Embark on a captivating journey to Israel, a land steeped in history, culture, and diverse landscapes. In this comprehensive Israel travel guide, we unveil the treasures that await you in this enchanting destination. From exploring ancient sites that resonate with millennia-old stories to savoring the flavors of traditional cuisine, we’ve curated essential insights to enhance your travel experience.
Fast Facts About Israel
- Climate: Delight in Israel’s Mediterranean climate, offering mild winters and hot summers. Coastal areas experience average temperatures of 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C), while desert regions can reach above 100°F (38°C).
- Local Currency: The official currency is the Israeli New Shekel (ILS). ATMs are widely accessible, and credit cards are accepted in most establishments.
- Power Voltage: Israel operates on 230V electricity at 50Hz. Be sure to pack the appropriate power adapter to keep your devices charged.
- Language: Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages. However, English is widely spoken, especially in urban areas and tourist spots.
- Religion: Israel is a diverse religious mosaic, with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity being the major faiths. Respect local customs and religious practices.
- Safety: Israel maintains a strong focus on security. Stay informed about local advisories, and follow guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
- Cultural Etiquette: Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, covering shoulders and knees. Be mindful of local customs and traditions, especially during prayer times.
- Tipping: Tipping is customary in Israel. In restaurants, leave around 10% of the bill as a gesture of appreciation for good service.
Best Time to Visit Israel: Seasons and Festivals
- Spring (March to May): Embrace pleasant temperatures, ranging from 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). Witness blooming flowers and celebrate Passover and Easter.
- Summer (June to August): Experience hot and dry weather, ideal for beach lovers. Temperatures soar above 90°F (32°C). The Jewish holiday of Shavuot falls in May or June.
- Fall (September to November): Enjoy milder temperatures of 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, significant Jewish holidays, usually occur in September.
- Winter (December to February): Coastal areas remain mild, around 50°F to 65°F (10°C to 18°C). Explore the desert without scorching heat. Hanukkah and Christmas festivities illuminate the streets.
- Passover (March or April): Celebrate the Jewish liberation from slavery with festive meals and traditional customs.
- Yom Ha’atzmaut (April or May): Join in Israel’s Independence Day celebrations, marked by fireworks, parades, and cultural events.
- Sukkot (September or October): Experience the joy of the Feast of Tabernacles, with temporary sukkahs symbolizing the dwellings during the exodus.
- Hanukkah (November or December): Observe the Festival of Lights with the lighting of menorahs, festive foods, and joyous gatherings.
- Christmas (December 25th): Immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit in Bethlehem and various Christian holy sites across Israel.
Top Attractions and Things to See and Do in Israel
- Jerusalem’s Old City: Immerse yourself in history as you explore the ancient streets, visit the Western Wall, and stand at the crossroads of faiths.
- Masada and the Dead Sea: Ascend Masada’s fortress for breathtaking views, then float effortlessly in the mineral-rich waters of the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea.
- Tel Aviv Beaches: Embrace the vibrant energy of Tel Aviv’s beaches, from relaxing on golden sands to enjoying water sports and beachside cafes.
- Biblical Sites: Walk in the footsteps of history at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have walked on water, and visit Nazareth, his childhood home.
- Negev Desert: Discover the otherworldly landscapes of the Negev Desert, where hiking, stargazing, and camel treks provide unique adventures.
- Golan Heights: Take in panoramic views, visit wineries, and explore the lush landscapes of the Golan Heights region.
- Acre and Haifa: Wander through the historical streets of Acre, with its Crusader heritage, and explore the diverse cultures of Haifa.
The Best Ways To Get Around Israel
- Public Transportation: Israel’s efficient public transportation includes buses and trains that connect major cities and attractions. The train ride along the coast is particularly scenic.
- Shared Taxis (Sheruts): Utilize shared taxis, known as sheruts, for short distances between cities. They’re cost-effective and convenient.
- Rental Cars: Renting a car offers flexibility, especially for off-the-beaten-path locations. However, traffic in cities can be busy, so plan accordingly.
- Biking: Many cities offer bike-sharing programs, and cycling along scenic routes, like Tel Aviv’s promenade, can be a fun and eco-friendly way to explore.
- Walking Tours: Join guided walking tours in cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to gain insights from local experts while exploring on foot.
Accommodation Tips: Israel
- Diverse Options: Israel offers a range of accommodations, from boutique hotels to hostels and guesthouses. Choose based on your budget and preferences.
- Booking Ahead: During peak travel seasons, it’s advisable to book your accommodation in advance to secure the best options.
- City vs. Rural Stays: Decide whether you want the energy of city life or the tranquility of rural areas. Each offers distinct experiences.
- Kibbutz Stays: Experience unique communal living by staying in a kibbutz, offering a chance to connect with locals and immerse yourself in their way of life.
- Local Bedouin Hospitality: In the Negev Desert, consider staying in a Bedouin tent for an authentic cultural experience.
Israel Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
- Free Museums and Sites: Take advantage of free entry to national museums and historic sites. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem offers free admission on Tuesdays.
- Market Meals: Indulge in delicious local cuisine at market stalls and food markets, which offer authentic flavors at reasonable prices.
- City Passes: Look into city passes that offer discounted access to attractions and public transportation, like the Jerusalem City Pass.
- Student and Senior Discounts: If you’re eligible, inquire about student or senior discounts at museums, attractions, and transportation services.
- Happy Hours: Many restaurants and bars offer happy hour specials, making it a budget-friendly option to enjoy the local scene.
Culinary Delights and Traditional Cuisine in Israel
- Hummus and Falafel: Savor the iconic duo of hummus and falafel, available at street vendors and restaurants across Israel.
- Shawarma: Sink your teeth into succulent shawarma, a savory meat dish served in pita bread with flavorful toppings.
- Sabich: Try sabich, a pita sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, and a variety of fresh vegetables and sauces.
- Fresh Salads: Relish the vibrant flavors of Israeli salads like tabbouleh and fattoush, showcasing the region’s fresh produce.
Souvenir Ideas: Bringing a Piece of Israel Home
- Olive Oil and Spices: Take home aromatic olive oil and a selection of Middle Eastern spices to infuse your dishes with authentic flavors.
- Dead Sea Products: Indulge in Dead Sea products known for their skincare benefits, like mineral-rich mud masks and bath salts.
- Israeli Wine: Bring home a bottle of Israeli wine, known for its quality and unique blends.
- Judaica and Handcrafted Items: Browse markets for handcrafted Judaica, pottery, and jewelry, supporting local artisans.
- Israeli Art: Consider purchasing Israeli artwork, such as paintings or sculptures, to bring a piece of the country’s artistic scene into your home.