Essential Israel – Must-See Sites in Israel
Camel riding is an experience you won't soon forget!
Israel packs millennia of history and beauty into a country that could fit comfortably inside New Jersey, but with a complexity and diversity to rival any region in the world. Israel’s mix of history and entertainment means that it can offer a satisfying holiday to observant religious visitors and fun-seekers alike – even within the same family. Especially for first-time visitors, there is nothing to replace an immersion in the country’s great sights – from the breathtaking view in a cable car to Masada, to nightfall over Jerusalem’s old city.
With all the history and culture that Israel offers, some consider it worthwhile to entrust the itinerary to experts who have decades of experience crafting itineraries and can offer seasoned advice on the highlights and activities of the country. For other travelers, they may prefer to explore on their own; see, sleep, eat wherever nature takes them. There is no “right” way to travel, only one’s preference.
If you are in the former category, you’re in luck! Gil Travel has over 40 years of experience organizing and customizing trips to Israel and the rest of the world. Our team of expert travel agents and knowledgeable guides would help you plan the trip you want, check out some of the testimonials on our site and on Facebook!
Regardless if you’re traveling with us, or if you prefer the independent traveler experience, here are some essential sites to visit in Israel and some experiences you should not miss!
The Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site that comprises of four quarters. Depending on what you want to see, a full day to three days of exploration may be necessary. Don’t forget to stop by some of the open markets and to sample the local cuisine!
Open Markets are quite popular in Israel and plentiful in Jerusalem. You cannot leave without experiencing at least one of them. The Machane Yehuda Market is really popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s an exciting and bustling market that awakens all five senses to a unique experience. Aside from the usual fare of fresh fruits and vegetables (there are really fresh!) there is also cheese, wine, spices, coffee, pastries, and ethnic cuisines.
Here are some more highlights to visit in Jerusalem: Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Roman Cardo, Davidson Center Excavations, The Tower of David, and Jaffa Gate
This is a powerful and moving museum as well as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The exhibits include film footage, videos of personal interviews with survivors, historic documents, gardens, and a lot more. Expect some heavy moments so go about it at your own speed and take breaks if necessary.
Aside from relaxing on the beautiful beaches and biking in this wonderfully bikeable city, be sure to stop by Old Jaffa, an 8000 year old port city, visit the ancient ruins and stroll around the restored artist’s quarter. Nahalat Binyamin is a pedestrian street that holds an arts and crafts fair twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 AM until sundown. There you will find street performances, vendors selling unique, handmade jewelry, ceramics, and other fun knick-knacks. It is a wonderful location for an afternoon stroll and a great place to shop for souvenirs.
While you’re in Tel Aviv, stop by the Clock Tower, Jaffa Promenade, Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv University’s Botanical Gardens, and plan a visit to some of Tel Aviv’s world class museums.
Sitting on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa is the third largest city in Israel with a lot to offer its visitors. Haifa has Israel’s largest port, a large and active beach scene, many nature sites, beautiful architecture both old and modern, and is the home of the World Center of the Baha’i Faith. Haifa is also a center of high tech with many international companies located there. Israel’s renowned Technion University is located on Mount Carmel and regularly produces Nobel Prize winners in the sciences.
There is plenty to see and experience in Haifa and multitude of cultural and leisure activities; but one cannot go to Haifa and not stop by the Baha’i Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Israel. The garden lies in the heart of Haifa and has a staircase of nineteen terraces that extends up to the northern slope of Mount Carmel. In addition to the architecture, beautiful hedges and flower beds, the garden frames and offers beautiful panoramic views of Haifa, the Galilee Hills and the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoy each enchanting moment in the Baha’i Gardens, but be sure to take a moment and look at it outside of the viewfinder or phone’s camera.
There’s much to see and do in Haifa, don’t forget to check out the German Colony, “Step Tours”, Hai-Bar Wildlife Preserve, Gan ha’Em, and Louis Promenade.
On the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert sits Masada, an ancient fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea. Similar to many of Israel’s other sites, Masada has a long and fascinating history that recounts many battles and is another highly popular tourist destination that was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2001). Despite the battles and bloodshed, the remains of the proud fortress are well-preserved.
On Masada one will find King Herod’s northern palace which is built on three rock terraces that overlooks the gorge below. Nearby is a large Roman style bath house with colorful mosaic and murals decorating the floors and walls.
One can reach Masada on foot by the winding “snake path” or by cable car that runs from the foot of Masada where the tourist center sits to the top of the colossal structure.
After a thrilling visit to Masada, one should head down to the Dead Sea for a relaxing float. The Dead Sea is 427 meters below sea level and is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world! Due to the salinity, one floats rather than swims and its waters, air, and sun are thought to produce beneficial therapeutic effects. Be generous with the sunscreen and try the mud mask. Some advice from personal experience, DO NOT shave or wax day of visiting the Dead Sea. Now that is an experience you want to miss.
While you’re there, be sure to also check out Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Qumran Caves, and Nahal David Stream.
Let us know how many of these sites you have visited, or which ones you look forward to the most!
These activities should keep you entertained, but if you find yourself with some free time, click the button below to download our Free Time Guide for more sites to visit in Israel!