Our Honeymoon In Israel

Romance and adventure in the Middle East.

Best Things to See and Do in Israel

Let’s be real: this is what most people cruising Israel tourism blogs are after, right? This is our list of the best things to see and do in Israel. We’ve split the list into two parts: the best things that we saw and did while we were there, and the things we missed out on that we would have dearly loved to see and do.

Best Things To See and Do in Israel (That We Saw and Did)

Floating in the Dead Sea

This is the number one thing that I recommend, to absolutely anyone and everyone who asks (and even those who don’t). It is a wonderful, unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The Dead Sea is one of the densest bodies of water on our planet, meaning that you don’t swim so much as float or bob – like a cork – in the water. Make sure you arrange safe and suitable access: Ein Bokek is the only free public beach, as far as I know, but most hotels in the area will have an arrangement for guests to access patrolled Dead Sea beaches free of charge. (That’s what we did in Ein Gedi.)

Dead Sea Husband Floating and Reading His Book at the Ein Gedi Sea of Spa Israel

My husband floating in the Dead Sea, reading his book. It really is so dense, you can lay back as though on a lounge chair.

It’s crucial that you don’t try to access the water yourself from the side of the road! The salinity plus the receding waterline has led to a massive sinkhole problem across much of the shoreline, and you could find yourself in real trouble if you stray from the areas determined as safe.

Touring Old Jerusalem

If you’re smart enough, and committed enough to do a lot of research beforehand, you could probably manage a trip through Old Jerusalem without a guide… but we were lucky enough to be gifted a guided tour by our family (in celebration of our nuptials), and we think it’s the best way to go. Our tour guide, Hava, took us through all of the major highlightsthe Western Wall, the Stations of the Cross, the Room of the Last Supper, King David’s tomb, and (our favourite) the Zion Gate. She had a very in-depth local knowledge of the history and significance of all of these sites. Plus, we had the comfort of hotel pick-up and drop-off (round trip from Tel Aviv), which alleviated any stress about the logistics of public transport.

Zion Gate on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Our favourite part of the tour of Old Jerusalem: the Zion Gate.

Wandering Tel Aviv at Night

The evenings are when Tel Aviv really comes alive. There are hundreds of bars and restaurants all awaiting your custom, and the city life is second to none. We stayed just off Rothschild Boulevard, so that is where we spent the majority of our time. You can eat, drink, or simply wander and do some spectacular people-watching.


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Climbing Masada at Sunrise

OK, I’ll admit: I wasn’t wild about this idea. In fact, I bitched about it the entire time. But, upon reflection, even I can admit that this was an experience that we will never forget. We drove our rental car from the hotel to Masada National Park just after 4AM, and hiked all of the way to the top. Admittedly, we were woefully under-prepared (read the full story here), but it was worth it. We watched an amazing sunrise, we wandered through relics of a community stretching back to 30BC, and we had great fun on the cable-car ride back down, with views stretching over the Dead Sea into Jordan. Not to mention, of course, that we got the greatest honeymoon selfie of all time…!

Sunrise from Masada hike Israel

The sunrise from Masada, view overlooking the Dead Sea all the way to Jordan

My favourite honeymoon selfie on sunrise hike at Masada

The greatest honeymoon selfie of all time!

Picnicking in Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa is a short walk along the Mediterranean Sea coastline from where we were staying, and it is cited in many guides as a “must see” for visitors to Tel Aviv. We walked up there via Shuk Ha’Carmel – the detour being necessary to procure a picnic lunch. Carrying a backpack full of cheeses, olives, hummus, cold cuts, and grapes, we walked past The Jaffa Tramway and over The Wishing Bridge to find a nice, grassy spot for a picnic. We sat overlooking the water, eating with our hands, and it all felt very Mediterranean! After we’d eaten, we wandered back through the square and looked at other points of interest, and treated ourselves to a gelato. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon!

Mediterranean picnic at Old Jaffa in Israel

Our very Mediterranean picnic at Old Jaffa.

Eating Traditional Falafel (and Drinking Traditional Liquor!)

As we’ve mentioned many times on Our Honeymoon in Israel, finding some traditional falafel was high-priority for our trip. We lucked out on the very first day, discovering a hole-in-the-wall advertising “falafel without gluten” behind Shuk Ha’Carmel. It was cooked fresh before our eyes – so hot, and moist, and delicious, my mouth waters just thinking about it. Falafel from major food outlets and tourist traps will likely taste just like what you get back home, but this traditional freshly-made stuff is something different entirely.

Falafel without gluten vendor Shuk Ha'Carmel Israel

A terrible photo of our favourite “falafel without gluten” vendor!

And, while we’re on the subject of tradition, if you’re anything like us you can’t pass up a chance to sample some local libations! Sabra came highly recommended (a choc-orange liqueur), but it was a little tricky to find. Arak is an anise liqueur that you might not wish to sample back home, but it’s so ubiquitous in Israel that you won’t be able to avoid it (we recommend trying it mixed with orange juice – it sounds nuts, but it works!). And if you’re looking for something to really knock your socks off, you can try Tubi: no one really knows what’s in it, and you should probably sip it slowly, but it’s another unique experience that only Israel can provide!

