Must see attractions in Israel

  • Top ChoiceSights in Haifa

    Baha’i Gardens

    These formal gardens flowing down 19 steep terraces to a resplendent domed shrine – the final resting place of the prophet-herald of the Baha’i faith – are Haifa’s crowning attraction. There are bird’s-eye views from the platform at the top, but we highly recommend the free, 45-minute Panorama Tour. Tours begin daily (except Wednesday) at 11.30am in Hebrew and noon in English. Arrive half an hour ahead as it's first come, first served. Men and women must be covered from shoulders to knees.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Masada

    Masada National Park

    The plateau atop Masada, which measures about 550m by 270m, is some 60m above sea level – that is, about 490m above the surface of the Dead Sea. The easiest way up is by cable car, though you can also hoof it – up the Roman siege ramp from the western side or up the Snake Path from the eastern side. On the ruins, black painted lines divide reconstructed parts (above) from the original remains (below).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Nazareth

    Basilica of the Annunciation

    Dominating the Old City’s skyline is the lantern-topped cupola of this Franciscan-run Roman Catholic basilica, an audacious modernist structure that’s unlike any building you’ve ever seen. Constructed from 1960 to 1969, it’s believed by many Christians to stand on the site of Mary’s home, where many churches (but not the Greek Orthodox) believe the Annunciation took place.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Beit She’an

    Beit She’an National Park

    Beit She’an’s extraordinary Roman ruins are the best place in Israel to get a sense of what it was like to live, work and shop in the Roman Empire. Colonnaded streets, a 7000-seat theatre that looks much as it did 1800 years ago (the original public bathrooms are nearby), two bathhouses and huge stone columns that lie right where they fell during the 749 earthquake evoke the grandeur, self-confidence and decadence of ancient Roman provincial life.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Northwestern Shore

    Mount of the Beatitudes

    Since at least the 4th century, this landscaped hillside is believed to be where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), whose opening lines – the eight Beatitudes – begin with the phrase ‘Blessed are…’. The sermon also includes the Lord’s Prayer and oft-quoted phrases such as ‘salt of the earth’, ‘light of the world’ and ‘judge not, lest ye be judged’.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ein Gedi

    Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

    This reserve consists of two roughly parallel canyons, Wadi David and Wadi Arugot, each of which has its own entrance complex and ticket office. It is also home to an ancient synagogue. When you buy your ticket, you receive a colour-coded map-brochure that has invaluable details on the area’s trails (indicated using the same colours as the trail markings), how long each route takes, and the times by which you need to begin each circuit to finish by closing time.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Masada

    Masada Museum

    An outstanding and remarkably vivid introduction to Masada’s archaeology and history, this museum combines 500 evocative artefacts unearthed by archaeologists (one coin and four papyri are replicas). There are presentations on key Masada personalities – Herod the Great, who built a palace here in the 1st century BCE, turncoat historian Josephus Flavius and Jewish commander Eliezer ben Yair – to make the dramatic events of 73 CE seem close enough to touch. Visitors receive an audio headset, available in eight languages.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Arava

    Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve

    Established in 1968 to reintroduce animals that had died out in Israel, this 32-sq-km reserve on the Yotvata salt flats is home to a wide variety of desert creatures. You can drive through, safari-style, but only if you have your own car; count on spending about two hours. Herbivores you're likely to see include the Dorcas gazelle, Nubian ibex, Somali wild ass, scimitar-horned oryx and addax (white antelope).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mitzpe Ramon

    Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve

    Sometimes described as Israel’s very own grand canyon, Makhtesh Ramon is the largest protected area in Israel and is home to a huge number of hiking, cycling and horse-riding trails, as well as cliffs offering rappelling opportunities. About 300m deep, 9km wide and 40km long, it features multicoloured sandstone, volcanic rock and fossils.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Northwestern Shore

    Ancient Galilee Boat

    In 1986, when the level of the Sea of Galilee was particularly low, a local fisherman made an extraordinary discovery: the remains of a wooden boat later determined to have plied these waters in the time of Jesus’s ministry. The 8.2m fishing vessel, made of 12 kinds of (apparently recycled) wood, can be seen inside Kibbutz Ginosar’s Yigal Alon Centre. Wall panels and three short films tell the fascinating story of its discovery and preservation (so does the website).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Galilee Panhandle

