|I live in the mixed cultural city of Jaffa, which is also a part of famous Tel – Aviv, which is called under her full name as Tel – Aviv – Jaffa (And it is not the capital of Israel as some think, Jerusalem is).
I was born In Beer – Sheva, which is the capital of the Negev, which is a dry region in the south of Israel, mainly dessert.
“a land flowing with milk and honey”, that’s what God said about Israel to Moses, posting the first ever travel review about Israel..
Small in scale, yet very diverse. Great weather, you can find : A few of the world’s wonders, great beaches, Endless Historical and spiritual sites and so much more…
How can one describe Israel?
There is a saying here in Israel, that for every 2 Israelis, you will find 3 different opinions..
It seems that also almost everyone outside of Israel has an opinion on it, mainly about its politics. But let me tell you, that most of the information you get, is at most half true.
So… let me tell you about Israel..
In this blog:
- The south of israel:
- Center of Israel:
- The north:
Introduction and some real facts about Israel
One very important travel tip you need to know first before considering travelling to Israel is:
Most of the information you hear on the news about Israel is B**L S*HT!!!
Trust me, during my travels, I spoke with thousands of people from countries all around the world: Im sorry to say that most of you don’t Know anything about Israel.
Here are some real facts and travel tips about Israel:
No, there are not bullets flying over our heads here, and no, it’s not normal for bombs exploding on the streets.
Unfortunately, life in Israel means living in a conflict area, and yes, there is some kind a long exhausting war going here, and there are some areas or times that it’s not that safe, but as a tourist, you will probably won’t sense a thing, (besides maybe seeing a lot of soldiers like you have never seen before), but you will get more educated about the conflict.
Actually, Israel is a pretty safe place to travel in. Even 12 year olds can walk through must parts of all major cities in Israel with safe.
Here is roughly the statistics: 50 % of the population is non-practicing Jews, 25% are practicing Jews (and not all, but some % of them wear black suits and hats) and 25% are Muslims (which most also are not practicing Muslims,) and other ethnics.
Israel is the only Jewish country, but that doesn’t mean we all read the bible all day, were pretty much like you.
Well, except maybe the Bedouin’s in the dessert in the south of Israel, but they prefer cars too…
Israel Is a modern democracy (the only democracy in the Middle East), it’s very western, with the twist of being in the Middle East.
And nobody will give you an easy life about it.
Always bargain, believe me, we are used to it. Taxi drivers especially will try to rip you off, so always ask for a meter (a normal taxi inside tell Aviv should cost around 30-50 shekels). In restaurants, try to check if they don’t have different prices in the English menu then the one in Hebrew. I would say it cost here for a normal tourist around 100 $ per day.
I think one of the best things about travelling to Israel, is that is small (it’s a 8 hours drive cross country), yet you can see so much.
Starting from the south point, you will find fun and play vacation city of Eilat, situated by the red sea, next to beautiful red colored dessert cliffs, to dessert outback’s, the “Ramon” crater and of course the Dead sea.
In the heart of Israel, you find among other things the sunny beaches of Tel Aviv, and of course the most historic and spiritual city of Jerusalem.
In the north, it’s all green hills, waterfalls, rivers, and even a little snow in the winter in particular mountain.
There is so much to see, and you can do it in little time.
If you have been to south east Asia, south America, turkey, Greece and more, no way you haven’t meet at least one group of Israelis. Israelis love to travel, and almost all young people finish their military mandatory service (boys at 21, girls at 20) and go travel for a long period of time, for at least a few months trip.
Most of us will keep on travelling for the rest of our lives, at least once a year. So why know what is like to be on the passenger side..
We really do know how to party, in some circles it’s a well known fact.
Some of the best Electronic music Dj’s in the world are Israelis, and most of the best djs in the world come to play in Israel at least once a year. Whether you like clubbing in mega clubs or dance bars, or you more into raves, you can find a good party on the weekend to go to. One travel tip would be, is to go to central center “kiosk” in Tel Aviv, and if the seller is young, just ask him about good parties, or just browse through the pile of flyers he will probably have on the desk next to the cash register.
