who observe Shabbat diligently will not use electricity, write, travel other than by foot, and will spend the day at prayer, eating celebratory meals (including the famous Friday night dinner), and resting.The Jewish Shabbat, as a tradition, is observed in homes across Israel (whether religious or not) with families coming together to catch up after their hectic weeks. If you are invited to one, you are sure to enjoy it.Traditional Shabbat Challah. Photo byEvgeni TcherkasskionUnsplashRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New YearRosh Hashanah (in Hebrew, literally, ‘Head of the Year’) celebrates the Jewish New Year and is a joyous festival. The festivities include prayers at synagogue (where a shofar - ram’s horn - is blown), a large meal (including challah bread and apples dipped in honey - to symbolize the hope for a sweet new year), and - in Israel - the exchanging of gifts. The ancient ceremony of ‘tashlich’ is carried out on the first afternoon - it is traditional to go to the sea, or any body of water, and throw breadcrumbs or pebbles in - this symbolizes the ‘casting away’ of one’s sins. For religious Jews, all of this is a chance for ‘spiritual renewal and great contemplation. Indeed, the days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and culminating in Yom Kippur (see below) are known in Hebrew as the ‘Yamim Noraim’ - the Days of Awe.Apples and honey, traditional Rosh Hashana treat. Photo byVladimir GladkovonUnsplashYom Kippur, ‘Day of Atonement'Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar and, in Israel, all life comes to a standstill. Every business and school is closed, airplanes do not take off or land, and the streets are deserted by cars. Religious Jews will fast for 25 hours (no food and no water), wear white, and spend large parts of the time in synagogue, praying for forgiveness from God for their personal sins. According to Jewish belief, this is the day in which God will pass judgment on every individual for the coming year - so it is seen as a chance to repent and ask for a chance of forgiveness. Less observant Israelis take the opportunity to enjoy the silence, in the streets and highways or simply sit at home, quietly, with a book. It really is astonishing to be in Israel at this time and watch the entire country grind to a halt.Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv. Photo byYoav AzizonUnsplashSukkot, ‘The Festival of Tabernacles’Another fun festival, especially for children, is Sukkot which follows Yom Kippur and lasts 7 days. Historically, it was one of the three pilgrimage festivals where the Israelites were commanded to travel to the Temple. Today, Israelis celebrate by building a succah - a temporary, free-standing structure with three walls which they decorate with palm leaves. It is traditional to eat meals inside and decorate the interior with the ‘four species’ (four different plants, mentioned in the Torah). These are a lulav, etrog, hadass, and aravah. At the synagogue, people walk around carrying these four plants and recite special prayers known as ‘Hoshanot’. In Israel, families often take vacation time and travel around the country there are many attractions, concerts, and activities for kids to enjoy.A man holding etrog. Photo byEsther WechsleronUnsplashSimchat Torah, Rejoicing of the TorahSimchat Torah immediately follows Sukkot and is a festival of unbridled joy. Jews dance around the synagogue holding Torah scrolls, to mark the reading cycle of these holy manuscripts, and, in Israel, it is common to see Israelis dancing in the street. This is a major religious holiday so, like Shabbat, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, religious Jews will not work, drive or watch TV.Hanukkah,‘Festival of Lights’Hanukkahis celebrated in the winter and commemorates the ‘miracle of the oil’ at the time of the Second Temple. It lasts for eight days and each night, candles are lit on a special candelabrum (similar to a menorah). Two special foods that are eaten are latkes and sufganiyot. Latkes are potato pancakes, fried and served either with apple sauce or sour cream. Hanukkiyah, the Hanukkah Menorah. Photo byElement5 DigitalonUnsplashSufganiyot are donuts with jelly inside (although, in the last few years, all kinds of creations have hit the bakeries in Israel, including those with creme patisserie and chocolate inside!) Children spin a ‘dreidel’ (a toy with Hebrew letters on the side) and it is traditional to give them ‘gelt’ (chocolate money) and small gifts. Truly, a holiday loved by kids and dreaded by adults for the weight that can be put on!Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for TreesThis holiday of tree planting for trees is fun for all the family but especially young children. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL or the Jewish National Fund) was established in 1901 and to this day remains committed to developing the land by planting trees.Fun fact: Israel is one of the few nations in the world that began the 21st century with more trees than it had 100 years previously. KKL is committed to sustainable forest management and planting greenery in arid parts of the country. Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, is also a huge advocate of tree planting, and the boulevards, like Rothschild, are testimony to his commitment.Olive trees in Latrun.