It is hard not to overuse the word ancient when talking about Israel. History was made here, but the highlights include not only centuries old biblical cities but also the saltiest sea on earth – the Dead Sea, fascinating local markets, incredible desert landscapes, and the high-rise metropolis of Tel Aviv.
Located in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, Jerusalem’s Old City, has a history that stretches back more than 3,000 years, is surrounded by impressive 16th century Ottoman city walls. The present street plan dates largely from Byzantine times, with the walls and ramparts dating back to the 16th century. The “City of Gold”, as it has come to be known in Hebrew, is a fascinatingly unique place where the 1st century rubs shoulders with the 21st century, each jostling for legitimacy and space, and where picturesque old neighbourhoods nestle against glistening office towers and high-rise apartments. It is one of those places which has to be seen to be believed.
Tel Aviv Tel Aviv is Israel’s second-largest city and largest metropolitan area. Modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan – it is one of the country’s greatest assets, a sun-bronzed strip of coastline where coffee and culinary innovation are the local obsessions, where residents speak every language under the sun, and where life is lived outdoors and to the fullest. Tel Aviv is located on the Mediterranean coast, about 60 km north-west of Jerusalem and some 100 km south of Haifa. The UNESCO-listed Bauhaus-era buildings that give the place its popular title of ‘White City’ are a major draw, as is the historic port of Jaffa (Yafo), which has a fascinating Arab heritage.
The Dead Sea One of the most spectacular natural and spiritual landscapes in the whole world, the Dead Sea is the lowest body of water on earth, the lowest point on earth, and the world’s richest source of natural salts, hiding wonderful treasures that accumulated throughout thousands of years. As its name evokes, the Dead Sea is devoid of life due to an extremely high content of salts and minerals which gives its waters the renowned curative powers, therapeutic qualities, and its buoyancy. Because the salt content is four times that of most world’s oceans, you can float in the Dead Sea without even trying, which makes swimming here a truly unique experience not to be missed: this is the only place in the world where you can recline on the water to read a newspaper!
An important town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and home to apostles Peter, James, Andrew and John. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other.
Tiberias One of the four holy cities of Judaism, the burial place of venerated sages, and a very popular base for Christians visiting holy sites around the Sea of Galilee. Tiberias has been a popular destination for tourists for more than 2,000 years. As early as Roman times, this thriving recreation spa, built around 17 natural mineral hot springs more than 600 feet below sea level, welcomed visitors from every part of the ancient world.
In the low season (Dec–Feb) it may be chilly in the north, especially at higher elevations. It is a great time to head to the warmth of Eilat and the Dead Sea. During October, November & March through to June it may be rainy but more often warm and sunny. Spring wildflowers make March and April ideal for hiking. In the high season (Jul & Aug) it will be warm in Jerusalem, muggy in Tel Aviv as well as Eilat, Tiberias,
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Why we love it Who could not love this land of living history! It’s a fascinating place to visit to observe the contrasts of ancient Judaism with other aspects of life that are surprisingly 21st century.
Weather In the low season (Dec–Feb) it may be chilly in the north, especially at higher elevations. It is a great time to head to the warmth of Eilat and the Dead Sea. During October, November & March through to June it may be rainy but more often warm and sunny. Spring wildflowers make March and April ideal for hiking. In the high season (Jul & Aug) it will be warm in Jerusalem, muggy in Tel Aviv as well as Eilat, Tiberias,
Social customs & quirks Israelis are often considered brusque or even rude by Western visitors, but this is customary rather than deliberate, and honesty, directness, openness and warmth are the norm here. Hospitability is commonplace and locals delight in sharing their country with visitors.
Festivals & events If you would like to see Pharaoh eagle owls, pied wheatears, McQueen’s bustards and Nubian nightjars come to Eilat in March for the Eilat Bird Festival. During this time many millions of our feathered friends will arrive for the spring migration season.
If jazz is more your thing, come late July for a four-day international festival featuring all styles of jazz. You will be spoilt for choice with about eight concerts playing every evening in bars and clubs.
For a fun festival involving beer, the Jerusalem Beer Festival will deliver. Held in August in downtown Jerusalem’s Hebron Road Old Train Station, its highlights include the 100 beer brands from across the globe, with micro-breweries well represented. Lots of food stalls, top bands and beer brewing demonstrations complete the picture.
The Karmiel Dance Festival sees over 80 events and performances take place, and a huge bazaar and other activities are part of the fun. The Galilee city of Karmiel bursts at the seams with 5,000 Israeli and international dancers arriving every August.
For soulful, exotic sounds of traditional Jewish Klezmer music, visit ancient Safed in August. There are eight stages set up in the Old Quarter’s public squares and parks.
We recommend coming in July and August for the Jerusalem Summer Culture Festival. You will have a great time in this festival involving music, dance and theatre performances held everywhere from the alleyways of the Old City through parks and gardens to the major theaters.
One of the most traditional of all the Jewish festivals is Sukkot rooted in the ancient Israeli traditions of the 40 years spent wandering the desert as described in the Old Testament. During the festival, tents are erected and covered with greenery and produce, with families eating at least one meal in their sukkah each of the seven October evenings.
Mid-December sees the start of Israel’s friendliest social event featuring bluegrass, country, blues, Irish, Scottish and folk music. Jacob’s Ladder Festival takes place over a long weekend on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, it’s a laid-back, cool event which draws regulars every year.
Health* Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.