Map of Israel:
הצג את Israel במפה גדולה יותר
Welcome to the desert. This is where it’s written in the bible that the old Hebrews arrived to Israel, after walking for 40 years (I guess they have gone in rounds a lot..probably didn’t stop to ask directions..) After Moses liberated them from Egyptian pharaoh. Today, the Negev Desert and “Arava outback”, is home to the some of the world’s unique nature phenomenons, and a small but fun beach town every Israeli goes to.
is the southest point of Israel. It’s located by the Red sea on the beautiful blue queit water of Gulf of Eilat on one side, which is a great place for diving, fun and a heaven to geologist with all kind of red colored mountains and stones dessert on the other side. Eilat also borders with Jordan and Egypt, so it’s a good step through spot to this countries too. In my opinion, if you got to Eilat, you also have to pass the border at “Taba crossing” (you can cross by foot or by car. from the Egyptian side you will find straight away taxi’s that will take you anywhere.), and get to Sinai in Egypt, which is a small paradise if you ask me. No problems passing out and back to Israel.
Eilat is Israelis fun and play little beach town, and its very popular both for internal tourism and outside tourism.
One travel tip would be, that if you have the chance, try not getting to Eilat on July-august, or around Jewish holidays.Eilat gets packed with Israeli families on their annual vacation to the city, plus prices go up, and its very hot weather during July-August.
Eilat is very touristic, but if you can see through the crowds and the obvious tourist traps, it’s a beautiful vacation town with special scenery and beaches.
How to get there?
You can to Eilat by a public bus. Leaving from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, it should take about 5 hours, and should cost about 80 shekels. Eilat also has a small airport, which is mainly used for domestic flights from the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. From Tel Aviv the flight takes about 45 minutes, and should cost around 300 shekels.
Where to stay?
Eilat offers all types of accommodation, from 5 stars luxury hotels, to youth hostels and camping sites. Some are right on the beach, and some are not. If you would like me to check for you on cheap hotels or other types of budget accommodation, let me know, I’ll gladly look it up for you.
One popular and cheap way to stay in Eilat, is renting a not so fancy short stay apartment, Eilat is filled with them. As soon as you arrive to central station, people will jump on you and offer their apartment. If you’re a couple or a group of people, you might get a better deal than renting a room at a hotel. I think it’s best to look up and book first prior to your arrival, so you won’t get stucked in a stinky, far from the beach apartment.
If you want to stay in a bit more special place, you might want to look up about “Bedouin orhan” (lay-by), which is a dessert authentic tent accommodation.
What to do?
Eilat is just a big playground, filled with tourist attractions and stuff to fill your time if you don’t want just to lay on the beach all day. Being on the Red sea, Eilat offers all kinds of water sports, a pretty nice sea observation and a dolphinarium.
Diving is big here too, and Eilat’s coral reef is world famous. There are a lot of diving schools, and you can rent there gear for diving or snorkeling or take a diving course.
Another fun and interesting thing you can do, is go trekking by foot or by a jeep tour to the dessert, there are very interesting landscape, and the very peaceful and mind opening open dessert.
If you want to see some wildlife, you can go to “Yotveta” wildlife reserve, which is located about a 20 minutes ride north of Eilat.
In the reserve you can get the walk next to caged predators, reptiles, dessert hawks and more. You can also see some wild life in the open field with your own car.
Of course there are Eilats beautiful and fun beaches. Some of the nicest ones and less crowded, can be found a few Km from the center of town towards south.
Look for “Hadekel” (palm) beach, or The “Dolphins” Beach.
One last thing, Eilat can very Hot during summer time mostly, and nice tempatures during the rest of the year. At summer time, it can get to 40 degrees Celsius. So be prepared, and all ways wear sunscreen..
If you love seeing special landscape that nature produced us, you will want to check out this place.
