With a record 3.54 million visitor arrivals in 2013, tourism is one of Israel’s main sources of revenue. Historical and religious attractions, beach resorts, archaeological tourism, heritage tourism, and ecotourism are all available in Israel. Israel boasts the most museums per capita of any country on the planet. The Western Wall and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s tomb were the two most visited locations in 2009, with Masada being the most popular paid tourist destination. Jerusalem is the most visited city, while the Western Wall is the most visited landmark. The United States attracts the most tourists, accounting for 18% of all visitors, followed by Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain.
With 3.5 million tourists visiting each year, Jerusalem is the most visited city in the world. It is the declared capital and biggest city of Israel, if the territory and population of East Jerusalem are included. It is one of the world’s oldest cities. It is a sacred city for the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and it is home to many historical, archaeological, religious, and other attractions.
West Jerusalem was mostly constructed after Israel’s establishment in 1948. The following are some of the local tourism attractions:
- The Temple Society’s German Colony is a vibrant blend of architectural styles.
- Mea Shearim, founded in the eighteenth century and populated mostly by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews, has retained its Eastern character.
- Yad Vashem is a Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.
- One of the four most visited Christian pilgrimage sites in Israel is Ein Karem, the reputed birthplace of John the Baptist.
- King David’s traditional resting site, Mt. Zion.
- The Hebrew University is located on Mt. Scopus, which stands at 2710 feet above sea level and provides a panoramic view of the city. From this vantage point, you can see both the Temple Mount and the Dead Sea.
Although it was annexed in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law, East Jerusalem was conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and is regarded to be under Israeli occupation by the international world. It’s where you’ll find:
- The Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, and Jewish Quarter are the four historic quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Temple Mount (Arabic: Haram ash-sharf, Noble Sanctuary), which houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was formerly the location of the old Temple in Jerusalem, with only the Western Wall at its foot surviving.
- The Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley: with its observation point, the Tomb of Absalom, and other Jewish tombs and burial sites going back 3000 years, as well as churches such as Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations, Dominus Flevit, and the Church of Maria Magdalene (Russian orthodox church). The Tomb of Jesus has been suggested at a number of sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is usually recognized as the location of the Tomb of Jesus. Golgotha, the adjacent hill where Jesus was crucified, has also remained a mystery. The City of David, just south of the Jewish Quarter, is home to ancient digs such as the Siloam Tunnel.
When it comes to marketing Jerusalem to foreign visitors, the unresolved status of East Jerusalem has created problems. The UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled against a series of Israeli Ministry of Tourism advertising campaigns that included pictures and information on tourist spots in East Jerusalem in 2009, 2010, and 2015. “The status of the occupied territory of the West Bank is the subject of much international dispute,” the advertising authority wrote in its ruling, “and because we considered that the ad implied that the part of East Jerusalem featured in the image was part of the state of Israel, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.” Israel’s Ministry of Tourism issued a statement rejecting the decision, claiming that the billboard offered “basic, factual information to a potential UK tourist.” The 2009 decision also contained condemnation of Israel’s depiction of Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.
Tel Aviv is Israel’s second-largest metropolis and a cosmopolitan, cultural, and financial global hub, with 2.3 million visitor visits in 2013. With a population of 3 million people, the city’s larger area is the most populous. A UNESCO world heritage area of Bauhaus architecture may be found in Tel Aviv. Jaffa, a neighboring medieval city, is enjoying a tourism boom. Tel Aviv was named one of the top ten beach towns in the world by National Geographic in 2010.
Locals refer to Tel Aviv as the “city that never sleeps” because of its thriving nightlife scene. Out magazine dubbed Tel Aviv “the homosexual capital of the Middle East.”
Safed is one of Judaism’s four holy towns, and it is here that most of the Jerusalem Talmud was composed, as well as kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). It is well-known for its craftsmen. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is buried in neighboring Meron.
Many natural reserves and historic sites, including old synagogues, are located around the city.
- Old City and its Knights Hall
- (Bahá’) Bahá’u’lláh Shrine, Bahá’u’lláh’s last resting place as well as a Unesco world heritage historical town.
- (Bahá’í) Shrine of the Báb, its terraces, and the Bahá’í World Centre and the buildings (a Unesco world heritage).
- Stella Maris Monastery
- Tel Shikmona
- Cave of Elijah
- Mahmood Mosque
Tiberias, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee, is one of Judaism’s four holy towns.
