Things to do in Israel

As the birthplace of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Israel is densely packed with enough religious and historical attractions and experiences to last a lifetime.

Lovers of sun, sand and sea should head to the renowned Red Sea and enjoy floating in its crystalline waters; or for a rejuvenating experience, visit one of the many Dead Sea spa resorts. Israel's popular tourist destination of Masada, located in the Judean Desert, is a must for anyone in the area.

Some of the country's most fascinating attractions include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Citadel of David. Bethlehem is worth a visit, as is Nazareth (two of the most important Christian holy sites), while Yad VaShem is a moving and interesting memorial to the Holocaust, providing a multifaceted tribute to the millions of Jews who died during World War II.

The best time of year to visit is during the spring (March/April) and autumn months (September/October), when the weather is cooler and more tolerable for tourists. Since travelling distances are not great in Israel, it's often better to drive to some places than to catch a plane. There are good public transport systems in place in the major cities. The best way to experience Israel is to hire a car and take a relaxed approach to seeing the country and exploring all the religious and historical sites it has to offer.

Masada photo

Masada

The mountaintop fortress of Masada (sometimes spelled Massada) is one of Israel's most popular and remarkable tourist attractions. Situated in the Judean Desert and overlooking the…

Masada

The mountaintop fortress of Masada (sometimes spelled Massada) is one of Israel's most popular and remarkable tourist attractions. Situated in the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea, this site is where 967 Jewish Zealots rose against Rome in 66 AD, taking their own lives when defeat seemed inevitable. King Herod built the ancient fortress they defended against Roman siege. Visitors can still explore the ruins of ancient structures and palaces, and see the remains of the most complete Roman siege system in the world. The Roman camps, siege wall and ramp are still clearly visible. Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of profound interest for military-history buffs.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre photo

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

As the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest Christian place in Jerusalem. Emperor Constantine constructed it in 326,…

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

As the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest Christian place in Jerusalem. Emperor Constantine constructed it in 326, and its structure has suffered frequent damage over the centuries. The Church contains the Chapel of Golgotha and the three Stations of the Cross where Jesus was crucified, and the Sepulchre itself marks the place of his burial and resurrection. This incredible church is filled with treasures and should be of great historical and architectural interest regardless of one's religious beliefs. It is an absolute must for Christians. The church is home to several Christian denominations.

Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif) photo

Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif)

Temple Mount is tremendously important to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Located within the Old City's walled section, its glinting, golden Dome of the Rock is easily Jerusale…

Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif)

Temple Mount is tremendously important to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Located within the Old City's walled section, its glinting, golden Dome of the Rock is easily Jerusalem's most distinguishable feature. From a Jewish and Christian perspective, the large rock is said to be where Abraham offered his son Isaac up for sacrifice. Many believe that the First Temple once housed the Ark of the Covenant. Visitors should also note that the Israeli government prohibits non-Muslim prayer on the site. Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven from the same rock so, for this reason, they built the Dome over this site in the 7th century.

Yad VaShem photo

Yad VaShem

The museum documents and commemorates the events of the Holocaust, and also furthers education through ongoing research into the period. In this way, it honours the millions of Jew…

Yad VaShem

The museum documents and commemorates the events of the Holocaust, and also furthers education through ongoing research into the period. In this way, it honours the millions of Jews who died during World War II. Visitors will find the largest and most comprehensive collection of Holocaust material in the world, which includes documents, photographs, films and videotaped testimonies of survivors. These can be read and viewed in the allocated rooms. Engaging with the information is a sobering, emotional experience.The Hall of Names recognises the Holocaust's six million victims, and is an inspiring tribute to them.

Website www.yadvashem.org

Citadel or Tower of David photo

Citadel or Tower of David

Called the Tower of David, Jerusalem's Citadel is a medieval fortress with architectural elements from later periods. Its tallest tower, the Phasael, is the best place to appreciat…

Citadel or Tower of David

Called the Tower of David, Jerusalem's Citadel is a medieval fortress with architectural elements from later periods. Its tallest tower, the Phasael, is the best place to appreciate its magnificent view of the city. The Citadel contains the excellent Museum of the History of Jerusalem, which displays 4,000 years' worth of the city's past in its rooms and courtyards. Free tours of The Citadel and museum are conducted in Hebrew on Tuesdays at 10:30am, and in English every day except Friday and Saturday at 11am. The 'light and sound' show held almost nightly is also a delightful way to learn about the history of Jerusalem.

Bethlehem photo

Bethlehem

Bethlehem is just six miles (10km) south of Jerusalem, and is a major tourist attraction for pilgrims and visitors alike. Reputed to be the birthplace of Jesus, the town is charmin…

Bethlehem

Bethlehem is just six miles (10km) south of Jerusalem, and is a major tourist attraction for pilgrims and visitors alike. Reputed to be the birthplace of Jesus, the town is charming despite its tourist-centred commercialism. The Church of the Nativity is the focal point for visitors, and is erected over the site of Jesus' birthplace. Bethlehem is also a wonderful place to see a variety of monasteries that represent different Christian denominations. Christmas is celebrated on three separate dates in accordance with the Catholic Church calendar, the Eastern calendar followed by the Armenians, and the Julian calendar followed by the Greek Orthodox and Eastern churches.

