Israel has seen many civilizations pass through in its long history. Jerusalem is home to some of the most holy sites for three world religions. Tel Aviv is a vibrant, modern city that also houses UNESCO World Heritage neighborhoods. In short, there’s something for just about any interest in Israel.
A tour of the ancient city of Jerusalem is a journey through time. In the space of a few hundred you can visit a treasure trove of ancient and sacred sites. The Western Wall, the last remnant of the Temple complex, is routinely visited by devout Jews offering prayers. Atop the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock houses some of the earliest Islamic art and the spot where tradition holds the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Not far away is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian tradition holds Jesus was buried, and the Garden of Gethsemane, where he spent his last night on Earth in prayer. Below the Temple Mount runs a series of tunnels and archaeological excavations that unearth many aspects of life in scriptural times. Less than an hour outside the city is Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.
In the country’s desert interior, the Negev contains unique landscapes, including at 1.8 million years, the oldest chunk of the Earth’s surface yet discovered. At the southern end, you’ll come to the resort city of Eilat, Israel’s outlet to the Red Sea. In the north of the desert in the ancient citadel of Masada, where Jewish rebels made a last stand against the Romans. The fortress overlooks the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the Earth’s surface at 1,200 feet below sea level and so salinated that most people float easily in it. At the top end of the sea lies Jericho, perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, with signs of settlement dating back 11,000 years.
In the north of Israel, Christians can explore Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, sites of Jesus’ upbringing and most of his Biblical ministry. The Mediterranean coast features the Crusader stronghold of Acre and the ancient city and modern cruise port of Haifa. Tel Aviv stands out amongst so much history as a cosmopolitan city, a nightlife capital that’s a hub of LGBTQ culture and home to the most vegans per capita in the world. Tel Aviv has some of the best beaches, urban or otherwise, in the world, and you never have to look far for a party.
Where to stay
King David Hotel Jerusalem
The preferred hotel for world leaders and celebrities, and the official venue for state occasions, the King David Hotel Jerusalem offers unrivaled views of Old and New Jerusalem. The Canaanite art deco rooms are legendary; guest rooms are warm and inviting (the best view is from the renovated rooms on the top two floors facing the Old City). Lovely gardens surround the lawns with adult and children’s swimming pools, a tennis court, and a play area. Dining in the richly appointed La Regence restaurant is a classic experience, as is the complimentary generous Israeli buffet breakfast. Enjoy free Wi-Fi in all rooms and public areas.
The Negev Desert covers nearly half of Israel, but perhaps no stretch is as dazzling as the dozen acres that encircle Beresheet. Built on the rim of Makhtesh Ramon – the world’s largest crater – the hotel masterfully blends into the silent landscape, with a scattering of one- and two-story buildings housing 111 contemporary rooms (be sure to book one with a balcony or with your own pool overlooking the crater). The gourmet restaurant, which serves locally sourced, organic cuisine, appears to be suspended above Makhtesh Ramon. Explore the crater on a safari or cycling tour, or simply appreciate its grandeur from the infinity pool.
The Norman, Tel Aviv
Expect a colorful stay at The Norman, Tel Aviv, set in the heart of the world-famous White City. It’s just seven miles from the airport to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of historic Bauhaus buildings, two of which comprise this inspired, 50-room hotel; look for original elements against an eclectic backdrop of hand-picked textiles, furnishings, and contemporary Israeli art. Check out the buzz in The Library Bar before dining on Japanese tapas. Take in stunning city views from the rooftop infinity-edge pool.
With an exceptional location, uniting ancient Jerusalem and new, the David Citadel gives you unequaled access to the holy city’s unique treasures. The hotel has 385 freshly renovated rooms and suites, with most rooms featuring a terrace with a breathtaking view of the Old City. Dine at the hotel’s famed terrace, where guests enjoy an exclusive Jerusalem outdoor view. The hotel spa offers rejuvenating treatments and a state-of the-art gym with an outdoor pool heated year-round. The award-winning Executive Lounge is a perfect setting for leisure or business gatherings.
COVID-19 entry protocols
Travellers who have been vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, Johnson and Johnson or Sinopharm vaccines within the last six months will be granted entry into Israel.
Additionally, travelers who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months will be allowed to enter Israel with proof of a negative PCR test performed at least 11 days prior to entering Israel. Travelers who have recovered from COVID and have taken at least one dose of a WHO-approved vaccine will also be admitted.