Tel Aviv: The city sits on the coast of the Mediterranean. It was founded in 1909 on the outskirts of the old port city of Jaffa, but soon outgrew Jaffa. The cities joined together in 1950, making it the second largest city in Israel. It has an estimated population of nearly 400,000. Tel Aviv’s White City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and features the largest concentration of Modernist-style buildings found anywhere. Tel Aviv is a beta+ world city, an economic engine and the richest city in Israel. That means an abundance of corporate offices, cafés, restaurants, and upscale shopping. It is also a major performing arts center. It is the most expensive city in the region, and ranked as the 17th most expensive city in the world. It has a reputation as the “Mediterranean metropolis that never sleeps.”
Caesarea: The site of the ancient city of Caesarea, half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa, is known for its ancient ruins such as the restored Roman amphitheater and the remains of the hippodrome. The harbor was built by the Phoenicians in the 4th century B.C. The Byzantine street of shops is captivating, and beyond that is the Crusader city, which was once protected by stout walls and bastions within a deep moat. Within the fortified center are the ruins of the ancient aqueduct, the Herodian Temple of Augustus and the Crusader cathedral, constructed on the site of a Byzantine monastic church. The hippodrome, which has yet to be excavated, once held some 20,000 spectators.
Haifa: A major seaport on the Mediterranean coast, Haifa is the third-largest city in the country. Its nearly 300,000 residents are a mixture of Jews and Arabs. On the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa’s history dates to Biblical times. The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was the small port city of Tell Abu Hawam, dating back to the Late Bronze Age. Later, Haifa was known as a dye-making center. Over the centuries, the city has been under the control of many groups – Arabs, Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottomans, Egyptians and the British.
Tiberias: On the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias was established nearly 2,000 years ago by Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. There is a legend that Tiberias was built on the site of the biblical village of Rakkat, mentioned in the Book of Joshua. Since the 16th century, it has been considered one of Judaism’s four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed. Between the 2nd and 10th centuries, it was the largest Jewish city in the Galilee, and the political and religious hub of the Jews of Palestine. Jesus is said to have performed several miracles in the district, making it an important pilgrimage site. For centuries, it was also known for its hot springs, believed to have curative powers. Tiberias and the surrounding region offer a plethora of stunning historical and biblical sites dating back 3000 years.
Nazareth: Nazareth is the capital and largest city in the North District of Israel, also known as “the Arab capital of Israel.” Its population is primarily Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. It was described in the New Testament as the childhood home of Jesus. That makes the city and its many Christian shrines a center for Christian pilgrimage.
Jerusalem: Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, is the largest city in both area and population, which is nearly 800,000. Located in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the northern tip of the Dead Sea, modern Jerusalem has grown far beyond the boundaries of the Old City. The city dates back to the 4th millennium BC, making this one of the world’s oldest cities. It is also the holiest city in Judaism; the third-holiest city in Islam; and is home to a significant number of Christian sites. The compact Old City includes important religious sites such as Temple Mount, the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. The old walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been traditionally divided into four quarters, named the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. In addition to the holy sites throughout the Old City, there are several charming spots worth visiting. The wonderful market offers a delightful array of goods such as Armenian-style decorated ceramics, beautiful strings of beads, authentic clothing, embroidered cushions, colorful wool carpets, candles and amazing glassware. The promenade along the tops of the Old City walls has views over the entire area. Jerusalem is also home to historically significant museums such as the Israel Museum, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Rockefeller Archeological Museum.
Eilat: Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat is a busy port as well as a popular resort on the Gulf of Eilat at the northern tip of the Red Sea. The sea is home to over 1,000 invertebrate species and 200 soft and hard corals. It is the world’s northernmost tropical sea. Amazingly, much of Eilat and surrounding area have yet to undergo archaeological surveys. Although the city has been inhabited since 8,000 B.C, only around seven percent of the area has undergone detailed archaeological surveys. Some 1,500 ancient sites have been recorded in an area of about 460 square miles. Eilat’s arid desert climate is moderated by proximity to a warm sea. The city sports beaches, an active nightlife and dramatic desert landscapes.
Dead Sea: Quite unlike the Red Sea, the Dead Sea is a salt lake that is 8.6 times as salty as the ocean, making it uninhabitable for marine life. It is shared by Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. It rests more than 1,300 feet below sea level, making it the lowest elevation on the Earth’s surface on dry land. It has drawn visitors from around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. It is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, with 33.7% salinity. The sea is some 42 miles long and 11 miles wide at its widest point. It was known as a place of refuge for King David and as one of the world’s first health resorts for Herod the Great. Many believe its waters and associated hot springs have healing powers. There are several nearby attractions worth seeing, including the plateau fortress of Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site easily reached by cable car. The ancient caves and settlement at Qumran on the northern shores of the Dead Sea is where the oldest biblical documents were found.
Suggested Israel Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Tel Aviv, Israel
Day 2: Tel Aviv / Caesarea / Mediterranean Coast / Haifa-Mt Carmel / Tiberias
Day 3: Tiberias – Galilee –- Safed & Golan Heights
Day 4: Tiberias – Sea of Galilee / Nazareth / Jordan Valley / Jerusalem
Day 5: Jerusalem
Day 6: Jerusalem – Jerusalem – Qumran – Dead Sea – Massada
Day 7: Jerusalem / Tel Aviv / Depart
Custom Tour Options
Eilat and Petra, Jordan (3 days)
This satisfying combination takes in the exquisite Rose City of Petra as well as the Red Sea.
Dead Sea (3 days)
Explore the region of the Dead Sea, including the Negev Desert and ancient “lost” cities along the Spice Trade Route.