It’s home to the lowest place on earth, several of the world’s most holy places and some of the finest food you’ll ever taste. Israel holidays are like nothing else. There are wonderful beaches and energetic cities, not to mention the globally significant fortresses, mosques, churches and synagogues where you can witness a legacy that echoes into the present. Yet many aspects of holidays to Israel are firmly contemporary.
Tel Aviv has great stretches of beach, plus superb music and contemporary art scenes. Falafel, shawarma and hummus are packed into pittas at lip-smacking food stalls, while restaurants offer cutting-edge global food, and drinkers can head to cocktail and dive bars or find rooftop venues for that perfect Mediterranean sunset. Southeast of here, Jerusalem straddles the divide between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Pilgrims and tourists come in their thousands to the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock. But a visit is also about a unique mix of faiths, and a fusion of old and new that takes in buzzing old-town streets, ancient markets and ultra-modern coffee shops. Past Jerusalem, the Dead Sea is breathtakingly surreal. You really do float here, in a salt lake 431m below sea level, the still blue waters set against desert canyons and sophisticated spa centres. Further afield, you can take a cable car to the legendary siege site of Masada, walk the walled Crusader City of Acre or explore Roman ruins in Caesarea. Fans of modern cities can visit dynamic Nazareth and Ramallah. And adventurers can dive in the Red Sea, cycle by the Sea of Galilee or hike the mountains and the desert, where place names bear the weight of thousands of years of faith and history.
A great time to visit the coast, as it’s sunny and not too hot. It’s also a good time to hike, with plants and flowers turning hills and valleys into a gloriously lush spectacle.
This major music and theatre festival in late May and early June always features some big international productions, and brings a lovely atmosphere to Jerusalem’s streets.
The Jewish festival of light runs for eight days in December, and features candle-lighting ceremonies and plenty of delicious food – notably doughnuts and potato cakes.
The past is vividly present in the Western Wall – often known as the ‘Wailing Wall’ – and the City of David. Museums contain treasures including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and underground passages lead to mysterious shrines.
Party it up in Tel Aviv
Look out to the sea and forward to the future in Tel Aviv, where beach life, vibrant bars, big-name DJs, inventive cocktails and craft beer create a bubbling brew.
Kick back in the Dead Sea
Its air hazy, its water mineral-packed and dense with salt, the Dead Sea is unique. There are some excellent spas here, as well as some nice hiking trails.