No need to tell you where to find the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the beaches in Tel Aviv, but there are so many more cool things to do in Israel that not everyone has heard of yet. What about amazing national parks, zip lining, mountain tops with amazing views, spectacular roman amphitheaters, scuba diving, or even skiing. In this most complete Israel travel guide about all the places to visit you can find it all.
Israel is a popular tourist destination thanks to its diverse landscape which varies from the coast, valley, mountain, desert, and everything in between. Each one of these diverse landscapes holds some of the most beautifully unique and well-preserved Israel tourist attractions. Tourists from different parts of the world travel to Israel in large numbers. In this list you will all the amazing things to do in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, in North Israel and some really cool unique things to do in Israel.
In 2017 I visited Israel for the first time and in August 2019 I was able to travel to Israel again. In the following link you will find all the things to know when you travel to Israel, full of travel tips. Staying connected on your Israel trip doesn't have to break the bank. See here where to buy a sim card at Tel Aviv Airport Ben Gurion or what is the best Israel prepaid sim card for tourists.
First I will give you a list of some popular things to do in Israel, then some unique activities that you won't find in any other Israel travel guide, but which I loved a lot (hot air ballooning, etc.) and afterwards I have categorized all the things to do in Israel for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, North Israel, South Israel and Eilat.
Popular things to do in Israel
The first couple things to do in Israel on this list are some very popular Israel tours for those who don't have that much time when visiting Israel.
1. Masada National Park
Masada is a Hebrew name meaning fortress. This rugged natural fortress is a symbol of bravery and self-sacrifice representing the exile of the Jews from the Holy Land. The fortress which was built as a palace complex constituting the most complete Roman-style works survives till today inside the Masada National Park.
The Masada National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds a special place in the heart of Israelites; it holds outstanding universal value as well. The park is strategically positioned overlooking the great natural beauty of the Dead Sea. The Masada site was declared a National Park in 1966 and is now under the management of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in association with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Visiting Masada Mountain is one of the top things to do in Israel especially for sunrise. An hour before sunrise the park opens and there are several trails that lead to the top. Find out everything you need to know about visiting Masada Israel in one of my latests Israel travel blogs.
2. Tel Aviv food tours
If you travel to Israel you will quickly find out about the delicious Israeli cuisine. Therefore a food tour in Tel Aviv is a must do when visiting Israel. For more about food tours in Tel Aviv (and also Jerusalem) have a look at my article about the best Tel Aviv food tours.
3. Ein Gedi
Ein Gedi is the largest oasis in Israel and is found in the Judean Desert not far away from the Dead Sea within the Dead Sea Valley. The name Ein Gedi is generally used to refer to Kibbutz Ein Gedi and the nearby nature reserve.
The Ein Gedi National Park has a 10-hectare botanic garden that is home to about 900 plant species. Inside the park, there are two rivers which flow throughout the year and two springs. Some of the names given to the landscape within the park are derived from the Biblical stories of king David.
Between November and April visiting Ein Gedi is one of the best things to do in Israel. Otherwise, it’ll be too cold in winter or too hot in summer. There are trails that tourists can follow past the waterfalls, springs, caves, and canyons and you will also see some kind of deer.
A visit to Ein Gedi is mostly combined with tours to the Masada Mountain and the Dead Sea. Here is an example of such an Israel tour.
Unique things to do in Israel
What to do in Israel when you have seen all the touristy stuff, partied hard in Tel Aviv, done with all the fun things to do in Israel but still have a spare night? Betzavta is a new concept that brings locals and travelers together as you will get invited to a local home for a traditional Israeli dinner. More authentic than this it doesn’t get. Betzavta sets you up with a family around your location.
In my case a family cooked for all my friends. When I walked into the family's house I could not believe my eyes, this was like a 5* hotel buffet. We introduced ourselves briefly, before the dad opened the buffet with a short prayer and the feast started. The food was delicious, the conversations super interesting and best of all it was a lot of fun!
If you are looking for unique things to do in Israel this is definitely one of them as this is not something you will find in any Israel travel guide! Check out the Betzavta website here.