The house of Saint Peter in Capernaum, Tabgha, and the Mount of Beatitudes.
- Nazareth is regarded as Israel’s “Arab capital.”
- Visit the old city of Nazareth and historical places around the city.
- Jesus’ hometown, as well as the location of many of his claimed miracles and deeds.
- Many churches, including The Church of the Annunciation, the Middle East’s biggest Christian church structure. It is said to be the location where the Archangel Gabriel foretold the impending birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary in Roman Catholic tradition (Luke 1:26-31).
- The Jesus Trail, a network of hiking trails linking numerous locations from Jesus’ life and ministry, begins here.
The patriarch Abraham is credited with establishing Beersheba. The Negev desert’s regional capital. It’s a good place to start if you want to see the Ramon Crater or the UNESCO-listed Nabathean Incense Route (Shivta, Avdat, Mamshit).
Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, is a hot, sunny year-round tourist destination on the Red Sea coast. The Eilat Mountains, which are comparable to those in Sinai and include trail routes for trekking, are a popular location for skin and scuba diving, with equipment for rent on or near all main beaches. There are also wildlife such as dorcas gazelle, rock hyrax, striped hyena, and Nubian ibex can be found. Camels, Kings City, and the Eilat Underwater Observatory Marine Park are among the many attractions of Eilat.
Ashkelon is a city located between Gaza City and Ashdod in Israel. The city provides a variety of hotels and Mizrahi Jewish eateries, as well as a special Arak drink known as Arak Ashkelon.
Tel Ashkelon is a large archaeological site with remains dating back to the Canaanites, Philistines, Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, and Crusaders.
There is no active pilgrimage site in Ashkelon, but it was one of the places where Husayn ibn Ali’s head was held before being transferred to Cairo. The mosque was destroyed in 1950, but a small compound was built on the site in 2001 for Shia Islam pilgrims from India who visited the site. There is also a well believed to be one of Abraham’s wells by Muslims and Christians alike.
The sand dunes between Ashkelon and Ashdod, as well as between Ashkelon and the Gaza Strip, are famous tourist destinations in this region.
Landmarks outside cities
Masada is an ancient fortress in Israel’s Southern District, perched atop an isolated rock platform (similar to a mesa) on the eastern border of the Judaean Desert, with a view of the Dead Sea. Between 37 and 31 BCE, Herod the Great fortified Masada and constructed mansions for himself on the mountain. According to Josephus, the Roman Empire’s siege of Masada towards the conclusion of the First Jewish–Roman War resulted in the mass suicide of the 960 Jewish rebels and their families who had taken refuge there. Arad lies 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Masada. Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Israel’s second most visited tourist destination, behind Jerusalem.
The amphitheater and hippodrome, where live classical and popular music performances are often performed, as well as the port from where St. Paul was carried as a prisoner to Rome, are among the Roman and Crusader remains in Caesarea’s old city. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel.
Scythopolis (Beit She’an) was a Roman Decapolis city. One of the Middle East’s biggest archaeological sites.
Beit She’arim National Park was an old Jewish necropolis with numerous Jewish graves with important symbols such as animals and the menorah, as well as a Jewish city and remains of an ancient synagogue.
In Israel, there are about 200 biblical Tells. Tel is an archaeological site formed by ruins of human settlements, not by nature. The biblical tales date back to the Bronze Age and are found at ancient towns referenced in the Bible. Tel Hazor, Tel Megiddo, and Tel Be’er Sheva are the cities selected, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These hotels also feature some of the world’s oldest water systems. Jerusalem, Tel Arad, Tel Gezer, and Tel Lachish are some of the other biblical sites in Israel.
Nahal Me’arot prehistoric caves
Mount Carmel’s human evolution sites – Nahal At Mount Carmel in Haifa, Northern Israel, Me’arot Nature Reserve is a place of human evolution. It contains four caves: Me’arat HaTanur (also known as Tabun Cave), Me’arat HaGamal (also known as Camel Cave), Me’arat HaNahal (also known as Stream Cave), and Me’arat HaGedi (also known as Stream Cave) (the Young Goat Cave). In 2012, UNESCO declared the site to be of universal significance. The site has traces of ancient man’s habitation as well as a unique first burial.
Negev Incense Route
The Negev Incense Route is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located between Jordan’s Petra and Palestine’s Gaza. The Nabataeans built many fortresses and caravanserai, but are best known for their four important cities of Avdat, Mamshit, Shivta, and Haluza, which are all located on this important trade route.
