Colloquially known as the Dead Sea (ים המלח – Yam HaMela – literally Salt Sea), this is one of the most popular sites for tourists and locals. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on land, boasts its hypersaline water making it nearly 10% more salty than any ocean. Visitors can have the unique experience of completely floating in its salty waters. Its extremely salty makeup makes it more difficult for normal plant and animal life to exist, and therefore it took on the moniker “Dead Sea.” Israelis love to head down to the Sea to relax, take advantage of the local hotel and spas in the area (try a Dead Sea mud mask!), and take in one of the most special destinations in the world.
This ancient fortification in the desert is rich with history and stories as captured by Jewish-Roman historian, Josephus. Herod the Great captured Masada during a power struggle between 37 and 31 BCE. The fortress not only holds some incredibly interesting history, but additionally boasts an incredible view of the desert and beauty of the Negev. (We recommend hiking the Snake Trail at Masada for sunrise!)
Old City, Jerusalem
Many Israelis have a love/hate relationship with Jerusalem – either they love spending time in the city, or they absolutely hate it. That being said, without a doubt, nearly every Israeli will tell you they are proud of the Old City of Jerusalem. There is likely not a place in the world that has as much religious history (for multiple religions), archaeological, and political importance. There is something to see and do for every person that comes to visit the Old City, it should not be missed.
Tel Aviv, the so-called “White City,” because of its 4,000 + Bauhaus and international style buildings, is a gem of the Middle East. With incredible architecture littered throughout the city, the amazing coastline running alongside its heart, and the non-stop cafe and bar culture, Tel Aviv is one of the most unique and fun cities in the country.
An annual festival, Israel’s Darom Adom – or “Red South” – celebrates the blossoming of the Anemone flowers in the Northern Negev region of Israel. The festival each year typically occurs from mid-January until the end of February, and Israelis and tourists alike love to grab family and friends and head to the region for hikes in the area and to photograph the amazing flowers.
The Ramon Crater/Mahktesh (the geological term), is an extremely unique site, not just in Israel, but in the world. Mahktesh Ramon is the largest Mahktesh in the world – meaning it is the largest naturally created crater (through water erosion and climatic forces). There are amazing hikes throughout the region, and the vantage point looking out over the 40 kilometer long, 500 meter deep crater is truly a sight to behold.
The Jordan River is not just a unique place for Christian tourists wanting to visit the Baptismal site, but Israelis love to visit the river for long, relaxing weekends along its banks. Visitors can rent kayaks or paddle boats, and you can commonly see people jumping from the overhanging tree branches, into the River’s waters. Camp overnight for free and enjoy the atmosphere.
When visiting Israel, you must try some local cuisine. Israelis are extremely proud of their culinary triumphs and the plethora of hummus (chick pea dip or spread) restaurants are amongst the best of the best. If you ask locals, each person will have their own favorite, with some preferring restaurants whose hummus is warm, while others are dedicated to the hummus served with more lemon and tangy tahini. Visit Abu Gosh, a town outside of Jerusalem, for some of the best hummus in the country. Nearly all Israelis can agree on that.
The Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, are terraces of the Baha’i faith. The gardens are one of the most beautiful and important to the Baha’i faith. The garden terraces encircle the Shrine of the Báb (the founder of the Bábí faith), on the side of Mount Carmel in Haifa. The site is picturesque and as of 2008, was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Caesarea is an ancient coastal city in the northern region of Israel. The city was built by Herod the Great in the years 25-13 BCE, as a maritime port city. Caesarea thrived during its heyday, and is filled with incredible historical architecture and stories. The aqueducts and amphitheater are among the most popular areas of the city for visitors to enjoy.
Rounding out the top 11 of the sites locals in Israel love, is the freshwater lake, the Kinneret (also known as the Sea of Galilee). The Kinneret is located in the northeast region of Israel, and is one of the top tourist spots in the country. Many Christian tourists visit the lake as it is the site at which Jesus is said to have performed many miracles, including where he walked on water. For locals, it is a beautiful area in which to sunbathe, hike, and enjoy the quiet of nature.