This intriguing country might just be your new favourite holiday destination. Ancient cities such as Jerusalem and Nazareth boast atmospheric, millennia-old neighbourhoods and amazing religious sites. On the other end of the spectrum, Tel Aviv is a hip and happening city with a great wining-and-dining scene.
Israel has spectacular natural scenery. The Dead Sea, a vast salty lake renowned for its healing properties, has a tranquil, otherworldly beauty. Stunning golden-sand beaches line the coasts. Travel inland and you’ll discover stark deserts, undulating hills and sun-kissed vineyards.
Popular Ports in Israel
Ashdod (for Jerusalem and Bethlehem)
This thriving city is the gateway to trendy Tel Aviv, and the iconic attractions of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Many tourists simply pass through it, but stop to explore and you’ll see it has a lot to offer. Along the seafront promenade south of the port you’ll discover pretty parks, luxurious buildings and a bustling local market.
Ashdod also has a great cultural scene. Visit the Monart Centre of the Arts, where you’ll find galleries, performing arts venues and a cutting-edge pyramid sculpture. When you tire of sightseeing, you can relax on Ashdod’s pristine, surprisingly uncrowded beach.
A busy port city with an eclectic mix of cultures and neighbourhoods, Haifa is a fantastic place to spend the day. Visit lively Masada Street, renowned for its vibrant street art and vintage clothes stores. Then there’s the chic German Colony, lined with distinctive red-roofed buildings. This area boasts some of the city’s best boutiques and museums.
The city’s star attraction is the UNESCO-designated Baha’i shrine and tropical landscaped gardens, which line the slopes of Mount Carmel and rise spectacularly above the city.
Eilat is a lively resort town on the Red Sea coast. It’s hugely popular with holidaymakers because there are so many activities on offer. For a start, it’s blessed with gorgeous beaches and one of the world’s most unspoilt coral reefs, where vivid shoals of fish swim through colourful coral formations, making it a top spot for scuba diving and snorkelling.
The resort is also the perfect place for some retail therapy, with hundreds of duty-free stores. One of the most notable shopping spots is the Ice Park & Mall, which boasts an indoor ice-skating rink and a craft market.
What are the best cruise ships for an Israel cruise?
Cruise this unique country in five-star luxury on these two sleek, sophisticated ships.
Enjoy an extravagant holiday on Marella Discovery, a ship with state-of-the-art facilities. You’ll be impressed by the outdoor jogging track, the climbing wall, and the great nightlife on offer. Of course, there’s plenty of scope for relaxing too, with an outdoor pool and a spacious spa area. There’s a free onboard kids’ club, which children will love. There’s food to suit all tastes in the seven restaurants, whether you want a light snack, an internationally themed buffet spread or romantic tapas for two.
If you’re taking an Israel cruise for a romantic break, the intimate yet luxurious Nautica is a great option. Soak in the swimming pool or enjoy the bubbling jacuzzis. Treat yourself to a massage or a seaweed wrap at the onboard spa. The ship isn’t geared towards families with young children, so you’ll be able to relax in peace and serenity. Take advantage of the complimentary afternoon tea where you can enjoy live music as you sample sandwiches and petit fours. There’s a wide range of dining options available, including upmarket Italian restaurant Toscana, and the Terrace Café, an al-fresco joint serving everything from sushi to pizza.
Shore Excursion Ideas
Shore excursions are a great, hassle-free way to explore Israel. Here are some of the most highly recommended shore excursions, all departing from Ashdod.
Nazareth and Galilee
The day starts in Nazareth, reputed to be the childhood home of Jesus. You’ll visit a few of the town’s religious attractions, including the House of Joseph and St Gabriel Church, said to be where Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel.
Then you’ll wind through enchanting countryside to the serene village of Cana, the site of the wedding miracle where Jesus turned water into wine, stopping for lunch in a local restaurant. After that you’ll make a stop in Capernaum, a village on the shore of the Seas of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have walked on water. This is followed by a whistle-stop tour of the Mountain of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and the Jordan River Baptismal Complex, an important pilgrimage site.
Jerusalem and Dead Sea
This unique tour allows you to pamper yourself as well as visiting one of the world’s holiest sites – Jerusalem. You’ll take a guided tour of its most historic sites, retracing Jesus’ steps as he carried his cross through the narrow streets to Calvary.
Afterwards, you’ll drive through arid desert to the beautiful Dead Sea, a lake so saline you’ll float on its surface. After a traditional lunch, you’ll have a chance to bob in the salty, mineral-rich waters, renowned for their healing properties.
Highlights of Bethlehem
Travel to beautiful Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. You’ll visit the Church of the Nativity, the oldest operating Christian church in the world, built on top of a cave said to be where Jesus was born.
Take a guided tour of this ornate church, before descending into the underground Grotto of the Nativity, where there’s a silver star set in the marble floor to mark the spot. It’s worth noting that at peak times of year, this popular attraction can get crowded.
Top ports of call in this destination