A guide to Israel from those who live there
We tell you how to spend your vacation in one sunny southern state (if you can get there, of course).
A land of four seas, deserts, green hills and mountains. A country where hummus is even used to make ice cream. Here you can dance till dawn, eat falafel with Hasidim, or walk through the holy places with the pilgrims. And much more.
Russians only need a passport, with it you can enter for 90 days – do not forget about the careful questioning at the border.
The Beach in Tel Aviv
Most likely you will start your journey here: international flights now arrive only at Ben Gurion airport. The social program will be so intense that you may not have the energy to explore other cities.
What to do?
- If you want to see the trendy Tel Aviv, the Neve Tzedek area is the place to go. Get an ice cream at Anita (Shabazzi 40) and check out the boutiques. Just don’t buy anything, it’s very expensive.
- Take a walk through the White City in the center. In the first half of the 20th century Tel Aviv suffered from a housing problem – Bauhaus-trained architects built half of the center with stylish white houses. We got neighborhoods like nowhere else.
- Bars, clubs, more bars. The Great Synagogue on Allenby Street is the point near which there are so many night spots that you can barhop every night, and there will still be places you can’t get into.
- See paintings by Monet and Matisse at the Museum of Fine Arts. And they’re not the only ones – there are works by Russian avant-garde artists, for example.
- If you miss the Russian language (although in Tel Aviv it is impossible, the Russian language is everywhere), go to the Israeli-Russian Gesher Theater. There are plays both in Russian and Hebrew. And there’s also Leonid Kanevsky, but that’s another story.
“Tel Aviv is a party town. One of the capitals of techno and trance – if you make it in time, you can visit The Block club, which is on the verge of closing. But it’s closing so slowly, you’ll probably still go there.
In the summer, it’s worth coming to the LGBT Pride Parade, one of the largest in the world. People come here for beach vacations, too – the sun is out 9 months of the year. The beaches are beautiful, there are LGBT beaches, with an orthodox beach next to it. There are even beaches for dogs!”
Sveta Strugatskaya, photographer
“I suggest Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The city is under the roof. Until recently, the largest bus station in the world. Seven floors and everything is there. The coolest techno club in town, an abandoned movie theater, banks, McDonald’s, a synagogue, dentists, Filipino restaurants, Russian bookstores, museums, a kindergarten, and even two synagogues. Half the station is abandoned. And two floors are painted by local street artists.”
Roma Goldstein, author of the telegraph channel “Bacchus and Bauhaus
Where to go?
If you want a quieter place, go to Bat Yam, the beaches are great there. It’s only 20 minutes from Tel Aviv.
If you like antiquity, the old town of Jaffa, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is for you. Jaffa used to be the main port of ancient Israel. Not far from Kikar Kedumim (Antiquities Square) there is a quarter with streets named after the signs of the zodiac: be sure to find yours. A little south of the Old City is the Arab quarter of Ajami, the vibe there is a little different from the Tel Aviv you’ve seen before.
The Antiquities of Jerusalem
There is no way to miss this city. Christian, Jewish and Muslim relics, authentic markets, thorny gardens. The perfect place to, pardon the banality, get in touch with history.
What to do?
- Yad Vashem is the main Israeli memorial to the Holocaust.
- The Wailing Wall – you probably know what to do there.
- In the Muslim part of town there is the Dome of the Rock mosque with Mohammed’s footprint and the Foundation Stone, from which the prophet ascended to heaven. The Old City has the Al Aqsa Mosque, a monument of ancient Islamic architecture.
- The Christian quarter – here is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Alexander’s Metochion with the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. Russia has a claim to the courtyard: diplomats have been discussing the transfer of property rights since 2015, but due to legal disputes it is constantly postponed.
- The main market – it also has Jewish, Christian and Muslim parts. Mostly souvenirs there, but you can buy dried fruits and spices and try falafel.
Where to go?
- The Dead Sea is a must see. Just an hour’s drive from Jerusalem and you are already lying on the surface of the water with a book in your hands. It is impossible to drown, even if you really want to. You can also take a mud bath and buy healing cosmetics.
- Go and visit the bats in the cave Meirat ha-Teumim (“Cave of the twins”).
