places to visit in Israel

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

[us_iconbox icon=”fas|check” size=”18px” iconpos=”left” title=”Shabbat is a holy day” title_tag=”p”]Except for Tel Aviv which is open 24/7, the whole country is practicing ‘Shabbat,’ the Jewish day of rest. It starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday evening when the new week begins. Expect that most restaurants and establishments are closed (especially in Jerusalem) so make sure to buy your food before sundown on Friday![/us_iconbox]
[us_iconbox icon=”fas|check” size=”18px” iconpos=”left” title=”Dress code is imposed in religious sites” title_tag=”p”]You may need to pack a wardrobe that is suitable for religious sites and this applies to both men and women. Make sure not to wear shorts and cover where is appropriate.[/us_iconbox]
[us_iconbox icon=”fas|check” size=”18px” iconpos=”left” title=”Tel Aviv curates a different story” title_tag=”p”]You might think the whole of Israel is very devout but when you visit Tel Aviv, you will see a whole new world of westernization and people who are definitely not that religious. Tel Aviv is home to almost 90% of young people and has a different vibe compared to our Israeli cities. Think of Berlin, Amsterdam, Krakow or Barcelona – that’s how Tel Aviv is.[/us_iconbox]
[us_iconbox icon=”fas|check” size=”18px” iconpos=”left” title=”Wherever you go, food is great!” title_tag=”p”]Israeli cuisines is one of the best in the Middle East so make sure to try all of them![/us_iconbox]

#1: Tel Aviv

cities to visit in 2019

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
  • Budget: Florentin Backpackers starts at $25 USD per night for a bed in a dormitory
  • Mid-range: Cucu Boutique Hotel starts at $180 USD per night for a private room for 2 pax, breakfast included
  • Luxury: Fabric Hotel starts at $258 USD per night for a private room for 2 pax, breakfast included

#2: Jerusalem

places to visit in Israel

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:

#4: Akko/Acre

places to visit in Israel

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

places to visit in Israel

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:
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#6: The Negev Desert

places to visit in Israel

Julian Gyros / Flickr

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!

#7: Haifa

places to visit in Israel

@surf.the.sky / Instagram

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

places to visit in Israel

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:

#9: Bethlehem

places to visit in Israel

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!

#10: Eilat

places to visit in Israel

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
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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!

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

Comments

  • vanessa workman
    December 10, 2018

    Respect to anyone getting up at 4:30am to go hiking. But I must say I have always been fascinated by the Dead Sea and if that is what it takes to get there, then sign me up! I still can’t quite get my head around the existence of night life among such a historically religious destination, but I totally trust you on that. Food and nature would be my key reasons to go there, but good to know there is opportunity to let my hair down should the occasion arise. Great write up btw!

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  • vanessa workman
    December 10, 2018

    Fantastic photos! I have been back and forth about Sri Lanka based on a variety of blogs I’ve read. But your photos show a much more inviting landscape than I had previously pictured in my mind. Especially the beaches. I would love to try surfing there. Did you get a chance to try while you were there? I bet you would be a natural!

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  • Tanya Korteling
    December 11, 2018

    Really useful post, I’m hoping to visit Israel in the next year or two so will be bookmarking this. I didn’t realise Israel had so many fantastic things to do.

    Negav desert and Golan appeal to me most as I like being outdoors and adventure…and wine 🙂

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  • Jim Whittemore
    December 11, 2018

    Wow, extremely informative and well-organized article. We’ve been wanting to visit Tel Aviv for a while to go see some shows and visit some friends. We also had no idea we would have to have such a high Price Per Day, gonna have to plan this a little bit more than we thought! Thanks for this.

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  • Carol Colborn
    December 11, 2018

    What a complete guide to Israel. Congratulations. This will be my source.

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  • Hannah
    December 11, 2018

    It’s great to see different places in Israel listed rather than just Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I would love to visit the vineyards in Golan Heights – wine tastings are one of my favourite things to do on holiday! The Negev Desert looks stunning – and attending a Burning Man celebration there would be such fun!

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  • Gabby
    December 12, 2018

    So interesting – I have so many friends who have been to Israel but somehow I had seen so few pictures of it! I’m actually really surprised by how expensive food is there – those look similar to US prices!

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  • Leah
    December 12, 2018

    What a comprehensive guide to Israel! Brava! I’ve yet to visit, but it’s high on my list. It doesn’t seem like a very expensive place to travel at the luxury level. I’m going to bump it on up higher on the to-do list.

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  • Tom
    December 13, 2018

    Israel looks like a beautiful country. I didn’t many places to visit other than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so this list was a good read.

    I’ll have to look at visiting in the near future to check out some these places! Akko looks incredible, would love to spend a few days there!

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  • Marvi
    December 19, 2018

    I guess I was expecting Israel to be a very conservative and more laidback, but I can say that I have a lot more to expect.. 🙂 I was surprised about the vibrant night life you’ve mentioned, for one.. Great insight here, Trisha and great tips too. Sounds like you had such a wonderful time.. 🙂 I’ll be sure to put this only my bucket list.

    reply

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