Israel is world-famous as the home of many historical religious sites, making it a popular pilgrimage destination for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The educational and visual wonder of Israel goes beyond its stunning churches, synagogues, mosques, ruins, and sites of spiritual importance. This Middle Eastern country is home to some amazing natural wonders and beautiful nature reserves, as well. Visit vibrant locales to stroll busy bazaars and engaging nightlife. Gorgeous beaches invite you to lounge in the sun and surf when you're ready for a break from striking but dusty and busy sites. Israel offers endless attractions for every type of traveler.
The shoreline that envelops the Sea of Galilee delivers beautiful countryside and heaps of historical sites to explore. Visit the churches of Tabgha, where Jesus is said to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Alternatively, hike the surrounding landscape, swim in the Biblical sea, or soak in the relaxing hot pools near Tiberias.
The archaeological site in Masada is worth seeing both for its historical importance and its breathtaking mountainous terrain. The site saw the last stand of thousands of Jews after the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 CE. This significant event provides the ruins of fortifications atop a nearly 2,000 foot-long plateau. Located 200 feet above sea level, the best way to get to the plateau is via cable car.
In the southern Israeli port town of Eilat, soak up the sun at Red Sea beaches on the edge of exceptionally calm waters. You can often spot aquatic mammals off the coast, especially at Dolphin Reef. The Coral Beach Nature Reserve at Eilat has crystal-clear waters, which makes it the best place in Israel for snorkeling. You can gain access to the reef wall by following two wooden footbridges and a swim lane.
You'll get the most out of a visit to Israel if you strive to take in the scents as well as the sights and sounds. There’s no better place to experience the array of Israeli fragrances than at Elbabour Galilee Mill in Nazareth. Follow your nose to the interior of this spice emporium, and you’ll experience a transcendent concoction of thousands of smells from aromatic oils and herbal teas to dried fruits and spices.
If you’re a keen ornithologist or a lover of nature in general, you won’t want to miss the wetlands in Hula Valley. Bike or walk the five-mile path around the site, or opt for a more relaxing adventure by hiring a cart. As you make your way, keep an eye out for cranes, storks, pelicans, and another 400 species of birds. To see the most avian life, you'll want to visit this site between September and May.
According to the New Testament, Nazareth was the childhood home of Jesus, so it should come as no surprise the largest city in Israel’s Northern District is a popular Christian pilgrimage destination. Many shrines throughout Nazareth commemorate Biblical events, but regardless of your reasons for visiting, don’t miss the spectacular Basilica of the Annunciation. The city is also home to winding streets, twisting lanes, and a vibrant bazaar perfect for exploring.
The most famous salt lake in the world sits on the borders of Israel and Jordan. The bottom of the Dead Sea is far below sea level, making it the deepest hypersaline lake on the planet. It is nine times saltier than the ocean, which means you don't swim, so much as float, in the Dead Sea. This wonder has been wowing visitors for centuries. Whether you can swim or not, take a dip — it's pretty much impossible to sink.
There’s much more than nature at the incredible Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. As well as having the opportunity to see desert animals like the jackal, wolf, and fox, both the Wadi David and the Wadi Arugot canyon are impressive sights. In the former, you'll discover pools and waterfalls, while Wadi Arugot contains a couple of streamside trails. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is also home to the 5th-century Ancient Synagogue, which boasts an incredible mosaic floor displaying the 12 signs of the zodiac. Beware the building's curse, though, which will befall anyone slanderous, larcenous, or quarrelsome.
O, little town of Bethlehem! According to the New Testament, Jesus was born in this charming town. It's little wonder it plays host to an abundance of religious and historical sites. The Church of the Nativity sits right where Jesus is said to have been born, and the church complex of Bethlehem is steeped in history. In addition to the religious sites, take an excursion into the surrounding countryside, or visit the colorful Old Market of Bethlehem.