Many historic synagogues from the Second Temple Period and Byzantine-Muslim eras may be found in Israel, which is the birthplace of Judaism and the cradle of Jewish history. Capernaum, Magdala, Masada, Anim, Susya, Bar’am, Gush Halav, Beit Alpha, Hukok, Nabratein, Ein Gedi, Herodium, Gamla, Umm el Kanatir, Caesarea, Hamat Tiberias, and a number of others are among the synagogues.
Avshalom Cave, also known as Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave, is a 5,000-square-meter cave on the western slope of Mt. Ye’ela in Israel’s Judean Hills, renowned for its high stalactite concentration. Some of the cave’s stalactites are four meters long, and some have been dated at 300,000 years. Some stalagmites collide with each other to create stone pillars.
Har Karkom (“Saffron Mountain,” also known as Jabal Ideid) is a mountain in Israel’s Negev desert, halfway between Petra and Kadesh Barnea. A number of historians have proposed Har Karkom as the Biblical Mount Sinai, based on the fact that the Israelites traveled through the Sinai Peninsula in a fairly straight path towards Petra. Following this hypothesis, Emmanuel Anati explored the mountain and found that it was a significant paleolithic worship center, with shrines, altars, stone circles, stone pillars, and over 40,000 rock carvings covering the surrounding plateau.
Although Anati supports identifying Har Karkom with Mount Sinai based on his findings, the pinnacle of religious activity at the location may date from 2350 to 2000 BC, and the mountain seems to have been abandoned between 1950 and 1000 BC; the exodus is often dated from 1600 to 1200 BC. Scholars, on the other hand, have found no archaeological evidence to support a date of 1600-1200 BC. Anati, on the basis of additional archaeological findings, dates the Exodus to about 2300 BC.
Tel Ashkelon is a large archaeological site with remains dating back to the Canaanites, Philistines, Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, and Crusaders.
Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is a national park in central Israel, 13 kilometers from Kiryat Gat, containing the remains of Maresha, one of Judah’s most significant cities during the First Temple period, and Beit Guvrin, known as Eleutheropolis during the Roman Empire. Many Muslim saints are buried in the region, with Prophet Muhammad’s friend Tamim al-Dari being the most well-known. It was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2014.
Acre, Caesarea, Belvoir Fortress, Montfort Castle, Arsuf, Atlit Fortress, Sepphoris, Chateau du Roi, and others are among the remains of Crusader strongholds in Israel. Arsuf also contains the adjacent Sidna Ali Mosque, which is still in operation and houses the grave of a Caliph Omar relative who perished in the Battle of Arsuf.
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is home to many Christian and Jewish holy shrines. The Jewish holy shrines are in Tiberias (click to see the sites), and the Christian sites are outside Tiberias, some of which are archaeological sites. The sites include Magdala, Capernaum, Tabgha, and the Mount of Beatitudes. Other archaeological sites include Kursi, Hippos, Hamat Tiberias, Tel Bet Yerah, and others. It also has a flora and wildlife collection.
Mount Arbel is a national park featuring a castle, synagogue, and cliff hiking near the Sea of Galilee. The stronghold was constructed on the cliffs of the mountains by Jewish zealots and later by Fakhreddine II in the Ottoman era. The ancient synagogue was established in the 5th century and lasted a small bit when the Islamic period began. The Horns of Hattin, renowned for his Islamic victory against Saladin at the Battle of Hattin, are located nearby, as is the shrine of Prophet Shuaib, Maqam al-Nabi Shu’aybis, the holiest place for the Druze religion, where the Druze have a large Ziyarat every year in April.
The Rosh HaNikra grottoes are enormous caverns carved out of soft chalk rock by tidal action. It’s around 200 meters long in all. With certain connected segments, they split out in different ways. Previously, the only way to get to them was by water, and only expert divers were allowed to go. Visitors may now ride a cable car down to view the grottos. Nearby, there is a kibbutz called Rosh HaNikra. Nahariya, an Israeli city, lies approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Rosh HaNikra. To enter the grottoes, you must ride a cable car. The Cable Car is just a short distance from the Lebanese border.