- The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed by Judas, is about a 20 minute drive from the center of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is difficult to describe in two words. The Old City is divided into many different neighborhoods, it is a touristy place where it is best to go for the atmosphere. The main thing is not on a day off, or there are a lot of people, the narrow streets will be uncomfortable. Although it is possible to meet there on Shabbat.
The newer part of town is more secular, with modern art museums and hipster places like Hansen House in the former leprosy asylum.
Sveta Strugatskaya, photographer
Green in Haifa, top view
Haifa is what the locals call the “Middle Eastern San Francisco” because both cities are on the steep mountains, surrounded by lush greenery and blessed with picturesque beaches. The difference is one thing: in San Francisco it’s more expensive to buy a house near the ocean, and in Haifa it’s more expensive to buy a house near the mountains. You won’t miss the Russian language: more repatriates from the former Soviet Union only in Ashkelon.
What to do?
- Stroll along the paths of flower terraces overlooking the harbor in the Bahai Gardens. Bahai is one of the new religions of the Middle East (born in the XIX century in Iran), Haifa – its center.
- Look for craft shops in the area of Wadi Nisnas, pubs and restaurants – near the German Colony.
- For culture, go to “MadaTek” – National Museum of Science, Technology and Space. Haifa is very proud of the scientists who graduated from the local university.
- Take a ride on the only subway in the country. Well, as the subway is an underground cable car. You can also take a ride on the cable car to admire the Mediterranean Sea from above.
- Put a candle and make a wish in the Cave of Elijah the Prophet. The place is equally sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Where to go?
Half an hour away is the lovely town of Zichron Yaacov. Parks, vineyards, palisades. Be sure to visit the Tishbi winery and appreciate the local wine.
Acre. This city holds so much history that you should definitely try to visit it. Moreover, it takes 25-30 minutes to get here. Monuments from the Ottoman and Crusader times, as well as synagogue, mosques, aqueduct, park… A whole day will be just spent.
This is what the resorts in Eilat look like.
This is a resort town in the best sense of the word. The beach by day, restaurants and bars in the evening. And nestled on the Red Sea coast, Eilat offers a beautiful and vibrant underwater life.
What to do?
Just relax by the sea. The beaches here are great, too – diving.
If you get tired of lying and swimming, there is a Dolphin reef – a nursery for dolphins. There are no dolphinariums in the country, it is prohibited to train them.
Where to go?
At 160 km is the Negev desert. It is worth coming here to see the power of wildlife and the crater Mahtesh Ramon. And take a walk in Hai Ramon: a park in the desert .
A little further away from the crater are the excavations of the ancient cities of Mamshit and Shivta.
Only 20 minutes from Eilat awaits you a real wonder – the Red Canyon. Go trekking here, but don’t forget to wear protection, the sun is brutal here.
About 150 kilometers north of Eilat is the town of Mitzpe-Ramon. In the middle of the desert and on the edge of the crater at night you can see all the stars.
More tips can be found here.
The market of Tiberias
This city was once the center of industry. Once upon a time. Now it is filled with disco boat lights and gourmet restaurants on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a freshwater lake. There are hot springs and, for history buffs, Christian and Jewish shrines.
What to do?
- Watch a light and sound show of fountains on the shores of the Kinneret, which tells the story of Tiberias.
- Climb Mt. Berenice for a panoramic view of the city and the lake.
- Take a carriage ride on the Main Boulevard.
- Have a beauty day at the Hamei thermal springs on the shores of Lake Kinneret. Mineral pools, massages, and mud treatments, all with a gorgeous view.
- Wander through the Old Cemetery at night.
- Have a seafood feast at a fish market.
Where to go?
Arbel Reserve is just 15 minutes from Tiberias. You can wander through the ruins of a rock fortress and caves where (supposedly) treasure is hidden. Take a walk in the National Park. Climb Mount Arbel.
At 36 kilometers from the city is the city of Safed, which is revered by the Jews as a holy place. Architects from all over the world have worked on it, there are many art galleries and several cheese factories. Definitely worth setting aside a half day for a walk.
45 minutes from Tiberias lies the Golan Heights. This area once belonged to Syria, but now it is in Israel. From the heights of the hills one can see Syria and walk through the underground passages.