The Ramon crater is the biggest crater of his kind (not formed for a meteorite fall). It is a unique natural phenomenon formed in the Negev Desert, created from forces of water and land, called “Makhtesh“.
What to do?
On the north point of this 40 km nature reserve, you will find the visitors center, where you can get your information and a nice observation point. If you want to go long, the highest top of the Negev Dessert is at southwest.
Two of the most popular activities are trekking and rappelling.
How to get there and where to stay?
On the edge of the Crater, there is a small town called “Mitzpe Ramon“, where you can find all kinds of “Desert hospitality”, like bed & breakfasts, hotels, guesthouses, camping sites and more and other special “dessert feel” places.
Weird as it might sound, the town has the biggest Alpacas and Lammas Ranch in the world. You can visit.
It is possible to come and visit this area just for a Day trip, but it’s going to be a long one, because the Ramon Crater is about 150 km from Eilat, and about 200 km from Tel Aviv (its only 80 km from where I was born and raised, Beer Sheva, but believe me, you don’t have nothing to do there..).
One of my personal top favorites in the world.
The Dead Sea (which is actually more the size of a lake.), is the lowest place on earth (there is only going up from here..), and it will introduce you to a special landscape with great historical significance, like you’ve never seen before.
Bathing in the Dead Sea, will give you the experience of a natural float, because of the high concentration of salt in the water (about 30 % of salt!! The Medditranian Sea for example has only about 3%). The high concentration of slat, is also why it is called the “Dead Sea”, because nothing can live in those waters.
But the Dead Sea is also a source of life, where its natural treasures like minerals can help all kinds of skin diseases, and the Dead Sea products for your skin, are probably being sold in a mall near you..
More than that, even a single drop to your eye, can sting like crazy!
Don’t be a fool like many first timers to the Dead Sea, don’t put your head inside the water!.
Exploring the Dead Sea area, will present to you moments that can open your mind, as you look at the dessert tranquility. It’s Important for you to know, that there is better time to do so then now. Chemical industries are harvesting the natural treasurers inside the Dead Sea, and its getting dry, with a high risk of disaster for nature. Read about it.
What to do and where to go?
Besides floating in the water and rubbing yourself in some natural, skin healthy Dead Sea mud on your body, there quite a few options that mostly involve trekking in the area, rappelling and sightseeing.
One of my favorite spot in the area is, just a long road 90 that goes just across the waterline of the Dead Sea. Ein Gedi is the name of a Kibbutz and a beautiful nature reserve, with different trekking routs, some easy some harder, that lead to waterfalls, streams, great dessert walks and more. In the reserve you can also see some animals including wild mammals and some archeological findings from ancient Israel.
One of Unesco’s world heritage sites, Masada tells the story of a mass suicide made by Jewish who lived in this uphill fortress, refusing to become in slaved by the romans.
Located on the top of a hill in Judean Desert, being up in Masada provides a spectacular view of the area and the Dead Sea. The fortress was built by King Hordes the great, who ruled this parts back in the day and built many structures with archeological significance around Israel. Very interesting place to go to.
There are 2 ways to go up:
One is pay an take to cable car.One travel tip would be to choose the second way, the “snake” trail, named after its shape. It has 700 stairs and its 2 km long on a steep uphill walk. Its ok if you are in reasonable shape, it’s pretty hard if you’re not, but it’s worthwhile once you’ve gone up.
Nitzanim Nature Reserve
If you got the time, why not rest a tent at one of Israel’s most beautiful long beaches?
Nitzanim nature reserve mainly consists of nice sand dunes, but also a long stretched beautiful golden colored sand beach laying on the Mediterranean Sea.
On the spot you will find camping area right on the beach, it’s not so well organized and it’s a bit pricy (if I recall correctly its about 50 shekels per night), but waking up next to the blue waves on a wide shore is priceless. You can also come for a day trip from Tel Aviv, it’s only about 30 min’ drive.
Center of Israel
On the flat coastal shores around Tel Aviv, and around the hills of Jerusalem, this the beating heart of Israel, and where most of Israelis live and work.