5. Sleep in a Bedouin Camp
Would you associate traveling to Israel with staying in a Bedouin Camp in the desert? It is a Middle East thing to do, so yes this is also one of the things to do in Israel. Meet a Bedouin family, drink tea and listen to their stories. Ask them all you ever wanted to know about life in the desert, as these people were the ancestors of the modern digital nomads. The Negev Desert is a popular Israel tourist attraction, but its a playground for the Bedouins.
6. Hot air balloon ride
When you think about fun things to do in Israel a hot air balloon ride does not pop up in your mind straight away, but damn this was the best start of my morning in a long time. It was kept a secret and only the night before it was announced: Guys tomorrow morning we have to get up and leave the Bedouin Camp at 3.00am! ‘No, you are kidding right?’ Nope but we are going to watch sunrise from out of a hot air balloon! :)
We were somewhere in the middle of the desert and we definitely needed a jacket to keep us warm, but you could feel the excitement among everyone as we were about to do one of the most unique things to do in Israel. Up in the air we watched the sunrise in the distance and enjoyed the amazing views over the vast landscape. If you are looking for romantic things to do in Israel then surprise your lover with a balloon ride and a breakfast for two on a unique location afterwards.xxx
7. Gay parade
Ok I admit you will most probably find this in your guidebook as almost 30% of the people in Tel Aviv is gay and this yearly returning festival is the second biggest gay parade in the world. But did you know that even if you are straight this is one of the most fun things to do in Israel. With 200.000 happy people in the streets of Tel Aviv expressing their happiness there is no escaping, you will have to party along! I went out around midday and partied until sunset on the beach. Yes obviously there were ‘too many’ gay people, so this is the reaction of a straight guy finally seeing a girl!
But as you can see I had a blast!
8. Boat tour on the Dead Sea
This is definitely not an off the beaten path Israel destination, this is one of their most popular tourist spots so why did I add this to my list of unique things to do in Israel you must be thinking. Well let me tell you that there are only two boats on the Dead Sea and one boat that takes tourists out. This boat tour is by far the best way to see the coastline of the Dead Sea. This unique place on earth should be one of the reasons to visit Israel. Click on the link for a list of my 24 reasons to travel to Israel.
9. Buggy riding and zip lining in Maktesh Ramon
Stop here if you are looking for fun things to do in Israel! This was one of my favorite activities I did on my first trip to Israel. Makhtesh Ramon looks like a massive crater hit by an unimaginable huge meteorite, but that is a myth. It has something to do with tectonic plates and stuff, but I will save you the details. Admiring the views over Maktesh Ramon from the 'crater' rim is already one of the top things to do in Israel, but making your way down to the bottom and exploring the area in a buggy or ATV or Tomcat or whatever it is called is super fun. Damn these things are powerful but this is exactly what you need in a rough landscape like this. Fasten your seat belts for one of the most adventurous things to do in Israel...
Zip lining can also be arranged. In case you are in for a different adventure then may be you want to try to hiking through Maktesh Ramon.
10. Israel National Trail (INT)
For the extreme adventurers traveling to Israel there is the amazing 1000 kilometer long Israel National Trail. It goes across the entire country from north to south in a zigzag manner; starting at Tel Dan and ending at the Red sea. The trail goes over some of the most beautiful and history-packed scenery that Israel has to offer. Definitely one of the unique things to do in Israel.
The best time to hike this crazy path is either between February and April or between October and November. The trail gives both local and international tourists the chance to experience superb desert scenery in a relatively easy accessible way. The Israel National Trail is well marked which makes it very easy to follow without necessarily needing a map. But hey walking a 1,000 kilometer (621 miles) across the country is not really an Israel travel tip, just for those out there looking for crazy things to do in Israel. :)
11. Midburn Festival
If you ask me about one of my best experiences on my first trip to Israel I would say: the Midburn Festival! It is the second biggest Burning Man festival in the world and apart from dancing until sunrise, this festival is a fabulous experience for those who are looking for unique things to do in Israel. Welcome to CrazyLand, a temporary city in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the Negev Desert in South Israel that arises out of nothing and one week later will be gone leaving no trace or whatsoever.
