Israel, also known as the State of Israel, is considered the cradle of three major religions. Christians, Muslims and Jewish people all live together in this country located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea.
It goes without saying that when you say Israel you say religious edifices. It is said that all believers should live the experience of visiting Israel’s religious attractions at least once in a lifetime. Beyond its religious side, Israel is blessed with a lot of other beautiful tourist attractions and the experience of discovering them is also very interesting.
I visited Israel twice and I had the chance to enjoy more than its religious side. I experienced its culture and lifestyle as well. Nine years ago, I visited Israel for the first time as part of an organized trip lead by a priest. The tour was complete and it included all the major religious tourist attractions in Israel and Palestine. I didn’t write about this religious experience and I won’t do it now either because it is, in my opinion, the type of experience which should be kept in one’s heart. In case you want to live such an experience, I advise you to choose a trip organized by a priest because this way you will have the chance to “see” Israel from a different point of view.
My second trip to Israel took place two years ago and during the ten days I spent there, I tried to discover another side of this country. If you plan to visit Israel, I hope that my trip itinerary helps you. I consider there are definitely a few places you should add to your trip list.
Even though the purpose of my trip was to discover new places in Israel, I wanted to revisit the city of Jerusalem and the town of Nazareth. Whether you are a religious person or not, Jerusalem should be on your trip list. You cannot leave Israel without stopping in this famous city because the Old City of Jerusalem is well worth a visit. Beyond the multitude of bazaars and all the agitation, this part of the city holds pages of history within its walls.
The most famous road is the Via Dolorosa. Every Christian should take a tour of the Via Dolorosa which is believed to be the path Jesus followed on the way to his crucifixion. Situated at the end of this road, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Resurrection is the final destination for believers. This church is built above Golgotha, the place where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and it shelters Jesus’s empty tomb. The road that leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not the same without a priest who can explain all the important details to you.
The Garden of Gethsemane is another place that you should visit. Situated near the foot of the Mount of Olives, this garden is the place where Jesus went to pray the night before he was crucified. The Church of All Nations is situated near the garden and according to religion, this church was built over the rock where Jesus prayed before he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot.
A few steps farther, you can find the Grotto of Gethsemane, the natural cave used as shelter by Jesus and his disciples. Near the grotto, there is the Church of the Assumption or the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, where according to Christian tradition the Mother of Jesus was buried after she died. Jerusalem is blessed with a lot of other religious edifices, but I chose to revisit only the ones I have already mentioned. The visit to Jerusalem ended with a walk to the Ramparts Walk, where I had the chance to admire a great view over the Old City.
The town of Nazareth was another place that I wanted to revisit. From all the places I had already visited during my first trip there, I chose to revisit only the small Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. This is the church where one of the most famous biblical scenes took place. According to religion, the angel Gabriel descended from Heaven to tell the Virgin Mary about her pregnancy. The church stands over the cave where it is believed that Mary first heard the angel’s voice.
The city of Akko or Acre was a great surprise taking into account all the things it has to offer. This famous Crusader city is blessed with one of the oldest ports in the world, well-preserved citadels and mosques, Turkish baths and crowded bazaars. Here, you can visit the Hospitaller Fortress which paints the glorious past of Akko or you can relax inside the Turkish Bath, which is nowadays an interesting museum.
A walk along the massive stone walls which border the Old Town will offer you the chance to admire some gorgeous panoramic views. During this walk, you will notice the massive tower known as Burj el-Kummander, the bastion Burg Kurajim and the small St. John’s Church.
Ahmed Al-Jazzar Mosque is another tourist attraction that deserves your attention. This well-preserved religious edifice impresses tourists with its imposing white and green tower. Akko’s Marina is that part of the city that I liked the most. The image of the colorful fishing boats and the luxury yachts outlines the beauty of this port. In case you are a shopping lover, Akko’s main bazaar is the perfect option. The city is also blessed with a large beach where you can spend a few moments of relaxation after visiting all these tourist attractions.
