Israel is a small country but there is a lot to see: you can’t go far without finding an iconic site or hidden gem. To help you plan your trip without missing any of the must-see attractions here is a list of the absolutely essential sites.
Old City, Jerusalem
If you’re taking a tour package for Israel it must include Jerusalem’s Old City! This must-visit attraction actually contains several sites you can’t miss. The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by thick city walls dating back to the 16th century. Inside these walls are the top religious sites of Israel, for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as well as many fascinating stores, alleyways, archaeological sites, and museums. Wander the picturesque streets of the Armenian, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Quarter. Visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which encompasses the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Visit the Western Wall, the only remnant of the Jewish Temple that stood on Temple Mount. Stand on Temple Mount and marvel at the meticulous mosaics that cover the Dome of the Rock. See Al-Aqsa, the “furthest mosque” mentioned in the Koran.
The Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, it is a natural wonder located at the lowest point on Earth. Renowned for its therapeutic mud and healing properties, visitors can effortlessly float in its buoyant waters. Along the shore of the Dead Sea are various hotels and spas offering beauty and health treatments using the Dead Sea minerals and salt. The breathtaking backdrop of desert landscapes adds to the allure of this unique destination. This is a must-visit site, and often a bucket-list item.
This is Israel’s top beach resort city, situated at the southernmost point of the country on the edge of the Red Sea. If you’re looking for luxury hotels, endless beaches, and crystal-clear water this is the place for you. Eilat is known for its stunning coral reefs, offering some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. Eilat’s vibrant nightlife, water sports, and warm climate make it a fantastic destination for beach lovers. And it just happens to be a tax-free zone with no VAT, so shopping is 17% cheaper than anywhere else in Israel!
Golan Heights, in northern Israel looks down on the Sea of Galilee, it is a region of lush landscapes, vineyards, thick forests, and numerous hiking trails. It’s also home to Mount Hermon, where you can ski during the winter months. It is home to several historic sites including Nimrod Fortress and Katzrin. You can do wine tasting at the various wineries and enjoy hot springs at Hamat Gader. The region’s captivating beauty and rich history make it an excellent destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs.
Sea of Galilee
This is another attraction that is really multiple sites but they can all be seen in a day or two. Take a drive around the Sea of Galilee and stop at the iconic biblical sites of the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgh, Caparnium, and Tiberias. Stop to see the Jesus Boat at Ginosar, and don’t miss a fish meal overlooking the stunning lake. The Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) has some nice beaches, and it is possible to do watersports, swim, and sail on the water. Christian travelers might want to visit nearby Nazareth, or Yardenit, a baptismal site on the Jordan River.
Caesarea is an affluent city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, but the main tourist attraction here is the Caesarea National Park. Here you can see the remains of an ancient Roman city including an amphitheater, aqueduct, and a picturesque harbor which was an engineering marvel at the time. Walk among the archaeological remains including Herod’s palace, a Roman temple, a bathhouse, and a hippodrome on the beach. There are other remains from later periods, the most prominent being the imposing Crusader fortress, thick defensive walls, and watchtowers.
Acre is often overlooked by tourists but is arguably one of the best attractions in Israel. Acre’s Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site that stands on the edge of the sea surrounded by massive fortified walls. It is rich in history dating back to the Phoenicians but most of the structures you’ll see were built by the Crusaders and later by the Ottomans. Its well-preserved labyrinth of charming streets, markets, and historic buildings, includes several synagogues, the Al-Jazzar Mosque, a Crusader fortress, underground tunnels, and a restored Turkish bathhouse.
The city of Haifa is worth exploring, but its most outstanding attraction is the Baha’i Gardens. The stunning nineteen-terrace gardens descend down the northern slope of Mount Carmel to the Mediterranean Sea. There is an observation balcony at the top of the gardens, and at the heart of the meticulously manicured gardens is the gold-domed Shrine of the Bab, the Baha’i faith’s prophet.
Most of Israel’s top attractions are historic, and although Tel Aviv has its historic features, like the Bauhaus architecture, it is the heart of Israel’s vibrant modern metropolis. Here you’ll find a perfect blend of quaint neighborhoods, tree-lined avenues, and modern buildings. Visit the bustling Carmel Market, walk along the elegant Rothschild Boulevard, and enjoy world-class museums, stunning beaches, and vibrant nightlife.
Also not to be missed is Tel Aviv’s co-municipality, Jaffa. This ancient port city just south of Tel Aviv is steeped in history. Wander through its picturesque alleys, visit art galleries, explore the Jaffa Flea Market for unique finds, and learn about the many iconic figures who have passed through this port including Napoleon.
Perched high atop a rugged plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a symbol of Jewish heroism. The ancient fortress is known for the story of the Jewish zealots who held out against Roman forces in 73 CE, but what visitors will see on Masada are the remains of King Herod’s massive palace-fortress. After taking a cable car ride to the plateau summit, you can tour the palace, bathhouse, guard rooms, storage areas, cisterns, and other well-preserved structures from over 2,000 years ago. The stunning views and historical significance make it a must-see attraction.