The Dead Sea is one of a kind: it’s the lowest place on earth, and its mineral-rich waters are said to having healing powers. The special mud pools said to do wonders to your skin, and are accompanied by breathtaking views of the Sodom Mountains.
As well as the majority Jews, 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs, predominantly Muslims who identify as Palestinians, though there are also Christians, Druze and Bedouins, each with their own local culture and political affiliations. Visiting Israel is a chance to experience its rich and diverse culture, from the relatively secular Jaffa, with its distinct tastes and styles, to the predominantly Christian Nazareth, to the Palestinian East Jerusalem. Make sure to check out Abu Christo in Acre in the north for authentic fisherman’s cuisine, or stay at Fauzi Azar Inn to experience a contemporary Israeli Arab city.
Abu Christo, Leopld ha-Sheni St 36055, Akko, +972 04-991-0065
Fauzi Azar Inn, 6108 St, Nazareth, +972 04-602-0469
Holy to all three monotheistic faiths, Jerusalem is one of those cities you just have to visit once in your life. Head to the Western Wall to see the outer wall of the Jewish Temple and the countless Jews who pray there daily. Afterwards, head to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount, to see one of Islam’s holiest sites (though Israelis cannot come with you). Or follow in the footsteps of Jesus by walking the Via Dolorosa and visiting the chamber housing his tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Tower of David is also worth a visit.
Tel Aviv has newfound status as one of the coolest cities the Middle East, and for good reason. From local markets to the flagship restaurants of local star chefs, there’s plenty to eat in Tel Aviv. For the best contemporary Tel Aviv cuisine check out star-chef Eyal Shani’s Port Said, or one of his contemporary pita joints, Miznon. For a food-rich market, head to the Levinsky Market, where you can try some amazing Yemenite food at Saluf & Sons, or head to Ozeria, a Greek-style restaurant that uses the market’s produce.
Israel is full of fun markets to get lost in. In Jaffa, the Flea Market is full of surprising trinkets; in Tel Aviv, the Carmel Market has many secret places to eat, as well as Israel’s best produce; on adjacent Nahalat Binyamin Street there’s an arts and crafts market every Tuesday and Friday. Outside the city, the shouk in Jerusalem’s Old City or in Acre (or Acco) in the north are perfect for those looking for the bazaar experience.
Perched on the side of the Carmel Mountain in Haifa, the so-called “Hanging Gardens of Haifa” are in fact a temple sacred to the Baha’i faith. This relatively unknown monotheistic religion traces its origins to Iran, but the final resting place of its prophet and founding figure, the Báb, is in Haifa in a special tomb on terrace of the Baha’i Gardens, and it is as beautiful as it is unique.
Tel Aviv’s unique mix of eclectic and International-style houses earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Take a walking tour of Tel Aviv’s architectural landmarks and seek out the stunning Pagoda building and historic Bialik Square, where you can see Tel Aviv’s first town hall as well as the homes of Chaim Bialik, its national poet, and Reuven Rubin, one of its most famous painters.
Hip and stylish, Tel Aviv has earned the title of the “city that never sleeps”, a statement to which anyone with a day job in the city can attest. In Tel Aviv, parties rarely start before midnight — even on weekdays. Head to the Big Synagogue complex to check out some of the city’s hippest bars, like the Otzar or Port Said. If you want to dance, head to The Block, the city’s finest and most imposing club.