The centre of the world to many. Yearned after. Fought over. Destroyed and rebuilt for thousands of years. Jerusalem's energy toggles between intense and passionate. Contemporary City Modernity is very much alive in the west – only in typical Jerusalem ways, all sheathed in Jerusalem stone, the same colour palette as the Old City.
Blessed with rugged hills cloaked in wildflowers in spring, archaeological sites from the early centuries of Christianity and ancient stone synagogues, the Lower Galilee – the part of northern Israel south of Rte 85 (linking Akko with the Sea of Galilee) – is hugely popular with hikers, cyclists, Israeli families (both Jewish and Arab) on holiday, Tel Aviv epicureans and, of .
Haifa's neighbourhoods form an intriguing kaleidoscope: its smart German Colony, teeming Arab-Christian quarter and edgy Masada St each add their own verve to the port city. Posing above roaring traffic and dockside bustle is Haifa's most celebrated sight, a Baha'i shrine and tropical gardens.
Split between the West Bank, with its sun-baked hills, chaotic cities and ancient biblical sites, and Gaza, a war-ravaged strip of coastal land sealed on three sides by Israel and Egypt, the Palestinian Territories has long been an unorthodox stop on a Middle East itinerary. But while the West Bank often hits the headlines for the wrong reasons, it is a truly welcoming place.
You hear the word 'welcome' a lot in the West Bank. Whether it is shouted by a vendor in a bustling souq, said with a smile over a plate of falafel or roared over Arabic music blasting from a taxi, Palestinians always want to make tourists feel appreciated. Given its association with political strife and violence, this can come as a surprise to first-time visitors.
Hugely popular with Israeli families looking for a beach break and Europeans taking refuge from bone-chilling winters back home, the Red Sea resort of Eilat is brash, ugly and almost inevitably crowded, a place where being scantily clad and sunburned is the rule rather than the exception.
Gush Dan, meaning ‘Dan Bloc’, is a large area of central Israel, best known for its long stretch of golden beaches between Tel Aviv and Netanya. Besides the beaches, it’s also the nation’s economic heart, bringing with it high-tech business parks, shopping malls and its fair share of road traffic.
Tiberias is one of Judaism's four holy cities, the burial place of venerated Jewish sages and a very popular base for Christians visiting holy sites around the Sea of Galilee. It's also one of the most aesthetically challenged resort towns in Israel, its sunbaked lakeside strip marred by 1970s architectural monstrosities.
Nazareth has come a long way since its days as a quiet Jewish village in Roman-ruled Galilee, so if you’re expecting bucolic rusticity, be prepared for a surprise. These days, Israel’s largest Arab city is a bustling mini-metropolis, with shop-lined thoroughfares, traffic jams and young men with a penchant for showing off at the wheel.
On a peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean, centuries of history are stacked within the Crusader walls of Akko (Acre). Pencil minarets and painted church domes strain above ramparts smoothed by sea winds. Its stone bastions and deep moats are the very same that greeted Marco Polo and countless pilgrims, mystics and scholars who passed through 750 years ago.