48 Best Sights in Around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, Israel

Neve Midbar Beach

Just south of Biankini Beach, this well-kept stretch offers a large swimming pool, a wading pool, and several food venues. A modern air-conditioned restaurant serves Middle Eastern fare, and a bar offers a large drink menu along with snacks and ice cream. Access the beach by a set of winding stairs or with the free shuttle. There's ample black mud and plenty of shade from beach umbrellas. The beach stays open all night for camping and sometimes weddings, although swimming is allowed during daylight hours only. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; swimming.

Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant Church

Built in 1924, this church is said to be on the site where the Ark of the Covenant remained for 20 years in the ancient town of Kiryat Yearim. A statue of Mary holding Jesus in her arms towers above the structure and can be seen across the village. The Byzantines built a church on the same site in the 5th century, and pieces of floor mosaic and other telltale leftovers give this sanctuary a patina far richer than its age. The church is on the property of the Notre Dame Arche D'Alliance monastery and is surrounded by gardens offering views of the village below. The church is closed for renovations through October 2023, but during this period, visitors are still allowed to tour the grounds and stay overnight in the 30-room guesthouse. 

1 Notre Dame St., 9084500, Israel
02-534–2818
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. Closed daily between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm

Pepo Beer

Moti Bohadana named his brewery for his father and the nine beers for all the women in his life. Elisheva, named after his grandmother, is a bitter, hoppy IPA. Tamara is a red, flowery ale, and Tirza is an Irish stout. There's also hard apple and cherry cider. Call ahead about visits and occasional music events or to reserve a table at the unlimited Friday brunch for NIS 80 per person. To get here from Latrun, take Route 3 toward Ashkelon and turn left on Route 44. Follow the signs for the Navot Winery.

49 Hate'ena St., Tzlafon, 9975000, Israel
054-530–4576
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Open Fri. only except for groups

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Qasr Al Yahud

Just outside Jericho, this is the site where Christians believe Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13–17) and where the Israelites are said to have crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 3). Back then, the Jordan was a mighty, roaring river; today, it is little more than a silty creek that Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection monitors for unsafe pollution. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority runs the site and maintains a wooden deck, picnic tables, changing rooms, a coffee shop, and an inexpensive gift shop. You can almost shake hands with the Jordanian soldier guarding the opposite bank. Access to dozens of old churches and monasteries nearby is only possible with coordination with the Israeli army due to old landmines. If you plan to go in the water, you must go in with modest clothing, or a white gown, which can be purchased on-site for 35 shekels. Swimsuits are not allowed.

Rachel's Tomb

The Bible relates that the matriarch Rachel, second and favorite wife of Jacob, died in childbirth on the outskirts of Bethlehem, "and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave" (Genesis 35:19–20). There is no trace of that pillar, but, for centuries Jews, Christians, and Muslims venerated the velvet-draped cenotaph inside the building as the site of Rachel's tomb. Palestinians call the site the Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque, and a Muslim cemetery lies beside it.

Today, the site is a concrete-enclosed Israeli enclave punched into Bethlehem and only accessible from the Israeli side. Visitors, especially Jewish women, come to pray for good health, fertility, and a safe birth. Some pilgrims wind a red thread seven times around the tomb, and wear snippets of it around their wrists as a talisman. Note that men and women are separated here and have different entrances. Superbus 163 runs from Jerusalem's Central Bus Station to the tomb.

Rte. 60, Israel
02-580–0863
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Sat. and Jewish holidays

Russian Museum

Russian funding has given a glorious status to the gnarled sycamore that tradition identifies as the Tree of Zacchaeus, which the chief tax collector climbed to get a better look at Jesus (Luke 19:1–4). The Russian Museum was built as a Greek-style palace just behind the tree and explores the history of the Russian church and Russian pilgrims in the Holy Land. It also houses an extensive collection of archaeological finds unearthed on the site during construction. The entrance fee includes access to a sprawling garden complex with lush green lawns and towering palm trees.

