Whether you are a pilgrim to the holy land or you just want to visit the country and see the sites, Israel has something for you. Since the weather is dry throughout most of the year, outdoor activities have become important for tourists and locals. In this list we will give you a varied list of outdoor activities that you can participate in on a trip to Israel.
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What to Do in Israel
1. Masada (Negev Desert)
Masada is one of Israel’s most popular historic sites. It is an ancient fortress nestled atop one of the hills of the Negev Desert with spectacular views. Masada was built by King Herod the Great who was notoriously paranoid and felt that he needed an impenetrable fortress. Just a few decades later the Jewish population of the region rebelled against Roman rule but they were defeated by the legions and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The rebels made their last stand on Masada and when they knew that all was lost the families inside the fortress committed mass suicide.
Masada has become an important site for religious pilgrims because of its connection to the Temple of Jerusalem but it has also become very important as a symbol for modern Israeli society. If you are lucky you might run into the Paratroopers of the Israeli Army who still finish their training with an overnight march that ends in Masada. For the rest of us there is highway 90 which connects Masada to Jerusalem.
2. The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem)
A significant portion of the tourists who visit Israel each year are religious pilgrims. Whether you are considering a pilgrimage or not, a popular attraction is the Garden Tomb where Jesus Christ is said to have been buried and resurrected. As you might have guessed, there are some who believe this site not to be the last resting place of Jesus but the site is still very popular and is maintained as a place for Christians to worship. If you really want to cover all your bases visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which didn’t make it into our list because it’s not outdoors but has also been considered the burial place of Jesus since the fourth century.
From the Old City of Jerusalem, the Garden tomb is a short walk away. If you are coming from farther out in the city a taxi or car should do the trick. You can also take any bus to Derech Shechem and walk from there.
3. Herodium (Judean Desert)
If you figured out that Herodium was built by King Herod, you got extra points on your next quiz. The eccentric and paranoid king built another great fortress closer to Jerusalem in case that he needed to make a quick getaway. The cool thing about the historical ruins in Israel is that their architecture was heavily influenced by outside powers. Herodium is a Hellenized (Greek) site built during the time that the Romans ruled the land. There’s a palace, a theater and a Roman bath. Herodium is also the place where Herod is said to be buried.
Getting from Jerusalem to Herodium is pretty simple just take Route 398 from Jerusalem. Herodium is on the other side of the ‘Green Line’ so remember to take your passport. This should not worry you, Herodium is very safe.
4. Timna Park (Near Eilat)
After seeing Star Wars you might be disappointed that you can’t visit some of those planets, but Timna Park is definitely reminiscent of Tatooine. This national park offers beautiful sites which include large stone geological features. Which is a fancy way of saying that there are giant upright rocks that look like mushrooms and pillars. The area was thought to have been used as a copper mine during the times of the biblical King Solomon. Many archeological remains have been found in Timna Park.
Getting to Timna Park from Eilat is relatively simple, just travel up Route 90 for about half an hour and you’re there. I doubt that you’ll miss it since it’s in the middle of the desert. I would avoid going to this park during the summer as the temperature gets really high.
5. Shuk HaCarmel (Tel Aviv)
A Shuk (sometimes translated as Souk) is a market or bazar. There are many Shuks in Israel and if you’re in Jerusalem you should definitely visit the Mahane Yehuda Shuk, but the one in Tel Aviv is perhaps the most enjoyable. For starters, it is more touristic than any of the other shuks so it’s a good place to buy souvenirs and while the prices are for tourists, you won’t need to get into an intense negotiation over price like in the other Shuks. The food, especially the fruit juices, is very good and the area around the Shouk offers restaurants and artisanal crafts.
The Shuk is located in the middle of the city and any taxi will get you there easily. If you are staying by the beach just walk to the intersection of King George and Allenby. Look, you can’t really go to Israel and not visit a Middle Eastern market, maybe the one in Tel Aviv is not the most authentic, but it is the most fun.
