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People travel to Israel for many reasons. Among these, to immerse themselves in thousands of years of history, religion, and culture. And indeed the State of Israel is extremely significant in all these regards. Yet what so many who have not yet been there fail to realize is just how incredibly beautiful Israel is. Here are 50 spectacular photos that will give you a brand new perspective on one of the world’s most important places. Grab your passport and come with me, Destination Dan, as we journey around the Holy Land and wonder in amazement at everything it has to offer!
Hardly “just a desert”, the Negev is home to some of the most spectacular views and landscapes in the world.
As Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion implored Israelis to settle beyond just the large cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. In particular, he strongly encouraged his citizens to transform the Negev Desert and “make it bloom”. Today, Ben Gurion’s final resting place, Midreshet Ben Gurion, is the perfect example of this transformation in progress. The Prime Minister and his wife were laid to rest with a view of the breathtaking Nahal Zin Valley, with it’s many folds and ridges painted every afternoon and early evening by the setting sun. Yet, only meters away, the kibbutz town of Sde Boker is converting the land and making the desert come to life.
Further south from Sde Boker, just off of Route 40, is stunning Ein Avdat National Park which offers amazing views. Visitors can also hike along the banks of a small stream which, over time, carved the unforgettable canyon there.
Continuing even further down Route 40, in the very heart of the Negev, is another enclave that would make Ben Gurion proud. With a population of less than 10,000, Mitzpe Ramon is home to one of Israel’s star attractions, the Ramon Crater. Actually a “Maktesh” formed by geological forces (most notably erosion), Maktesh Ramon is the largest of it’s kind anywhere in the world, and it has fast become a target of photographers and thrill-seekers alike due to it’s unique and exquisite aesthetics.
In and around the Ramon Crater, adventurers can find hiking, camel-riding, mountain biking, “sandboarding”, hot air balloon rides and more. Hit up a tour company called “Deep Desert Israel” for a chance to rappel off the rim of the crater itself! Or ask them to take you on an adrenaline pumping off-road adventure through the crater in one of their jeeps!
Surprisingly, the most magnificent resort in all of Israel might just be found right in the middle of the desert. Perched atop the rim of the Ramon Crater is the spectacular Beresheet Hotel and we’ve simply never seen anything like it. Honeymooners and families will both love this resort with unmatched views, infinity-edged pools, and a chance to have your own private pool as well. The food, the scenery, and the service are all unparalleled and provide for a dazzling once-in-a-lifetime experience. The perfect fusion of luxury and desert splendor.
One of Israel’s two most populous metropolitan areas (Jerusalem is the other), Tel Aviv often draws comparisons to Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and Miami, and it’s easy to see why. Tel Aviv is modern, chic, progressive, and international. It is both packed with energy, yet perfect for relaxation, sporting some of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful beaches. A festive blend of art, food, and culture.
Located immediately next door to Tel Aviv is the ancient port city of Jaffa (“Yafo”). Famous in part for its association with the biblical story of Jonah and the whale, Jaffa is a colorful and vibrant mix of cultures and ethnicity.
From Jaffa Port, boat rides are available that offer terrific views of both Jaffa Port itself, as well as the greater Tel Aviv skyline with it’s impressive mix of skyscrapers and beaches.
ISRAEL’S MEDITERRANEAN COAST
Under 100 km north of Tel Aviv is Haifa, Israel’s 3rd largest metropolitan area. Like Tel Aviv, Haifa hugs the Mediterranean coast and provides some very attractive scenery. The views from Mt. Carmel are incredible, as are the 19 cascading terraces of Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens, nicknamed by many the “8th Wonder of the World”.
In the old crusader city of Akko, cultures exist side by side and fun boat rides provide music and panoramic views of imposing fortress walls that are centuries old.
And at Rosh Hanikra (just south of Israel’s northwestern border with Lebanon), one can journey to the bottom of limestone cliffs on the world’s steepest cable car ride. There you’ll find alluring and hidden grottoes filled with turquoise waters.
NORTHERN ISRAEL AND THE GALILEE
Up some spectacular and winding roads east of Rosh Hanikra, you’ll come to a footpath that is just as spectacular and winding. And at the end of that, you’ll come to spectacular Keshet Cave. Actually no longer a cave at all, Keshet Cave’s roof fell in long ago and erosion has left one incredible, naturally-formed arch. Often times, you’ll find daredevils rappelling from the arch itself, or walking across its top for extra-special views of the surrounding areas far, far below. Tip: Go at dusk!
Right along the Sea of Galiliee, Tiberias is an excellent town in which to drop your anchor while exploring the north. Eat at “Decks”, grab a boat ride around the lake and head to the Scots Hotel for brunch and the views. You won’t be sorry!