Makhteshim of the Negev desert
A Makhtesh is a geological landform found only in Israel’s Negev desert. A makhtesh is defined by high walls of resistant rock that surround a deep confined valley drained by a solitary wadi. The valleys have little vegetation and soil, although they do feature a varied fauna and flora, as well as a range of various colored rocks. Makhtesh Ramon is the most well-known and biggest makhtesh. Makhtesh Gadol, Makhtesh Katan, and Mount Arif are three other makhteshim. The Makhtesh is a unique geological region.
Tzippori, also known as Sepphoris, was a historic Jewish town featuring a synagogue, homes, baths, water tunnels, and a crusader castle, among other things. It was also the location of Anne and Joachim’s home.
Nimrod Fortress is a large Ayyubid stronghold that serves as an excellent example of Ayyubid fortifications during the Crusader era.
Hula Lake Park, also known as Agamon HaHula in Hebrew, is situated in the Hula Valley’s southern section, north of the nature reserve. It was created as part of a restoration project for the JNF. In the early 1990s, severe rainfall caused section of the valley to flood again. The decision was made to develop the surrounding region while leaving the flooded area alone. Thousands of migratory birds have made the new location their second home in the fall and spring. The lake is one square kilometer in size and is dotted with islands that serve as protected bird breeding grounds. It has become a significant stopover for migratory birds on their way from Europe to Africa and back, as well as a popular birding destination. Lake Hula is a stopping place for tens of thousands of cranes traveling from Finland to Ethiopia every winter, according to Israeli ornithologists. Farmers in Israel put food out for them to prevent them from destroying crops near the lake.
Ein Gedi is a unique natural reserve renowned for its large population of friendly Nubian ibex and rock hyrax, as well as waterfalls and ancient discoveries. Ein Gedi is a desert oasis that is a must-see for anybody looking to unwind and get away from the scorching Judean Desert. It is situated near the Dead Sea and is a must-see.
A large natural arch in Israel’s Upper Galilee that was formerly a cave but was destroyed due to geological causes over time. Today, just the arch remains and is used as a famous tourist destination for professional trekking.
Israel has the most museums per capita in the world, with millions of tourists each year, with over 200 museums.
- Israel’s main museum, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, receives 800,000 visitors each year.
- Jerusalem’s Tower of David – Museum of Jerusalem’s History
- Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art
- Diaspora Museum
- Haifa Museum of Science and Technology
Since the 1990s, Israel has established one of the most dynamic restaurant cultures in the Mediterranean area, serving to both visitors and residents as part of its hospitality sector, which includes hotels, restaurants, and vineyards. Israeli chefs, hotel owners, sommeliers, and vintners get excellent professional training, and top hotel chefs have worldwide education and experience.
In Israel, there are hundreds of restaurants, informal eateries, cafés, and pubs serving a diverse variety of foods and culinary styles. Aside from Middle Eastern specialities, restaurants provide a diverse range of ethnic cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Russian, Ethiopian, Balkan, Thai, Chinese, American, and fusion cuisines.
Falafel stands or kiosks, which also sell extras such French fries, fried eggplant, salads, and pickles with the falafel, and the hummusia, which specializes on hummus and offers just a limited variety of extras, are examples of typical Israeli eating establishments. The Misada Mizrahit (literally, “Eastern restaurant”) is a low-cost restaurant that serves a meze of salads, followed by grilled meat with French fries, fried kibbeh, and simple desserts, whereas Steakiyot are restaurants that serve a meze of salads, followed by skewered grilled meats, particularly meorav yerushalmi and kebabs, or sometimes by kibbeh
Cafés are popular in cities and serve as gathering spots for both socializing and doing business. They often offer coffee, tea, fruit juice, and soft beverages, as well as baked pastries and sandwiches, and many also serve light meals. Most feature outside seating to take advantage of Israel’s pleasant weather, and Tel Aviv’s café culture is especially well known. Tea is frequently offered at cafés, ranging from simple brewed Russian-style with sugar to tea with lemon or milk, as well as tea with mint from the Middle East (nana). In Israel, there is a significant coffee culture, and coffee is served in a variety of forms, including instant (nes), iced, latte (hafu), Italian-style espresso, and Turkish coffee.
Enotourism is a developing component of Israel’s tourism industry. It was reported in early 2008 that a 150-acre (0.61 km2) wine park would be built on the hills between Zichron Ya’akov and Binyamina to boost tourism in the region and enotourism in Israel in general.