Read my full experience in The 10 Principles Of Burning Man As A Virgin including all the photos. Something you have to see! If this fits into you agenda then you just found yourself one of the top things to do in Israel!
12. Israel nightlife | Local markets become party places
Main cities all over the world have their local markets where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, antiques, and Artisan stores. Visiting markets like Mahane Yehuda Jerusalem or the Flea Market in Tel-Aviv will give you a colorful, tasteful and cultural experience by itself. But, for me, what makes this experience a unique thing to do in Israel is to go to those markets at night! Around sunset, they change their face, suddenly they become a nightlife center. In my blog with Israel tips I already told you the Israeli nightlife is booming and this is another example! Find restaurants, bars, great music, and local beautiful people. What a fun and unique atmosphere. Romantic Tel Aviv travel tip: if you are around the Flea Market with your other half, finish your evening with walking around Jaffa port, it's super romantic and quiet thing to do in Te Aviv.
Things to do in Jerusalem
13. Israel Museum Jerusalem
This museum is not only the largest cultural institution in Israel but is also one of the world’s top encyclopaedic museums and one of the best things to do in Jerusalem. It is located atop a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood. Jerusalem was founded in 1965 and over the period the Israel Museum has been able to collect up to 500,000 items which are representative of the Holy Land. The holdings range from art to the most precious objects from biblical times.
The museum covers about 50,000 square meters and with about 800,00 tourists every year it is one of the top Israel tourist attractions. Some of the most valuable items on display here include the necklaces worn by Jewish brides in Yemen, a nail to attest the practice of crucifixion during the time of Jesus, and a mosaic Islamic prayer niche from 17th century Persia. Visiting the Israel Museum was one of the most valuable Israel travel tips I got from a local.
14. Yad Vashem - Holocaust Memorial Center
Yad Vashem is the official Holocaust memorial center dedicated to preserving the memories of all the victims who died. The monument honors the six million Jews who fought their Nazi oppressors as well as the Gentiles who helped the needy Jews.
The memorial site dedicated to the Holocaust and genocide was built in 1953. It’s also referred to as the Mount of Remembrance. There are museums here that cater to the public alongside a library, an educational center, a publishing house, and a research institute. Yad Vashem attracts about one million tourists making it the second-most-visited Israel tourist attraction.
Yad Vashem is one of the best things to do in Jerusalem as it is located just a stone throw away from the city.
15. Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve
A stalactite is a formation that is mostly seen hanging from the ceiling of caves and hot springs. It’s usually made up of lava, sand, mud, or minerals. The Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve has two other names; it’s also known as Soreq Cave or the Avshalom Cave Nature Reserve. This amazingly spectacular cave is the largest and most beautiful stalactite-stalagmite cave in the country and unmistakably one of the coolest things to do in Israel. The gem that’s hidden deep within the earth is found inside a reserve which comprises of an extensive natural woodland area.
The cave is 91m long, 80m wide, and 15m high – it’ll take you about half an hour to cover the round route inside. However, a tour of the entire reserve should take you about 2 hours. Even though the cave isn’t all that big, it is densely packed with different types of stalactites. Some of the names given to the stalactite and stalagmite shapes include “elephant ears”, “macaroni field”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “sculptures garden”.
Visiting the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve is regarded one of the best things to do in Jerusalem as it is only a 40 minute drive away from the city.
Needless to say that Bethlehem also deserves a place in this ultimate Israel travel guide as it is one of the best things to do in Jerusalem. Just a stone throw away from the city this town is home to the Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest churches in the world. The town attracts multitudes of pilgrims from different parts of the world who come to see the Biblical birthplace of Jesus.
Bethlehem is also believed to be the birthplace of King David and the traditional site of Rachel’s Tomb.
There is also so much to see and do in Bethlehem even for the non-religious. The streets are almost always congested and busting with activity. There are numerous tourist attractions around the city such as the Israeli Separation Wall which divides Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The wall has been turned into a vast canvas with street art.
Bethlehem to me was of the most interesting things to do in Israel. Simply a place that couldn’t stop amaze me in many ways.
