TOP FIVE THINGS TO SEE IN ISRAEL
This is the first question to ask! Shall you do it on your own or go with an organized tour? Let’s do both! Here’s how:
SANDEMAN's NEW Europe Tour found a unique way of tour guiding – they hire independent tour guides, who take eager tourists on trips around the best sightseeing spots of the city. And at the end of the tour, tourists pay as much as they wish or feel the tour was worth (the suggested minimum is 10 eur). You can check out the hour schedule HERE, or simply ask your hostel for a leaflet.
Organized tours are still popular and, believe me, they are not that bad when you want to learn a lot of information. No book will replace the knowledge of a human being who is well-prepared and able to share the most updated info. Moreover, they usually offer transport, entry fees and other services included in the price. Make sure you choose from the best ones, though.
The most worth-checking are: Tourist Israel (www) or Abraham Tours (www), which use local travel agencies to hire the best guides who speak many different languages.
If you are an independent traveler, wanting to discover more than just the must-sees all the traditional tourists go to see, you are not fond of the crowds and always look for alternativesightseeing spots that has not been all over the Instagram yet, do it your way, on your own and get inspired by my top 5 things to see in Israel described below:
- TEL AVIV
Many people see only the airport in Tel-Aviv, usually moving on towards Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea straight away from the plane. They consider Tel-Aviv being a business city, not really worth exploring or staying in for longer. I can partially agree with their opinion, because Tel-Aviv is actually the place of the biggest number of start-up releases in the world! The wealthy business district is full of hipsters – young people who rush to their workplaces on electric scooters. They eat their lunches in fancy cafes and spend their evenings jogging on the beach, playing beachball or riding on longboards. They are a part of diverse cultural movement, which characterizes the city. All of that makes me think of Tel-Aviv as ‘European California’.
If you plan to visit this vibrant city, make sure you don’t miss the highlights listed below:
- Old Jaffa – the oldest district in Tel-Aviv. The district is beautifully renovated and makes you feel that you are stepping back in time. There is an antique harbor and a flea market, where you can buy unusual souvenirs, such as Bedouin bells. Go and eat the best hummus in Israel in Hummus Abu Hassan.
- Caramel Market – it’s the biggest market in the city, where you can buy almost everything, especially fresh fruit and veggies. There is a huge selection of intensive spices, which is hard to resist, but be careful with the prices and bargain with the salesmen, because tourists always pay more!
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art has an impressive collection represented by some of the greatest artists of 20th century, including Israeli and international artists, such as Picasso, Monet or Klimt. Entry fee is 20 NIS (for more info, click HERE).
Jerusalem is the biggest city of Israel, which holds headquarters to the main authorities and is considered holy to three main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Catholicism and Islam. Due to that fact, the risk of military conflict in Jerusalem is high and often turns into local turmoil. Only two weeks after our visit to the city, riots had started. Nevertheless, crowds of pilgrims and tourists come to Jerusalem every year.
The most interesting place in Jerusalem is the Old Town. This tiny piece of land, that is only 1 square kilometer, has a population of over 40 thousand people! No wonder it faces frequent disputes. The political status of Jerusalem is a conflict itself, because ONZ and a lot of other countries don’t consider it a capital of Israel (only Tel-Aviv).
The Old Town is divided into four districts: Muslim, Christian, Judean and Armenian. It is worth visiting them all because of the rich cultural diversity. The most important monuments of the Old Town are: Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock, Al-Aksa Mosque and the Western Wall (Wailing Wall). The best way to get to know the history of these places is to visit them with a travel guide.
- DEAD SEA
There isn’t much time left before this water reservoir, which isn’t a sea anymore, will cease to exist. It is most probable that the same thing will happen as with the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. Israel is doing its best to stop the water level of the Dead Sea from dropping but due to climate changes and water pollution, reversing such process is practically impossible. Israel has signed a contract with Jordan, its neighbor, to allow transporting waters from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to prevent the other one from vaporing completely.
Swimming in the Dead Sea is an extra-ordinary experience, because it is impossible to drown in it. The high level of salinity pushes the body to the surface, so you don’t even have to move, you just levitate on the water. Is it easy to swim in this sea, then? Not really…the water is so salty, it can cause nausea if you swallow some. Make sure you don’t have any wounds on your body because they will definitely hurt once they contact the water.
TIP: The only free-entry beach by the Dead Sea in Israel is Ein Bokek Beach. You can get there by bus from Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem.
Check how to travel in Israel HERE.
Being on a desert is a unique experience – I fell in love with it from the first sight, which is common among all nature lovers. And Israel is a perfect place for organizing trekking trips through the deserts, because there are so many well-prepared trails there. All of them are well-marked and they differ in difficulty level. There is one main national track the Israel National Trail, which leads through the whole country. To find out more about it, please visit this webSITE. When it comes to the deserts I would recommend: Judean Desert, Negev Desert and Timna Park.
- RED CANYON
The Red Canyon is a must-see for everyone visiting Eilat. It is an easy trail, recommended even for children, but the hardest part is getting there. The trekking lasts an hour and you just have to follow the green track. The best part of the trip is walking on the bottom of the Red Canyon, which will leave you breathless. So how to get there? You can buy an organized trip and go with the travel agency for 25 USD, try to catch a bus no. 282 and 392, or take the road no. 12 and drive. The road is not much attended by the locals, so I wouldn’t count on catching a free ride.