Bridges in Netanya.
Israeli Riviera, and it says it all: the long golden beaches, seaside entertainment, green parks with ancient trees and shrubs of flowers, nice restaurants. In translation, the name of the city means “God’s gift.” Not for nothing.
What to do?
- Take a 20-second glass elevator ride to the beach.
- Lie under the huge ancient sycamore (a tree), which is more than 600 years old.
- Parasailing, parachuting over the Mediterranean Sea.
- Watch musical performance in the amphitheatre on the seafront.
- Visit an interactive planetarium.
- Taste Israeli hummus at Uzi Hummus.
- Learn about Jewish immigrants at the Well House Museum.
- Be a kid and jump off the slide at Shvayim Water Park.
- Swim in the Alexander River and lie in a flower meadow.
Where to go?
In the park, “Utopia”, which is 30 minutes drive from Netanya, you can feed the tropical fish, watch butterflies and explore several hundred exotic plants.
A little over 30 minutes and you are at the ruins of the fortress Kakun.
Expensive real estate, luxury beaches and shopping malls. No surprises there, huh? But trust me, you can get stuck here for a few days.
What to do?
- Get a crusty tan on one of the beaches.
- Walk through a castle of rocks and trash built by the “Hermit” man from Chicago.
- Sail the Mediterranean Sea.
- Swing by the 7 Stars Mall or the Herzliya Outlet with second-hand, name-brand clothing.
- Wander among the ruins in Apollonia National Park.
- Ride the bike trails and then picnic by the lake in Herzliya Park.
- Dine on rolls and sushi at Nammos or Running Sushi. Herzliya is famous for fresh fish. Plus a view of the sea.
Where to go?
Ten kilometers from the city on the road to Tel Aviv is a complex of caves Afek, which once served as a cemetery. Outside, irises, tulips and buttercups bloom iridescently, depending on the season. A little further away is the Valley of Daffodils.
This city is called the “forgotten son” of tourism because most people often bypass it. Although it is where Mary lived and where Jesus Christ grew up. It is now an Arab city, but the pilgrimage is still going on.
Don’t worry, in addition to the churches and religious monuments, there are restaurants, bars and stores.
What to do?
- Stand on the spot where Mary received the news that she was pregnant with God’s son. It’s now the Basilica of the Annunciation.
- Wander around the Arabian shuk (market) and see what tourists are offered. Do not forget to haggle.
- Taste oriental sweets at Almahdi Sweets.
- Go back to the first century A.D. visiting the Nazareth Village. It is an open-air museum with preserved items of ancient life.
- Buy oils and spices in the store near the mill “El Babur”.
- Hike to holy places: St. Joseph’s Church, Mensa Christi, Salesian Church, and the Chapel of Our Lady in Fear.
Where to go?
Just a short drive away is the Sepphoris National Park, home to outlandish mosaics and archaeological finds, such as the Roman theater. Nine kilometers from Nazareth stands the sacred Mount Tabor, where Christ appeared to his disciples.
This is not exactly Israel: go to Palestine
Israeli citizens can not go to all the places on the West Bank – the autonomy is divided into three zones with different levels of tolerance. Thus, Israelis are not allowed into Bethlehem (non-Israelis are!), but into the monastery of Mar Saba in the desert.
There is a Banksy hotel in Bethlehem – a lot of the artist’s work in the lobby and in the rooms. The hotel looks directly at the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: Banksy himself called it “the hotel with the most disgusting view in the world. It can be reached by bus from Jerusalem.
The Mar Saba Monastery is an Orthodox Greek monastery in the Judean Desert, which belongs to the Jerusalem Church. It is difficult to get there, you have to walk part of the way. The monastery is for men, women are not allowed on its territory (although once visited Bozhena Rynska).
Traveling in Israel
Those who go to Israel, often face the question: to visit Jerusalem, to see Tel Aviv, or to Eilat, to swim and look at the fish? Our travel expert tells you how to do everything at once – and for ten days to see the main sights and have a great vacation.
Tel Aviv → Judean Desert → Masada → Ein Gedi → Eilat.
Days 1-6. Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a city of velvety beaches, piquant food and colorful architecture. Here the cultures of two religions, modern social movements and the unique spirit of the Middle East.