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinPurim, the Feast of LotsPurim commemorates the bravery of Esther who saved the Jews of Persia from being wiped out. It is a festival of enormous merriment in Israel and it is a great tradition both for children and adults to dress up and attend parties. Jews also attend synagogue in costume, where they read from the Book of Esther and shout and boo at the name of ‘Haman’ (Esther’s enemy) and drink a lot of wine! Attending an adloyada (carnival parade) is a wonderful tradition, as is the eating of ‘Hamantaschen’ cookies (triangle-shaped, to look like ears) filled with poppy seeds. Religious Jews also send ‘mishloach manot’ (baskets of food) to family, friends, and charities.Yom haAtzmaut, Independence DayYom haAtzmaut is a fantastic national holiday, loved by all Israelis, it celebrates Israel’s independence day. The evening kicks off with torch lighting in Jerusalem and fireworks displays all over the country. There are parties that continue late into the night and the following day, it’s a time-honored tradition to attend a barbeque and eat until you can’t move! If you’re at the shoreline at around midday, make sure to watch the flyovers that the Israeli Air Force carry out - their daring skills bring shouts of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from every child who dreams of becoming a pilot!Israeli flag over Masada Fortress. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Eight-Day Festival of PassoverThis joyous festival falls in the spring (March/April) in Israel and commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Israel, who fled slavery under the laws of the cruel Pharaoh. It is a real holiday of freedom and loved by everyone. It is traditional at this time of the year to hold a ‘seder’ (in Hebrew ‘Order’) where the ‘Haggadah’ book is read, recounting the story of the Jews flight, including the miraculous parting of the waves of the Red Sea. At Passover, bakeries in Israel close because it is a religious commandment to eat only ‘matzah’ (unleavened bread) for the holiday. This lets Jews remember that their ancestors fled Egypt in such haste that their bread had no time to rise. In the Haggadah, the matzah is called ‘the Bread of Affliction’ but the festival is also a reminder of liberty and the fact that, after 2,000 years, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jews became a free people in their own landThe Read Sea. Photo byFrancesco UngaroonUnsplashShavuotShavuot, ‘Festival of Weeks’, falls seven weeks after Passover. It is a pilgrimage holiday that marks the end of the spring harvest and also the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai and is much loved in Israel. It is traditional to eat dairy produce (Israelis love to serve cheesecakes and blintzes) and wear white clothing, with flowers. Shavuot is celebrated in earnest on the kibbutz, with the tradition of ‘bringing forth the first fruit’. Historically, this was an opportunity for the farmers to display their achievements, after a year of hard work in the fields. Today, families take their children there to enjoy the produce, and youngsters often even have a chance to ride a tractor! Cheesecake, a traditional treat for Shavuot.Photo byChinh Le DuconUnsplashTu b’Av, the Israeli Version of Valentine's DayCelebrated as the ‘Day of Love’ this is the ‘kosher’ alternative to Valentine’s Day! In ancient times, young Jewish men and women would go out, dressed in white, and dance in the vineyards of Judea. Early zionist writers (such as Y.L Gordon and Mapu) tried to breathe new life into the tradition, but Tu B’Av didn’t really catch on again until the 1990s when merchants in Israel suddenly realized the economic benefits of selling flowers and chocolates!Where’s the Best Place to Spend Some of These Holidays?The other good question is where in Israel should you try to be over some of these holidays, in фorder to get the most of the experience? Well, at Purim, there are parties all over the country but don’t miss the opportunity to see an adloyada. These ‘carnivals’ are so much fun, with floats, music, and dancing. The two most popular take place in Holon (near Tel Aviv) and Sde Boker, in the Negev desert. If you’re in Israel over ‘the Day of Love’ then why not take a romantic escape to a guesthouse in the Galilee, wander in a nature reserve (Banias or Tel Dan), or simply watch the sun go down on Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean coastline, before enjoying a good meal?Banias Nature Reserve, Golan Heights.Photo credit: © ShutterstockShabbat, of course, comes around weekly, and, after a short Friday night service at the synagogue, is celebrated in the home. Israelis are very hospitable so it’s quite possible you’ll be invited as a guest to someone’s home for a meal.There is also aGet Shabbatprogram running where you can be paired with a host family, and we’d highly recommend it. Most of the families are traditional and observe Shabbat customs, so you’ll see blessings made over candles, wine and bread too and really get a feel for the whole experience.For Passover, you’ll feel the spirit of freedom everywhere but, of course, if you want to see more of the religious traditions then head to Jerusalem, and in particular the Western Wall, for the ‘Birkat Kohanim’ (Priestly Blessing). In terms of being a tourist, the only day you really will be limited is Yom Kippur, so if you’re visiting at this time make preparations in advance (or with your Israeli tour operator) for a ‘day off.’ In the meantime, as we say in Hebrew ‘ Chag Sameach’ or ‘Happy Holiday!’Jerusalem Day Celebration at the Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo credit:©Western Wall Heritage Foundation
