A few days in Israel are all you need to discover a land in which scenery changes faster than you can blink. In a country that stretches a mere 424 kilometers (263 miles) from north to south you’ll be able to experience lush forests, dry deserts, holy sites and even Earth’s lowest point on land. Yes, it really is that amazing.
When I was in my second year of university, cramming in the library for yet another English literature paper, I received an exciting email saying I had been accepted to join a group of Americans and Israeli soldiers on Birthright (Taglit). I was mostly happy about the opportunity to cut classes for a week, but little did I know my experience would end up being much more meaningful.
The scenery had changed every 40 to 60 minutes
I arrived in Jerusalem along with the group of soldiers to meet the Americans we were joining. They had already been up north and the rest of the trip later took them, and us, to visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Eilat. I ended up having an amazing time and making great friends, but perhaps, most importantly, I got to experience my country through the eyes of a tourist.
If there was something the group couldn’t get over, it was the fact that in the time it took to get from one end of Israel to the other, the scenery had changed every 40 to 60 minutes. From evergreen forests to cosmopolitans like Tel Aviv to dry desserts with Bedouin riding on camels, for the group I was with, visiting Israel was like visiting a few countries in a matter of a few hours.
Here are some of the highlights I would recommend you visit in order to get that amazing feeling that you are traveling through many spaces and times all in a matter of a few days. Whether you’ve never been to Israel or travel here annually, changing your perspective when it comes to the magnificent views this country has will transform your entire experience.
Start off by getting a flight to Tel Aviv, a city that is buzzing with great cultural activities and probably the most cafes you’ve seen since you were in Paris last. Enjoy the hot weather and soak up the sun by taking a dip in the Mediterranean. If you’d like to cool off a bit, especially in the evenings, go up north. Past Haifa where you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful Bahai garden, you’ll discover the historical port city of Caesarea. Continue up north to enjoy the serene waters of the Kinneret as well as Galilee’s Mt. Meron. Then, end your day by getting a room in a zimmer (the Israeli version of B&Bs) in the Golan Heights, a hilly and elevated area in the country, overlooking the Jordan River as well as Israel’s tallest mountain, Mount Hermon.
Travel back in time
Once you’re done excavating the north, head to Jerusalem. In less than an hour drive from Tel Aviv or around 2.5 hours from Haifa you’ll experience a completely different scenery and vibe, and transfer from high-tech skyscrapers in Tel Aviv to old Jerusalem stone buildings that will give you a sensation of going back in time. Whether you believe in Judaism, Christianity or Islam, you’ll find that Jerusalem in the holiest place on earth for all three religions for a very good reason. If you open your mind (and soul) to it, you’ll be able to feel the sacred atmosphere of this special city in the air you breath.
After making sure you’ve checked off all your must-see attractions in Jerusalem, head down south to the Dead Sea, which also happens to be the world’s lowest point on land. This mineral-rich sea is actually not a sea at all, but rather the deepest hypersaline lake in the world, and with 33.7% salinity, it is among the world’s saltiest bodies of water. Don’t forget to float in the water as well as cover your entire body with mud. You won’t believe how good it is for you.
After cleaning off and resting from your day in the sun, take a day trip to Masada, an ancient fortification built by Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BCE. Masada overlooks the Dead Sea and will offer you an incredible panoramic view of the area. Continue from there through the Negev desert towards the Red Sea and Eilat. There you’ll find that the scenery has changed once more and offers the perfect combination of both desert landscapes and gorgeous coral reefs in the water.
People tend to take their homelands for granted
Whatever route you end up taking, and obviously there is so much more to see than the aforementioned, I am sure you’ll feel the Israeli scenic experience I am referring to. People tend to take their homelands for granted, but if they happen to get the opportunity to see the country they live in through the eyes of a tourist, they’ll be surprised by how many things they’ve been overlooking.
There is no doubt that Israel isn’t the simplest of places to live in, but it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, and I’m sure that anyone who gets the chance to visit it will absolutely agree with me.