Perhaps known best for its rich religious history, it comes with little surprise that Israel has earned a reputation as a pilgrimage destination for many. However, what may come as a surprise to many travellers, is that beyond religious sightseeing, there is so much to experience, see and do in this small country.
Israel is home to a rare combination of good food, great people and a diverse list of must-see sites. So really, it doesn’t matter if it’s culture, faith or curiosity that has led you to Israel; once there, there are many attractions that you’ve just got to see. Unsure of where to start? We’ve put together this list of 8 must-see places you need to add to your Israel bucket list!
With a population of almost four million people in the greater Tel Aviv area, this Mediterranean beach city seems to have it all; from miles upon miles of city-side beaches, to friendly neighbourhoods, a lively art scene and a thriving nightlife that could rival New York and London. However, despite this, Israel’s second-largest city is often overlooked by most travellers, who head straight to the historical sites that the country is well known for.
Oozing with sophistication, the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv is Israel’s most modern city. While the city may be best known for its huge stretch of coastline (there are 13 beaches), we think the biggest drawcard that makes adding Tel Aviv to your Israel bucket list worthwhile, is the cuisine. Mixing both traditional Israeli cuisine with flavours from around the world, Tel Aviv’s culinary scene is quite like no other. To try some of the best foods on offer, we recommend heading to either the Carmel Market and Levinsky Market for tasty local street food.
Additionally, other activities that you won’t want to miss while in Tel Aviv include experiencing the city’s vibrant nightlife, and by day, exploring the plethora of museums and galleries available and wandering the streets of the ancient port of Jaffa.
Known as the ‘Holy City’ and with a history that dates back more than 5000 years, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and holds a significant place in three of the world’s major religions; Christianity, Juaism and Islam. Home to more than one million people, the city is a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike, and is a must-see, being home to so many sites of key religious significance, including the Western (Wailing) Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock.
The epicentre for three major religions, Israel is home to a lot of important shrines and pilgrimage destinations, including the Christian site of Bethlehem; the birthplace of Jesus. Within Bethlehem is the important Christian site of the Church of the Nativity, which is also one of the world’s oldest operating churches having been in operation since 333CE.
While many travellers visit Bethlehem as part of a day trip from Jerusalem, the town of Bethlehem itself is also a great destination to add to your Israel bucket list. Acting as an excellent location to base yourself out of for forays into the surrounding countryside, with its Byzantine monasteries and sites that are related to events shared in the New Testament.
Travel to Bethlehem and visit the Church of Nativity, which is built on the site traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Jesus, when you travel with Trafalgar on the Best of Israel tour.
Sea of Galilee
Whether you’re travelling to Israel on a faith-based journey, or are seeking an adventure jam-packed with diverse landscapes to traverse, the Sea of Galilee will cater to both. Packed with a variety of attractions, the shorelines that encompass the Sea of Galilee offer visitors with gorgeous countryside to explore, as well as in-depth history.
Known as the Sea of Galilee by Israelis, Lake Kinneret, is the site where Jesus is said to have walked on water. While here, you can also visit the churches of Tabgha, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and carried out most of his preaching.
Alternatively, the Sea of Galilee is also the perfect place to add to your Israel bucket list for soaking up in the hot pools near Tiberias, and embarking on some hikes in the beautiful region.
Home to just under 300,000 people and located in the north on Mount Carmel, is the relaxed port city of Haifa. Another must-see city to add to your Israel bucket list, the city’s history stretches back to the third century CE.
While in Haifa, be sure not to miss the UNESCO World Heritage Baha’i Gardens which are located in the city centre. The magical terraces of the Hanging Gardens of Haifa are a real beauty to behold. A memorial to the founders of the not-widely-known Baha’i faith, the gardens are a temple of their god, Bah. Whether you choose to visit the gardens to admire the view or learn about the faith, whatever you do, just don’t miss it!
Enjoy views of the Baha’i Shrine and the beautiful Persian Hanging Gardens of Haifa when you travel on the Best of Israel and Jordan tour with Trafalgar.
The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea is a special place to visit and quite probably tops any Israel bucket list! Covering more than 600 kilometers along the Israel-Jordan border, the eater of the Dead Sea is so salty that sea life can’t survive in it (hence the name). The mineral rich and highly salty water means that you can float on the water, which is what you’ll see many people here doing as they spend the day floating away.
The waters here are said to have healing powers, and the mud is said to help with reinvigorating your skin. So, grab a newspaper, smear some mud across your face and relax in the warm, salty, mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea.
Home to the largest church in the Middle East and one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Israel, Nazareth is not to be missed. For those of the Christian faith, the area is home to some of the most important holy sites, including the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Away from biblical connections, Nazareth is also home to a bustling commerce centre. Amid winding old city lanes, you can find the busy Bazaar area; a highlight in and of itself!
Visit the Church of Annunciation, whose cupola overlooks the cave in which Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary to share the blessing that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God when you travel with Trafalgar on the Land of the Gods tour.
One of the world’s oldest port cities, Jaffa is one of the best places to add to your Israel bucket list, with its honey-coloured stone housing and chilled out seaside vibes.
Over recent years, the area has been thoroughly gentrified, with many small art galleries, craft boutiques and restaurants having been introduced. However, one can still experience glimpses of history in this port city; from wandering down the muddled lanes towards the sea, where great ships of the ancient Mediterranean empires once docked to meandering through the large flea market that provides an old-world styled experience.
Have you ventured to Israel before? Or, do you have an Israel bucket list that you’re hoping to tick off in the near future? Let us know in the comments below! Or, head to our website so you can read more about how you can travel to Israel with Trafalgar.