By Sarah Mann

Couples Vacation in Israel

Israel is a fantastic destination for a couples get-away, there is gorgeous countryside, exotic deserts, crystal clear sea, sandy beaches, romantic restaurants and many unique places to stay. Avoid the large hotels during the Israeli school holidays when Israeli families take over with screaming kids in tow. Stick to the smaller, intimate boutique hotels, B&BS and rural hideaways or the exclusive city hotels. Here are a selection of top romantic things to see, do and experience as a couple in Israel.Young couple on a beach. Photo by Toa Heftiba on UnsplashTop 10 Romantic Things to do in Israel. Where to Eat and Where to StayIsrael has so many small and intimate mamma and papa establishments that you are bound to discover your own favorite romantic restaurant. However, a few of the most famously romantic Israeli eateries include Cavalier, a French restaurant in Jerusalem; Zuni with its balcony seating in Jerusalem; Adora in Tel Aviv and Shiri Bistro in the quaint town of Rosh Pina. Aladin is a restaurant perched on the cliff of Old Jaffa with views of the sea and coastline all the way back to Tel Aviv. If you want to indulge yourselves then try Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is Herzliya. You will feel like you are walking into Charlie’s Chocolate Factory!A happy couple traveling. Photo byCarly Rae HobbinsonUnsplashTo find a secluded and intimate “zimmer” try searching on zimmeril.com where they list many romantic B&Bs where the room is a separate suite in the garden or surrounded by beautiful foliage. These zimmers are geared towards couples looking for some quality time along. They often have candles, a jacuzzi, soft lighting, chocolates, and wine to make the occasion even more romantic. Other renowned romantic hotels include the prestigious King David Hotel in Jerusalem overlooking the Old City; the French chateau-style romantic suites of Bayit Bagalil in the Upper Galilee and the Herods Hotel in Eilat.Romantic sunset with cocktails. Photo by Kaur Martin on Unsplash1. Spa Experience in IsraelIsrael-SPA-stone-massageIsraeli’s love spas! You will find a spa in every reputable hotel as well as spa treatments offered in the smallest of B&B. In every mall and on every high street there are day spas offering couple’s treatments which usually include an aromatic bath together, snacks and massages. Carmel Forest Spa Resort is the crème de la crème of Israeli spa experiences. Nestled in the greenery of Mount Carmel overlooking Haifa they offer indoor and outdoor pools and a myriad of pampering spa treatments. Israel also has a few hot spring resorts including Ramat Gader’s SpaVillage Hotel in the Golan Heights.Spa & Wellness Center.Photo byRaphael LovaskionUnsplash2. Wine Tasting in IsraelIsrael has over 80 wineries, some on the doorstep of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some of the wineries welcome guests without a prearranged appointment and others require a booking. The wineries offer tours and wine tastings. There are 5 main wine-making regions in this small country – Galilee-Golan, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills, and the Negev. Among the wineries which welcome visitors, there is the Neot Semadar Winery, Dishon River Winery, and the Agada Cheers Winery.3. Banias – The Garden of EdenIf you are the outdoor type take a trip to the Golan Heights and the Banias a natural spring surrounded by lush vegetation. This is said to have been the Garden of Eden. The Hermon Stream is within Banias National Reserve and there are marked routes for you to follow through the forests, over Roman bridges, passed Crusader ruins and ultimately you will reach the romantic Banias waterfall.Banias Nature Reserve, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats4. Desert Experience in IsraelIf you’re up for an adventure why not stay in a Bedouin tent overnight and enjoy true Bedouin hospitality in the desert. Kfar Hanokdim is one of the places where you can have a Bedouin desert experience which includes camel rides, meals, and overnight accommodation. If you are less keen on the overnight stay then you can always just go for an early morning or late night camel ride across the desert. Mitzpe Ramon is a romantic place to start your desert adventure. This elevated ridge overlooks the Ramon Crater, a magnificent sight that will take your breath away. You could stop just for the view or stay at one of the romantic hotels at Mitzpe Ramon.Camel Riding in the Negev, Israel.Photo byJames BallardonUnsplash5. Endless BeachesIsrael’s long Mediterranean Sea coast offers wide sandy beaches, some of which have lifeguards on duty and others which are more secluded. A few favorite beaches for lovers include Beit Yannai, Aqueduct Beach in Caesarea,and Dor Habonim beach. Take your loved one down to the beach to watch the sunset.6. Renew your VowsJerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Muslims, and Christians and it is home to so many exquisite churches. Why not find your favorite church and renew your vows.7. Shopping in JaffaThis one might be more for the women than the men but it can make a romantic outing. Jaffa is the site of an outdoor antique and junk market - Jaffa Flea Market. It is perfect for bargain hunters or newlyweds looking for unusual items for their new home. If you like shopping then you are not alone as Israeli’s love shopping. You will find many malls, stores, and markets across the country.Jaffa Flea Market. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin8. Eilat DivingEilat in general is a wonderful destination for couples; it has the beautiful translucent water of the Red Sea, luxury hotels, water sports, beaches, TAX-free shopping, attractions, spas, and even a mall with an ice rink in the middle. For something really special go on a diving excursion and explore the coral reefs together.9. Wohl Rose Garden JerusalemTake a romantic walk through this fragrant rose garden where there are more than 15,000 rose bushes and 400 varieties of roses. There are benches along the path where you can sit undisturbed and have a few romantic moments.10. Hot Air BallooningTake an early morning hot-air balloon ride from Kibbutz Ruhama over northern Negev. The company organizing the experience can provide breakfast or spirits for your romantic trip above the Holy Land. Hot air ballooning is a wonderful way to make your partner's birthday memorable. The flight will be nothing short of epic: you will see the sunrise, spot some wildlife, admire Israel from a unique perspective, enjoy mesmerizing sceneries, and drink champaign.To book a customized tour in Israel feel free to check our Private Tours.Hot air ballooning. Photo byFrancesco UngaroonUnsplash
By Petal Mashraki

What to Expect from Israel Weather

The short answer to “what to expect from Israel weather” is sunshine! The weather in Israel is generally hot, sunny and pleasant most of the year. If you are planning a trip to the Holy Land you probably won’t encounter any problem with the weather in Israel.From about April to October there is continual sunshine and from November to March the weather is cooler with occasional rain storms and cloudy days. December to February are the wet months and July and August are the hottest months. Tel Aviv has an average of 3300 sunshine hours a year.Tel Aviv, Haifa, Herzliya and Natanya WeatherAlong the west coast of Israel (Tel Aviv, Haifa, Natanya) the weather is hot and humid in the sunny months and mild and rainy in the winter. You can enjoy the sea breeze which helps to cool down the coast. The average temperature in Tel Aviv is about 14(°C)-18(°C)in January and 26(°C)-30(°C)in August, the country’s hottest month. The sea is warm enough for swimming from about June to November.Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth WeatherInland cities like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth which have elevated locations experience colder winters than the coast. The winter is still mild compared to Europe but it does get cold. In January and February the elevated cities and the Golan Heights mountain range can experience snow. The weather is particularly chilly in Jerusalem at night. During the hotter months of the year the inland cities do not have the same high level of humidity as the coast. Average temperatures in Jerusalem are about 6(°C)-12(°C)in January and 20(°C)-29(°C)in August.Israel Weather North and SouthThe weather in northern Israel is hot in the summer but the cooler months are similar to those in southern Europe. The mountain tops can be covered in snow and the rainfall allows for the thriving farmlands and vineyards. In Tiberius on the edge of the Sea of Galilee average temperatures are 8(°C)-17(°C)in January and 23(°C)-36(°C)in August.In the southern region of Israel there are dry deserts which experience harsh summers and hot winters spotted with heavy downpours. Summer is not the best time to visit southern Israel and the temperatures are unpleasantly hot. In Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city the best time to visit is not necessarily in the hottest months of July and August. You can enjoy a sunny beach holiday in Eilat in spring and autumn. Sunshine is virtually guaranteed year-round in the Dead Sea and Eilat regions. Average temperatures in Eilat are about 10?C-20?C in January and 26(°C)-38(°C)in August.SharavDuring the summer months Israel can experience heat waves, called “sharav” or “hamsin.” The air becomes dry and extremely hot as the wind blows in from the Egyptian desert. Temperatures can reach about 40(°C). The sharav usually ends with a down pour of rain which settles the heat and dust providing relief from the heat.When to Visit Israel and What to PackYou can enjoy a sunny holiday in Israel virtually year round. Just be prepared for cloudier days in the winter months and the occasional rain. No matter when you visit be sure to pack a light sweater, light jacket or sweat shirt for the cooler evenings. If you will be based in Jerusalem or the Golan Heights warmer evening clothes are even more important.
By Petal Mashraki
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