Visiting Israel was incredible. To see and experience all these places I’d learned about in school, in religious studies, genuinely felt miraculous. There was just something about being in the Holy Land, and being around others who’d sacrificed to come on this pilgrimage that meant so much to them.
I don’t count myself as a religious person, but I’m definitely interested in all religions. And have an A Level in Religious Studies (Christianity and Islam) to prove it. And so my trip to Israel was just fascinating.
Israel isn’t just an incredible country because of its history though, the modern developments and amazing array of natural and manmade things to do there makes it one of my favourite countries for activity and culture too.
Here are the five things you should absolutely do, if ever you get to Israel.
1. Hang out in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a super cool city with a beach, summed up in a sentence. There are some really cool shops, bars and restaurants and it’s just got that cool vibe of Barcelona or Lisbon, drawing you in. Most flights to Israel come into Tel Aviv so it’s a great place to start your trip.
Make sure to visit Jaffa – for even more cool vibes, flea markets and hipster bars – and the Sunday market scene there is great.
Yarkon Park, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Bialik House are all iconic tourist spots for visitors too.
Mainly though, the beach and the bars.
2. Look around Jerusalem
You absolutely cannot visit Israel without going to the Old City of Jerusalem, within Jerusalem. I spent the day there and went to the Mount of Olives, saw the Wailing Wall and wandered the fascinating streets. SO much incredible history around here, it was amazing to see the actual place names I’d grown up learning in my religious studies.
You really need to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre too. It’s the the most important church in the world for Christians and Jews as it’s where it’s believed Jesus was crucified.
Make sure to go to the super cool Machane Yehuda Market too.
You’re going to love the food in Israel by the way, there’s a real multicultural scene there to enjoy.
3. Explore Galilee
I went ATV driving around Galilee and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was awesome! We were out for hours and drove round Upper Galilee, the Hula Lake, the Jordan River and a few hidden caves and brooks the average eye would never find. Our leader let us go SO fast, I loved it.
Galilee is where Jesus is said to have walked on water. Visit and I’m afraid you won’t find Jesus, but you will find beautiful lush landscapes with historic sites, and quaint rural villages. A beautiful contrast with Tel Aviv.
Just a few centimetres from the precipice of the hills of Galilee, my ATV guide was encouraging me to climb higher. I was now responsible not only for myself and the vehicle but also my new friend Jodie who’d placed her trust in me for survival. The range of expletives coming from my mouth showed her this was a silly decision.
I was attempting to traverse the boulders and rocks in the way of me reaching my guide while the epic drop was threatening me below. I swear the rocks were bigger than it shows on the video, I just didn’t film that bit.
Going ATV driving in Galilee was definitely one of the most exhilarating things I did on my trip to Israel. I’ve driven on the sand dunes in Egypt but this was something else.
We drove round Upper Galilee, the Hula Lake, the Jordan River and a few hidden caves and brooks the average eye would never find. I got up to 80km/h in my race with our guide, and definitely could’ve beaten him, if I was just a touch more competitive. Which I’m not.
As you can see from my little film, I was filthy and covered in dust by the end, but happy and feeling free.
4. Float in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is famous as the lowest place on earth, and where you can float on top of the waters as they’re so salty, they’re buoyant.
The water there is said to have healing powers as it’s so full of minerals. The Dead Sea in Israel is one of the most famous tourist sites. Unfortunately when I visited I didn’t make it here, but it’ll be number one on my list for my next visit to Israel.
Floating in the Dead Sea is a dream!
5. Go underwater in Eilat
Eilat is on the Red Sea, one of the absolute best places to visit if you like snorkelling and scuba diving.
Visit Eilat in Israel and you’ll see colourful coral reef and beautiful fish swimming right on by. If you’re a bit nervous about going in the water by yourself, then Eilat has an impressive underwater observatory so everyone can find nemo, (or a similar fish).
More on travelling in Israel
More things to do in Israel on TimeOut.com
Amazing foodie experiences in Tel Aviv