Tel Aviv – “The city that never stops”, that’s how we call Israel’s commercial capital, and many would put it on their top cities to visit.All most every traveller can find something he likes about Tel Aviv, as it offers so much: nice looking beaches (my girlfriend says the coastal line of Tel Aviv reminds her of Rio de Janero in Brazil), great restaurants, shopping, interesting buildings. Night clubs and bars, and so much more.
Tel Aviv’s old port in Jaffa, has landed here inhabitants from all around the world. The Arabs, the Jews, Turks, brits, Americans, Germans, they all came to Tel – Aviv, and they all left their heritage, which is obvious around the city.
Tel Aviv has just celebrated 100 years of existence, as it was built as an “extension” to the old city of Jaffa. It streets were built horizontally and vertically, and it’s a great city to discover by foot, or by bicycle (getting around with a car is the worst, parking is awful. Public transportation is not that good either, no sub way or tram.) Walking its streets, can land you many pearls..
Where to stay and where to go?
Well, I’ll start from where I live, Jaffa.
Jaffa is one of the world’s oldest city ports, and lots of cultures made an impact on in its atmosphere.
This is where Tel Aviv started,and it’s also one its trendiest spots now days.
Jaffa has kept authentic, where in its old and renovated houses and building, all religions, mostly Arabs and Jews, live in co – existences by the sea. Jaffa is great to explore by foot with its narrow streets, giving it somewhat of a Jerusalem feeling with a twist.
The “Clock square” is the tourist center of Jaffa, and where you can start walking to any direction. You can go by the towards to old port, which is filled with cool shops and restaurants. You can go to Jaffa’s beach boardwalk or go down to the beaches, which are the trendiest now in Tel Aviv.
Not a long walk from the beginning of Jaffa shore line, on Fridays, before the sundown, you can go to what is called “the Drums beach” – where people gather to play the drums or and instruments thatmake noise for that matter, be Joyce and welcoming the “Shabbat” (the 7th day, Saturday)
One of Jaffa’s biggest tourist attraction is its everyday (besides Saturday) wonderful flea market. And it’s much more than that. Other than getting some interesting item, antique, retro or new, you will also find the hippest new restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and more of the kind. It’s worth a visit, it’s one of the funnest areas to walk for a couple of hours, and the flea market is one of the best I saw, with all kinds of interesting item (most of the interesting stuff are pretty expensive..).
Jaffa for me is the coolest area in Tel – Aviv, and you have to come and pay me a visit if you’re reading this and planning to come here.
Moving not too far deeper into Tel Aviv, you will find Newe Tzedek, with very picturestic street and houses, chick boutiques and galleries and more..
Next to it you will find the not very attractive looking “Florentine” neighborhood, but very bohemic. It’s where most of young residents of Tel Aviv live.
In the center of Tel Aviv, you will find the famous and long stretched “Rotchild” avenue, which is one of Tel Aviv’s most important streets. In center of tel Aviv is mainly where you can go shopping, wine and dine at any time of the day, and go to one of the bars. Two famous markets are “Betzalel” and “Carmel“, “Shenkin” street is famous for its colorful stores and people hanging out in it, shopping and drinking coffees at one of the open cafes. Dizengoff Street that stretches all the way to Tel Aviv’s port is a big shopping street with a big shopping center, and also where there mostly the new “best” dance bar in town.
Up on the north side of town, this where the luxury building are and where it’s considered its all rich people. It’s also where you will find Tel Aviv’s biggest park – “hayarkon”. This is Tel – Aviv’s “Central park”.
Just next to it you will find Tel – Aviv’s port, where today it’s a new built commercial area with stores, restaurants, bars and night clubs.
Of course you have to hit the Tel Aviv beaches for a game of beach volleyball, eat and drink. Or just hang out with Tel Aviv’s pretty people.
