Written by Molly Goldsmith (Classic Travel Intern, Spring 2015).
Are you looking for the adventure of a lifetime? You will certainly be satisfied with a trip to Israel. This 7,800 square mile country – about the size of New Jersey – is a center of political controversy, scientific advancement, and cultural significance. Israel is situated between the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, making it the crossroads of multiple cultures and the site of both fusion and fission.
With all this country has to offer, it may seem impossible to get to all of the important attractions. With careful planning and the help of this guide, you will be able to see the important points of interest and still have free time.
Day One: Tel-Aviv
After you land at the David Ben Gurion Airport, travel twenty minutes west to Tel-Aviv. This premier city is a cultural and historic center of modern Israeli life. Be sure to take a walk on the beach during the day when the gentle waves reflect the bright, desert sun. If you love history, check out Independence Hall where Israel declared independence from the British Empire in 1948. When it gets cooler at night, head to one of the many fine dining spots around the city. Don’t worry about indulging – you will dance it off later at the discotheque.
Day Two: Haifa
Head up the coast to this gem of the Mediterranean. Your first stop is the Baha’i Gardens. This temple and religious world center includes the golden-domed shrine of the Baha’i faith and nineteen terraced gardens and structures that are built into the mountains surrounding the city. Additionally, there are a number of museums, hiking trails, and beaches to end your day with style.
Day Three: Acre (Akko)
This ancient city is often missed on the average trip to Israel. You do not, however, want to miss this UNESCO World Heritage site which is a living testament to Israel’s history. The fortresses and buildings left by various conquerors make this city a living testament to old world architecture. The festivals and modern attractions showcase Israel’s entrance into the world of arts and culture. You will never be bored in the city where the old meets the new.
Day Four: The Galilee and the Golan Heights
The Galilee and the Golan Heights are the two northernmost regions of Israel and they are overflowing with natural and cultural beauty. These regions are the most travelled – by Israelis and foreign tourists alike – and they are loaded with attractions for every type of traveler. Be sure to stop by a winery or two and hike to a waterfall. Many Christian tourists come to these regions to see its religious sites including Nazareth and the Jordan River. There are also a number of functioning farming communities for those who are interested in the beginnings of Zionism and Israel’s modern history.
Day Five: Mystical Safed (Tzfat)
High up in the mountains of the Galilee lies the ancient, mystical city of Safed. This beautiful, mysterious city was home to the study of Kabbala, or Jewish mysticism. Since the 1600s, Safed has been a major spiritual center and a magnet for artists exploring the unseen. Major attractions include the Safed Candle Company, the artists’ quarter, and the numerous synagogues whose beauty and design echo back to the days of ancient Israel.
Day Six: Tiberius, Sea of Galilee
On the surface this city looks like a typical beach town – hotels, restaurants, fish market – but this town is brimming with historical sites that date back to the Ottoman Empire and the Spanish Inquisition. Make sure to check out everything this ancient city has to offer before hitting the boardwalk and the beach. Due to its abundant supply of fresh water, the Sea of Galilee has served as a place of gathering for centuries. The marina is a great place to catch a boat ride or watch the sunset at the end of a long day.
Day Seven: Jerusalem
No trip to Israel is complete without a visit to the most famous religious site in the world. This birthplace of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions beautifully combines the ancient with the modern. Major attractions in the old city include the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock. In the newer parts of the city, there are museums, restaurants, markets, and gardens to explore and enjoy. The natural and architectural beauty of this historic city is a gemstone of Israel. Regardless of the religious background, it should not be missed.
Day Eight: Ramallah
Take a day to head into the West Bank region and see the de facto capital city of Palestine. Ramallah is also the cultural center of the West Bank and holds a rich history that dates back to ancient times. Spend time in the city center and wander around the outlying villages. Then head back to the bars to experience Ramallah’s vibrant nightlife. This modern, relaxed city is known for its educated, welcoming population.
Day Nine: The Dead Sea
Take a day off from traveling and relax at the most iconic sea in the world. The Dead Sea is famously the lowest place on earth – 417 meters below sea level – and it has the highest salinity concentration of any body of water on the planet. The abundance of minerals produces healing properties that benefit many visitors each year. The high saline content also allows visitors to easily float on the water. Be sure to check out the health spa and the surrounding desert. This corner of Israel easily holds a large piece of the country’s natural wonders.
Day Ten: Eilat
Take a bus – so you can admire the stunning Negev Desert – to the southernmost point in Israel. See the spot where Israel meets the Red Sea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. This vacation spot is loaded with hotels, restaurants, sand, and sun to end your trip to Israel in a beautiful desert oasis. Spend some time snorkeling in the Red Sea, and check out the aquarium down the road. Then at the end of the day, head to Eilat’s airport to jet back to Ben Gurion – it only takes an hour – so you can fly home and tell your friends about your meaningful, wildly entertaining trip to Israel.
Don’t let the news networks scare you. Israel is a safe country and a beautiful, rich travel destination. Pack a bag, and hop on the next departing flight. You will not regret it.
*The images in this article are being used under the Creative Commons licence. Click the images for a link to the original work and creator.