Website www.bethlehem-city.org

The Dead Sea photo

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea and its immediate environment have many natural wonders. Wellness travellers are most interested in the high salt and mineral concentration found in its waters, which,…

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea and its immediate environment have many natural wonders. Wellness travellers are most interested in the high salt and mineral concentration found in its waters, which, besides enabling visitors to float effortlessly on the surface, give the region's black mud tremendous therapeutic properties. As the water is wonderfully warm, swimming is possible all year round. The Dead Sea region also boasts some fascinating archaeological sites, with traces of Persian, Greek, Roman and other civilisations remaining. Notable historical locations include the notorious biblical city of Sodom.

Eretz Israel Museum (The Land of Israel Museum) photo

Eretz Israel Museum (The Land of Israel Museum)

The Eretz Israel Museum's unique layout and character make it more like a park than a standalone establishment. It is clustered around the ancient mound of the Tel Kasile, where on…

Eretz Israel Museum (The Land of Israel Museum)

The Eretz Israel Museum's unique layout and character make it more like a park than a standalone establishment. It is clustered around the ancient mound of the Tel Kasile, where ongoing archaeological excavations are in progress. The museum consists of various pavilions, each displaying different cultural artefacts and collections. Visitors can purchase a map to help them navigate through this fascinating campus, which covers 3,000 years of history, culture and art relating to Israel. The permanent exhibits include displays on ethnography and folklore, ceramics, copper, coins, crafts, agriculture, domestic life, and many aspects of social and political history.

Website www.eretzmuseum.org.il

Beit She'an National Park photo

Beit She'an National Park

Beit She'an was established in the 5th century BC. Its hilltop location made the settlement strategically valuable, meaning that many over the centuries sought to conquer it. It wa…

Beit She'an National Park

Beit She'an was established in the 5th century BC. Its hilltop location made the settlement strategically valuable, meaning that many over the centuries sought to conquer it. It was the seat of Egyptian rule before falling to the King of Assyria, and was later resettled as a Hellenistic city during Alexander the Great's time. A period of conquests followed until the Romans returned the city to its former residents. Beit She'an's face changed markedly after Christianity was declared the Roman Empire's official religion in the 4th century AD. Today, this thriving city lies around the remains of an ancient centre. The Byzantine bathhouse, Roman theatre and the Roman amphitheatre used for gladiatorial battles are among its most notable ruins.

Scuba Diving photo

Scuba Diving

Israel is one of the scuba-diving world's better-kept secrets and a fantastic destination for amateur and veteran divers, as well as snorkelers. Many consider the Red Sea to be amo…

Scuba Diving

Israel is one of the scuba-diving world's better-kept secrets and a fantastic destination for amateur and veteran divers, as well as snorkelers. Many consider the Red Sea to be among the premier underwater realms on the planet, with its gorgeous coral reefs, rich marine life and excellent visibility. Some of the area's best dive sites are located off Eilat, where popular options include the Satil Wreck (suitable for all levels of experience), the Yatush Wreck (for experienced divers), Eel Garden, the Caves, and the Coral Beach Reserve.

Caesarea photo

Caesarea

Herod the Great established the ancient port city of Caesarea 2,000 years ago as a tribute to the Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. Before this, it was known as Straton's Tower after…

Caesarea

Herod the Great established the ancient port city of Caesarea 2,000 years ago as a tribute to the Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. Before this, it was known as Straton's Tower after its founder Straton, who may have ruled Sidon in the 4th century BC. Caesarea is conveniently located between Haifa and Tel Aviv and is a popular excursion for visitors. Its rich archaeological heritage includes the remains of a Roman aqueduct and theatre, as well as houses and palaces. The Roman theatre is used as a concert venue for big Israeli and international stars and is a special place to catch a show.

Nazareth photo

Nazareth

Nazareth is one of the most important Christian holy sites, attracting pilgrims from all over the world. Jesus spent most of his life in the area and, today, the city has both Musl…

Nazareth

Nazareth is one of the most important Christian holy sites, attracting pilgrims from all over the world. Jesus spent most of his life in the area and, today, the city has both Muslim and Christian residents. Visitors can expect a quaint mix of red roofs and white churches to greet them from the Galilean hillside, the summit of which offers a glorious view of the Jezreel Valley. The area is also home to some significant religious places. Visitors should stop at the Church of the Annunciation, where the upper sanctuary's walls depict scenes from the life of Mary. Catholic communities from around the world donated the work.