|Breaking News: Israel makes the green list!|
With just 12 destinations on the Government Green List announced on 10 May 2021, Israel is absolutely the pick of the bunch for history, culture and that exotic spice we’ve all been yearning for. Pack your bags for the October 2021 on our Ancient Israel Tour
It’s safe to say that any holiday to Israel is going to be packed full of diverse and fascinating sights, sounds and experiences. An endlessly diverse land with a history that spans millennia, it is a convergence of faiths, fought over by empires and revered by many. Whether your holiday to Israel is for culture, for faith or simply because you’re intrigued, there is so much to discover here, it is hard to know where to begin.
So, here are our must visit attractions in Israel, to get you started…all of which can be seen on our Ancient Israel tour
A 4,000 year old port town, Jaffa is the root of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv. Engulfed by the city but very much a separate entity, Jaffa has a wholly different vibe to the rest of the seaside metropolis. It has some incredible tales to tell, from cameos in Bible stories to Napoleonic conquests. To get to know this ancient, diverse and colourful neighbourhood, wander the old world alleyways that wind through the hilltop Old Town, explore the renowned flea market, and soak up the history of old Jaffa Port, a harbour that has been in use since at least the Bronze Age.
Admittedly not the most picturesque of Israel’s must visit attractions, Tiberias still packs an unmissable punch. One of Judaism’s four holy cities and the burial place of the ancient sages, Tiberias sits on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. An interesting mix of ancient (the city is Roman) and a modern beach and party destination, it is also a gateway to the plentiful holy sites that surrounded the lake, including the Mount of Beatitudes, where the Bible tells that Jesus delivered the Sermon of the Mount, and Tabgha, the site of ‘the miracle of five loaves and two fish’.
One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Jericho’s roots go back a staggering 10,000 years…at least! Those millenia have been full of turbulence, the famous walls defended and breached by many empires, leaving the city with a wealth of archaeological sites and a truly timeless feel. Located in the West Bank, the city is backed by the Judean Mountains, which themselves host monasteries and churches and, at the Mount of Temptation, were the setting of the Bible story where Jesus resists Satan after his 40 day fast in the desert.
Possibly the world’s oldest spa destination, the Dead Sea has been lauded for its healing properties since Biblical times. The cobalt blue water here contains 10 times more salt than seawater. So much, in fact, that it increases your natural buoyancy; the only option is to float, which is incredibly relaxing. As well as offering such a unique experience, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth, at 423 metres below sea level and is surrounded by the stark beauty of the Judean Desert.
This UNESCO-listed fortress holds a spectacular position on a flat plateau high above the Dead Sea. The fortification is ancient and holds a special place in Jewish history as the site of the Jews’ last stand against the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70CE. The fortress is at the heart of Masada National Park, and reached by cable car or a steep hike; the views from the top are breathtaking and there are museums and archaeological sites to explore too. Another site of interest nearby is Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1946 and 1956.
Church of the Nativity
Located in Bethlehem in the West Bank, the Church of the Nativity is one of Christianity’s holiest sites. The church was first commissioned by Constantine the Great in 325CE (it has been through many reincarnations since), and is built around a grotto which the Christian scriptures say was the birthplace of Jesus. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the oldest continuously worshipped place in Christianity, and a hugely important pilgrimage site.
Mount of Olives
Once covered in groves of olive trees, the Mount of Olives is a fantastic place to get an overview of the old city of Jerusalem, and has a viewing platform for just that purpose. The hill is one of Judaism’s most prominent cemeteries, having been the final resting place for Jews for over 3,000 years; there are around 150,000 people buried here to date.
The mount is also the site of several key events in the life of Jesus, and is surrounded by churches and sites associated with his arrest and accession including, at the foot of the hill, the Garden of Gethsemane.
No tour of Israel is complete without a visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Within the old city, it is some of the world’s most revered, and fought over, ground. It is home to two of Islam’s most holy edifices, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque; is venerated by Jews as the site of the First and Second temples; and it also a holy place for Christians. It is here that you will find the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall), a surviving piece of the Second Temple which was destroyed by Romans in 70BCE, arguably the most holy structure in Judaism. The complex has an incredibly turbulent history but this only adds to the timelessness of its atmosphere and the palpability of faith that you’ll experience on a visit.
Our extensive tour of the Holy Land takes you through some of Israel’s most famous cities and sites. Begin in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, home to the bustling Mediterranean port district of Jaffa. Visit Roman ruins and mountain villages en route to the Sea of Galilee. Learn of the mystery surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls before a cable car journey to Masada Fortress for panoramic views across the land. Stop in Bethlehem, in Palestinian Territory, before a triumphant end to your tour in illustrious Jerusalem.
Nicci is a freelance travel content writer and avid traveller. She loves to discover new and exciting places and is always on the lookout for her next adventure, be it close to home or across the globe. Discover more of her writing at niccikimmelwrites.co.uk