Top 10 places to visit in Israel + my local experiences
Known as one of the smallest countries, planning the places to visit in Israel can be really easy and complex at the same time. For starters, Israel is home to a lot of activities – from the great outdoors to gastronomic experiences to pilgrimages, Israel will blow you away!
Living here for a year, I was able to visit the chunk of Israel (mostly by driving) and some of the places I know are not that touristy. This list, however, will include all the places to visit in Israel that are worthwhile most especially if you only have a few days in the country.
What to expect when visiting Israel
#1: Tel Aviv
Good for young travelers who want to experience the nightlife! It is also the mecca for vegans as Tel Aviv has the largest vegans per capita in the world an estimated five percent of the population (about 400,000). Every restaurant in Tel Aviv has a vegan option.
I lived here for over a year and has been in love with the young vibe of the city. Tel Aviv spearheaded the quirk designs of pubs and bars with art installations and rustic interiors in every bar you go to.
It is also very easy to make friends everywhere! Israelis are naturally friendly. In fact, when I first moved to Tel Aviv, I go out by myself and end up hanging out with a lot of people towards the end of the night!
Local tip: go to The Prince in Nahalat Binyamin and the Cuckoo’s Nest in Jaffa. Tell them you know me and you will probably be given a lot of shots and discounts on your meals!
Where to stay in Tel Aviv
I’m not religious but being raised in a Catholic country, Jerusalem is a mecca for most Filipinos. When I first arrived in Jerusalem, I didn’t know how to move around because I thought this city is only fit for pilgrimages but little did I realise that Jerusalem is quite a modern city, too! I actually experienced the best parties in Jerusalem and I was quite surprised about the nightlife culture here – something I didn’t really expect.
Shabbat is highly practiced here so all restaurants and establishments are closed from Friday – Saturday (sundown).
Apart from the surprising nightlife, I really loved the food culture in Jerusalem. It appears to be more deeply rooted compared to modern dining in Tel Aviv. You can find exotic restaurants in Jerusalem that include Georgian, Bulgarian and Romanian – cuisines that we don’t see often when we are traveling. Take note that Jerusalem is home to different cultures and religions so expect the best of everything in this city!
Local tip: Do not miss Hachapuria – the oldest Georgian restaurant in Jerusalem. They serve the best of Georgia including khachapuri! For more food options, go on a gastronomic adventure at Machne Yehuda Market.
Where to stay in Jerusalem
#3: Golan Heights
Expect a lot of outdoor activities in the Golan Heights. This area is truly blessed with land which is also the civilization of wine. Nightlife is pretty uncommon but a lot of wine houses conduct tasting parties in an outdoor setting.
I loved everything!!! I was fortunate enough to have a unique dining experience at one of the vineyards with Puzzle Israel. Imagine amazing food in a perfect outdoor ambiance! I truly felt close to the nature and production of food and drink in this city.
I also loved my visit at the Golan Heights Winery where I was drunk pretty fast. After the tasting, they took us to an unlimited wine party at one of the vineyards (again) where there was music and people from all over Israel attended!
Local tip: Don’t miss the Banias Waterfall! It is not in the list of famous places to visit in Israel so go if you can!
Where to stay in Golan Heights:
Akko is one of the smallest towns in Israel but has the most diverse selection of things to do. You would ideally spend a night or two in this town. Markets, tunnels and a lot of history can be discovered in Akko. I liked the vibe of Akko because it wasn’t really busy. I got to experience a different kind of Israel which is neither very modern nor religious.
Local tip: Find a local family where you can crash and share a meal with! In Akko, I was able to find a Yemenite family who shared their meal with me. They are really approachable!
Where to stay in Akko:
#5: Nazareth / Galilee
Expect a load of familiar places in the bible coming your way! Churches, popular monuments and religious sites. What I really loved when I went to Galilee and Nazareth was being able to do this trip by myself! I did not sign up for any tours so it was pretty amazing to randomly take the bus and trains in paths you’ve never crossed before.
Where to stay in Nazareth:
#6: The Negev Desert
Love the outdoors? Then the Negev Desert is for you! If you want to know more about desert-living in Israel, the Negev desert is the big piece of the puzzle. The most amazing thing I’ve seen and done in my life: a music festival in the Negev Desert. Though there are no parties all year round, make sure not to miss the Burning Man every April/May in this area!
Haifa is not on the popular list of places to visit in Israel but this is where you will totally feel the north Israeli culture. The landscape is perfect for an exotic travel feel plus the food is amazing, too! The Haifa neighborhoods are super friendly and are top of the charts! I also loved my visit to the Baha’i shrine and tropical gardens – I’ve never seen anything like it in my life! (see photo above)
Where to stay in Haifa:
#8: Dead Sea and the Masada
The Masada and Dead sea tours can be done in one day but expect to be tired as this includes a lot of physical activities! Just climbing up to the Masada for sunrise will take an hour or two, depending on your speed. The steps are a bit steep! Enjoy a dip in the Dead Sea after the trek plus mud baths in between!
Though I believe I am still physically fit for a steep hike, I did not enjoy Masada that much mainly because of lack of sleep. We climbed at 4:30 am with almost 2 hours of sleep but the Dead Sea, after the hike, was a really rewarding swim!
Where to stay in the Dead Sea:
- David Dead Sea Resort and Spa starts at $135 USD per night for a double room for 2 pax, breakfast included
- Oasis Dead Sea Hotel starts at $158 USD per night for a classic room for 2 pax, breakfast included
- Spa Club Hotel starts at $167 USD per night for a double/twin room for 2 pax, breakfast included
If you sign up with a tour agency, you will be taken to the religious sites. You will see the rich history and the birth of Jesus. This place is perfect for devout Catholics who want to follow the journey of Jesus.
I thought I would be seeing a pure religious journey but I am really surprised by the business and somehow modernity of this city. I loved the feeling of walking there safely. The people are used to tourists so I didn’t have a hard time moving around!
The city of Eilat is very modern with shopping malls, hip neighborhoods and of course, the sea. Like Tel Aviv, people of Eilat are beach bums. Eilat is also home to the famous Kitesurfing scene – many Kitesurfers from all over the world come here to practice!
I’ve been to Eilat many times as this is the gateway to countries like Egypt and Jordan but my favorite part in Eilat is being able to visit one of my good friends whom I met while backpacking South America! I stayed in their home and literally spent all day on the beach (8 hours tops)!
Where to stay in Eilat:
- Budget: Motel Tsabar starts at $54 USD per night for a twin/double room for 2 pax
- Mid-range: Prima Music Hotel starts at $109 USD per night for a sea view room for 2 pax, breakfast included
- Luxury: Dan Panorama Eilat Hotel starts at $251 USD per night for a standard room for 2 pax, breakfast included
What are the best places to visit in Israel? Have you been?
When did you go? What did you eat? Where did you stay? Which activity did you enjoy the most? I’d like to hear your thoughts! Please leave your ideas and suggestions (that may not be in this post) in the comment box below!