North of Tiberias, one can buy art and learn about Kaballah in Safed, or ride the longest cable car in Israel up to the top of the Manara Cliffs. But we would especially recommend the Northern Israel Jeep Tour run by Israel Extreme. Led by a wonderful guide named Eitan, you’ll get to leave from and tour his kibbutz in Malkiya, right on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Learn the courageous history of the people and the area and get to meet and know several soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Learn what life is like for them and what Israel’s security means to them. You may even get to climb on top of (and INSIDE of!) an active military tank. Along the way, you’ll be treated to off-road adventures and unmatched panoramic views over the surrounding valleys and into Lebanon.
Tanks of the Israeli Defense Forces
Further to the northeast of Malkiya and close to the Israeli Golan Heights are the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, the Banias Nature Reserve (home to Israel’s most beautiful and powerful waterfall), and Nimrod’s Fortress, an imposing structure which remains impressively well-preserved from the time of the Crusades, and from which one is treated to sweeping views of Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
To the south of Tiberias, close to Israel’s border with Jordan is a marvelous national park with refreshing natural hot springs known as Gan Hashlosha. Visitors can relax and swim there year-round. There is even a waterfall and a separate smaller area for young children.
Located immediately next to Gan Hashlosha is Gan Garoo, an especially wonderful place for families with all types of animals, most especially kangaroos. You can feed them, cuddle with them and watch them hop about before heading to the ruins of nearby Beit She’an, where Ancient Roman life is on display.
CENTRAL ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM
Southwest of Jerusalem is Beit Guvrin. Here, you can participate in “Dig for a Day”, a real ongoing archaeological dig. You’ll also find an intricate and impressive network of man-made caves left over from ancient times. Among the most iconic of these are the “Bell Caves”. And among the most fun to explore is the “Maze Cave” with it’s series of narrow and winding passageways at every turn.
The City of Jerusalem hardly needs any introduction. In addition to being Israel’s capital, its importance to the world’s three major monotheistic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – cannot be overstated.
Jerusalem’s Old City is famously divided into 4 quarters: The Armenian Quarter, The Jewish Quarter, The Muslim Quarter, and the Christian Quarter, and each has an impressive history. Tucked just inside of the Jaffa Gate, within the Armenian Quarter, is the Tower of David Museum, also known as the David Citadel.
Aside from displaying a wealth of archaeological history during the day, the David Citadel also wows at night with a Light Spectacular in which images are projected right onto the walls of the David Citadel itself. The show is a powerful and moving account of the history of Old City Jerusalem.
The Jewish Quarter is also the site of many attractions including the famous and recently restored Hurva Synagogue. However, the most famous and religiously significant place within the Jewish Quarter is unquestionably the Western Wall. The Western Wall is actually a retaining wall left standing from the second Great Temple built by King Solomon built in ancient times and destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 AD. As the only major component that remains from the temple, the Western Wall is considered to be Judaism’s holiest place.
Thanks to recent excavations over the last 2 decades, visitors and worshipers alike can now also tunnel under the ground at the Western Wall to see parts of the wall that were never before visible.
Just outside the confines of the Old City is the City of David. The City of David, which was erected even before what is presently thought of as the “Old City, was the original city of Jerusalem that existed in Kind David’s time. Today, King Hezekiah’s tunnels (which once carried the City of David’s water supply) are among the most popular attractions not only in Jerusalem, but in Israel. Visitors can hike through water that remains in the tunnels today from the same paths that were constructed by ancient engineers thousands of years ago.
Yet, even with its incredibly rich and storied history, Jerusalem has a modern side as well, where old meets new. Take a stroll down Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem’s “Downtown Triangle” and you will see not only vibrant colors and modern city streets, but also shops, artists, street musicians and more!
MASADA, THE DEAD SEA, AND EIN GEDI
One of Israel’s most iconic and recognizable structures is Masada, a mountain on which the Jews built an ancient fortress and lived for years in order to evade their would-be Roman captors. Today, Masada is seen as a symbol of hope and courage among the Jewish people.
Famously, there are two ways to ascend Masada. One can hike up the “snake path” which weaves its way back and forth up the mountain. Yet, due to the extreme heat at Maasda throughout much of the year (Masada is located in the Judean Desert), many visitors opt to take the more comfortable cable car ride up instead.
Because of its symbolism, Masada is also a popular place for Bar Mitzvah ceremonies to be held when a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13 (at which time he is thought to symbolically assume the responsibilities of his faith).
Nearby Masada is the Dead Sea, noted for being the lowest point on Earth. However, the Dead Sea is also known for having so much salt in it’s water that you can literally float on top of it. Simply lean back, kick up your legs and float in a way you never have before. In fact, it’s so hard to sink that some even have a hard time putting their legs back down to get out! Fact: The Dead Sea gets it’s name because nothing lives in it. The salt content is too high for fish to survive.
While most people have heard of the Dead Sea, not as many are familiar with Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Located right near the Dead Sea, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is literally an oasis in the middle of the Judean Desert and it’s many hiking paths in and around lush vegetation and waterfalls provide the perfect means to splash and cool down. Especially popular is the path leading to picturesque David Waterfall and its many surrounding natural pools.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of Israel in Photos!
All of the photos shown here are original photos taken by Destination Dan.
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