Israel is famous as a place of pilgrimage for many; after all, it is where many events in many faiths have occurred through the centuries. Israel definitely has a long and varied history, and its place in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths has been established since ancient times. But whether you are planning to visit Israel as part of a pilgrimage or you simply want to see the many sights and attractions this amazing country has to offer, here are some of the top places – and their various attractions – you shouldn’t miss.
Jerusalem: what to see
Your very first stop in Israel will most probably be Jerusalem, and it’s definitely one of the most fascinating places anyone can ever see and experience. Historical monuments and attractions abound, and the Jerusalem skyline is famous for the ever-present and recognizable Dome of the Rock, where it is believed that the sacred rock or stone, where Abraham was said to have offered his beloved son, is located. The site is also where Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad started his heavenly journey.
The old district is particularly interesting, with its ancient alleyways and sites, and the walls of the city hold their own historic significance as well. The walls are particularly famous when it comes to the different gates, including the Damascus Gate, Lions’ Gate, Zion Gate (which also serves as the main entryway for the Jewish quarter), and Jaffa Gate, which leads to the Christian quarter. The Wailing Wall is another must-see site in Jerusalem, and it holds its own as the holiest and most sacred site for the Jewish people. Whilst you’re in Jerusalem, you should also take time to visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, where various archaeologists have discovered captivating remnants from the Jerusalem of old.
Other sites to see in Jerusalem include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is said to have been built on the exact site or location where the crucifixion of Jesus took place, and the Tower of David or the Citadel, with its own museum relaying the history of Jerusalem.
Nazareth: what to see
Nazareth has its share of attractions, and it will forever be connected to the story of Jesus. Nazareth is believed to be where the Annunciation occurred, and the town boasts the Basilica of the Annunciation as well as the vibrant and highly-colourful bazaar. The Synagogue church is another must-see in Nazareth, and the Greek Catholic community of Melkites owns it. There is also St. Gabriel’s church, which is a Greek Orthodox church, with its fascinating frescoes, and Cana, where it is believed that Jesus did his very first miracle, that of changing water into wine.
The Dead Sea: what to see
The Dead Sea, in spite of its name, is actually a lake, and it is famous for having a remarkably high content of salt. The lake, which is over 400 metres below sea level, offers terrific buoyancy, and floating in the water is a must-try for everyone who visits the Dead Sea. But there are other attractions in the area as well, including the Qumran caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and Mineral Beach, which is popular for its sulphur pools and spa treatments. Another spectacular attraction in the area is Wadi David, which is a haven for wilderness enthusiasts and hikers. A trek can take you to En Gedi Spring, with Shulamite Spring on the other side. Don’t forget to bask in the sun at Ein Bokek Beach as well, with its mineral spring especially notable for its therapeutic benefits.
Masada: what to see
The Masada fortress is situated high on a mountaintop and has some of the most breathtaking views you will ever see. The fortress overlooks the region of the Dead Sea, and it is the site where the palace of King Herod once stood. If you are keen on hiking, you can go up via the Snake Path, with its striking panoramas seemingly at every turn; alternatively, you can take an easier route to the top with the cable car. The Masada Museum is another attraction you should take note of especially with its artefacts collection, and you should also make it a point to visit the Synagogue, which lies against the walls of the fortress, making it one of the oldest and most revered synagogues in the entire world. The Synagogue is also where some ancient scrolls were discovered; the scrolls are now in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum as well.
There are many other places and sites to see and experience in Israel; the ones above are merely a handful. If you want to have a truly unforgettable visit to Israel, here’s one tip: go on a special tour. You can learn more about How to Choose the Best Tours To Israel, and you can choose from a wide variety of tours which include Jewish heritage tours, Christian tours, Eilat tours, classic tours, and even tours where you can volunteer at an archaeological site for a few weeks. With the proper tour, you can have the most incredible and memorable visit to Israel – a holiday that may even change your life.
Tom Van Cauwenberghe is a freelance writer who loves to travel and immerse himself in different cultures. This native Belgian has toured across Europe and has lived and studied in the Middle East and the Philippines; he currently resides in Manila with his wife and two dogs.