Israel was always a country I wanted to go to but never made the arrangements to actually go, until an opportunity arose to join a tour through Tailor Made Tours. Since Israel is often in the news and up for discussion about how safe it is, I thought a tour would be the best option (mostly to put my parents at ease).
It turned out to be a pretty great decision! Israel is full of historical and religious sites, gorgeous desert scenery surrounding the Dead Sea and beautiful stone cities with passages full of shops and restaurants. There is so much to fit in that your tour will be a non-stop whirlwind of discovery. Here is a quick guide of what to see and do in Israel with the main spots not to miss!
1) VISIT THE SEASIDE TOWN OF CAESAREA
The tour started off in Caesarea, a coastal town on the Mediterranean that was built by Herod the Great. It is actually a National Park and includes a historic port and a Roman amphitheater that has been restored and is still used for concerts today! And apparently there are underwater ruins to see too (if you can scuba dive)!
2) EXPLORE NIMROD’S FORTRESS
Nimrod’s Fortress sits near Mount Herman and is the site of Israel’s largest crusader fortress. The ruins are well preserved and there are many tunnels and rooms to explore. Not to mention the views you get of Golan Heights!
3) VISIT THE MOUNT OF BEATITUDES
Our next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, which is a hill that is believed to be the location of the Sermon on the Mount. Today, there is a beautiful church on the location with views of the Sea of Galilee. While the inside is not very impressive, the grounds are beautiful and a nice place to walk around.
4) TAKE A BOAT RIDE ON THE SEA OF GALILEE
Somehow, I pictured the Sea of Galilee to be a lot smaller than it actually is. While you can get great views of the sea from Tiberias, the best way to take it in is by a wooden boat. This is something not to be missed when visiting Israel for the first time!
5) WALK ALONG THE JORDAN RIVER
Just south of the Sea of Galilee is the Jordan River. While a lot of it is surrounded by greenery, there is a beautiful baptismal spot called Yardenit where people still come to get baptized in the river.
6) UNCOVER LAYERS OF CIVILIZATION AT BEIT SHE’AN
Also located in the Galilee Region of Israel are the ruins of Beit She’an. This is a fascinating place (especially for history buffs) as there have been over 20 layers of ancient civilizations found here. 20!
7) SEE THE QUMRAN CAVES
Once you hit the Dead Sea region, there are many cool things to see, one of them being the Qumran Caves. These caves, which look to be pretty hard to access, are where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
8) HIKE UP TO MASADA
One of my favorite parts of the tour was getting to hike up Masada, a once ancient fortress and palace of King Herod located on top of a massive plateau in the middle of the desert. A palace that happens to cover three tiers of rock terraces and has the most amazing views of the Dead Sea (King Herod was not known as ‘the great builder’ for nothing!).
The massive ramp up the side of the plateau was built by the Romans so that they could attack the Jewish people who were using Masada as a refuge after Herod’s death.
9) FLOAT IN THE DEAD SEA
Between Israel and Jordan is where you will find the lowest point on Earth: the Dead Sea. The salt content is so high that your body naturally floats. But beware, that also means that the water can burn! Your instinct is to swim, but you’ll most likely end up flopping around. It’s better to sit back, relax and use the mineral-rich mud as a self-applied spa treatment. Or you can leave it for the professionals and go to the actual Dead Sea Spa.
10) CAMEL RIDE THROUGH THE DESERT IN ISRAEL
As it was my first camel ride, I was thrilled to check off a bucket-list item of riding a camel through the desert to my Bedouin camp. The reality was that our massive tour bus drove through the desert all the way up to our Bedouin camp, parked outside, and then we took a short camel ride to nowhere, and then back again.
11) TOUCH THE WESTERN WALL
Arguably one of the most famous and sacred places in Jerusalem is the Western Wall, as it is the only fragment remaining of the Great Temple. Up close, you will notice small notes of prayers and pleas that have been wedged between the stones. The great part about our tour was that we ended up getting a private tour of the Western Wall Tunnels, which expose the entire length of The Western Wall from the inside.
12) SHOP IN JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY
The Old City in Jerusalem is comprised of four sections: The Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter and Armenian Quarter. Within these stone walls, you will find many historical and religious sites. It is also a great place to eat, shop and explore. We were lucky to be in Jerusalem during The Festival of Lights, where the Old City is lit up with different light displays!
13) VISIT THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
Another famous place to see, which is just outside the Old City in Jerusalem, is the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives was once covered in olive trees but is now covered in over 150,000 graves because many religious people believe this to be the location of the return of the Messiah. Whether you are religious or not, walking along the Mount of Olives gives you a great view of the Temple Mount.
14) ENJOY AN AFTERNOON IN TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
After a whirlwind trip around Israel, I headed back to Tel Aviv a few hours early to spend the afternoon at the beach. Tel Aviv has a really nice boardwalk and a long beach—a great place to spend time relaxing before heading home.
Have you been to Israel? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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