17. Mount Zion
Mount Zion is another of those amazing things to do in Jerusalem, located just outside the walls of the Old City. Although this name is specifically used to refer to the actual hill, it is also used to generally refer to the entire land of Israel.
On your tour of the mountain, you’ll see some very snap-happy pilgrims trying hard to capture moments and at the same time keep up with their guides. Some of the most prominent sites on Mount Zion are King David’s Tomb, the Chamber of the Holocaust, the Room of the Last supper, and the precursor of Yad Vashem.
For Pelgrimage there is an endless list of things to do in Israel, but even when you are not religious Mount Zion and the rest of Jerusalem is worth visiting.
18. Beit Guvrin Maresha National Park
The 1,250 acre Beit Guvrin Maresha National Park has many archeological sites that visitors can explore. These sites date back to some 2000 years back. The ruins of Maresha can be found within the park. The city of Maresha where the National Park can be found was a city in ancient Judah.
Both Beit Guvrin and Maresha were excavated in 1992 and 1989 respectively by an Israeli archeologist. Some of the artifacts found at the ruins include a Jewish cemetery, burial caves, a Byzantine church, a Roman-Byzantine 3,500-capacity amphitheater, mosaics, and public bathhouses.
Beit Guvrin Maresha National Park is also called the land of a thousand caves and can be found about 1 hour Southwest from Jerusalem. When you are an adventure traveler then this is one of the must see places in Israel.
Things to do in Tel Aviv
No need to tell you that the amazing beaches in Tel aviv are on of the best places to visit in Israel as well as the Tel Aviv Nightlife. But there is more around the city and these are my recommendations for things to do in Tel Aviv.
19. Jaffa Flea Market
Jaffa is one of the world’s ancient ports from which the modern-day Tel Aviv grew. The port itself is already a top thing to do in Tel Aviv but the Jaffa Flea Market which is also known as Shuk Hapishpishim in Hebrew is a top Israel tourist attraction in Israel. Vendors in this market sell everything from handmade jewelry, old second-hand jeans, traditional Arabic pottery, Indian mildewed clothes, Persian tiles and Judaica.
Stopping by this flea market that’s been operational for over a century is an incredible cultural experience. The market is a great place to find unique items at affordable prices. It’s open from Sunday through Friday and when visiting Tel Aviv this is a must.
20. Caesarea National Park
Caesarea is a small wealthy town on Israel’s Mediterranean coast about 50 km to the north of Tel Aviv. This archeological treasure also has some of the most beautiful beaches in Israel. The Caesarea National Park comprises a giant city and port. The city was created 2000 years ago by Herod in honor of Augustus Caesar. The ancient city was, in the 12th century, recreated as a massive Crusader fortress whose tower still stands tall.
There is a huge amphitheater right on the ocean that is often overlooked by tourists visiting Israel. In my opinion this place was one of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Israel.
Things to do in North Israel
21. Sea Of Galilee
If you travel to Israel and are looking for stunning scenery, you need to visit the Sea of Galilee, one the must see places in Israel. It actually isn’t really a sea but a damn large freshwater lake. The Sea of Galilee was known as Sea of Gennesaret; it is also referred to as Lake Galilee as well as Lake Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is approximately 13 miles long and 8 miles wide covering an area of 64 square miles.
The Jordan River is the main source of water for the Sea of Galilee although it’s still partly fed by underground springs. The Sea of Galilee is one of the best things to do in North Israel. This lake is Israel’s most important source of drinking water, but it also has a huge religious significance, and has beautiful surroundings comprising of beaches and mountains.
22. Mount Arbel National Park
Mount Arbel is a stunning and majestic mountain situated in the Lower Galilee prominently facing the Sea of Galilee. Located next to the Sea of Galilee makes Mount Arbel another amazing thing to do in North Israel. The mountain is inside the Mount Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve which is also home to an amazing cave fortress as well as ancient ruins of a synagogue.
Hiking up the Mount Arbel is another adventurous thing to do in Israel and it gives you amazing views of the surrounding areas. While at the top of the mountain, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights, as well as other famous landmarks such as Safed and the Horns of Hattin.
