The state of Israel with its capital city of Jerusalem lies in the Middle East and has a population of approximately 8.5 million inhabitants, of which around 80% are Jews and 20% Arabs. The peaceful co-existence of the two world religions has never proved easy, which is why there are frequent confrontations and conflicts here. Its position between crisis-hit countries such as Syria does not help the situation and the Palestinian conflict, which is crucial to Israel's history, casts a lengthy shadow over the country. This situation leads to mistrust and is one of the reasons why Israel is not regarded as a holiday destination by many people.
However, if you look beyond the political and religious conflicts, you will see a country with many different sides to it and which particularly as a holiday destination has enormous potential. Israel already has a lot to offer to tourists today. In many towns there are large, but also inexpensive hotels to be found. Israel particularly appeals to its visitors because of the attractions of the various cultures here, as the country is of huge importance for many world religions. Some of the most important landmarks for Christians, Muslims and Jews are to be found here in the "Holy Land". However, Israel is not just about religious symbols and, through extensive European influence, the country is also very modern and cosmopolitan. For example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv is well known for its lively nightlife and for its large gay and lesbian scene.
Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to nature and the different types of vegetation in this country of 22,380 square kilometres have produced all kinds of natural marvels. Amongst these are for example the Negev Desert, the Dead Sea, the golden-yellow beaches of the Mediterranean coast and the varied underwater world of the coral reef of the Red Sea. A lot of tourists take advantage of the many aspects of the country by doing a round trip, which can easily be managed by car thanks to the extensive road network and the short distances involved. Those who want to see the huge variety which this country provides should plan a holiday of 2-3 weeks to take in everything which this unique land in the Middle East has to offer.
The hugely varying kinds of vegetation provide many different ways of getting to know Israel. It is no wonder that the list of highlights seems to be never-ending!
The Crusader town of Acre
Situated 8 metres below the actual town of Acre, the Crusader town of Acre is a genuine archaeological highlight. It was inhabited until the end of the 13th century and has been well preserved to this day. The underground rooms and corridors take you back to the time of the Crusaders and are complemented by the painting to be seen on the walls. A headset guide is available to tell you all you need to know about this underground town.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is actually inland, bordering Israel's western coast. Compared to other seas, the average salt content here of 28% is very high. If you swim in the Dead Sea you will quickly notice that you float on the surface and can hardly sink. The name of the Dead Sea comes from the fact that, with such a high salt content, no underwater life is possible here.
The Old Town of Jerusalem
The Old Town of Jerusalem is well known for its places and objects of interest from different religions. The famous Temple Mount is regarded as the central holy place. Each of the four quarters which the town is divided into reflects life under the different religions and has its own landmarks. Surrounded by its city walls, the Old Town with its religious treasures is quite rightly part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
The Negev Desert
Almost 60% of the area of Israel is situated in the Negev Desert and its different regions with breath-taking natural scenery attract many visitors. Temperatures here can exceed 45 °C, making it well above average. In the middle of the desert is the Ramon Crater which has been formed by erosion. There is a special atmosphere created by the panorama of the desert and this is something which every visitor to Israel should experience.
Best time to travel
Israel is spread across three different climate zones. While temperatures in the Negev Desert are mostly very high, the climate in the north of Israel is moderate and rain falls regularly there. The Mediterranean coast is sub-tropical with an increasing number of rain showers in winter. The best time to travel to Israel for beach holidaymakers is from May to October, with August being the hottest month. It is not unusual for temperatures at the Red Sea to exceed 40 °C in August and the hot desert winds intensify these abnormal temperatures. Those who find this too hot should come to Israel in the early summer, while active holidaymakers should come here in spring or autumn.
Diving and snorkelling
Diving and snorkelling are seen as two of the special attractions of Israel. The town of Eilat in the south of Israel lies on the coast of the Red Sea, which is known for its variety of underwater life and there is an amazing display of corals, fish and other sea life here. Those without their own snorkelling equipment can hire it here and courses and tours are also offered.
