Top Things to Do
While Israel has experienced significant political turmoil and remains heavily militarized, sacred biblical ruins, stunning natural features, and bustling cosmopolitan cities make the country an interesting and worthwhile destination. Best of all, Israel is about the size of New Jersey and it’s relatively easy to tour by bus or car. From North to South, you can drive through it in less than 10 hours! Along the way, there are numerous places to visit ranging from the Golan Heights to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. After spending 10 days exploring Israel, here were some of my favorite activities!
Floating in the Dead Sea. Also known as Yam Ha-Melah (the Sea of Salt), the shores of Dead Sea represent the lowest point on earth at more than 400m below sea level. Only an hour away from Jerusalem, this popular destination is known for relaxing and rejuvenation. The unique properties of this hypersaline lake are widely believed to have healing and health benefits, particularly for the skin. Spend the afternoon basking in the sun, gently floating, or enjoying a treatment at one of the many spas and wellness centers. Don’t miss out on a Dead Sea mud mask!
Climbing Masada at Sunrise. Overlooking the Dead Sea, this ancient fortress was the site of a major siege during the first Jewish-Roman War occurring from 73 to 74 CE. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it serves as an important archeological site and representation of the last stronghold for Jewish zealots fighting against the Romans. Climb the snake path up the mountain during sunrise for the best views of the surrounding desert and the Dead Sea!
Placing a prayer in the Western Wall. Better known as the “Wailing Wall,” this ancient limestone wall is one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem. Located in the heart of the Old City, thousands of people visit the wall each year to recite prayers and place hand-written prayers in the cracks. The wall is divided into two section based on gender and entrance is free and open year-round. Modest dress is recommended and head covering is required for men.
Exploring the Mahane Yehuda Market. This popular market in Jerusalem has more than 250 vendors selling dried fruit, cheese, pastries, spices, and more! Weave your way through the numerous stalls and sample local delicacies and treats along the way. Don’t miss the delicious falafel stands near the market!
Driving to the top of Mount Bental. A dormant volcano, the summit of Mount Bental offers sweeping panoramic views of the northern Golan Heights and Syria. During the Yom Kippur Wars of 1973, the site served as an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) outpost for a bloody battle fought against the Syrians. Visitors can tour the preserved IDF bunkers and walk along the trenches. There are also a collection of sculptures depicting various war scenes. Take in the scenic views, learn about the tale of the battle, and enjoy coffee, tea, and cakes at Kofi Anan café. Entrance to the site is free.
Hiking in the Golan Heights. The main section of the trail offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and contains beautiful flowers, streams, and waterfalls. Most of the trail is relatively flat and there are few steep climbs. It’s best to embark on this trail with a local guide, as the area is still heavily militarized and there are still minefields in some areas. Fortunately, there are plenty of well-marked paths and large signs posted to avoid potentially dangerous areas.