6. Gan Hashlosha (Near Beit Shean)undefined
When you visit Tel Aviv it is hard to believe that about 100 years ago the parks, skyscrapers and highways were just sand near Jaffa. Jaffa’s history is really second-to-none. The city has been inhabited by Canaanites, Turks, Crusaders, Palestinians, Israelis and more. Every one of these groups has left their own imprint on the city and that makes it spectacularly beautiful. Visiting Jaffa during the day is really fun and I would recommend booking a tour, but visiting at night is amazing. The city is decorated by light, the harbor during sunset is beyond beautiful and the food.. Expect to gain a few pounds in Israel…
You could think of Jaffa as a part of Tel Aviv. The best option is taking a taxi since parking is a little tough and will probably costs as much as a taxi. You can also walk to the end of the Tayelet (more information ahead) which takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on where you start.
7. Ramon Crater (Negev Desert)
Craters are usually caused by asteroids falling from the heavens, but in the Negev a crater might just be a makhtesh. Ramon Crater is actually the world’s largest makhtesh. What is a makhtesh? It’s a type of geographic formation that is unique to the Negev in which large stone formations split apart and create massive craters. The views from the Ramon Crater are truly spectacular and they allow you to see other makhteshes. This area is really beautiful.
Many people visit Mitzpe Ramon which is a view point within the same national park. From there getting to Ramon Crater is very simple. If you are coming from Be’er Sheva just take route 40 south and you will make it to Ramon Crater.
8. Beach in Tel Aviv: Tayelet
A big part of any trip to Israel (especially in the summer) is a visit to the beach in Tel Aviv. The beach is usually pretty well populated and is about having fun. You can work out there, play volleyball, learn to play matcot, swim in the ocean and buy a drink and hookah at one of the many bars on the beach. Just behind the sand there is a beautiful promenade called the Tayelet that runs from the Tel Aviv Harbor (a turistic place with restaurants) to Jaffa. The Tayelet is very popular with tourists and from there you are a short walk away from the Shuk, the nightclubs and the restaurants.
Getting to the Tayelet is extremely simple. Once you arrive to Tel Aviv every taxi driver in the city will know how to get you there. You can also walk there from most of the hotels in Tel Aviv (especially those close to the beach). Private and public buses also go there from most places in the city. I don't recommend driving because parking is tricky and probably more expensive than taking a taxi.
9. Israel National Trail
Israel is one of the best countries to go hiking in the world. The dry climate allows hikers to go out without having to fear the rain and since the air is dry, the shade under the trees is usually pretty cool. The Israel National Trail is a collection of marked trails that cover the area of the entire country. It goes from the northern-most tip of the country to Eilat, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. The trails run along major sites like ruins and nice view points. The whole trail takes about a month to complete but many people hike specific segments like the three-day hike from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galile. There are other hiking trails that aren’t part of the National Trail as well.
The National Trail can be started from whenever. If you are interested in hiking it, I recommend that you go to an outdoor supply store and buy a map of the trail. Most of the information is online but the map will never run out of battery. Also, bring a lot of water. Israel is very hot and you should drink at least one gallon per day while hiking.
10. Ramat Hanadiv: Rothschild Gardens (Near Zichron Yaakov)
The Rotschild family is incredibly important in the history of the modern State of Israel. The Rothschilds are an old and wealthy European aristocratic family from England and France. The family was very involved in philanthropy and gave a lot of money and resources to early Jewish migrants. They founded many cities and saying Rotschild in Israel is like saying Thomas Jefferson in America, everyone knows who they are. The Baron de Rothschild built a large and beautiful garden complex to bury his father, the famous philanthropist and early zionist. There are many species of colorful flowers in the garden as well as fountains and trees. The garden is extremely well manicured and visually stimulating.
Getting to the garden from Haifa or Zichron Yaakov by car is relatively simple just take route 652. You can take a bus from Binyamina (which has a train station). Take a camera and snap a new profile picture, trust me, this is the place to do it.
11. Snorkeling in Eilat
Eilat is a resort town on the coast of the Red Sea. It is famous for its warm weather and beautiful coral reefs. As a matter of fact, many popular species of aquarium fish come from the reefs in the Red Sea. A snorkeling trip in Eilat is just as good (if not better) than a snorkeling trip in the Caribbean. Also, if the day is hot, the water always seems to be cool and comfortable. Don’t miss the aquarium in Eilat which is an underwater observatory overlooking a wild reef.
Eilat is as far as you can go within Israel. You can take a bus or car from Tel Aviv but the trip takes between 5-6 hours (3-4 hours from Be’er Sheva). You can also fly to Eilat from Tel Aviv and Haifa. The flight is short and the tickets inexpensive.
This article was written by Amid Bennaim.