20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Israel

Jul 22, 2021

Travelling in Israel is like a trip into the Middle East with the Beatles, a Bollywood epic and an amazing shopping destination.

Israel's top attractions for tourists include ancient and modern archeological sites, both natural and man-made, the vibrant cultural city of Tel Aviv, and the Baha'i Gardens at Haifa. Israel's rich art and history are displayed in museums and galleries, and the country is a shopping and dining paradise.

If you want to explore Israel, and have time to do so, there are a number of excellent museums to visit, but there are so many highlights and attractions in this small country that you'll probably need to spend at least two to three weeks here to do it all. To help you organize your trip, use this list of the top attractions in Israel.

Jerusalem

Photo of Jerusalem
Jerusalem: en.wikipedia.org

During the crusades, Christianity, Islam and Judaism were dominant and shared the Old City of Jerusalem. In a recent peace treaty, the city was split in two. While Jews live in a Jewish neighborhood of the city, Muslims live in a Palestinian neighborhood of the city. There are also a few Christian enclaves scattered around the ancient walls. While the Old City and surrounding hills are closed to non-Muslims, the Western Wall, an ancient retaining wall of the Temple Mount, is open to visitors. Traditionally, it is said that no matter how far the Jews travel to build a new temple, if it is within 500 meters of the Temple Mount, they build it on the Temple Mount itself. For this reason, Jews today pray at the Western Wall. Access to the Western Wall from inside the Jewish part of Jerusalem is possible only by donation, and is overseen by the Jewish tour guides. On the other hand, access from inside the Muslim neighborhood is through the Mughrabi Gate. Here, visitors can see views of the city and have a chance to see how locals live, while crossing a street that divides the two neighborhoods.

Haifa

Some 30 miles north of Jerusalem, the ancient city of Haifa is surrounded by a modern walled city. The ancient city is only 5 miles long and dates back to 3000 BC when the Hittites constructed it as part of a regional network of fortifications, which included in the southern part of the region Rosh Pina and Gaza. From antiquity through medieval times, it was also a center of astronomy. The city was destroyed several times during the Middle Ages, once again in the 16th century, and became the capital of the Ottoman Empire until the British captured it in the 19th century. Haifa is Israel's third-largest city and has an international airport and a seaport. A visit to Haifa includes a tour of the old city, which still retains its medieval flavor, a visit to the British Museum in the Carmel Centre, and a stroll along the Mátrá Beach promenade.

Tel Aviv

Photo of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv: en.wikipedia.org

A port city with a rich Jewish history, Tel Aviv began as a small town called Rehovot in 1909 but has grown into a major tourist and financial center. Located on the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv's coastline offers impressive views, and many of its surrounding beaches are among the nicest in the world, particularly Herzl Beach, which stretches for miles and can be reached on a walking path. If you want to experience Tel Aviv as a real city, skip the shopping mall and head into the city center where you will find a concentration of museums and galleries, as well as historic sites and a wide array of shops, restaurants, and nightlife spots. Some of the best places to see and experience Tel Aviv are its lively nightlife, the lively and casual Havdallah (Jewish wedding) celebrations, a visit to Israel's favorite architectural landmark, the Independence Hall, or a night spent at the beach. Tel Aviv is often hailed as the Israeli Venice.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Tel Aviv

Western Wall

Photo of Western Wall
Western Wall: en.wikipedia.org

Western Wall, commonly referred to as the Wailing Wall, is the portion of the retaining wall that surrounds the Temple Mount, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. It is one of Judaism's most important holy places, and it has been the site of prayer and the location of numerous celebrations. There are two gates to the Temple Mount through which you can enter: the Lion's Gate, which was built in the Byzantine period; and the Western or Wailing Wall, which is an ancient retaining wall that marks the area outside of the First or Dormition (last) Temple of the Jewish high priest. The most important structures on the Western Wall are the three Jewish holy stones, known as the Kotel, near the southern end of the wall. Atop them is a small wooden table, upon which a Torah scroll may be viewed. Above the Kotel is the seam, which contains an engraving of the Ten Commandments.

