What never seems to fail is how much I don’t know about a destination before actually experiencing it… Israel is one of those places.
The atypical outsider’s understanding of Israel is simplified to five parts:
1. It’s religious for Jews and Christians, home to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
2. It hosts that one program that sends Jewish Americans to Israel for free (this is called Birth Right).
3. There is some war in the Middle East, so umm Israel isn’t safe (this is terribly terribly wrong and untrue, Israel is very safe).
4. Tel Aviv is in Israel right? That one liberal city with a thriving food and cocktail culture that everyone in Europe goes to.
5. Can I float in the Dead Sea in Israel? Or where does that happen? (The answer is yes).
What you probably don’t stop to ask about are the national parks, adventure excursions, and brilliantly blue beaches. There is much more to Israel than Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Dead Sea.
Although I will showcase these popular destinations (which surpass expectations), I’d like to share some of my other favorites.
1. Crater Rappelling in Ramon Makhetesh
Seeking a little thrill? Tie up to a crater while slowly bouncing down, or sign up for a Jeep tour of the Maktesh. We booked through Adam Sela jeep (English) tours.
2. SandBoarding on Sand Dunes of the Negev Desert
Can’t snowboard or can’t go too long without it? Try sandboarding! Great for kids, as a date, or with friends.
Alternatively, enjoy the the dunes for what they are: a sunset back drop to your next Instagram post.
Anna was cool enough to throw sand for me, then let me borrow her outfit to do my “jump.” lol
3. Eilat’s Beautiful Beaches
Perfect weather. With these views, you may as well be in the Caribbean.
Spent too much time on a flight, car, or train? Stressed from work or family?
Feel like a mermaid at what might be my #1 (if not top 3) spa experiences in the world. Submerge beneath earth pools echoing with relaxation music as a professional pulls and sways your body for a mind and body cleanse.
5. Jordan? Utah? Nope: Ancient Holy Grounds in Timna National Park
Jordan isn’t the only destination where rock formations and historical tellings meet.
Timna has a camping option which includes an oasis and hikes that will fool you into thinking you were exploring Utah.
Of course, getting off the beaten path doesn’t mean we cannot celebrate the most popular points in Jerusalem.
Be sure to include these in your trip to Israel:
1. Bring a Little Life to the Dead Sea
Almost ten times saltier than the ocean, the Dead Sea is actually a lake where no creatures can live and floating is effortless (thank you physics and density)!
Considered holy in three religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — it’s claimed as the capital by both Israel and the State of Palestine.
3. Shopping, Nightlife, and Street Art in Tel Aviv
Known for all of the perks of a liberal Western city, it’s just another amazing city of the world, just like Israel as a country itself.
Best Restaurants in Israel:
I hope you love hummus, pita bread, tomato cucumber salad, and either falafel or rich meat. Eating in Israel is an experience of its own, whether you’d like to indulge or opt for a healthier alternative.
Ahahim Restaurant, Tel Aviv
Where to Stay in Israel:
Where I stayed in Israel:
David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem (pictured — view overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem; it’s also where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian stayed).
Isrotel King Solomon Hotel, Eilat
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Tel Aviv (Perfectly situated on the beach)
Rimonim Royal Hotel, Dead Sea
For budget travelers or the outdoorsy:
Camping in Timna National Park (it’s glamping and beautiful; I loved it)
Abraham’s hostels (referred to by two friends that stayed there).
A few to thank:
First and foremost, to my friend Anna who I met through social media. After meeting up in LA, she provided this incredible opportunity in Israel.
Secondly, the new friends I made who not only enhanced my experience, but put up with my need to take photos together because my lens broke THE FIRST day I was in Israel:
I’d also like to thank the Ministry of Tourism Israel for partnering with me for this experience. My parents went to Israel last year, so I had been looking forward to experiencing it myself. I was not disappointed!
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