23. Visit Nazareth
Of course the world famous town of Nazareth can’t be missed in this list of the best things to do in Israel. Nazareth is a city situated in the north of Israel and is also referred to as “the Arab capital of Israel”. Although a large part of the population comprises of Arabs, the city has several holy places and shrines which commemorate biblical events. For this reason, Nazareth is a major center of Christian Pilgrimage and has attracted hundreds of millions of pilgrims from across the globe and therefore one of the top places to visit in Israel.
In addition to being a religious center, the city also serves as a major cultural center. Over the years, the historic Old City has been renovated to restore and preserve its architectural beauty.
There are so many places here that are associated with the Annunciation, childhood, and the early ministry of Jesus Christ. These include the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangel Gabriel, the Greek Catholic Synagogue Church, and the Franciscan Church of St. Joseph.
When visiting Israel Nazareth is one of the must see places in Israel!
24. Basilica Of The Annunciation
The Basilica of Annunciation is also commonly referred to as the Church of the Annunciation. This Latin Catholic Church was built over the area where the Catholic tradition believes that angel Gabriel appeared to Virgin Mary and announced that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus. This place is among the most sacred places for Christians and one of the must see places in Israel.
The huge 2-story basilica was completed in 1969 and is constructed using modern architecture. The structure which was designed by Giovanni Muzio, an Italian architect, is colorfully decorated. It has two interconnected churches: one on top of the other. The main entrance of the upper church is on the northern side. Over the door on the southern side, stands a statue of 14-year-old Virgin Mary welcoming all who come visiting.
25. Haifa Gardens
Haifa is the 3rd largest city in Israel after Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Today it is home to a mixed population comprising of Jews, Muslims, and Christian Arabs who co-exist peacefully. The best thing to do in Haifa is to visit the Haifa Garden, also referred to as the Bahai Garden. The Haifa Garden which is big and beautifully bestows a magnificent radiance in the city. The Haifa Gardens are inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors are not allowed to pick flowers at the Haifa Garden, so you know!
26. Tel Dan Nature Reserve
In Hebrew, the word Tel means hill or mound. The Tel Dan was officially declared a Nature Reserve in 1974. Inside the nature reserve, there is a river called the Dan River which is the largest of the three rivers that flow deliciously into the Jordan River. The word Jordan actually means “came out of the Dan.”
The Tel Dan Nature reserve is no doubt a little piece of heaven on earth. Although it is a pretty small Israel tourist attraction and off the beaten track it still is a great place to visit. Not far from the Lebanon and Syria border the Tel Dan Nature Reserve is one of the best things to do in North Israel.
It has very impressive archeological digs. Parts of the 5000-year-old ancient city of Tel Dan have been reconstructed following years of excavation.
27. Mount Tabor And Church Of Transfiguration
The current day Church of the Transfiguration, built in 1924, is part of the Franciscan Church and is located at the top of Mount Tabor in Galilee. The mountain is 575 meters high. It is believed that this is where the Transfiguration of Jesus happened. The church has three chapels and one small alter; the alters are also referred to as tabernacles and represent the three tents which Peter wanted to build for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
The Transfiguration refers to the occurrence in the Bible when Jesus appears as a radiant Being to speak to Moses and Elijah. It’s during this time that Jesus is referred to as the son of God.
Representing the same purpose is a Greek Orthodox church that is also located on Mount Tabor. Needless to say that this one of the amazing places to visit in Israel when you are a history lover.
Mount Tabor And Church Of Transfiguration is located 30 minutes East from Nazareth and therefore regarded as one of the best things to do in North Israel.
28. Skiing in Israel on Mount Hermon
Believe it or not but you can also go skiing in Israel. Don’t expect the best snow conditions, but you can be really lucky. In 2019 they saw 3 times as much snowfall than average! There are 8 lifts and the total length of pistes is 45 kilometers. I’m not saying skiing is among the best things to do in Israel, but it is a cool day activity. Within three hours you can be from the middle of the desert or the beach on top of Mount Hermon on your skis.
