Israel things to see and do

Tourist offices

Israel Government Tourist Office in the UK

UK House, 180 Oxford Street, London, W1D 1NN, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7299 1100/10/11.
Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs 0900-1600, Fri 0900-1230.
www.thinkisrael.com

Israel Government Tourist Office in the USA

16th Floor, 800 Second Avenue, New York 10017, NY , United States
Tel: (212) 499 5650 or 1 888 774 7723.
Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs 0900-1600, Fri 0900-1230.
www.goisrael.com

Things to see and do

Akko Old City

Akko’s Old City is a jumble of buildings dotted by minarets and church spires, and encompassed by a great citadel and imposing walls. Crusaders, Ottomans, Napoleon, the British Mandate authorities and Jewish freedom fighters combine to form a colourful past, while today Akko is a lively Arab city, with a bustling market and quaint fishing port.

Baha’i Shrine and German Colony, Haifa

Taking pride of place in the heart of Israel’s third largest city are the Baha’i Shrine and German Colony. The perfectly manicured Persian Gardens tumble down the hill that characterises Haifa’s topography and into the German Colony below, at their centre the golden-topped Baha’i Shrine of the Bab, founder of the Baha’i Faith.

Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Dominated by church spires and the white tombs of the Jewish cemetery is the Mount of Olives. Christianity, Judaism and Islam meet once again as significant events of our past were played out here. The Garden of Gethsemane, Dome of the Ascension and Tomb of the Virgin Mary are top pilgrimage sites.

Nazareth

Known as Jesus’ childhood home and the scene of Mary’s annunciation, Nazareth attracts scores of pilgrims from around the world. The predominantly Arab Christian city, where tiny, cobbled lanes weave between churches, mosques and a busy souk. The grand Basilica of the Annunciation takes pride of place in the centre of the city.

Ramon Crater

This unique geological phenomenon is located in the heart of the barren Negev Desert. It was formed as an ancient sea that once covered this region retreated and today measures a vast 45km (28miles) long, 8km (5miles) wide and 500m (1640ft) deep and provides for some astounding views, and a wealth of hiking opportunities.

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is a large lake in Israel’s beautiful Jezreel Valley that is as picturesque as it is historically important. The shores are dotted with churches commemorating Jesus’ miracles and baptism, while Tiberias – one of Judaism’s four holy cities – is a popular tourist destination for young Israelis.

Beaches

With four coasts to choose from, Israel has an impressive variety of beaches. Sandy beaches line the Mediterranean Coast, notably Tel Aviv and north of Netanya, while the Red Sea offers access to colourful coral reefs. The Sea of Galilee’s beaches are ideal for picnics and the Dead Sea offers a truly unique experience.

Dead Sea

Lying 400m (1320ft) below sea level and spanning the border between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is a natural wonder. It contains more minerals and salt than any other stretch of water in the world, and thus it is possible to float on top of the water. Its natural properties make it a prime centre for spa treatments and relaxation therapies and there are a number of resorts in the area. The Dead Sea has strong Biblical connections: here the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Biblical documents known to be in existence, were discovered at Qumran were found and King Herod built his palace of Masada.

Desert tour

A trip into the Negev desert is a must-do. There are tours by jeep, on foot or on horseback from the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon and from the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

Israel Museum

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem (www.imj.org.il) houses the country's principal collection of impressive archaeological discoveries and ancient art. These include the Dead Sea Scrolls housed within their own grand wing known as the Shrine of the Book. A trip to the museum is crucial to understanding Israel’s long and complex history.

Jerusalem's Old City

Jerusalem's Old City is a living museum of religious buildings and historical intrigue. Be sure to visit the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jewish Western Wall and Islamic Dome of the Rock - some of the world’s most significant buildings. Explore the bustling markets and narrow lanes of the four Old City Quarters.

Kibbutz

These intriguing communities can be found all over Israel and many offer accommodation facilities for tourists. They offer a great insight into a local kibbutz life and are unique to the country. Several kibbutz offer workshops or, as with Israel’s first kibbutz, Deganya A a small museum.

Markets

Exploring the traditional markets is a definite highlight of a trip to Israel. Fling yourself into Tel Aviv's Shuk HaCarmel, brimming with spices and fresh produce, try the traditional dishes in the Mahane Yehuda food market in Jerusalem or haggle for anything from souvenirs to jewellery along the narrow streets of Jerusalem Old City.

Masada

The cliff-top palace of Masada was built by King Herod and offers breathtaking views of the Dead Sea and Negev Desert. It also holds an important place in the history books and hearts of Jews as the last remaining Jewish stronghold in of the Roman-controlled land.

National parks and reserves

Israel’s historic treasures and breathtaking landscapes are protected in over 60 national parks and nature reserves (www.parks.org.il). Remains of once grand cities such as Bet She’an and Caesarea are true archaeological highlights, while the Ein Gedi and Yehudiya nature reserves offer natural beauty and opportunities for hiking. .

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

The impressive and moving Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum was built in remembrance of the six million Jewish people who perished in the Holocaust. A visit to Yad Vashem (www.yadvashem.org) is crucial to understanding the history of the country. The museum is extensive and contains many displays and exhibits.

Edited by Jane Duru
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