You’ve covered yourself in mud and floated on the Dead Sea, climbed Masada before the sun came up, explored the enchanting old city of Jerusalem and the vibrant beaches of Tel Aviv, devoured your bodyweight in hummus, and maybe even innocently fell victim to the charm of a beautifully bronzed Israeli. Now that all the ‘must-dos’ are out of the way, you ask yourself what is left to see in this tiny Middle-Eastern country. As it turns out, you’ve only just scratched the surface of things to do in Israel. From the northernmost border to the edges of the Red Sea in the south, there’s no lack of adventure to satisfy every kind of traveller.
1. Enjoy two seasons in a day
Skiing isn’t the first activity that comes to mind of things to do in Israel. Though the country is primarily desert, during the winter months you can hit the slopes on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, a mountain which straddles the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Since Israel is so small, you can spend your morning enjoying the winter wonderland and still have time to relax by a Mediterranean sunset on the beach as your après ski.
2. Kayak through the grottoes
On the border with Lebanon you’ll find Rosh Hanikra, a huge white cliff with impressive views of the Mediterranean coastline. The short cable-car ride to the foot of the cliff is the steepest in the world. It’ll bring you to a plateau where you can learn more about the history of the place and take a walk through caves overlooking picturesque turquoise grottoes. For a unique viewing point, you can organize an excursion to kayak to the grottoes and explore them from the sea.
3. Visit the fortified city of Acre
Acre, or Akko, is unique within the country because it’s one of the few places that boasts a truly mixed population. It is home to Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Baha’i people. This makes it a diverse city full of culture and history perfect for a day trip. You can walk along parts of the old city walls for a panoramic view, stroll through the old town, and visit historic sites like the Hospitallers Fortress or the Templars’ Tunnels. Arguably the best part of the city is the classic Middle-Eastern food. The city’s diverse cultural background comes alive in the flavours on your plate, and many Israelis agree that the country’s best hummus can be eaten here.
4. Wind down with some wine tasting
Israel’s wine industry is some serious business. The northern region of the country boasts dozens of wineries that distribute internationally. A good place to begin your self-guided wine tour is at Tishbi Winery. It’s the first modern winery in Israel, where you can participate in a wine and chocolate tasting. At the Golan Heights Winery, you can take a tour of their vineyards and guzzle down some of their award winning selections.
5. Spend the day in the Garden of Eden
Gan Hashlosha, also known as Sachne, is one of the most beautiful places in the country. The local Israelis have dubbed it “The Garden of Eden.” This national park has natural pools that are constantly at 28 degrees, in other words, perfect for swimming year-round. Pack a picnic and spend your day among the lush greenery within this real-world paradise.
6. Stuff your face in Nazareth
A short stop in Nazareth is just enough time to load up on sweet Arabic delicacies. Though the city is a hot spot for religious tours, some could argue that Jesus of Nazareth is no longer the main event. Foodies love Nazareth for all the tasty street food, that stars of which are the honey-drizzled pastries. Be sure not to leave without trying some homemade baklava, knafeh, and awameh.
7. Take in some local art at Ein Hod’s artist village
Ein Hod is a small artist’s colony near Haifa. Israeli painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers call this eclectic little village home. In Ein Hod you’ll find multiple museums, galleries, and workshops. If you’re the type who prefers exploring on foot, you can wander through the town’s winding streets lined by the artists’ striking work.
8. Take a graffiti tour
The street art in Tel Aviv is abundant and part of what makes the city so colourful. You can either sign up for a guided tour, or easily put together a DIY version. While street art can be found almost anywhere in the city, it is a lot more common in the south, particularly in the Florentine neighbourhood.
9. Take a tour of Tel Aviv’s vegan cuisine
Israel has the most vegans per capita. It’s no surprise that Tel Aviv is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world. Not only does nearly every restaurant have vegetarian or vegan options, but Tel Aviv is home to some of the best vegan restaurants. It’s not just the falafel; you’ll find many adventurous vegan eats such as Ethiopian or Georgian restaurants.
10. Desert road trip
A few friends, a car, and a good playlist are all you really need for this one. Israel’s Negev desert begins about one hour away from Tel Aviv. It stretches all the way down to Eilat in the south. Route 40 is well paved and full of fun stops along the way, like the Mitzpe Ramon crater and Ben Gurion’s grave located in a desert oasis. The drive itself is scenic with endless sand and mountains as far as you can see. Pay attention to the signs and watch out for crossing military vehicles and camels!
12. Visit the desert inhabitants
The desert is home for many different animals, and there are a couple great places to observe them. The Hai-Bar Nature Reserve aims to preserve and breed endangered species. Here you can drive through the park and see different breeds of oryx, wild donkeys, large felines, and curious ostriches that like to poke their beaks into cars. Another option is an alpaca farm near Mitzpe Ramon. Here you’ll be able to feed crooked-toothed alpacas as well as camels and horses.
11. Spend a night in the desert
If you’re looking to escape the constant commotion of Tel Aviv, spending a night in the desert is the perfect way to reenergize. Picture this: a calm night spent under a starry sky surrounded by friends and a hookah where the only sound is the crackling fire. There are a few designated campsites and even some rustic accommodations that allow you to take in the incredible spectacle that is the desert at night.
13. Swim with the fish in the Red Sea
The Red Sea is known for it’s spectacular underwater life and diving conditions. The waters are shallow and the visibility is clear. You don’t even need to put on your scuba gear to get up close and personal with the corals and sea life. At the Coral Reef Nature Reserve in Eilat, you can spend your day snorkelling and admiring the colourful world under the sea.
14. Explore the desert highs and lows
When looking for things to do in Israel, it’s a no-brainer to visit the expansive desert. Not far from Eilat there are several great hikes to do. Aside from gorgeous scenic views, Timna Valley Park holds a number of geological and archaeological sites. There are hiking trails to suit different levels and you’ll be able to observe stunning nature and wildlife along the way. The Red Canyon hike is not to be missed. You’ll be running to get your photo-op when the sun hits the red canyon walls to create an eye-catching mix of lights and shadows.
15. Watch the sunrise over 4 countries
Mount Tzfachot is about as south as you can get in Israel. It’s undeniably worth waking up in the pitch black to take in one of the most unforgettable sunrises. A short hike up this mountain will reward you with an incredible peaceful view over four countries. With your feet planted in Israel, you’ll be able to see the sun come up over Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
As you can see, there are no shortage of things to do in Israel. Did we miss something that’s an absolute “must do?” Let us know in the comments below!