Israel may be one of the most misunderstood countries in the world, but it really should not be. In fact, Israel is the one country I have traveled to over, and over, and over, purely out of love for the land and its people. Throughout my many visits, I have been able to craft the perfect Israel itinerary that will help you see as much of the small country’s highlights as possible, in as little as a week (or longer if you prefer!)
Why is Israel so great? As the only democratic country in the Middle East, people come from all over to be free from oppression; and all religious and personal beliefs are welcome to be practiced openly. From the various holy sites of Jerusalem, to the beautiful and vibrant beaches of Tel Aviv, there is really something in Israel for everyone. As a travel enthusiast, I usually wouldn’t choose revisiting a country I’ve already traveled to over experiencing a new one, but Israel is the exception to this rule. What’s even better, with Israel’s close proximity to Europe, (only a 2 hour flight to Greece!), and the cheap plane tickets you can get while there, it is the perfect stop on a multi-destination trip. On my last trip to Israel, I also visited the Maldives and Santorini all in the same trip. Yes, Israel is worth it; yes it is beautiful; and yes it is safe! Keep reading for a 7+ day Israel itinerary and the ultimate guide to getting the most out of your trip to this beautiful country.
3+ Nights in Tel Aviv
After landing at Ben Gourion Airport, begin your trip with a minimum of 3 nights in the beachy and free-spirited city of Tel Aviv. Book an Airbnb close to Gordon-Frishman beach, or stay steps from the sand at my personal choice of hotel, Sheraton Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the liveliest city in all of Israel, with plenty to do, see, and eat. Here are some of the highlights you shouldn’t miss:
- Visit Carmel Market (Shuk Ha’Carmel) for an authentic Israeli open-air market where you can eat street food and shop for souvenirs.
- Wander the picturesque old town of Jaffa. Browse the Jaffa flea market during the day, or take a walk by the port and through the streets in the evening when everything is beautifully lit up. Whatever you do, be sure to make a stop to taste the best hummus in the world at Abu Hassan.
- Experience Tel Aviv nightlife as you stroll down the streets of Rothschild and Allenby.
- Explore the artsy and hipster neighborhood of Florentine, where coffee shops and restaurants are plenty.
- Eat the best Falafel or Shawarma at Hakosem
- Of course, soak in the sun, have a hookah or cocktail, and swim in the ocean at one of these 10 beaches.
- If you have the time, take a day trip to the city of Haifa, and visit the aw-inspiring Baha’i Gardens.
- Find many more things to do and places to eat in my friend Rachel’s Insiders Guide to Tel Aviv
2+ Nights in Jerusalem
Next, make your way down to the holiest place on earth, Jerusalem either by train or by bus. Enjoy a culturally immersive experience as you visit holy sights and immerse yourself in all that is authentically Israeli. Book an airbnb near the city center close to Ben Yehuda street, or stay at my choice of hotel, The Mamilla. Some musts for Jerusalem are:
- Write a letter of prayers or wishes to put in the Western Wall (The Kotel). Then take a tunnel tour through the city of David.
- Visit the Machane Yehuda Shuk, to take in all the sights, smells, and tastes at this famous Israeli market. Don’t miss out on trying the doughy and sweet Israeli treat Rugelach, which are freshly baked at Marzipan bakery.
- Spend a half-day wine tasting at one of the top wineries found near Jerusalem, such as Castel or Flam.
- Visit Vad Vashem, the world’s largest and most comprehensive Holocaust museum.
- Spend a couple of hours learning about the IDF soldiers and their counter-terrorism tactics while getting a taste for tactical training and weapon handling at Caliber 3.
- Treat yourself to a lavish Israeli breakfast or lunch, with a full spread of salads, dips, and fixings with your meal.
1 Night in Ein Bokek/Ein Gedi
From Jerusalem, rent a car or take the Egged bus (around $11 to $15 USD one way) to the Ein Gedi area where you will find the Dead Sea and Masada. The ride should take about an hour-hour and a half so it is also suitable for a day trip from Jerusalem. Spend a night at a Dead Sea Hotel where you can enjoy a private beach to float and soak in the healing powers of the Dead Sea, located at the lowest point on earth. If not spending the night, Ein Gedi has some wonderful public beaches to enjoy. Whichever beach you choose, don’t forget to grab some mud and drench your entire body in it to reveal freshly exfoliated and silky smooth skin. After a day of relaxation, wake up early the following morning to hike the nearby Masada at sunrise (or take a tram) and witness the amazing views.
1+ Nights in Eilat
From Masada, continue your journey down south another 2.5 hours to the Israeli beach town getaway of Eilat and spend a night or two. Different from the Mediterranean coastline of Tel Aviv, Eilat, which is situated on the Red Sea, provides more laid back beaches and is a great place for relaxation after a busy trip. The calm waters of the Red Sea make it a great place to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, and get up and personal with dolphins at the dolphin reef. Boarding the country of Jordan, Eilat is also a great place to take a full day tour to Petra in Jordan from.
End your trip by flying back to Tel Aviv from Eilat, or road trip back down with a rental car. Some things to keep in mind, I do recommend renting a car for the second part of your trip in Israel; while the city is somewhat difficult to navigate with aggressive drivers, and issues with lack of parking, the drive through the desert from Jerusalem to Eilat is quite pleasant and definitely a sight to see.
Best Time to Go to Israel
Due to Israel’s vast climate, the temperature can vary from city to city. Summers all throughout Israel can be very hot and dry, with a little humidity in the beach areas such as Tel Aviv. Winters can get cold, especially in the mountainous region such as Jerusalem, with rare but not unheard of snowfall. April-June are the best times to visit Israel, before the higher temperatures of June and July set in. Before visiting Israel, it is also a good idea to check the observed holidays, as many businesses, especially in Jerusalem may be closed.
How Much Does a Trip to Israel Cost
The cost of travel in Israel is comparable to many metropolitan western cities. Expect prices for decent hotels to cost upward $150.00 USD a night. Dining and activity prices are also similar to the large cities of the U.S. or Europe. That said, there are many options for hostels or shared Airbnb spaces, as well as plenty of delicious and cheap street food. Though Israel is not cheap compared to say, Southeast Asia, it is still very doable on most budgets.
Other Things to Know Before Planning a trip to Israel
Some other things to be aware of: while traveling in Jerusalem or any other religious area, most businesses will be closed for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and public transportation may not be available so plan accordingly. Lastly, when visiting any religious site, remember to dress modestly (women should have their shoulders and knees covered) out of respect to the site and those who observe the religion. Modest dress should not be of concern in beach cities such as Tel Aviv, where literally anything over there goes.
From beaches, to deserts, and everything in between, Israel is a destination that should not be overlooked. If you’ve been to Israel, where was your favorite place to go? If you haven’t been yet, let me know if you have any questions.