For your stay in Tel Aviv we suggest staying at the Link Hotel & Hub, a four star hotel.
How to get from the airport to the hotel
The train from the airport goes to the Central Station Tel Aviv-Savidor Center. The travel time is 21 minutes. The ticket costs 13.50 NIS. From the station to the hotel it will take about 15 minutes (1.2 km).
A cab ride will cost about 110-140 NIS.
Beaches in Tel Aviv
The beaches of Tel Aviv stretch out one after the other, forming a long stretch of soft sand that meets the azure Mediterranean Sea. There are all the necessary infrastructure for a comfortable holiday in the sun: changing rooms, free awnings, lifeguard towers and cafes.
The picturesque marina separates the main strip of beaches from the entertaining Dog Beach, where owners come to relax with their pets, and the cozy beach of Mecicim.
Along the coast stretches the Tel Aviv promenade, the attraction of the city. In the evening, it offers breathtaking views of the setting sun, illuminating the sky with bright colors.
Carmel Market, or Shuk Carmel, is known for its excellent selection of fruit and local delicacies, its Middle Eastern flavor, and its many eateries and cafes serving street food and full meals.
Be sure to try the freshly squeezed pomegranate juice here, buy some sweets, and don’t forget to haggle – local vendors always overcharge foreigners.
The market is open from 8:00 to 18:00 every day except Saturday.
It can be accessed from Allenby St or from the other streets surrounding the market.
Jaffa is an old colorful part of Tel Aviv with beautiful buildings and narrow lanes. Jaffa is built entirely from large sand-colored cobblestones, which give the area a special charm and create an atmosphere of fairy tale. Here you can find funny sculptures “Laughing Whale” and “Suspended Orange Tree”, admire the city from the park Abrasha, and descend the stairs to the old Jaffa port.
Walk around Jaffa for hours and enjoy the atmosphere of calm and solitude. Be sure to check out the small stores and galleries selling jewelry, handmade sculptures, and ceramics, and try the seafood in the harbor.
Photo: roman tohtohunov / Shutterstock.com
Florentin was once a refugee and immigrant neighborhood. Now its streets are considered a trendy space with street art, bars and clubs. During the day, the streets of Fiorentin are filled with real art, but at night the neighborhood reverts to the atmosphere of the past: poverty and often illegal activity.
The neighborhood extends close to Jaffa and is bounded by Derekh Shalma, Derech Jaffa, Elifelet St. and Herzl St.
Neve Tzedek is a quiet and intimate part of the city. Its neat streets are lined with small two-story houses, full of greenery and flowers, with birds chirping in the trees.
To walk around the neighborhood, go to the Susan Dalal Center (Yehieli St 5, Tel Aviv-Yafo). Neve Tzedek is located near Florentine and Carmel Market.
Rothschild Boulevard cuts through the city linking the southern and central parts of Tel Aviv. A stroll down the avenue reveals a variety of architecture, from ancient Jewish homes to Bauhaus-like pearls.
The promenade is accompanied by modern recreational areas such as hammocks and poufs on which it is pleasant to relax under the shade of the trees. There are also many popular restaurants and bars, and freshly squeezed juices and fruits are available at kiosks.
Photo: ColorMaker / Shutterstock.com
Sarona is a modern space with a great market, a park, and notable shops. The architecture of the project is interesting: two-story stone houses house stores of global and Israeli brands, and between the buildings are recreational areas, ponds with brightly colored fish, and scenic walkways.
The main building is home to Sarona Market, a food pavilion with diverse and rare products from Israel and abroad. There are also bistros and cafes where you can try interesting author’s dishes.
Opening hours: Sat – Wed 9:00pm to 11:00pm, Fri 8:00am to 6:00pm.
Address: Aluf Kalman Magen St 3, Tel Aviv-Yafo
For a break from the stone jungle, head to Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv’s largest green space. The park’s vast area includes the Garden of Stones, Topiary Art Area, tropical groves, and desert plant gardens.
It is also a place to do sports exercises or climbing in one of the climbing courses, to fly in a hot air balloon or to go boating on the Yarkon River.