Israel is especially good for extensive walks, and hikes in the Negev Desert are particularly popular. A special hiking adventure awaits on the 1050-kilometre long Israel National Trail which runs from Eilat in the south to Dan in the north. This hike takes in the desert, the Mediterranean Sea and the forests of Israel and is a great way to discover the many faces of this fascinating country. (http://www.israel-trail.com/)
It is impossible to come to Israel and not enjoy its unique cuisine which is famous well beyond its borders. Even in Europe there are these days more and more possibilities to try Israeli dishes. As well as Falafel, also very popular is Schackschucka, made of poached eggs in tomato sauce with chilli peppers and onions. With Israeli spices and the famous "Humus" chickpea puree, this country provides a real experience for the taste buds. It is worth visiting the markets in the different regions to try out the culinary variety which Israel has to offer.
Language: It is mainly Hebrew and Arabic which is spoken In Israel. However, tourists need not worry, as the business language here is English and most Israelis are therefore familiar with the English language.
Arrival: Most planes land at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, but there is also an international airport in Eilat. The flight from Germany for example takes about 4 hours. Controls at the Israeli airports tend to take a long time, so it is advisable to plan extra time for your journey. German, Italian and Spanish travellers are issued with a free visa on arrival, allowing them to remain for up to 3 months in the country. Citizens of many other EU countries do not require a visa.
Transport: Israel has a very good travel infrastructure. Trains, buses and public transport are all seen positively by the Israelis. Those preferring to take a hire car will find many international companies represented here.
Security: In view of the current world security situation it is also necessary to exercise care in Israel. Particular parts of the country, such as the Gaza Strip and the areas around the borders with Syria and Lebanon should generally be avoided by tourists and also in Jerusalem it is advisable to be cautious. In general it is advisable to consult your country's foreign office for advice before leaving. German travellers have the option of contacting either or the Israeli Embassy (www.tel-aviv.diplo.de) to inform themselves of the current situation in the country.
Currency: The currency of Israel is the shekel , with 4.3 shekels approximately corresponding to one euro.
Regions and Places
Israel's capital city of 816,000 inhabitants is a very holy place for many of the world's religions. Within its walls can be found countless landmarks and sacred sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Old City in particular has a wide and impressive range of sites illustrating the influences of the various religions. The Wailing Wall in the Old City is an example of a well-known Jewish landmark which is used by many Jews as a site for prayer. In East Jerusalem very important sites of the Islamic religion can be found on the Temple Mount, such as the Temple of the Rock and the Mosque of al-Aqṣā. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem is regarded as one of the most important sacred sites of Christianity.
Nazareth in Galilee is another town which is heavily influenced by religion. Nowadays the town is mainly inhabited by Israeli Arabs. However, as the birthplace of Jesus, Nazareth is of particular importance to the Christian faith. Many Christian pilgrims come to this holy place each year in particular to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Church of Saint Gabriel. A chain of hills encircles the town, which is characterised by small alleyways and shops.
The town of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is the tourist destination of choice in Israel with its wide variety of attractions for all kinds of holiday. Together with fantastic beaches, there are many historical attractions to be found here. The town is characterised by its white buildings constructed in the Bauhaus style and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many artists and musicians have made this their home and holidaymakers become aware of this, for example, in the form of Street Art. Tel Aviv is also well known for its lively nightlife, and countless trendy clubs attract partygoers as well as the gay community into this vibrant town. From Tel Aviv the old district of Jaffa, called "Old Jaffa" can be admired, but it is well worth making the effort to go there. With its small alleyways and its unique boutiques and restaurants, the district is ideal for a relaxed day-trip.
Haifa is an industrial town in the north of Israel with an impressive setting on the northern side of Mount Carmel, which guarantees fantastic views from almost everywhere in the town. Haifa attracts many visitors as a coastal resort, but also because of its tourist attractions which are well worth seeing. The Hanging Gardens of Bahai are the star attraction with amazing garden terraces on different levels around the shrine of Bab, a holy burial place of the Bahai faith. The site is very well kept and the green gardens are really something special, and not just for gardening enthusiasts.
The town of Eilat lies on the Red Sea in the south of Israel. With its very good tourist infrastructure, this resort is especially popular with fans of underwater sports. Every year countless divers and snorkelers are attracted to the coral reef here with its enormous range of underwater species. Also very popular is Dolphin Reef where it is possible to observe dolphins in their natural habitat and even swim and dive with them. The town is in the south of the Negev Desert which affects the climate, which is sunny and warm all year round, and also the landscape of Eilat. Near to the town is the National Park of Timna where the old copper mines can be admired throughout the park.
