Country guides Middle East
Israel Travel Guide
In Israel, the land is so steeped in history that it can seem like a quality of the very air. The country welcomes millions of visitors to its shores annually, making it one of the most popular places to visit in the Middle East. While most tourists are keen historical sightseers, eager to check out the incredible attractions found in the Old City of Jerusalem, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Israel.
Tourists looking for a party can check out bustling, backpacker-heavy Tel Aviv. It's a vibrant, modern city with a cosmopolitan atmosphere and a gorgeous, perpetually sunny Mediterranean coastline. The city is also home to the famous Carmel Market, where shopaholics will find more than enough to satisfy their wants, as well as a host of interesting museums and art galleries.
Outdoor types will be pleased to learn that there are lots of exciting activities on offer in Israel. Diving in the Red Sea near Eilat on Israel's southern coast is rated as one of the best diving experiences in the world; while Galilee is celebrated for its beautiful scenery and wide range of hiking trails and health resorts.
Of course, Israel's status as the centre for the major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam brings many visitors. Followers of all three faiths make the pilgrimage each year to connect with the historical source of their religious convictions, and even non-religious tourists will find themselves awe-struck by the beauty and majesty of some of the most famous churches, temples, mosques and synagogues in the world.
Best time to visit Israel
The weather is good all year round, but the best time to visit Israel is in the months of May, June and October, when the weather is simply perfect (sunny and warm, not too hot) and there aren't too many tourists around. Note that accommodation might be a little steeper in October, as this is holiday season in Israel.
What to see in Israel
-Head out to the Judean Desert, and be inspired by the mountain-top fortress of Masada.
-Even for the non-religious, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a must-see tourist attraction in Israel.
-Jerusalem's sobering Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial provides a vital memorial to the six million Jews killed during World War II.
-Make the trip to Beit She'an National Park to see the ancient ruins of a Roman theatre and Byzantine bath house.
What to do in Israel
-Take a trip to the Dead Sea, lie back in the water, and float effortlessly below a flawless blue sky.
-Be swept up by the sights and smells and hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv's Carmel Market.
-Visit the lovely port city of Haifa, and take a trip to the impeccably maintained Baha'i Gardens.
-Head down to Eilat and snorkel with bright tropical fish in the Red Sea.
Getting to Israel
There are cheap direct flights to Israel available from both the UK (flight time of five to six hours) and the US (between 12 and 17 hours). International flights to Israel arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, located about 40 minutes from Tel Aviv and an hour from Jerusalem.
Exodus by Leon Uris, The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark, and The Family Orchard by Eve Nomi.
Chava Alberstein, Arik Einstein, Ehud Banai, and Noa.
Exodus (1960), To Take a Wife (2004), Turn Left at the End of the World (2004), and Lebanon (2009).
Arak, an anise-flavoured liqueur usually served topped up with ice and water.
Falafel: small fried balls of flavourful mashed chickpeas, usually served inside a pita bread with hummus (seasoned chickpea puree), french fries, salad and tahini (sesame paste).
What to buy
Cosmetics made from mud and minerals from the Dead Sea, Israeli wine and jewellery, and Judaica trinkets such as shofars.
What to pack
Pack lightweight, comfortable clothing that isn't too revealing (especially if visitors are planning on visiting religious sites), and plenty of sunscreen.
What's on in Israel
The Israel Festival (May/June), held in Jerusalem, showcases opera, dance, classical music and theatrical performances by Israel's top artistic talents. The Haifa International Film Festival (October) draws crowds in excess of 60,000 people to see more than 150 new films from both established and emerging film-makers.
Did you know?
-Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world.
-Israel's Dead Sea is the lowest point on land at 1,315 feet (about 400m) below sea-level.
-Israel is the only country in the world that transitioned from the 20th to 21st centuries with a net gain in its number of trees.
A final word
Sun-soaked Israel is fast-becoming a heavyweight Middle Eastern tourist destination. It's a proud nation, located in a region with a formidable historical legacy.