Now where to stay depends on you, Tel Aviv has it all. Someone told me, the “Hilton” Tel Aviv, is more expensive than the one in New York. Around “Ben Yehuda” street and “HaYarkon” street, is where you will find most of the accommodation.
If you are like me, I recommend you staying in Jaffa. There is a nice hostel right in the center of “Old Jaffa”.
Where I eat in Tel Aviv? –
Like I said, the choices are endless in any of the areas I listed above and throughout the city. But If you like Ethnic food, home cooking, I recommend highly you go to “Gueta” – which serves tripolitan food. It’s located close to Jaffa’s sea walk on “Yerushalaim” Av’. Amazing home cooking!
Where do I go out?
Again, it’s up to your choice, you can find an endless list of bars, restaurants, dance bars, night clubs, theaters, music halls and more.
I like the “Block” club- located in central bus station, it’s one of Tel Aviv’s BEST NIGHT CLUBS, with great sound system, and changing music styles (mainly electronic music like techno and trance).
Hertzliya has some nice beaches, hotels, and a very lively commercial district with great restaurants, bars and night clubs.
But the main reason in my opinion to visit Hertzlyia if you got the time, is “Apolonia” National Park. The place offers walking routs above a cliff, giving a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea, and a chance to a crusade fortress and some other ruins.
I used to live in Hertzlyia and I loved going there, standing at the cliff, staring at the beautiful water, having great moments of peace..
King Hordes and the rest of the Romans loved this ancient port city, and it was the Capital of Israel in Roman times, back in 1 BEC. Today its where alto of rich folks build their villas by the blue sea. A walk in its national park, offers an interesting glance at roman times, featuring a kept ancient Hippodrome, amphitheater and more.
If you love the beach and sea, one travel tip would be going to “Sdot Yam” Kibbutz, which is right next to Caesarea. This beautiful Kibbutz by the sea has one of Israel’s nice looking beaches, and Israel’s best sailing and kiting school, that trained some world and European champions. Some accommodation offerings are also available at the Kibbutz.
3,000 years old, te worlds for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which makes it one of the world’s most spiritual places, yet also one of the most controversial ones.
There is something special in Israel’s Capital Jerusalem that can impact even the most non-religious and sarcastic people out there, something in the “mountain air that’s clear as wine” (as a famous Israeli song goes..) that drawn all types of people, cultures into it for thousands of years. Surrounded with mountains and forests, you find a specially built city (even modern buildings, are built by law, only with “Jerusalem stone”, a special old looking building blocks ), that was built outside the walls of the Old city, where you will spend most of your time.
What to Do?
Jerusalem is well reviewed over the web, and it deserves a post of its own. Here isonly a brief of what can be said
Most of the important sight so see like the holiest of all – the Western wall, the most famous and photographed Dome of the rock, city of David and more. Just walking in the narrow streets of the Old city, passing on its different quarters, is a great experience.
If you love animals, one site that is maybe not well known as others, is the “The Biblical zoo“, which keeps endangered spices, with emphasis to animals mentioned in the Bible.
One of the best things I love about Israel, that it small, yet so diverse in so many ways, so is the scenery, that as of alot of things in Israel, changes dramatically. If you thought that Israel is all about the dessert and historical sites, then, you thought wrong.
The North of Israel is a green area, with mountains, hills, valleys, all filled with natures best like all kind of plants, flowers, wildlife, waterfalls, streams, lakes, rivers, and even some snow and ski at winter time on Israel’s tallest mountain, Mt, Hermon…
Where to go and stay?
Haifa is the biggest city up north, and the 3rd at its size in all of Israel. It’s also one of the prettiest, as it lies on hilled layers, sitting by a Mediterranean bay, and right next to famous Mount Carmel. Haifa is a mixed cultural city with very active industrial and commercial ports, and many Cruise ships leave and arrive from there.
Haifa’s main attractions are Mt. Carmel, with different types of walking routs up hill, giving you an amazing view of Haifa’s bay.
