Israel might not be the first place that pops into your mind when thinking about a cool travel destination. But the country really has it all: Beach, sun, culture, history, dazzling night-life, fashion and shopping and great people.
Here are few cool things to do when travelling to Israel.
1. Looking over the roofs of Jerusalem
Climb on one of the many hostels or coffee shop roofs, or take a walk on the ramparts that surround the old city for small entrance fee (ca. 16 shekel adults, 8 shekels children). Either way you will most likely get a view on the impressive Al Aqsa Mosque, see a lot of satellite dishes and get a good overview over the famous markets, the small streets and the density the you will live in the Old City.
2. Floating in the dead sea
As floating apparently makes you happy, you should not miss out on the biggest free floating bath you can find: The dead sea. Most common access point is probably Ein Gedi, about 1-2h from Jerusalem off Highway 90. Right before you hop into the water, cover your body with the dead sea mud from the mud holes. Both mud and water are said to have several positive effects on the skin.
Don’t forget to take the book or newspaper for the mandatory photo.
3. Take a Walk from Tel Aviv to Jaffa
Tel Aviv connects to Old Jaffa through the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade with stunning views on the sea, the beaches and the skyline of Tel Aviv. The walk takes about one hour, if you resist the views and don’t stop for any photo breaks. Recommendable also during the sunset.
4. Stay in a Kibbutz
Kibbutz are, despite of the romantic role they played historically, not the cheapest way to stay in Israel. And it is not the easiest way to find one either. Still, the collective communities are an important part of Israeli culture and it is definitely worth getting to know it. Find Kibbutz accommodation here. If you have more time, you can also stay as a volunteer, more information here.
5. Cross the Boarder to Ramallah
To start with: crossing the border is already an adventure. There are busses from Jerusalem Bus Station going to Ramallah every day (ca. 40 min ride). Don’t forget to bring your passport, you will need it at the checkpoint, where everyone has to get off the bus and cross the border by foot. While tourists get waved through quite quickly, for Palestinians the queues are quite a hassle. Don’t take pictures, or you might have an overly eager teenager soldier with a machine gun, trying to take your camera away as it happened to me.
Once in Ramallah you will be amazed how much of a difference it is. Everything is so much louder and more crowded. And unfortunately much poorer. Yassir Arrafats grave is open to visitors. Wonder around a while and when you have enough, take a coffee in the Stars & Bucks Café and enjoy the view on busy Manara Square from the window.
6. Watching the sunset at the beach in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv has around 200km of coastline and more than 50 public beaches. So it’s not hard to find the perfect spot to watch the sun go down over the ocean. Obviously the more centric beaches are normally more crowded than the ones a little more off.
7. Looking for Banksy Art on the West Bank barrier
On the way to Bethlehem you will probably walk a good part by the infamous West Bank Wall. As sad as the purpose is, many artists tried their best to expressing the protest while decorating the ugly wall, turning it into a monument of street art. A few famous pieces can be found here, including the Banksy image of the girl and the soldier.
8. Visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Bethlehem is about 1 hour from Jerusalem. There are buses going or you can just take a taxi. The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest churches in the world. The actual alleged site of Jesus’ birth, is located in a cave in the church, the exact spot being marked with a star.
Do notice on the way out the bullet holes in the wall from the 2002 siege of the church.
9. Wonder around in the “Bauhaus quarter” or White City in Tel Aviv
Take a tour around Rothschild Boulevard, Dizengoff Street, Bialik Street and the Neve Tzedek neighborhood to see the numerous white Bauhaus style buildings, that gave this area the name “White City” and a 3rd spot on the Conde Nast Traveler magazine 14 cities every architecture lover must visit.
10. Go trend hunting in Jaffa
Jaffa is one of the world’s oldest cities and hosts the oldest seaport in the world. But in the last years it has become one of the hottest places for designers and artists or simply the “cool crowd”. Have a look around the small stores and boutiques. Check out the people, while watching street artists on the steps of the clock tower.