Sataf

Sataf was one of many Arab villages that were abandoned in the 1948 War of Independence. You can hike here on well-marked trails amid ancient terraces shaded with pine, fig, and almond trees. Hikes last two or four hours and pass springs where you can get your feet wet. You can walk to Sataf from Ein Kerem in about an hour.

Sphera Winery

Founded in 2012, this family-owned winery on Moshav Givat Yeshayahu specializes in white wines made from grapes grown in local vineyards. The winery takes advantage of its location in the Ella Valley, where the low altitude brings plunging nighttime temperatures despite the hot and dry days, ideal conditions for growing grapes with a robust taste spectrum. Tours and tastings are offered daily by appointment only, and they include a generous platter of veggies, local cheeses, and bread from a nearby bakery. 

Givat Yeshayahu, Israel
02-993–8577
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tasting (including bread and cheese) is NIS 125 per person, Closed Sat.

Srigim Brewery

Ohad Eilon and Ofer Ronen fell in love with European and American beers while traveling for work in the Israeli high-tech industry, and they quit their jobs to found this award-winning brewery. The two take great care when crafting their fantastic Bavarian-style wheat beer, dark ale, and India pale ale, which you can sip while overlooking the Ella Valley. Call ahead for guided tours (minimum group size of 10) Sunday to Thursday, or stop by for beer and pub fare served at wooden picnic tables in the beer garden on Thursday nights in summer and during the day on Friday and Saturday all year.

St. Mary of the Resurrection Benedictine Abbey

The Crusaders believed that Abu Gosh was the site where Jesus revealed himself after his resurrection, and, in the 12th century, they built this Benedictine monastery to commemorate the event. Parts of it still stand today, showcasing some of the best-preserved Crusader architecture in the country. Magnificent frescoes cover the walls, and a small stream bubbles from an underground crypt. There is still a religious community here: try to visit during prayers, which are recited in Gregorian chant. There is a small guesthouse that takes reservations via email.

3 Mahmoud Rashid St., Israel
02-534–2798
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. except for services. Closed daily between 11 am and 2:30 pm

Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve

In 1968, a routine blast in the Har-Tuv quarry tore away rock face and revealed this 300,000-year-old, subterranean wonderland on the western slopes of the Judean Hills. The Stalactite Cave, also called Soreq Cave, contains a wondrous variety of stalactites and stalagmites. Lights are used to highlight the natural whites and honey browns of the stones, and local guides have given the formations nicknames like "macaroni," "curtains," and "sombreros." Despite the high humidity, the temperature in the cave is comfortable year-round.

There are 150 steps down to the cave, but arrangements can be made for those with mobility concerns to enter by a nearby road, avoiding the steps. Reservations are required and can be made online. An English-language video explains how the cave was formed.

Rte. 3866, 99775, Israel
02-991–1117
Sight Details
Rate Includes: NIS 28, Book online at en.parks.org.il/reserve-park/stalactite-cave-nature-reserve

Tel Arad National Park

The 250-acre site of the biblical city of Arad (to the northwest of the modern city) contains the remains of a major metropolis from the Bronze Age and the Israelite period. The lower city, with its meticulously planned streets and plazas, was inhabited in the Early Bronze Age (3150–2200 BC), when it was one of the largest cities in this region. Here you can walk around a walled urban community and enter the carefully reconstructed dwellings, whose style became known as the "Arad house."

After the Early Bronze Age, Arad was abandoned. The book of Numbers (21:1–3) relates that the Canaanite king of Arad battled the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt but that his cities were "utterly destroyed." The upper city was first settled in the Israelite period (1200 BC). It's worth the trek up the somewhat steep path to see the Israelite temple, a miniature version of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.

At the entrance, pick up a free pamphlet explaining the ongoing excavations and purchase a map of the Canaanite city of Arad, with its recommended walking route and diagrams of a typical Arad house. Tel Arad is 8 km (5 miles) west of Arad. At the Tel Arad Junction on Route 31, turn north on Route 80 for 3 km (2 miles).