The tourist town of Tiberias offers a large variety of attractions and activities to its visitors and with its many hotels has plenty of accommodation for tourists. Directly located at the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias offers a unique view of this lake, which can be explored on a boat tour with the so-called Jesus boat. The lake can also be used to take a cooling dip in the water. Otherwise, this is a place to relax, for example in the Tiberias Hot Springs where you can wind down after an action-packed day. As an alternative, you can visit the Hammam Suleiman Museum and learn all about the history of Turkish baths in Israel.
The harbour town of Acre is in the north of Israel. The influence of many different rulers and religions has ensured that the town has a lot of varied sides to it, together with a multitude of historical treasures. Surrounded by its town walls, Acre has its own individual charm, with narrow alleyways, interesting markets and local restaurants all helping to create a very special kind of holiday. A visit to the Templar Tunnel will take you back in time and in this 350-metre long underground tunnel you can find information about the order of the Templars which built it.
About the beaches
The beaches of Israel vary enormously, which is mainly due to the fact that its coastline includes three different seas and also a lake which attracts many swimming holidaymakers every year. The varied beaches have something to offer everybody, whether on the coast or at the lake.
The beaches on Israel's Mediterranean coast are especially popular and every year thousands of holidaymakers come to the many resorts in this region. The beaches here are particularly suitable for holidaymakers looking for peace and quiet, but also for water-sports enthusiasts.
As one of Israel's best-known towns, Tel Aviv is home to many attractive beaches. The Frishman Beach is regarded as the nicest of all and attracts lots of visitors, particularly in the mornings. Gordon Beach is very lively and has a lot to offer in terms of food and drink. Those looking for a relaxed, peaceful day at the beach should head for Haifa where the Hof Hashaket Beach is seen as the quietest beach in the country.
To the south, Israel is bordered by the Red Sea, which is well known for its colourful underwater scene and its unique coral reef which leaves divers and snorkelers spellbound. At Coral Beach in the resort of Eilat the underwater world can be seen at its best. This lovely beach runs parallel to the coral reef and offers a very special experience not just to water-sports fans, but also to families. Snorkelling equipment is available at the beach to take advantage of this underwater world and its many different species.
Another beach of Eilat certainly worth mentioning is Dolphin Reef Beach from where you can admire dolphins in their natural habitat. If that is not enough for you, there are snorkelling and diving tours on offer, giving you the chance to get very close to these friendly sea mammals. An area of water with access to the open sea allows the dolphins to come and go as they please.
One of Israel's special highlights is the Dead Sea which, with an average salt content of 28%, is one of the most salty seas in the world. This makes going underwater here practically impossible and if you swim in the Dead Sea you will quickly notice that you have the feeling of floating on the surface. The beaches are notable for their black mud which is supposed to be good for the skin. Near to Ein Gedi is Mineral Beach which is a real paradise for relaxation. A natural sulphur pool provides a cosy, warm water temperature and you can completely switch off here with a massage at the beach.
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee, also known as the Lake of Gennesaret, is in the north of Israel. Boat trips on the lake itself are available and there are attractive beaches here to tempt visitors. Although a small entrance payment has to be made at most of the beaches, this guarantees that the beaches are clean and have a good tourism infrastructure, for example at Tzemach Beach on the southern tip of the lake. There is plenty on offer here for water-sports fans and for children there is lots of fun to be had at the water park. Kibbutz Ein Gev Strand on the eastern side of the lake is another impressive beach and one of the best on the whole lake thanks to its infrastructure.
"One of the best places for surfing in Israel!"
"One of the nicest local beaches"
"Diving and snorkelling fun for the whole family"
"A relaxing oasis with flair"
"Surfers, families, sun-seekers: there is something here for everybody!"
"Tel Aviv presents itself in all its glory here"
"The town beach with a beach club atmosphere"
"Stony and beautiful"
"Hip and young during the week, a place for families at the weekend"
"Diving and snorkelling fun for the whole family"
"Hip lifestyle and beach club vibes"
"The perfect beach for swimming and relaxing!"
"One of the best surfing spots in the country"
"Exuberant atmosphere at Betzet Beach!"
"The beach for families with small children!"
"Relaxation and swimming fun at one of the most popular beaches in Tel-Aviv"
"The most popular holiday destination at the Dead Sea"
"Mezizim Beach, a well established part of Tel Aviv’s history!"
"Jaffa’s popular local beach"
"A day at Gordon Beach has everything and is never boring"