Looking for new experiences? You won’t be disappointed in Israel.
The term “Holy Land” is often used to describe Israel. While it may be accurate, it might also give you the idea that there’s not much fun to be had. But think again, when you venture off the biblical track, you’ll find there are (also) lots of exhilarating things to do. Let’s take a closer look.
The Judean Desert is known for its high plateaus, plunging canyons and chalk hills with black and white streaks. Among the highlights: Masada, a fortress built on a rock plateau by Herod the Great. And who can say no to cooling off in an oasis?
The Negev features the Red Canyon and its rock formations, a “work in progress” sculpted by Mother Nature. Through it runs the ancient Incense Route, once used to transport the aromatic resin between Yemen and the Mediterranean. Ruins of the caravanserai, or roadside inns, remain along the way.
The Dead Sea is not a sea at all—it’s actually a huge lake, best known for having so much salt you can’t help but float. To go with this rather unforgettable moment of feeling unsinkable, we recommend a Dead Sea mud bath, with its therapeutic effects for your skin.
You should also try the Mediterranean beaches of Tel Aviv, such as Jaffa and Caesarea, as well as a dip in the Red Sea in Eilat.
The words “Red Sea” hold special meaning to freediving enthusiasts, and with good reason. The diversity of brightly coloured fish and coral reefs of Eilat, the only seaside resort in southern Israel, are accessible from the shore.
Dolphin Reef is a research centre where you can not only see dolphins in their natural habitat, but you can swim with them as well. Once you dry off, get ready for Eilat by night. It’s especially festive in the summer, with nightclubs and, even, desert raves.
Life in a kibbutz
Around since the early 1900s, the kibbutz is a collective farm where guests help out in exchange for food and lodging. The very definition of sustainable tourism, wouldn’t you say? What’s more, these operations are always looking for volunteers to lend a hand.
Of course, hot sun nine months out of the year means fresh fruit and vegetables galore and, by extension, markets too. The Machane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem and Ha’Carmel shuk in Tel Aviv are two of our favourites. Along with growers’ produce, you can find spices, incense, clothing, handicrafts and a lively atmosphere on Fridays, before the Shabbat.
All of this fresh produce, not to mention fish from the Mediterranean, inspires chefs with a cornucopia of ideas for their dishes. As a result, delectable eateries are sprouting up everywhere in trendy centres such as West Jerusalem, and Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv. In Jaffa, your best bets are by the sea.
Cool cafés? Yup. Rooftop bars? Check. Speakeasies? Most definitely. This may be the “Holy Land,” but that doesn’t mean young Israelis don’t know how to have fun.
Cover photo credit: Israeli Ministry of Tourism