Sacred past, desert scenes, culinary joy and Mediterranean shores



Sacred past, desert scenes, culinary joy and Mediterranean shores

“The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven”. A big statement there from 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and so said, it’s no wonder, that the Israeli capital remains hugely significant for the major cohorts of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Although a massive draw, millennia of Holy Land history is just one reason to visit this complex and beautiful land. Tiny in size, but massive in what it has to offer, Israel is so brilliantly compact, you can visit the entire country from one convenient base . Wake up in lush green landscape and a couple of hours later be exploring desert dunes. Young and vibrant, Tel Aviv buzzes with café culture, galleries, street art and glorious beaches; the Dead Sea resorts offer phenomenal spa experiences, the dry Negev desert can be viewed from the air with amazing sky diving opportunities; and the reserves of the Red Sea resort of Eilat support underwater nature trails for exploration by snorkel.

There’s no disputing the attraction of a great year-round climate. Long hot summers bring in many visitors, with 2019 being Israel’s peak ever tourist year with 4.5 million arrivals. Not surprisingly then, low season is our preferred time for an Israeli adventure. Early December (avoiding Christmas), January and February see fewest travellers but winters remain short and mild. Throughout the country you’ll be able to visit amazing biblical sites with fewer crowds and find outdoor activities more comfortable. You may happen on some rain and coolness, with southern areas, such as Eilat seeing the best of the winter sun. However, although temperatures in the high teens/low 20s seem chilly to Israelis, many enjoy beach life and al fresco dining throughout the year.

The Holy Land
Mount of Olives, River Jordan, Sea of Galilee – even the least religious among us have heard the ring of familiarity from those stories of old, and at the very core of this holiness lies the Old City of Jerusalem. The compact 1km wide historic centre is split into Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters, each oozing a unique atmosphere and hugely significant sites. Whether it’s a pilgrimage, a step back in time, or a chance to embrace an alternative viewpoint, it’s hard not to be emotionally impacted as you mix with locals going about their daily prayers, sharing meals and proudly wearing distinct traditional clothing. Narrow Jewish alleyways reach to the Western Wall filled with its paper prayers. Shop at the busy shuk in the Muslim Quarter close to the Dome of the Rock from where Muhammad ascended to heaven. Christians flock to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built on the very spot of Christ’s crucifixion, while the Armenian Quarter is home to an ancient civilisation, settled here some 2000 years ago. Always crowded, low season is the best time to wander the winding streets and market stalls, filled with the aroma of freshly cooked falafel, and to walk the ramparts which surround this most historic of cities.

Tel Aviv
In contrast, this modern melting pot of young and forward thinking artists, professionals and enthusiasts, has taken going out and having fun to new levels. American diners and live music venues sit beside traditional cafés and hummus joints. It’s known as the White City for its Bauhaus architectural scene and was in fact granted UNESCO status in 2003 in recognition of its examples of the modernist style. A buzzing beach life defines the lifestyle for many, with Gordon, Frishman and Banana Beaches topping the list of popular sandy stretches. Carmel market is a must-do. It’s the largest and busiest in Israel and vendors offer everything from clothes, fresh veg, amazing street food and souvenirs. South of the centre, check out Jaffa (Yafo), a historic Arabic fishing town, for gorgeous viewpoints and great restaurants.

Low Season Months

Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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Top Experiences

Via Dolorosa, Old Jerusalem

Follow the route that Christ travelled as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. The path includes 15 significant points including where he fell en-route. Usually crowded, we suggest an early morning visit, cumulating in entrance to the Church of Holy Sepulchre as soon as you can, it opens at sunrise.

Floating in the Dead Sea

Head out to the lowest point on earth at an incredible 430 metres below sea level. Surrounded by the stunning Negev Desert, it’s impossible to sink thanks to its saltiness. Climbing the UNESCO fortress of Masada built by Herod; and covering yourself in healing mud are must-dos when there.

Tel Aviv Electric Scooters

Download an app from one of several scooter share companies and join the locals with their super cool vibes as you head round town in style. A favourite route is along the Tayelet paved coastal boardwalk stretching from the centre to Jaffa past lines of beachside eateries in time for sunset.

Insider Tips

  • Israel grows its own veggies, so everything is fresh and the vegan cuisine amazing. The taste of hummus is off the charts, sabich consists of fresh pita stuffed with aubergine, egg, salad and tahini, or try crispy, fried falafel. Meat lovers can enjoy chicken, lamb shawarma, spit roasted street food.
  • Not only is the country known for its culinary excellence, it also has a very healthy wine industry. There are over 300 boutique wineries, including a few in the desert. Try the unique wine made from pomegranate, or explore the latest trend of microbreweries, now appearing all over the country.
  • Not only is Eilat an amazing place to enjoy some winter sun, it also hosts a low season festival, the Red Sea Winter Jazz Festival next scheduled for February 2022. It’s a multi-day event with musicians arriving from around the world, master classes and nightly jams. See

Good To Know

  • Public transport in Israel is pretty good and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are only about 45 minutes apart by train. But remember that public services stop from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday for Shabbat. Many orthodox Jews still observe the ‘no electricity’ rule during this period also.
  • The Ramon Crater lies 85km south of the fascinating desert city of Beer Sheva in the Negev Desert. From the small village of Mitzpe Ramon, those who like the outdoors can enjoy hiking and biking in perfect low season temperatures and be amazed by all the stars seen in the desert night.
  • When taking taxis, check the meter is on. Surcharges apply for airport pick-ups, large luggage bags, and trips after 9pm or during Shabbat. A popular app is GETT Taxi to order and pay for trips throughout Israel, except for Eilat. GETT allows you to pinpoint destinations to avoid scammers.

Food & Drink

Sarona Market, Tel Aviv

A fantastic culinary market mixing new ventures and old traditions. It’s Israel’s largest indoor food market making it a great place to spend a rainy day. There are bakeries, cheese and wine stalls where you can taste before you buy, and many small eateries offering a range of delicious options.

Ben-Sira Hummus, Jerusalem

Hotly debated, every local claims their favourite hummus haunt, and you can have fun finding your own. This family run place is among the best in the Holy City. Hummus is considered a meal in its own right, made from chickpeas and mouth-watering spices and served with fresh pita bread.

Beachfront Restaurants, Jaffa, Tel Aviv

The old port town of Yafo is your best bet for a romantic meal with stunning views of the Mediterranean. Delicious fresh seafood is served with a fusion of Israeli and international flavours accompanied by chilled local wines. Some faves are Manta Ray, Calypso, and Kitchen Market.

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