West Bank tourism
Israel has been in charge of tourism in the West Bank since the occupation began in 1967. Territory that had previously been off-limits to Israeli residents was now open to tourism, and Israel built a slew of facilities in these areas, as well as East Jerusalem, to attract both Israeli and international visitors. Despite this, Israeli residents are usually prohibited from visiting areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority. In a Joint Committee on Tourism, the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s tourism ministries collaborate on tourism in the Palestinian territories today.
- Bethlehem – Rachel’s grave is here, as well as the birthplaces of King David and Jesus. In 2008, 1.3 million visitors visited the city. The Church of the Nativity, a church constructed over the cave where Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been born, The Manger Square, Shepherd’s Field in Beit Sahour, Solomon’s Pools, and the Salesian Cremisan Monastery are all popular tourist attractions in the city and surrounding areas.
- Herodium – Herod the Great constructed this fortification. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is in charge of it.
- Hebron – According to Jewish and Islamic tradition, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs is situated in the second-holiest city in Judaism. Before David relocated the capital to Jerusalem, it was also the capital of the Kingdom of Judah.
- Jericho – In the first three quarters of 2008, tourism surged by almost 42.3 percent as passage between PA-controlled regions and Israel became less limited.
- Qumran – The Dead Sea Scrolls were found at this ancient Jewish location. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is in charge of it.
- Nablus – Joseph’s Tomb and Jacob’s Well are located in Shechem, which is also known as Shechem.
Golan Heights tourism
The Golan Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and the international community recognizes them as Syrian territory occupied by Israel. Israel imposed civilian law to the area in 1981, an act that was declared illegal and invalid by the United Nations Security Council.
The Golan may be split into two halves for visiting purposes: the north, which contains the most of the tourist attractions, and the south, which has the administrative center. Travelers are advised to hire a vehicle or join an organized trip. Some visitors choose to hitchhike across the area, despite the fact that it is slower. Bed and breakfasts or zimmers are the most common kind of accommodations.
In the Golan, Israel’s first ski resort was built. Israel built nature trails and other tourist attractions to further cement its influence in the area and attract visitors. Because so much of the Golan’s soil is unsuitable for agriculture, many of the Israeli settlements built there centered on tourism as a source of revenue.
- National parks dot the Golan, offering a diverse range of trekking opportunities. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is responsible for the majority of them. When properly designated and walled off areas are ignored, land mines from past conflicts constitute a threat.
- During the winter, the Mount Hermon ski resort is quite popular. This is the Golan’s first Israeli ski resort.
- The Golan Heights Winery is a major producer of wine in the region. A visitor’s center and excursions are available at the winery.
- Katzrin, Gamla, Nimrod Fortress, Rujm el-Hiri, and Umm el Kanatir archaeology
Seas and lakes
Mediterranean coastal strip
Sunny beaches and hotel resorts.
The world’s deepest hypersaline lake and the lowest point on the Earth’s surface, known for its buoyancy and therapeutic properties.
Sunny beaches and hotel resorts, a popular SCUBA diving and water sports destination
Sea of Galilee
- Sunny beaches and hotel resorts
- Important Christian and Jewish holy sites
- Many archaeological sites.
Eilat is situated in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is one of the world’s most popular diving destinations. The coral reefs off the coast of Eilat are still relatively clean, and the region is known as one of the best diving spots in the world. Annually, around 250,000 dives are conducted off Eilat’s 11-kilometer shoreline, with diving accounting for 10% of the area’s tourist revenue. Furthermore, since many of these reefs are close to the coast, non-divers may easily access the Red Sea’s reefs. SCUBA diving conditions are excellent all year, with water temperatures ranging from 21 to 25 degrees Celsius, little or no currents, and clear seas with an average visibility of 20 to 30 meters.
Israel is becoming a prominent medical tourism destination. 15,000 foreigners visited the nation for medical treatments in 2006, bringing in $40 million in income. Good natural resources, a steady, pleasant temperature all year, a developing medical system, and beautiful places that have a soothing impact on patients are all benefits of Israel for health tourism. For a variety of reasons, medical tourists flock to Israel. Some are from European countries where some processes are not accessible, such as Romania. Others travel to Israel, most frequently from the United States, to get high-quality health care at a fraction of the cost they would pay at home, for both operations and IVF procedures. Other medical tourists go to Israel to explore the Dead Sea, a world-renowned therapeutic destination. The Israel Ministry of Tourism has teamed up with a number of professional medical service companies to raise awareness of Israel’s medical capabilities.