Haifa was the city that really impressed me. Here, I visited the Baha’i Gardens and the lovely Camel Beach. The Baha’i Gardens are the symbol of the Bahá’i faith and one of the most visited places of pilgrimage in Haifa and Western Galilee. The Bahá’i religion brings together the essential beliefs of all religions and promotes the idea of a unified world regardless of nations, races, social classes and creeds. The Baha’i Gardens shelter 19 terraces of flowers, water fountains and small sculptures that surround the Shrine of the Báb. Considered the most famous holy place in the Bahá’i faith, this shrine was built in honor of the prophet Báb, the main founder of the Bahá’i religion.
Covering a large area, the Bahá’i Gardens are divided into three different sections beautifully decorated with flowers and trees, water fountains and small sculptures. For a complete experience, you should visit all these sections. You can visit the gardens on your own or as a part of a guided tour.
After visiting this beautiful place, I ended the day relaxing on Camel Beach. Equipped with sunbeds and umbrellas, this sandy beach is the perfect place where you can rest and relax for a few hours.
Another day of my trip was dedicated to the city of Tel Aviv. This city has a lot to offer and in case you want to visit all its important tourist attractions, you should spend at least a few days here. Taking into account the fact that I didn’t stay long in Tel Aviv, I decided to visit only the Ramat Gan Safari and Jaffa.
The Ramat Gan Safari is a beautiful park situated close to the center of Tel Aviv, in the neighboring city of Ramat Gan. Divided into three sections, it is one of the largest zoos in the Middle East. The Safari Park, The Lion Safari and The Zoo are the three sections specially designed to imitate the natural habitat of the animals. The Ramat Gan Safari is home to 1600 species of animals, including 68 species of mammals, 130 species of fowl and 25 species of reptiles. I must confess that it was a great experience to admire different species from all over the world. The park covers an area of 250 acres and you can explore it in your car, by taking a Segway tour or by joining an organized tour.
Jaffa, the southern and the oldest part of Tel Aviv, was the second place I decided to visit. In my opinion, visiting this part of Tel Aviv was a great way to end the day. Walking in the ancient port and admiring the gorgeous views was a perfect way to relax. Also, there are some beautiful buildings you will definitely notice during this walk. For example, I liked the bell tower of St. Peter’s Church, which is one of the symbols of Jaffa.
Masada National Park is another historical place that caught my attention. Lying on a flat plateau above the Dead Sea, this ancient fortress is considered one of the most famous archaeological sites in Israel. Built as a palace complex by Herod the Great, King of Judaea, Masada shelters the ruins of the beautiful Roman buildings. Considered the most impressive part of the complex, King Herod’s northern palace is built on three rock terraces and displays an opulent architectural style. The large Roman bath embellished with a colorful mosaic floor and murals is another part of the complex which attracts a lot of tourists.
Masada is also famous for its old innovative water system which used to collect runoff water from the rain. This water was used to sustain life for a thousand people over a period of two-three years. The luxurious western palace, the Jewish ritual bath, the storerooms, the watchtowers and the synagogue are other buildings you can admire inside the fortress. To reach the fortress, you can follow the “snake path” or you can take the cable car that runs from the foot of the mountain to the top. You have two options to visit Masada. You can explore it on your own or as a part of a guided tour.
The Keshet Cave is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Israel. I must confess that it was a real pleasure to explore this natural arch. Also known as the Rainbow Cave or the Arch Cave, this carved rock has a small cave beneath which attracts hundreds of extreme sports lovers. They go down from the arch to the cave base, dropping off the side of the cave and swinging under the arch using only a thick rope. In case you are not a fan of extreme sports, just like me, you can admire this natural arch and the beautiful scenery that surrounds it.
After visiting the Keshet Cave, you can relax a few hours on the Betzet Beach, which is located at the foot of the mountain. Betzet Beach is the northernmost beach in Israel. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and valleys, this is one of the most beautiful beaches in Israel.
All things considered, in case you plan a trip to Israel and you don’t know what to visit there, I hope that my trip itinerary inspires you.