People are always very curious about why I travel to Israel—sometimes this is a nothing burger, but other times it’s a big deal.
For some of my friends, there’s a sense of puzzlement. “You’re not Jewish,” they—and many of them are—will ask. “So why do you spend more time in Tel Aviv than I do?”
Is Israel worth visiting? Absolutely—to the extent that it’s worth putting up with the fact that I always get the third degree for every trip I take there.
Israel is Small in Some Ways, Huge in Others
One thing that definitely makes Israel worth visiting? It’s the size of the US state of New Jersey, which means that you can cover a lot of ground in a pretty short amount of time. Note that I can “say”—this isn’t a given. You can easily spend several days each in the dense, rich cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which can give you less time to see the rest of the country if you don’t have at least a couple weeks to travel.
Indeed, while public transportation tends to be pretty good (especially by Middle Eastern standards), browsing car rental Israel can insulate you against bus or train delays, and can prevent you from being constrained by their scheduled departure and arrival times. Roads in Israel are very good, which means that unless there’s an accident or some other unexpected obstruction, driving there is a piece of cake.
My Favorite Places to Visit in Israel
The Middle East’s capital of cool, Tel Aviv has everything going on it. From its location on the Mediterranean Sea, to a vibrant mix of Arab and Jewish cultures, to world-leading food and nightlife scenes, to the fact that it’s one of the most gay-friendly cities on the planet, there are a million reasons to love Tel Aviv—and basically no reasons to hate it.
Haifa and the North Coast
Tel Aviv is awesome, but it’s not the only reason that Israel is worth visiting. I also recommend heading north along the coast. For some people it’s enough to go to Caesarea, which is home to some of the best Roman ruins in Israel, while others will continue all the way north to Haifa. Whether you stay in the city center and visit the famous Baha’i Gardens, or make a day trip to the ancient port of Akko, northern Israel is sure to enchant you.
Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee
Did Jesus actually walk on water? I don’t know, although if he did, it was at the Sea of Galilee near Nazareth, the city where the Son of God is said to hail from. Not surprisingly, Jesus is at the center of a lot of the sightseeing in this part of Israel, which today is one of the places in Israel-proper with the largest Arab populations. As a result, no matter what your religious views are, you can be sure you’ll enjoy amazing meals!
Jerusalem and the Dead Sea
Although Rome is officially the “Eternal City,” Jerusalem has almost as much history, so I often use the same moniker to refer to it. Certainly, Jerusalem’s serpentine Old City is a big part of why I find Israel worth visiting, whether I’m navigating market stalls and alleyways to reach the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or taking a day trip to nearby destinations such as the Dead Sea or Ein Gedi Spring.
The Negev Desert
Taking up most of southern Israel, the Negev Desert is at once impossible to miss and easy to ignore. However, no matter if you’re riding camels at desert camps, or sticking closer to the water (the city of Eilat, while not situated deep in the Negev, is one of the main gateways to it), I think this most arid part of Israel will feel lush and alive, if only for all the photo opportunities it provides.
Other FAQ About Visiting Israel
Is it a good idea to go to Israel?
In my opinion, traveling to Israel is a very good idea, whether for purely touristic purposes, or because you have some personal tie to the country. Although Israel is only the size of the US state of New Jersey, the wide variety of culture, cuisine and landscapes on offer there far exceeds its geographical footprint!
Why is Israel worth visiting?
Israel is worth visiting for many reasons: The openness and vibrancy of Tel Aviv; the thousands of years of history and culture in Jerusalem; the vastness of the Negev Desert; the drama of the Dead Sea; as well as the sublime beauty of Northern Israel.
Is it safe to go to Israel as a tourist?
Israel is absolutely safe to visit as a tourist! In spite of many threats, very few terrorist attacks have ever occurred in Israel-proper; while missiles are often fired, virtually zero ever hit the ground. For most travelers, Israel is as safe as any destination in Europe, and is actually safer than many cities and states in the United States.
The Bottom Line
Is Israel worth visiting? Absolutely—and not just one time. My return trips to the country, in spite of its relatively small size, have all taught me something different about it, as well as myself. Likewise, I enjoy every facet of Israel, from cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, to eternal Jerusalem, to the breathtaking natural beauty of places like the Negev Desert and the Dead Sea. The only thing better than planning your own trip to Israel? Hiring me as your Travel Coach—let me sweat the details. You can focus on sweating the Israeli heat, ideally at a nice Mediterranean beach or as you down a glass of fresh-squeeze pomegranate juice.