Masada

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Masada: en.wikipedia.org

Located on a 600-meter-high plateau west of the Dead Sea, Masada offers visitors spectacular views over this wind-blown desert valley with its great Red Sea Mountain range. In the high plateau were four fortresses that fell to the Romans, or it was later used to raise olives and create olive-oil. The much-visited site can be reached by an 18-minute cable car ride up the eastern side, with 360-degree views of the surrounding deserts and distant sea, or by a 9-minute bus ride. Tours from the various vantage points can give you the opportunity to see the many caves and steps carved into the desert cliffs, as well as the reconstructed Roman watchtower. Visitors can climb to the top of the four ancient mounds with fine views of the Judean Desert and the sea. In the summer, guests may also enter into the grottoes.

Jaffa

Known as Jaffa in Hebrew and as Tel Aviv in English, Israel's commercial center and largest city after Jerusalem, is located on the Mediterranean coast, north of Tel Aviv and about a 30-minute drive from Jerusalem. Jaffa, with its original 18th-century Portuguese-style port and fortifications, is an attractive and busy city in both senses of the word. With the opening of the metro system in 2002, the population has doubled, and the city has become very lively and cosmopolitan. While there is no shortage of things to see and do in Jaffa, many Israelis prefer to spend their time in Tel Aviv, and many of the tourists who do come to Jaffa do so to see sights in Tel Aviv. In addition, during the high season there are many tourists here, and both shops and restaurants can be very crowded. A weekend visit can be very pleasant, with many of the cafes and shops closed on Sunday. There are many cafés, bars and restaurants around the old port. Also, the excellent Museum of Asian Art (Museh Etz Hayim) has paintings, sculptures, ceramics and other artifacts from the Far East and other parts of the world, as well as a collection of Jewish ceremonial art. Near the museum are the remains of a Crusader castle, built on a mound beside the city's original Greek port, Tel Miklat (Migdal Ha-Ela).

Caesarea

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Caesarea: en.wikipedia.org

Caesarea is situated in the northern section of modern Israel, along the Mediterranean coast and southwest of Haifa. The city was the Roman capital of the province of Iudaea until the Bar Kochba revolt in AD 135, when the Romans destroyed the city. Some of Caesarea's most famous structures are the Mamluk period amphitheater built in 1355, the Crusader era walls built in the 12th century, and the Church of Saint Titus which was constructed in the 6th century AD, although it is now a mosque. Adjacent to Caesarea are the renowned ruins of the ancient city of Strato's Tower (known as Masada in English), as well as the Temple of Augustus and the ancient beach and sea port of Pumphu.

Mount Tabor

Photo of Mount Tabor
Mount Tabor: en.wikipedia.org

Tabor, one of Israel's most important religious and political centers, is one of the twelve biblical mazanorot (tombs) along the route of the Israelite exodus. Tabor means "up above" in Hebrew, and is probably the source of the reference in Isaiah 6:1 to a small mountain. Since the early 20th century, the mazanorot have been neglected. Several of the mazanorot are located along the Kishon River and provide the best protection for archaeological excavations of the area. Among the finds uncovered there are some 3,000-year-old pieces of pottery and animal bones, some of which are inscribed with the names of people who lived there. The area of mazanorot have been designated as a Historic Reserve, offering protection for future archaeological excavations.

Ein Gedi

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Ein Gedi: en.wikipedia.org

South of the Dead Sea, the hot springs resort of Ein Gedi is popular with Israeli families. Surrounded by the hills of the Judean Desert, Ein Gedi has something of a hippy vibe, although still affordable for those without a lot of money. And although many visitors describe Ein Gedi as desolate and empty, a trip here can be very fulfilling and will give you some insight into the experience of Israelis living in one of the most religiously divisive environments in the Middle East. A bus service leaves Jerusalem's Old City for Ein Gedi from a stop near the Western Wall. Visiting Ein Gedi takes about two hours and can be done as a day trip or as an overnight. Be prepared for a long day, as you will be hiking for two hours out to the springs (up a steep trail) and then returning for the one and a half hour visit, after which you will need to hike down the steep slopes to your bus. Alternatively, return to Jerusalem via the Dead Sea after visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at Qumran.