Old Tel Aviv Port area
The old Tel Aviv Port is a great area for recreation. There are many stores and restaurants with sea views, and long piers and promenades allow you to enjoy walking and biking.
Various events are regularly held in the port area: art exhibitions, dance shows and festivals.
The old port is located in the northern part of the city and can be accessed from Mecicim Beach or from Yarkon Park.
Days 6-7. The Judean Desert and Jerusalem
Early in the morning on the sixth day of your trip move out to the natural attractions of Israel.
The first thing to do is to go to the Masada Fortress. At the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, take bus number 405 to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, you need to take the bus number 444 or 486. The final stop – Masada Center. The entire journey takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes. Tickets cost 53,5 NIS.
Masada National Park
Masada is an ancient rock-top fortress in the Judean Desert. The fortress once belonged to King Herod the Great and his family and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress offers stunning views of the wilderness and the Dead Sea.
There is a cable car that will cost 46 NIS each way to the top of the cliff. You can also climb to the fortress on foot along the so-called Snake Path. The way up it takes about 40 minutes.
Park ticket price: 31 NIS (does not include cable car tickets)
After visiting the fortress go to Ein Gedi reserve, which is located near Masada National Park. To get to the reserve, take bus number 444 or 486. The journey takes about 25 minutes and the ticket costs 16 NIS.
Ein Gedi Reserve
Ein Gedi is a reserve of incredible beauty on the shores of the Dead Sea. Its valley features caves, waterfalls, and wild desert animals. There are several hiking trails of varying difficulty levels in Ein Gedi that lead to the top of the cliff where you can enjoy spectacular views of the valley and the Dead Sea.
When heading to the reserve, take your swimsuit with you to enjoy the coolness in one of its natural pools.
Ticket price: 28 NIS
Finally, head to Jerusalem. You can take bus number 486 from the reserve to the city. The trip takes about 1.5 hours and the ticket costs 34 NIS.
For a walk in Jerusalem allocate the evening of the sixth day of the trip and the morning of the seventh day.
First, go to the Old City. It is divided into three parts: the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Muslim Quarter. There are ancient buildings, colorful markets and several important religious landmarks.
In the Christian Quarter stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is believed that this is where Jesus Christ was once buried. Not far from the temple you can walk along the Via Dolorosa, the street where Christ’s Way of the Cross took place.
In the Western Wall Plaza you will find the Wailing Wall, the greatest holy place of Judaism. Between the Western Wall and Jaffa Gate lies the Jewish Quarter with its quiet streets and flower beds.
A large part of the Old City is occupied by the Muslim Quarter. The main Muslim shrine of the city is the Dome of the Rock mosque with its golden dome and colorful decorations.
Stay overnight at the Shlomtzi Hotel, which is located near the gate leading into the Old City. To book, click on the card.
Days 7-10. Eilat
For the last part of the trip we suggest staying on the coast of the Red Sea Gulf of Aqaba in Eilat.
To get to the city from Jerusalem take bus number 444, which leaves at 15:00 from the Central Bus Station. The trip takes 4 hours and 40 minutes and the ticket costs 70 NIS.
In Eilat stay three nights at the Dan Panorama Eilat Hotel.
Eilat is a resort in the south of Israel, famous for its stunning nature and the richness of the underwater world.
The beaches of Eilat stretch for 12 kilometers. Particularly beautiful is considered a beach Coral (Coral Beach) with piers, going into the sea. It is from the piers you can go into the water to swim surrounded by colorful creatures of the reef.
At Dolphin Reef Beach you can find the bigger sea creatures, the dolphins.
In addition to relaxing by the azure waters of the bay you can go to Timna Park with its desert landscapes and rocks of unusual shapes, as well as to the Red Canyon with its mesmerizing curves of the relief.
To see the park and canyon, we suggest you take a day trip with Shanti Jeep Safari.
How to get from the hotel to the airport
Take the Route א50 bus at the Tarshish/Dorban stop (5 minute walk from the hotel). The trip takes about 50 minutes and the ticket costs 4,20 NIS.
A cab ride will cost 110-140 NIS.
Day 10. Flight to Tel Aviv
On the tenth day there will be a flight to Tel Aviv, and then back to Moscow. You can find comfortable flights on OneTwoTrip.