Another big tourist attraction is the Bahai World Center, which is basically for a tourist some pretty nice botanical gardens in the middle of the city, overlooking on terraces in Haifa’s bay. Read about it and about the Bahai faith. It will be an interesting read, I promise you.
You don’t have to stay the night in Haifa, especially if you are on a tight schedule, as most people will enjoy what Haifa has to offer in less than a day.
Rosh Hanikra and “Achziv” National park
In my opinion, these two places are a must to all sea and nature lovers.
Moving along on the coastal line of Israel, just before Lebanon, you will grea beauty.
In “Achziv” National park you will find a beautiful natural rocky beach, with clear water lagoons and natural sea pools. In front of the beach you will see tiny islands. In summer time, sea turtles come to lay their eggs.
“Achziv” has a nice camping site, and you can also lodge in wooden cabins.
Another great beach further up the coastal line is “Betzet” Beach, the last beach of Israel, is a beautiful long stretched virgin beach.
Next to it, right on the Israel – Lebanon border, you will the amazing nature beauty Of “Rosh hanikra”.
“Rosh Hanikra” Nature site offers a cable car ride, over with cliffs, viewing the sea.
But the bigger beauty is inside, where you will find unique water caverns and caves filled with beautiful blue water. It costs a fee to enter the site, and you can combine your ticket with a bicycle rental.
In my opinion, this must see nature site.
Nazaret Is a very nice pictures tic small town, with great rigorous importance to Christianity, where Jesus Christ was raised.
It’s a nice place to visit for a day trip, sightseeing the historical sites and churches, including of course the church of the Annuncation.
Nazareth also has a nice authentic market, and It is famous around Israel, for having the best Arab rational sweets like baklava, knafe, kadaif and more.
Sit down in this lovely town sweet shops, have yourself some Arab coffee and sweets, and enjoy another day in Israel..
Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinnert)
The Kinnert Lake is Israeli’s main fresh water resource, back in the day, Jesus Christ used to preach here and oh yeah..It is said that he walked on its waters..
It is a nice looking lake with mountains surrounding it, very hot in the summer, and the water is shallow mostly and great for a cold bath..
Israelis love the Kinnert as we rely on it for our water supply, and it’s a great place to camp out and engage in our favorite sport, barbecue..
Tiberius is the city by the lake with its historical and religious importance, and it is where you can find most of the accommodation spots.
All around the lake you will find organized beaches that offer camping sites and water sports activities. Most of the beaches are the same, and cost about 50-70 shekels to camp for the night.
The Golan Heights
Enter a real beauty, completely different scene and landscape from the rest of Israel, or what you thought about it.
The Golan Heights is filled with tourist attractions that can satisfy every traveller’s desire. It is filled with great Nature reserves with green mountains, water streams, waterfalls, historical and archeological sites, authentic villages, and even a ski site in Mt. Hermon.
A few of the most popular Outdoor activities are a beautiful hike along and inside the water of the Banyas River, Quad tours along the fields, Kayaking or tubing down Jordan River and visiting an authentic druse (a unique religion that lives in this parts).
You can easily stay here for a week, and still enjoy every day doing something else and not getting enough.
One travel tip would be is to rent a car, or a Jeep if you can afford it, and go explore the area. You will love it.
Where to Stay? Zimmer’s!
One of the most popular accommodation options in Israel is renting a “Zimmer” (the German word for room. Don’t know why they choose these phrase especially). Israelis love it, mainly on their vacation up north, and mainly for group vacations or romantic getaways.
“Zimmer’s” are rooms for rent by private people, mainly wooden cabins. To offer you a spoiled relaxing vacation, Zimmer’s mostly come with in room Jacuzzis. Most Zimmer’s also have small swimming pools and offer a nice Israeli breakfast. It’s a great way to stay as guests in a Israeli family, and feel some country hospitality. Be aware, that most Zimmer’s are pricy, and can start from 300 shekels during the week days, and starting from 600 shekels in the weekend. Like I said, they are very popular among Israelis, and you may want to do some research and book in advance during summer time and around Jewish holidays.