Golan Heights

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Golan Heights: en.wikipedia.org

The border between Syria and Israel is a no-man's land as well as a coveted hot spot for Arab-Israeli tensions. The land is a treacherous mountain ridge known for the Golan Heights region, where an attack on Israeli strongholds would allow the Arab side to encroach on the country. Occupied by Israel in 1967, the Golan Heights contain two major Syrian military bases and is home to some 800,000 Syrians, most of whom are refugees from the civil war. Though it is illegal for Israeli citizens to visit the occupied areas, visitors have recently been given the freedom to travel in and out of the Golan Heights, which borders the town of Qunaitra. Travelers are not allowed to bring hard currency into the country, but there is a 10,000 shekel (approximately US$310) allowance for tourists from outside the region and many shops and businesses will take credit cards and checks. Security precautions are always in effect. Visitors will be asked for permission to photograph or videotape any military installations, and staff will have to be satisfied that they are not taking prohibited material or equipment into the Golan Heights. Israeli citizens and U.S. citizens should carry government-issued identification, and should carry it when visiting the border areas of the Golan Heights.

Tiberias

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Tiberias: en.wikipedia.org

Tiberias is a town on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret), 9 miles from the Golan Heights on the eastern shore of the lake. A relaxing destination, it offers up some of the best views of the Galilee from any point on its 7-mile shoreline. A host of restaurants and bars cater to visitors, and the Roman-era ruins of Masada are nearby for trips into the red desert. The town itself, overlooking the lake, is the usual attraction for visitors, especially in spring when the almond trees bloom and pink hydrangeas bloom.

Nazareth

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Nazareth: en.wikipedia.org

Nazareth is a friendly and quiet town close to Tel Aviv and the central area of Israel's Jezreel Valley. To get here from the coastal city of Tel Aviv, go to the 'Car Museum' area on Rte. 890 to "Stefania Gate," drive along the first exit from the gate you see, and follow the road to Nazareth. The museum is a couple of minutes' walk from the outskirts of the town and presents a great introduction to Nazareth's history. It is the former Church of the Annunciation, with the clock tower added in the 19th century. Nearby is a sculpture park called Museum of Wooden Sculptures and above that is the Franciscan Abbey and the nearby town. Nazareth, well known for its olive oil, is easily visited on a day trip from Tel Aviv. It is also possible to stay here and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. You can also find it in the Bible; the angel Gabriel brought the birth of Christ to Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, when she was six years old and it took place in Nazareth. The name Nazareth originates from the Hebrew meaning "light" and "water," as the Greek name "Nasareth" means "beautiful water."

Mount Carmel

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Mount Carmel: en.wikipedia.org

The Mount Carmel region, situated in the north of the country, consists of the towns of Haifa and Rehovot in Israel, and Acco, the largest city in northern Israel. Highlights include the Roman ruins at Hittin, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Arad in Israel, the Arab village of Nabi Yusha in the north, and several pilgrimage sites in the north of Israel. The Dead Sea can also be visited as part of a trip to the region.

Netanya

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Netanya: en.wikipedia.org

Situated on the Mediterranean coast and joined to Jerusalem by two tunnels under the sea, Netanya is Israel's fastest growing city. With its clean air and lovely beaches, it's an attractive seaside resort, and a handy jumping-off point for touring the country. A 20-minute bus ride from Jerusalem, Netanya is close to the picturesque Bethlehem, site of the ancient Nativity. This religious shrine is holy to the Christian world as the birthplace of Jesus and there are many churches and shrines in the area. Netanya is also close to the two main coastal resorts of Eilat and Tiberias, both worth visiting. Beaches are not great, but the cultural and shopping options are extensive and Tiberias is the gateway to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road for eastbound travelers.

Acre

Photo of Acre, Israel
Acre, Israel: en.wikipedia.org

Acre, set in the coastal plain of the Palestinian West Bank, is a city of history, culture and art. The most obvious features of the city are the nine massive French Crusader fortresses that line the city walls, but these are not the only things of historical interest. The old city, with a Jewish and Christian history, is partially open to visitors. Visit it and take in the views from the ramparts or from the Old Aqueduct, an arched Roman aqueduct (although now much-needed repairs have been carried out, restoration is planned). Explore the ruins of the Carmelite Monastery, visit the old shrines at the edge of the old city and explore the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter (the golden-domed Bab a-Maslub is a magnificent attraction). Beaches are a major attraction and the new city, with its own beaches, is a beautiful spot, although a little wild and undeveloped, with great fishing, windsurfing and canoeing opportunities.

