If you're looking for the perfect country for a road trip, Israel's got you covered. With such diverse landscapes spread across a small area, you can see beaches and deserts, canyons and mountains – with less than a few hours separating you from each stop along the way. Even better if you enjoy camping! It's super easy, safe, and convenient to post up in the midst of the incredible natural beauty Israel has to offer. If you're making plans to visit the Holy Land, make sure you check out these amazing spots along way.
Tel Aviv Promenade
Tel Aviv's stand-out feature is definitely its boardwalk. The promenade spans over 8 miles, with seating, shade structures, and unique architectural elements along the way. It offers a stunning view of the Mediterranean and several of Tel Aviv's beautiful white beaches. Find yourself relaxing on one of the built-in sun lounges, or cool off with a refreshing drink at one of the many cafes with tables directly on the sand.
The Baha'i faith may not be one you've heard of, but their garden in Haifa is a must-see when visiting this coastal city. The 18 immaculately manicured terraces climb from the Shrine of the Bab, up the side of Mount Carmel. The juxtaposition of city and sea while standing over this garden paradise is absolutely breathtaking. You can visit the gardens for free, but be sure to register with a tour guide, as you cannot enter alone.
Vivino Italian Restaurant
While in Haifa, be sure to stop by Vivino. Although they aren't serving up specifically Israeli food, it was hands down the best food I had while in the country. With a beautiful patio and menu items such as truffle whipped cream, you will be in foodie heaven. We had the pistachio-crusted pate with pear confiture and roasted Camembert wrapped in foccacia for starters, and I haven't stopped thinking about them since. You can find directions and menus in English and Hebrew at their website here.
In Akko (or Acre) and you will find a city full of history. With fortresses, hidden passageways, mosques, and museums, you can easily spend a full day exploring. Your first stop in Akko should be the Hamam al-Basha museum. Once a public bathhouse, you can now tour the various treatment rooms, which include steam rooms, hot baths, cold rooms, and massage and scrubbing areas. Statues and video reenactments depict a typical spa visit in the 18th century.
When leaving the bathhouse, duck down an alleyway into the Turkish Bazaar. Here you will find a cozy little spot to grab a bite to eat before continuing on your journey. Their menu includes Mediterranean fare ranging from seafood to wood-fire pizza, and ingredients are sourced from the local market. Sip a glass of Israeli wine while you watch the chef prepare meals, many of which are made in the “tabun,” or clay oven.
Markets are some of my favorite places to explore when in a new city or country. They are full of foods and spices I've never seen before, and the souks in Akko are no different. Here you'll find mounds of olives, nuts, and various produce, as well as jewelry, hookahs, lanterns, and fabrics. Just strolling through the main souk will give you a little taste of the Arabic culture here in the old city. I'd recommend buying some zaatar and summaq while you're there, and the turmeric I got was the most flavorful I've ever had!
One of the most fascinating sites in Akko is the underground passageway, which was only discovered in 1994. Built by the Knights Templar, it stretches between the eastern port and the western fortress. You can tour the tunnels (entering from either side) for around 4 dollars, or get a combination ticket to include the citadel or bathhouse. The tour includes videos and audio (in several languages) that tell the city's history.
Historical City and Harbor Wall
Upon exiting the Templars' Tunnel, you can easily find your way to the city walls. These walls encompass the city, and are an amazing place to stroll atop and view both the city and ocean. The best viewpoint will depend on the time of day. The Eastern Sea Wall overlooks the harbor, but for sunset you will want to find yourself along the southern Sea Wall Promenade or Lighthouse Observation Point. The city of Akko's website contains tons of additional information as well as very handy maps to help you navigate your visit.
Lebanese Food Restaurant
On your way to Jerusalem, you MUST stop here for some falafel and hummus. The name might be simple, but the food is delicious, authentic, and packed with flavor. They offer traditional Middle Eastern dishes, including multiple different kinds of hummus (pictured here, topped with lamb and pine nuts). Served with raw onions, olives, pickles, and of course, pita, no other hummus can compare. Also on the menu are kebabs, kubeh (top right), and many vegetarian options. Located in Abu Ghosh, it's the perfect mid-trip stop as you head into Jerusalem.
Once in Jerusalem, you'll want to see two things in particular. First, head to the Western Wall. Although it is commonly referred to as the “Wailing Wall,” this is considered by some to be derogatory, as it makes light of the emotional and spiritual significance it holds for many people. The area is deemed holy by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as a part of the larger Temple Mount site. It's a place of pilgrimage for many, and people gather to pray on the wall in sections designated specifically for men or women.
Dome of the Rock
On the other side of the Western Wall, if permitted, you can enter the Temple Mount site. Security restrictions may change at any time due to rising tensions, but as of March 2019, non-Muslims, including Jews, were allowed to enter (strictly as tourists) during designated hours. Only Muslims may to pray here or enter the mosque, but tourists can admire the spectacular Dome of the Rock with its vibrant blue tilework and gold-plated dome.
Masada National Park
Masada is an ancient fortification atop a plateau, located in the Judean desert. The occupants had such luxuries as palaces, baths, water cisterns, multiple terraces, food storehouses, and even a swimming pool. The history behind the complex is fascinating, but the view is even better. Looking out in any direction you can see steep sandy cliffs, and to the east, the Dead Sea. On a clear day you can even see the Jordanian mountains in the distance. You can enter by cable car, or hike up either side via the "Snake Path" or "Roman Ramp." If you're an early bird, take the Snake Path to watch the sun rise over the Dead Sea, although you won't be permitted to enter the fort until 8am. Check out Israel Nature and Parks Authority for more info.
The Dead Sea
No trip to Israel would be complete without a visit to the Dead Sea. As well as being the lowest place on earth, it is also one of the world's saltiest bodies of water. (It's almost 10 times saltier than the ocean!) The high mineral content of the water (and mud) makes it a desirable health and beauty product. You can actually scoop up salt from under the water the way you might with sand at the beach. The salt also crystallizes on rocks along the shore creating really neat designs and formations.
In the Negev Desert in southern Israel, you can find the “Israeli Grand Canyon.” Although it is called a crater, it is actually an “erosion cirque,” caused by glaciers. Regardless of how it was formed, it offers breathtaking views, extending as far as the eye can see. You can explore many different areas of the crater, but there is also a visitor center located in the town of Mitzpe Ramon with unrestricted (and slightly daunting!) observation points.