    Upper Galilee Museum of Prehistory

    Israel is home to some of the world's most important prehistoric sites, several of them in the Hula Valley. This gem of a museum, which draws prehistorians from around the globe, displays objects made by human beings between 780,000 and 6000 years ago, including an unsurpassed collection of Palaeolithic hand axes and, incredibly, the skeleton of a woman buried alongside a dog 12,000 years ago. The entry fee includes a tour, usually available in English.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Eilat

    Coral Beach Nature Reserve

    The crystal-clear waters of this 1km-long reserve are the best place on the Israeli Red Sea coast for snorkelling. Access to the reef wall is by two wooden footbridges and one swim lane; snorkelling areas are marked off by buoys. Snorkelling kit can be rented for 23NIS (100NIS deposit). For picnic supplies, head to the supermarket across the street.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Hula Valley

    Agamon HaHula

    These restored wetlands are one of the best places in Israel to see cranes, pelicans, storks and an incredible 400 other bird species. To cover the 8.5km path around the site, you can either walk or rent a mountain bike (50NIS), a four-wheeled pedal cart (185NIS for up to five people) or a golf cart (149/199/259NIS for two/four/six people). The entire site is wheelchair accessible.

  • Top ChoiceSights in North Coast

    Beit She’arim National Park

    Nestled between Mt Carmel and Lower Galilee, spellbinding Beit She’arim is pitted with ancient catacombs, many of which you can enter. In the 2nd century AD, the town grew into a vibrant centre for Torah study, and spiritual luminaries were buried here. Walking paths link the beautifully restored cave tombs; most impressive is the triple-arched Tomb of Rabbi HaNassi, who handled political affairs between Jews and their Roman overlords. Pick up a trail map from the visitor centre.

  • Sights in Caesarea

    Caesarea National Park

    The wave-lashed location of this large archaeological site enhances the experience of exploring its Roman- and Crusader-era ruins.You'll duck through magnificent stone vaults, stroll around a vast Herodian amphitheatre and peer at ruins left by numerous conquerors. A full-price ticket allows you into the Roman ruins and multimedia presentations; a harbour-only ticket, available at the northern entrance, buys access to the harbour area and the Crusader city. After closing time, entry to the harbour – including restaurants and bars – is free.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Sde Boker

    En Avdat National Park

    En (Ein) Avdat comes as a huge surprise in this otherwise bone-dry desert: a year-round, freshwater spring that miraculously flows over a waterfall and through a narrow, winding ravine with steep sides of soft white chalk. Caves along the trail were inhabited by monks during the Byzantine period. To protect habitat for fauna such as the ibex, swimming and wading are prohibited.

  • Top ChoiceSights in North Coast

    Rosh HaNikra Grottoes

    Bone-white limestone cliffs seem to burst from the deep blue sea at this geological beauty spot straddling the Israel–Lebanon border. A cable car descends steeply to the bottom, a journey of barely a minute; from here visitors step into wave-sculpted cave mouths, listening to water mercilessly lashing the rock. If you listen very carefully you might hear fruit bats nesting in the rock folds.

  • Sights in Northwestern Shore

    Capernaum

    The New Testament says that the prosperous lakeside village of Capernaum (estimated population 1500), on the imperial highway from Tiberias to Damascus, was Jesus’s base during the most influential period of his Galilean ministry (Matthew 4:13, Mark 2:1, John 6:59). It is mentioned by name 16 times: this is where Jesus is believed to have preached at the synagogue (Mark 1:21), healed the sick and recruited his first disciples, fishers Peter, Andrew, James and John and Matthew the tax collector.

  • Sights in Northwestern Coast

    Qumran National Park

    World-famous for having hidden the Dead Sea Scrolls for almost 2000 years, Qumran was the site of a small Essene settlement around the time of Jesus – specifically, from the late 1st century BCE until 68 CE, when it was destroyed by the Romans. From an elevated wooden walkway, you can see the aqueduct, channels and cisterns that ensured the community’s water supply.

  • Sights in Negev Highlands

    Avdat National Park

    Dominating the surrounding desert, the beautifully preserved ancient Nabataean city of Avdat served as a caravan stop on the road from Petra to the Mediterranean. Highlights include a Roman bathhouse, catacombs, several 4th-century churches, a pottery workshop and a Byzantine wine press.