Old City of Jerusalem
Its golden stones are saturated with history, sanctified by pilgrim prayers, and scarred by war. Explore the exotic medieval Church of the Holy Sepulcher, mingle with Jewish worshippers at the venerated Western Wall, and stroll the Haram esh-Sharif–-the Temple Mount plaza––to view the golden Dome of the Rock. Pick your way through the alleyways and markets for great photo ops and a lesson in the challenges of coexistence.
Masada, the Dead Sea, and Ein Gedi
Panoramic views and the ruins of King Herod’s mountaintop palace-fortress are reason enough to climb Masada, as a predawn hike or by swift cable car, but the echoes of the Jewish rebellion against Rome make Masada what it is. Float in the hyperbrine of the nearby Dead Sea, and frolic in the oasis of Ein Gedi, with its waterfalls.
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
This sprawling world-class museum boasts permanent exhibitions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a quarter-acre model of ancient Jerusalem, and wings dedicated to archaeology, fine art, and Jewish life and art.
Jordan River Sources
Rushing water and wild vegetation make the Upper Galilee panhandle one of Israel’s most beautiful regions. The 3,000-year-old ruins of biblical Tel Dan overlook the Jordan River’s largest tributary; and nearby Banias, with hiking trails alongside spectacular rapids, is Caesarea Philippi of the New Testament.
Cosmopolitan and bustling, the city conveys the energy of modern Israel. There’s the beach and promenade, a reinvented seaport, culture, great restaurants and nightlife, gentrified old ’hoods, and 1930s Bauhaus architecture.
Sea of Galilee
This shimmering freshwater lake, known in Hebrew as the Kinneret, is linked to many events in the life of Jesus. Pilgrims flock to its shores, sail the waters, and gather for baptism at the River Jordan, where it leaves the lake.
Negev Desert Highlands
The Negev highlands are full of surprises. The enormous Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) and two smaller ones are unique geological phenomena. The ruined town of Avdat pioneered desert water conservation 2,000 years ago. Ein Avdat is an exquisite spring-fed chalk canyon where ibex are often seen. Modern Israeli history, boutique wineries, and Jeeps and camels complete the picture.
Baha'i Shrine and Gardens
Haifa is the world center for the Baha'i faith, and the magnificent landmark gold-domed Shrine of the Bab caps the tomb of its 19th-century prophet-herald. Free walking tours give the best appreciation of the manicured gardens that cascade down Mount Carmel.
King Herod built the great port city more than 2,000 years ago. The renovated Roman theater is back in business; scuba enthusiasts can see elements of the Herodian port; and an ancient aqueduct slices across a beach. Crusader fortifications mix with latter-day restaurants and galleries to create a serene getaway.
The picturesque port city has seen it all: Canaanites and Greeks, Crusaders and Napoléon, Turks and Brits. Visit the excellently preserved medieval quarters; browse the copperware shops; eat hummus and seafood; and explore the small port, the Turkish bathhouse, and the British prison from which Jewish resistance fighters broke out in the 1940s.