Last year at this time I was in Israel!. I travelled with Dan Tours as part of a familiarization or FAM trip. If you don't know what a FAM is, it is a low-cost trip or tour offered to travel agents by a supplier or group of suppliers to familiarize the agents with their destination and services. Honestly, Israel wasn't on my radar as anywhere I planned to visit anytime soon. But this opportunity came up and I was selected so I went for it. And it was such a wonderful opportunity. So grateful!
This trip was extra meaningful to me as my paternal heritage is Jewish. And as my father had passed away in the recent past, I embraced this as an opportunity to come to better terms with this loss and more in touch with my roots. That's a whole other blog post on its own. For now, I'm going to tell you 10 reasons why YOU should visit Israel.
Israel is utterly fascinating, as well as complex. Though a relatively new country - celebrating 70 years of independence in 2018 - it is comprised of very ancient and storied land of sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And though a small country it's hard to say if you can find somewhere else that packs in as much history, geographical diversity and cultural richness.
1. Visit Anytime!
Winter, spring, summer or fall...Israel's Mediterranean climate makes it ideal for travel at anytime of the year. Summers can be hot, but you're never far from the coast where it's always slightly cooler. And winter when many of us are freezing our tushies off, Israel is hovering at temperatures around 21C with very few rainy days.
2. It's a foodie delight!
It’s not called the Land of Milk and Honey for nothing! Thanks to its Mediterranean climate and agricultural ingenuity, Israel grows an amazing array of organic produce that finds its way into fresh market cuisine that you’ll find served throughout the country, thanks to that Mediterranean climate I was just speaking of. Besides the delish cuisine you associate with Jewish traditions, such as falafels, hummus, shakshuka, shwarma, there are infinite varieties of food and restaurants, from Jewish Yemenite to Druze, Palestinian to Turkish to trendy New Israeli restaurants. Vegetarians and vegans you can definitely make it work without too much stress here.
3. Ridiculously amazing historic sites
The cultural history here stretches back to even before biblical times, thus Israel has a rich array of ancient sites that are easy to explore. An absolute must visit is Masada, the mountainous stronghold at the edge of the Judean desert where Jews tried to fend off the ancient Romans. Then there's the Roman ruins in Caesarea (some of which can be even be seen on an underwater tour), Crusader ramparts in Akko, the ancient Western Wall in Jerusalem, St. Mary’s Well in Nazareth and so much more.
4.Cosmopolitan Tel Aviv
When you think Israel you might think Jerusalem, but Tel Aviv provides a stark contrast. A modern, beach town (the beaches stretch the length of the city) it has a fabulous vibe of relaxation and sophistication. It also boasts impressive modern art collections, rich entertainment, famous nightlife, a great culinary scene and contemporary culture all worth checking out! Think we're done here. Nope. The adjacent ancient city of Jaffa, considered one of the oldest settlements in the world, provides an atmospheric counterpoint to the soaring skyscrapers.
5. The Dead Sea
Get here while you can as it's receding at a significant rate, 1 metre per year. The Dead Sea needs no introduction, being one of the Seven Wonders of the World. For this sight alone, you need to make a trip to Israel. Visit Neve Midbar Beach to bathe in the salty sea (which is nine times saltier than the ocean) and enjoy the curative powers of the mineral-filled brown mud. Slather yourself good because you pay a hefty price for this mud elsewhere.
6. Jerusalem's spirituality
This place is a powerful energy epicenter you have to feel for yourself to believe. The Holy City of Jerusalem marks the confluence of three beautiful religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Here, you can soak in the mysticism of the Temple Mount, Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. Apart from Jerusalem being a holy city it also has incredible architecture, cool landmarks and an amazing bazaar. In addition, visitors should make a trip to one of the museums outside the Old City, particularly significant is Yad VaShem, a Holocaust remembrance center.
7. The Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is a picture perfect spot in Israel, known for its floral biodiversity and spellbinding sunrises and sunsets. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and has an important place in religions annals as well being a place Jesus performed many miracles. I went for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and it was such a powerful experience, my inner self was in disbelief.
I stayed in some fabulous luxury five-star properties. Not gonna lie, it was pretty damn sweet! Besides many of these, Israel is also home to some interesting boutique hotels. From a spa cave to a renovated bus, restored buildings, Crusader inns and Mongolian-style yurts, Israel has it all. You can even stay in an art gallery or cinema or opt for eco-friendly mud huts.
8. Golan Heights
In the north of the country you can find Golan Heights, a mountainous region with breathtaking landscapes, wonderful nature reserves and intriguing historical attractions for the whole family. If you’re interested in hiking, the Golan region offers a variety of different paths with varying levels of difficulty, dependent on the time of year. It is especially impressive during spring, when flowers are blooming and the fields are green. In wintertime, the Hermon Mountain, located in the Golan Heights, is an ideal destination for skiers.
10. Shop for antiques, rare spices and exquisite rugs
If you are a fan of shopping or hanging out at markets you love it here.The markets are colourful and perfect to unearth the true Israeli culture and lifestyle. You can shop souvenirs, antiques, fresh fruits, artifacts, and much more. Some of the unmissable Israeli markets are the Tel Aviv Carmel Market, Nahalat Binyamin Arts and Crafts Market, and Antique Market at Dizengoff Square. All three are situated in Tel Aviv.
Okay I said 10 but I can't leave out the wine! Israel has more than 300 state-of-the-art wineries, of which the majority are boutique ones and have won awards internationally. One of them is the Golan Winery in the town of Golan. Here you can take a break from doing touristy things and witness the making of good wine apart from obviously tasting it. It could possibly prove to be your best experience in Israel.
A visit to the Holy Land may prove to be a spiritual experience even for those of who are not religious, considering how rich in history the land is. This list doesn't even begin to cover the experiences that await you in Israel, and I hope it conveys some of the intensity of the journey I had. I recommend going with a guided tour to maximize your experience. If you'd like to explore Israel for yourself, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get you there!