Things to do in South Israel and Eilat
The southern part of Israel is mostly covered by the Negev desert, which makes this part of the country great for the adventure traveler.
29. Red Canyon
Not far away from Timna Park another amazing thing to do in Eilat can be found: Red Canyon. Hiking through the narrow canyons and unique rock formations is a fairly new and not so touristy Israel tourist attraction close to the Egypt border. The first thing that came up in my miny when visiting the Red Canyon was that is reminded me a lot about Antelope Canyon in Arizona, USA.
When on an Israel road trip drive down Highway 12 towards Eilat along the Egypt border and it will be on your right hand side. You can also take a bus here from either Be’er Sheva or Eilat.
30. Timna Park
Timna Park is found in the heart of Timna Valley which is located in the Southern part of Israel in the Negev Desert. Besides offering a historical and geological experience, Timna Park has a picturesque landscape which is great for activities like camping, hiking, walking, and biking for all ages. The park covers about 15,000 acres in a beautifully majestic desert setting.
A big part of the valley has ancient remnants of copper mining and traces of ancient worship. The copper mine was the first of it’s kind in the world with smelting furnaces dating back to ancient imperial Egypt. The copper was used to make items such as household tools, weapons, and ornaments.
Timna Park is only about 30 kilometers North of Eilat and therefor one of the best things to do in Eilat or when visiting South Israel.
31. Ein Avdat National Park
Ein Avdat is a spring and nature reserve that is found in a canyon in the Negev Desert. The spring water comes from the rock layers on which salt-tolerant plants grow. The lush vegetation attracts different animal species such as insects, birds, and frogs.
The Ein Avdat, being a water source in the middle of the desert, attracts both people and animals in pursuit of drinking water. Thanks to its beauty, the place has become a popular tourist attraction in Israel and a favorite hiking spot amongst people who enjoy the views created by the dramatically steep canyon. Birds such as eagles use the cliffs as nesting spots.
The Ein Avdat National Park is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the presence of a Byzantine Church which dates back to the 3rd century. Ein Avdat is among the best places to visit in Israel and the country’s most striking National Park according to many locals.
Ein Avdat is located about 1 hour south of Be’er Sheva in the South of Israel and therefore best to be visit on either a tour or when you are sightseeing Israel by car.
32. Scuba Dive In Eilat
Eilat is the southernmost and the only city in Israel that’s on the Red Sea and is a popular destination for a sunshine holiday. Visiting the beaches of the Red Sea is probably one of the best things to do in Eilat. Sprawled along a 7-kilometer coastline, Eilat has plenty of shops and resorts but scuba diving in Israel is worth giving it a try.
Eilat is filled with fun, sun, diving, kayaking, partying, dining, and desert-based activities. The main reason why this city is a favorite all-year-round escape for tourists is probably due to its climate-induced relaxed climate. But the Red Sea provide excellent scuba diving with relatively pristine coral reefs. Scuba diving equipment is available for hire on all the major beaches. About 250,000 dives happen here every year.
Israel travel blog
In 2017 I traveled around Israel for 2 weeks, partied in Tel Aviv, went to Midburn festival, visited Jerusalem, swam in the Dead Sea, went off the beaten path in Israel, explored the Negev Desert, crossed off more of some of the best things to do in Israel and partied again in Tel Aviv. Israel was a really surprising destination in many ways. Therefore in August 2019 after my trip to Syria I visited Israel again. The Israeli cuisine is delicious and I got to taste it through the best Tel Aviv food tours, but also visited the Masada Mountain for sunrise.
Israel isn’t that big so moving around is quite easy; the roads are in excellent condition so you can move around safely and quickly. These last Israel travel tips will make your trip even better:
- avoid making any plans on the Sabbath as public transport services are not available then.
- make an effort to learn some Hebrew which is the official language here. Other commonly spoken languages here are Arabic and English.
- Change your money into the Israeli currency which is the Shekel. However, US dollars are accepted in some places.
- Try Israeli wine, it is not bad at all.
Israel is not a budget destination, but you can travel around without breaking the bank. If you still need some convincing I summed up 24 reasons to travel to Israel.