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Israel see + do

Sightseeing in Israel mixes ancient with modern, hip with historic, even sacred with profane. Barely six decades old—but with five millennia of history—Israel is a cultural and technological marvel, but one with an edge that's authentic, sometimes unsettling, and yet always remarkable.

In Jerusalem, visitors see Biblical passages come to life in the Old City at sites like the iconic Dome of the Rock, Western Wall, and Via Dolorosa. At the Dead Sea, salt-rich waters and mineral-packed mud help transform the world's lowest point into its largest natural spa. In Nazareth and Galilee, you can follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples through tiny monasteries and centuries-old pilgrimage spots. And at Caesarea, you can stroll between a Roman-era hippodrome on one side and Crusades-era forts on the other—before teeing off at Israel's only golf course.

Yet in cities such as Tel Aviv and Eilat, there's a 21st-century Israel that's almost as eclectic and innovative as Europe or America. Tel Aviv is Israel's cultural and commercial powerhouse, where 12 miles of beachfront separate the Mediterranean from the world's largest collection of Bauhaus buildings; restaurants serving world-class cuisine; and fashion, art, and design scenes that are just beginning to be discovered by the outside world. Southern Tel Aviv neighborhoods such as Noga, Florentine, and Neve Tzedek are Israel's buzzing centers of creativity. Best of all, with its compact size and near-flat topography, Tel Aviv is the ultimate walking or biking town, with easy-to-follow urban treks past its most compelling aesthetic offerings.

At Israel's southern tip, on the Red Sea coast, the town of Eilat is a warm-weather playground with contemporary waterfront hotels, a Technicolor coral reef, and the promise of desert adventures amid towering sand dunes. At the opposite extreme, Israel's northern Mount Hermon region is a snowcapped surprise, with ski lifts, 14 slopes, and 28 miles of runs from December to April. In between, in this country of only 8,000 square miles, visitors can hike past Byzantine churches and along orchard-filled trails in the Jerusalem Hills and experience Israel's burgeoning artisanal cheese, wine, and organic food scene.

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Beaches of Israel

With its long swath of Mediterranean coastline (plus the Red Sea), Israel is a beach-lover's paradise. Here are some of the country's best beach bets. Eilat:...more

Editors' Pick
Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Although it's only about five miles from Jerusalem, a trip to Bethlehem (technically located in the West Bank) requires some strategic planning, as...more

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Caesarea, Caesarea

Located on the coast 35 miles north of Tel Aviv, Caesarea is one of Israel's most important archaeological sites. Built by Roman-appointed King Herod the Great,...more

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Eilat, Eilat

Though still all about the sun, the sea, and shopping, Israel's Red Sea resort has come a long way since its package-tourism roots. Israelis and families of...more

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Ein Kerem, Jerusalem

Like a little slice of Tuscany, Ein Kerem is a quiet village about seven miles west of downtown Jerusalem and an easy day trip from either there or Tel Aviv....more

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Haifa, Haifa

Despite its bad rap among locals, Haifa—Israel's third-largest city (about 60 miles north of Tel Aviv) and one of the few with a mixed Arab–Jewish...more

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Jaffa, Tel Aviv

One of the oldest cities in the world, Jaffa was reputed to be the port from which Jonah set sail for his fateful meeting with a whale. It has since been...more

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Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Considering that it's more than 2,000 years old, Jerusalem has been ripe for a mini-makeover—at least in its modern, Western half. And at long last, it is...more

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Masada and the Dead Sea

Even for the most jaded traveler, a day in the Judean desert is not easy to forget. There are two ways to see Masada: For the fit, wake up early and climb to...more

Editors' Pick
Mini Israel, Latrun

It may be touristy, but Mini Israel makes an ideal kid-friendly pit stop en route from Tel Aviv to either Jerusalem or the Dead Sea. Like a biblical Legoland,...more

Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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