Jerusalem's Old City

Photo of Old City (Jerusalem)
Old City (Jerusalem): en.wikipedia.org

Jerusalem's Old City is where much of the action happens in a city that is at the heart of three religions and with thousands of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all converging on one spot. The Old City is a mecca for tourists, where archaeological sites are dotted around narrow, cobbled streets, and religious shrines stand side-by-side with shops and markets. The Old City has around 250 museums and 45,000 Christian, Jewish and Muslim sites. It can be divided into five historic areas. The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) and the Jewish Quarter are together the most attractive and best known, but the Temple Mount is where you can find the Al-Aqsa mosque, and is of particular significance to Muslims. Strolling around the Muslim Quarter and Jaffa Road is also a great way to experience the city.

Eilat

Situated on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba, the resort of Eilat is one of the most visited sites in the region. Although it offers no great diversions, Eilat has made an effort to create a family-friendly atmosphere. Hiking, snorkeling, and scuba diving can be enjoyed in Eilat's small seas and a series of popular parks are dotted around the shoreline. Eilat offers a fair supply of tour operators to explore the region, including day trips to the Red Sea, Petra, and the Dead Sea. Most visitors arrive at Eilat through Jordan, which, by bus or helicopter, is reached in about an hour from Amman.

Neve Tzedek, Bat Yam, etc.

Photo of Jaffa–Jerusalem railway
Jaffa–Jerusalem railway: en.wikipedia.org

"The City of Palms" Neve Tzedek is a north suburb of Bat Yam and is one of the most beautiful and popular vacation spots in Israel. The area is built on more than 15 hectares of land on the southern slope of Mount Scopus overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The beach and pool are on a 65-meter cliff above the sea, while the promenade has spectacular views of the coastline. The village's beachfront is a popular place for swimming and relaxing. There are lots of services in Neve Tzedek, including a number of restaurants, taverns and bars, and a number of galleries and shops for rent and sale. There are several large hotels in Neve Tzedek, as well as small inns and apartments. Most of the hotels are on the eastern side of the promenade and on the beachfront. The seaside restaurants are popular with Israeli families, but in addition there are plenty of excellent restaurants in the center of the village, and some good pubs as well. The site of the ancient Sea of Galilee (ancient Yam Kinnereth), where Jesus is believed to have taught, can be reached by taking the Tov Tel Aviv bus No. 43 from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and the 13 bus from Bat Yam to Jerusalem.

Lake Kinneret

Photo of Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee: en.wikipedia.org

Lake Kinneret, called the Sea of Galilee in English, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and one of the largest and deepest in the world. Located on the north bank of the Sea of Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee and Mt Tabor, the Kinneret has a maximum depth of 277.35 meters. It also has a variety of aquatic life, such as tuna, eel, pike and carp, and enjoys a dry climate that makes it suitable for agriculture, particularly vineyards.

Safed

Founded in the 12th century by Muslims, Safed is the spiritual center of the Levant and is still home to many Palestinian Muslims today. Begun as a retreat for the Sufis in 1244, the town quickly grew into a spiritual center and a refuge for persecuted Christians. It was also home to numerous orders of monks and has a number of important monasteries, such as the Christian Saint Raphael Abulafia's Beit Al-Kolleg, and the centuries-old Muslim khan, or caravanserai. Although you can see some of the oldest Muslim structures in town, such as the Seljuk mosque and the 10th century King David's Palace, most of the religious architecture was built in the 19th and 20th centuries. Safed is also known as the Biblical Tourist Center, because of its various historical sites dating back to the Bible. The Bible-inspired structure in the heart of the city is the New Church of St. John the Baptist, which was founded in the 15th century on the site where John the Baptist is believed to have been baptizing Jesus, although the religious belief behind the establishment of this church is unknown. Other major Biblical sites include the Crusader Castle of King David; the Sephardic cemetery, where one can see a sculpture of Lazarus from the tomb of Abraham; and the Consulate-General of Belgium. In addition to the numerous tour packages that visit Safed, many people head here alone, taking the train from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or the coastal town of Herzliya, to make their way to the city by foot.