While Israel may look tiny on a map (the size of New Jersey in fact!), the history-rich Middle Eastern country has myriads of spectacular places to visit.
From ancient religious sites to world-famous cities and stunning beaches, there are enough attractions here to appeal to all interests and all religions, whether you’re Muslim, Jewish, or Christian.
Understandably, capturing all of the Holy Land’s marvels in a single post was never going to be easy, so we’ve narrowed down the list to those places you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
Planning a trip to Israel? Make sure you include the following incredible places in your itinerary; the best places to visit!
The Best Places to Visit in Israel
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Home to two of Christianity’s holiest sites, where Jesus was crucified and the tomb in which he was buried, Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the very first places foreign tourists plan to visit before booking an Israel flight.
The world-famous pilgrimage center admits visitors of all religions from Monday to Sunday between 5 am and 9 pm. It’s located in the the northwest quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The church dates back to 336 CE, when Constantine the Great first built a church here. Throughout the ages it has been ruined, restored, and rebuilt; the present church dates mainly from 1810.
This site is widely recognized as the place where Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. And one of the most visited parts of the church is where the Rock of Calvary is displayed; this is where the Crucifixion is believed to have occurred.
Rockefeller Archeological Museum
Located a few miles away from the Jerusalem Municipality, the Rockefeller Archeological Museum isn’t usually on must-see lists for Jerusalem, but the castle like building houses tons of incredible artifacts, some as old as 9 millennia.
Just a short walk from Herod’s Gate, you can browse an incredible collection, arranged in chronological order from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period. There are Roman-era antiquities, 9th century mosaics, a 9,000-year old statue from Jericho, and gold jewelry from the Bronze Age.
Visiting hours are 10 am – 3 pm from Sunday to Thursday and 10 am – 2 pm on Saturdays. Entrance is absolutely free of charge – we do recommend dressing warmly in winter as the museum is not heated.
Image credit: Carlo Raso via Flickr
The Old City Jerusalem
Even if it didn’t have the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Western Wall, the Old City of Jerusalem would still be too much to explore in a single day’s visit.
Browse the narrow streets of the historical city and pop in out of the series of stalls as you mingle with locals and familiarize yourself with the rich culture of Israel.
The Dead Sea
The shore of the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth at more than 1,300 feet below sea level, but that’s not all there is to experience at the very center of Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
Enjoy floating in the dense waters of the salt lake and watch the sun set from a plastic chair on the shore. The Dead Sea is 9.6 times more salty than the ocean, which makes it one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world (hence why you float).
The Dead Sea is widely believed to have healing properties, and people travel here from all over the world to swim in its waters and rejuvenate their body. While there are many spa services in the area, the sea itself is known as the biggest free natural spa on earth.
Its potassium acts as a moisturizer, the concentration of sodium boosts your immune system, the calcium chlorides strengthen your bones and nails, and the magnesium has anti-ageing qualities!
Our biggest tip for swimming in the dead sea, is not to wear an expensive bathing suit; the high salt concentration can often discolor it. Likewise, if you take your water proof camera in, photos rarely turn out, as a film of salt quickly forms over the lens.
Image credit: Rojs Rozentāls / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr
Tel Aviv Beach
The late afternoon ambience of the sandy Tel Aviv beach just at the edge of Israel’s capital is something you might want to add to your list of experiences from your visit to Israel.
Grab a bottle of beer or wine from one of the beachside vendors, fling off your shoes, and feel the sand caress your toes as you watch the gentle afternoon waves of the Mediterranean rock the shores!
Image credit: Dennis Jarvis / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr
The Carmel Market
Sitting at the heart of Tel Aviv, the Carmel market gives you the chance to put your bargaining skills to practice and get a glimpse of what it feels like to be an Israeli.
Most prices are negotiable in Israel, but even if you don’t wish to shop, the atmosphere here is electric; wander past the numerous stalls of foods, spices, jewelry, and clothes, listening to the welcoming vendors hawk their products and poke fun at each other over quality of goods, sports teams, and prices.
The place is chockablock and expansive, but you don’t need anyone to guide you through – just go alone and explore. If you do choose to bargain, keep it light and friendly.
The Red Sea
If you want to scuba or snorkel in crystal water clear above amazing coral reef, the Red Sea should be on your bucket list. For this you’ll head to the seaside town of Eilat.
Eilat is home to the Underwater Observatory and a series of spectacular beaches to align with the pleasant weather it experiences all year round. As an added advantage, the resort town has its own airport, so getting there is super easy.
Eilat is well set up for tourism; there are beautiful beach promenades and massive, modern hotels. It’s a trendy, energetic city, with a beautiful 1,200 meter stretch of coral reefs and the 5,000 or so species of marine life it attracts.
Make sure you include Dolphin Reef in your time here; there is a wooden pier that runs out into the sea, and wild bottle nose dolphins commonly hang around here. You can feed them from the pier, or jump in the water and swim with them.
Ramat Gan Safari
The little Africa that is Ramat Gan Safari is Israel’s largest wildlife reserve. It has 23 species of reptiles, 92 species of birds, as well as gorillas, hippos, orangutans, lions and several other species of African animals.
Only a 15-minute drive away from Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan Safari has a drive-through that meanders through the reserve and gives you an up-close view of the 1600 animals in the enclosure.
The Fortress of Masada
Several centuries ago, more than a thousand Jews residing Masada are said to have opted to commit mass suicide rather than surrender to Roman soldiers during the First Jewish-Roman War (73 A.D.).
The fortress that was their hideout still stands strong atop a rock plateau facing the Dead Sea from the middle of the desert in the Southern District of Israel.
The threat of the Roman troops is now long gone and you can walk safely up the fortress via the Snake Path or the much easier Roman Ramp on the Western side of the plateau or just use the cable car.
The stone fortress is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the 840-acre complex holds well-preserved ruins attesting to the history of the ancient kingdom of Israel and the courage of its people in the face of a Roman siege.