Have you read my Ultimate Guide to Drinking in Israel? Check it out for a more comprehensive overview of liquor in the promised land. Also, you should check out the Lonely Planet guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories – they provide the definitive guide to all the best things to see and do in Israel.

Best Things We Wish We Could Have Seen and Done in Israel

Driving through Jericho

Driving from Tel Aviv to Ein Gedi, we passed signs for Jericho – the oldest continuous city in the world. We made a spontaneous decision to turn off and take a look… only we started seeing signs saying “DANGER” and “NO ISRAELIS ALLOWED”. Given that we were carrying Israeli visas, and driving a rental car with Israeli plates, we chickened out and turned back.

Had we been better prepared, we would have known that Jericho welcomes a high volume of tourists every year, and the Palestinian Authority goes all-out to ensure that it’s safe for visitors. Israelis are prevented from entering under the Olso Accord, but there are no active military checkpoints to stop tourists from simply driving in, as we could have done. There are also many tour groups that take visitors through every week.



Of course, if you’re driving (as we were), you would need to double check that your rental car agreement allows you to drive an Israeli rental car into Area A (an area under Palestinian Authority). If your contract prohibits you from doing so, you’d need to find another means of transport (lest you have an accident, in which case the insurance company wouldn’t cover the damages).

Visiting Yad Vashem (The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre)

This is the one I’m particularly bitter to have missed. I’d dreamed of visiting the center since I first googled “things to do in Israel”. It is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, and one million visitors access the site (for free!) each year. We had planned to visit on our second day-trip out to Jerusalem, until disaster struck in the form of the Shavuot holiday. The only upside is that I’ve made my new husband swear to me that we’ll visit upon our return for some future anniversary.

Staying in Haifa
Baha'i Gardens Mount Carmel Haifa

Isn’t it gorgeous??

This one we missed simply because time did not allow. Haifa is the third largest city in Israel, a 3000 year-old settlement on the Mediterranean coast. It boasts some amazing hipster hangouts, the world-famous Baha’i Gardens on the slope of Mount Carmel, more sites of religious and historical significance, and some truly stunning beaches. A road trip north to Haifa (with perhaps another spin at Nazareth en route) is definitely on the cards for the next trip.

Experiencing Nazareth Properly

Speaking of Nazareth: we were terrible travellers in this regard on our honeymoon. We had made a spontaneous decision to road trip to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee upon our departure from Ein Gedi, and after lunch we made an even more spontaneous decision to swing by Nazareth on our way back down to Tel Aviv. We were completely unprepared and, as such, we were unsurprisingly completely disappointed. Nazareth seemed to us to be a huge maze of highways and billboards and multi-lane roundabouts, because we hadn’t taken the time to figure out what there was to see and do, and how to get there. Next time, we will definitely make the effort to learn more about Nazareth (with our trusty Lonely Planet guide) before we visit, so we can get the most out of our time there.


Lonely Planet

Planting a Tree in Israel

We’ve heard the pop-culture references all our lives: in remembrance, out of respect, with thanks, you plant a tree in Israel for someone you love. There were a few very special someones in our lives for whom we wished to do just that. Planting trees in Israel is not only a lovely traditional way to honour someone, but it also helps ensure that the land of Israel remains fertile and habitable for future generations. Given that the region is so dry, it requires significant human intervention to ensure growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, we were once again foiled by our lack of research. To plant a tree in Israel, one must book an appointment at least a week or two in advance. We had left it too late, and missed out on the opportunity. If we had our time over, we would have made sure to book an appointment before we even departed for Israel, to make sure we had the chance to make our contribution.

Trees on mountain range in Israel

Israel doesn’t just wake up like this!

So, there you have it, folks: the best things to see and do in Israel. Israel’s Greatest Hits, if you will. Is there something that you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!


 

 

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26 Comments

  1. Beautiful photos! I definitely have Israel on my list, my mom lived and worked there when she was young so I want to visit someday! It looms like you both has a great time!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:15 PM

      Ooooh, that personal connection is so great, it would be fascinating to go to Israel and find the places where your mother lived and worked! I love those kinds of trips 🙂 I hope you get to visit soon, NieNie!

  2. Thanks for this great insight. I love the way you’ve structured your post to include things you would have liked to do, as clearly it’s never possible to do everything on a trip like that! I really hope you do get back to visit Yad Vashem and to plant your tree. A really wonderful idea!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:14 PM

      Oh thank you, Catherine, I really hope so too! I’m glad we know for next time, now (I’m already in my husband’s ear about planning a trip back for our 10th anniversary haha), and I’m glad I can share our experiences here so others can learn from our mishaps! 🙂 Thank you so much for reading!!

