People have been writing about Jerusalem for the better part of its 3000-year history, but still today your first glimpse inside the ancient walled city will leave you speechless. More than beautiful, however, Jerusalem is a spiritual centre, holy to the three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Built along ancient footpaths, the little town where Mary and Joseph went for the census and returned with a son is one of the most continuously inhabited places in the world, with residents as far back as the Palaeolithic era. On record the town developed in the 14th century BC as a city-state named after the goddess Beit Lahmu, then donned the Old Testament name Ephrata.
Historically, Gaza has been one of the most strategically important eastern Mediterranean towns, and has long served as a staging post on the major trade routes linking Central Asia and Persia with Arabia, Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, it's believed that Gaza has been captured and destroyed more than any other town in the world - and that tradition lives on.
The Negev Desert, often bypassed by travellers hurrying to Eilat, is much more than just sand. Look closely between the rocks of the wadis (valleys) and you will find water and even wine. The Negev Highlands region is also home to so many vineyards that it now has its own wine route.
The Dead Sea
At an elevation of 400m below sea level, the Dead Sea shoreline is the lowest bit of dry real estate in the world. After the obligatory float, don't miss the ruins at Masada, which is probably Israel's most enigmatic attraction. Though not as well frequented by travellers, the hiking tracks and springs of Ein Gedi National Park also merit some exploration.