Top Ten Must-See Sites for First-Time Visitors to Israel

July 29th 2013

Jerusalem Western Wall & Southern WallsYou’re planning your first trip to Israel? How exciting! We’re sure you’ve heard all about Israel’s amazing antiquities, wineries, holy sites, beaches, museums, pulsing cities and natural wonders. With so many iconic places to visit across Israel, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to go within a limited timeframe! That’s why we’ve broken it down for you into a handy list of the best of the best. Here are ten sites you should not miss when you come.

1. The Kotel – Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Kotel (Wailing Wall), is the last remnant of the retaining wall that surrounded the Temple Mount in the days of King Herod. It’s widely considered the most important Jewish site in the world. There is a prevalent custom to place a handwritten prayer between the Kotel stones. Adjacent to the Kotel Plaza are the Kotel Tunnels and the Southern Wall excavations, both likewise indispensible itinerary items.

2. Tel Aviv – The modern, seaside city of Tel Aviv is Israel’s most cosmopolitan city. Filled with boutique hotels, cafes, restaurants, nightlife and upscale shopping, Tel Aviv is also the high tech capital of Israel.

3. Masada – Located on a flat mountaintop on the eastern side of the Judean Desert is this ancient Herodian fortress. The dramatic story and the tragic end of a group of Jewish rebels who hid from their Roman oppressors 2000 years ago makes Masada the most popular tourist attraction in Israel. The amazing views from the top don’t hurt either.

4. The Dead Sea – The lowest spot on earth, the hyper-salty Dead Sea is famous for its mineral-rich water on which anyone can easily float. Among the attractions in the Dead Sea area are Masada, the spas of Ein Bokek, Qumran, Bedouin-style hospitality, the waterfalls of the Ein Gedi oasis, the Ahava cosmetics factory and plenty of opportunities for desert wilderness sports like jeep rides, rappelling, mountain climbing and camel rides.

5. Yad VaShem – Established in 1953, the world center for commemoration of the Holocaust is a required stop for all foreign dignitaries visiting Israel. The Holocaust History Museum presents the story of the Holocaust with staggering thoroughness and appropriate austerity.

6. The Baha’i Gardens – Located in the center of Haifa, visitors can stand at the very top of these meticulously cared-for grounds and gaze down into the vibrant flowers, hedges and graveled paths that are built on 19 terraces cascading down the northern slope of Mount Carmel towards the Mediterranean.

7. The Kinneret – Also known as the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret is Israel’s largest freshwater lake and is an especially popular destination for Christian tourists. Tiberias, the charming waterfront resort city steeped in Roman and Jewish history, is visited by millions of domestic and international tourists annually.

8. Hebron – The city where the patriarch Abraham first settled and where King David was anointed, Hebron is home to The Cave of Machpelah, the oldest Jewish holy site with a known location.

9. Tzfat – The spiritual center of Jewish mysticism since the 1600s, picturesque Tzfat is also a well-known sanctuary for artists of all kinds.

10. The Golan Heights – The beauty of the Golan Heights, located in Israel’s mountainous north, captivates many travelers. Hiking, skiing, kayaking, fruit picking and cattle ranching are just some of the tourist activities on offer in the Golan Heights.

For such a small county, there are so many wonderful things to see that didn’t make this short list. You’ll just have to come visit again!