  3. I have wanted to go to Israel for a while, but because I know that USA has banned some poeple from traveling to their country after visiting Israel, I am a bit wary. It is a pity when politics gets in the way, but it seems like I am missing out in an amazing country! Thanks for sharing!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:13 PM

      Really? That’s so interesting, I’d never heard that before!! I know there have historically been some issues entering other countries in the Middle East if your passport had an Israeli stamp, but that has been alleviated now that Israel offers a paper visa and doesn’t actually stamp your passport. (So you’re handed a fancy-looking docket upon entry – you just hang onto it for the duration of your trip, and hand it back to them when you leave, no record in your passport itself). I wonder if that circumvents any problems with the U.S. as well? I agree, it is really disappointing when politics causes problems with travel. To be a little bit sappy and cliche for a moment, I’m sure if more people travelled and immersed themselves in other cultures, politics wouldn’t be such an issue! I hope you find a way to get to Israel soon, Jenn <3 Best of luck!

  4. Absolutely beautiful! Israel has been on my bucket list for ages, definitely will pin this for later. Hopefully one day I’ll get to see it all (and eat some delicious Falafel)!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:10 PM

      Oh my gosh, the falafel is to DIE for! I still see it in my dreams, it makes my mouth water even now 🙂 I really hope you get there soon – please don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s any questions I can answer for you! 🙂

  5. This is so cool! My sister and her husband are going in December so will make sure they read this!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:08 PM

      Perfect!! Make sure they know to check the dates for religious holidays in advance 😉 I’d imagine most travellers would be smart enough to think of that before heading to Israel, but we sure weren’t and we got caught out a couple of times! Haha. Thanks so much, Petro 🙂

  6. Great suggestions every single one. Having visited Jordan in 2003 and Lebanon a few years ago, I’m very keen to visit Israel, especially for the historic sites and the amazing food culture I hear a lot about. Thanks for the tips!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:07 PM

      My parents just got back from Jordan! They got to experience the Dead Sea from the other side, not long after we did, so that was pretty awesome. And Lebanon has been on my bucket-list for suuuuch a long time. I can’t wait to get back to that part of the world! I’m so glad to hear Israel is on your list, if there’s any other tips you need or any questions you have, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! 🙂

  7. I love that you not only listed what you guys did, but what you WISH you could have done. It really highlights the amazing features of Israel (although I realize there is so much to one country). I haven’t personally been yet, but I cannot wait to go some day! Especially to float in the dead sea and tour old Jerusalem.

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:05 PM

      It will be awesome, Steph, I hope you get there soon! And I hope with this post you can learn from our mistakes and not miss out on anything amazing 😉 I’d definitely recommend paying for a guided tour in Old Jerusalem, it would have been an absolute shambles had we tried to do it ourselves. If you have any questions or anything I can help with when it comes time for you to go, please do get in touch! 🙂

  8. I’ve wanted to visit Israel since I was a kid! Love this compilation. Good to know about the Dead Sea, I always assumed you could just jump (or rather float) on in, didn’t realize there was some dangerous areas.

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:03 PM

      That’s awesome, Miranda, you really should do it! I think Israel is so underrated as a travel destination. Definitely be careful at the Dead Sea – there are signs everywhere warning of the danger, but I’d imagine there are plenty of tourists who ignore those and get into real trouble. Still, it’s SO worth it – floating in the Dead Sea is an experience like no other! Thank you so much for reading 🙂

  9. Thanks for this great list – love your candid selfie and how you shared the things you wish you’d done too. Guess you’ll be going back again? 😀

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:02 PM

      Awww, thank you Brooke! I’m already in my husband’s ear about how he’d better be planning on taking me back for our 10 year anniversary hahaha. This time we’ll be better prepared, and have the chance to do everything we missed. I can’t wait! 🙂

  10. Wow, what an amazing trip! Great info about what to do really makes me want to visit there one day.

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 1:01 PM

      You absolutely should, Amber! I think Israel is massively underrated as a travel destination, everyone in our lives was super confused as to why we’d choose it for our honeymoon (especially given that we’re not Jewish)… Spread the word! Haha 🙂

  11. Informative post. Interesting to know you have to plan in advance to plant a tree!

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 12:59 PM

      Yep! Really took us by surprise haha. We ended up paying online for the trees to be planted on our behalf, but it’s just not the same. Forewarned is forearmed, after all! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  12. What a great list! My husband has spent time in Israel for work and has done quite a few of the things on your list. I was super jealous when I heard about the things he did on his trip… and now I’m super jealous all over again reading your post 🙂

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 12:58 PM

      Hahahaha sounds like you guys will have to plan a trip there a.s.a.p.! 😉 I know what you mean, though – I’ve had a few people contact me in the early stages of planning their trip, and it’s making me jealous as well! I’d so love the chance to do it all over again…

  13. What a wonderful post – it’s made me eve more excited about my trip next year! I’m going as one of my friends is getting married in Tel Aviv but we’ll be doing a tour of the country beforehand. I absolutely want to do everything on your list, if we have time! Especially eat falafel!! Drool…

    • ShereeStrange

      October 30, 2017 at 12:54 PM

      Oh my gosh, falafel was top of my list – if you’re around Shuk Ha’Carmel, I’d DEFINITELY recommend that little spot we found, it was so fresh and so cheap! My mouth is watering just thinking back to it hahaha. How are you getting around while you’re there?? I strongly recommend road-tripping if you can – the hire cars were good value, and Israel is so small that it feels like you’re in the car for no time at all. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip! 🙂

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