Tel Beit Shemesh

This low-profile archaeological site has fine views of the fields of Nahal Soreq, where Samson dallied with Delilah (Judges 16). When the Philistines captured the Israelite Ark of the Covenant in battle (11th century BC), they found that their prize brought divine retribution with it, destroying their idol Dagon and afflicting their bodies with tumors and their cities with rats (I Samuel 5). The Philistines rid themselves of the jinxed ark by sending it back to the Israelites at Beit Shemesh. The stone ruins of the tell—including the oldest iron workshop in the world—are hard to interpret without an archaeologist on hand. Families enjoy visiting in early spring, when the area is carpeted with wildflowers.

Rte. 38, 99803, Israel
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Tel Jericho

Also called Tel es-Sultan (Sultan's Hill), the archaeological site of Tel Jericho covers the legendary ancient city. Nearly 200 years of excavations have still not uncovered the walls that fell when Joshua stormed the city in the mid-13th century BC. The most impressive ruins unearthed are a massive tower and wall, remains of the world's oldest walled city. Little is known about these early urbanites, who lived here in the Neolithic period between 7800 and 6500 BC, or why they needed such fortifications thousands of years before they became common in the region.

Across the road is Ain as-Sultan, or the Sultan's Spring. The name comes from the prophet Elijah's miracle of sweetening the water with a bowl of salt (II Kings 2:19–22). The waters are still eminently drinkable if you wish to refill your bottles. To the east in Jordan are the mountains of the biblical kingdoms of Ammon and Moab, among them the peak of Mount Nebo, from which Moses viewed the Promised Land before dying at the ripe old age of 120.

To get to Tel Jericho by car, drive along Old Route 90, the main road through Jericho, and turn left at the traffic circle onto Ain as-Sultan Street. The parking lot is about 2 km (1 mile) down the road.

Ain as-Sultan St., Israel
02-232–4815
Sight Details
Rate Includes: NIS 10

Trappist Abbey of Latrun

Trappist monks have been producing wine here since the 1890s. The interior of the 19th-century abbey is an odd mix, with round neo-Byzantine arches and apses and a soaring, Gothic-inspired ceiling. Survivors of the Cistercian Order suppressed in the French Revolution, the Trappists keep a vow of silence. But the staff of the shop, which sells wine, olive oil, and other items made on-site, chats with you in English, French, Hebrew, or Arabic, and offers wine tastings. The setting in the foothills is lovely.

Tzora Vineyard

Overlooking the Soreq Valley, this kibbutz estate winery sells and serves reds and whites made only from grapes grown on their property. Notable is the Shoresh blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Syrah (35%) , Petit Verdot (18%), and Merlot (12%). Tastings, which must be booked in advance, include several types of wine, as well as local bread, cheese, and olives. The winemaker also explains the unique soil of the area and the history of the winery. 

Rte. 3835, 9980300, Israel
02-990–8261
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tasting NIS 100, Closed Sat., Reservations required; book online

Tzuba Vineyard

Part of the eponymous kibbutz, this winery produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Call ahead to reserve a tasting and tour, and be sure to order the cheese plate so that you can sample local offerings. Tours also explore the nearby vineyards and ancient winepresses that dot the area. The visitor center is open daily, except for Saturday.

Rte. 395, 9087000, Israel
02-534–7000
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tour and tasting NIS 55, Closed Sat.

Yatir Winery

Near ancient Tel Arad, this boutique vineyard, now a subsidiary of Carmel Wines, was established in 2000. Yatir Forest (a Cabernet Sauvignon blend) is the premier label. The adjacent woodland, after which the winery is named, is the largest planted forest in Israel. A visitor center offers views of the nearby desert vineyards and a larger area for tastings. Call ahead and speak to Smadar to arrange an appointment for a visit and tasting.