10 things to do this summer
BY Lee Saunders DATE 19/07/2017
The summer holidays have arrived, the shorts and sun cream are packed. You are ready to unwind. While rest and relaxation may be the order of the day, you want to make sure you see everything you want to in the time you have.
Among so many activities to choose from, we suggest 10 incredible things you should do in Israel this summer.
1. Boat Ride on Kinneret
With temperatures soaring in Israel in the summertime, it is no surprise that heading to water is always a popular choice. The Med, Red or Dead Sea provide visitors with a huge raft of options to enjoy, for riding above and exploring below, from swimming and surfing, to paddle boarding and scuba diving.
One of our own particular favorites is to take a boat ride on the Kinneret, known as the Sea of Galilee, which is actually the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the largest in Israel. Located in the northeast of the country, the Sea of Galilee is a major attraction for campers, swimmers (every September, there is the Kinneret Crossing) and Christian pilgrims who come to see where Jesus carried out miracles, such as walking on water.
There is no need for you to walk, though, there are many tour companies offering boat trips. Stay at one of the nearby kibbutzes (communal farms) or campsites, take in the early sunrise, and unwind in one of the most peaceful spots on Earth.
2. Scuba Diving in Eilat
While spectacular views lie above the water here, there are hidden treasures glimmering underneath the water’s surface at the other end of Israel – in the Red Sea. Deep beneath the pale blue waters, there is a treasure chest of life awaiting snorkelers and divers.
Be as close to nature as you possibly can be by taking a memorable dive at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve, a world of technicolor, a short drive south of the Dolphin Reef Eilat, a unique ecological site, where visitors magically bond with dolphins in their natural habitat, a memory to treasure and a high point of any trip to Eilat.
3. Floating in the Dead Sea
A stay at one of the luxurious Dan Hotels is often a high point for visitors to Jerusalem but one of the most incredible high points is actually the lowest point on Earth – the Dead Sea. Lying 40km away from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea is quite simply one of the most enduring experiences you will ever have.
It is famous for its therapeutic qualities and high concentration of minerals, particularly its salt content, which is 10 times greater than the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and allows bathers to float magically on the surface, almost like being in outer space. An unforgettably strange feeling, I always recall my own first time there, watching two elderly ladies sitting on plastic chairs float past, one reading a newspaper, the other talking to her.
Take a dip, cover yourself in mud, soak up the rays and breathe in one of the most surreal experiences of your life.
4. Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
While not one single creature lives in the Dead Sea, The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is home to more than 2,500 mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, many of which are mentioned in the Bible. Like Noah who saved the animals from the Great Flood, the zoo is a pioneer in protection, preservation and conservation.
You will encounter animals that are native to Israel yet are becoming extinct in the wild, as well as many other endangered species from around the world. It is easy to navigate yourself through the 62-acre site, and stroll down shaded paths, marvelling at the character and personalities of the Syrian Brown Bear, the Persian Leopard, Red Panda and Chimpanzees, to name but a few.
5. Old City and Tower of David
You won’t find too many chimpanzees walking through the old city of Jerusalem but a trip here is one of the must-sees for anyone coming to Israel. Whether your interest is historical or pure fascination, Jerusalem never disappoints.
The Tower of David, or Jerusalem Citadel, stands proudly at the western edge of the old city, which is shrouded in mystery and secrets. Jerusalem – also known as the city of gold – continues to shine, inviting you to explore a medley of cultures, the famous holy sites of the three monotheistic faiths dating back thousands of years.
Weaving your way through the narrow alleyways, you are greeted with pure architectural and historical splendor, and the feeling that you are in the heart of a city like no other.
The Western Wall, or Kotel, lies in the Jewish Quarter, beneath which you can take a fascinating tour of the tunnels. Nearby, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the spectacular Dome of the Rock lie in the nearby Muslim Quarter, while the Church of the Holy Sepulchers is one of the many highlights in the Christian and Armenian Quarters.
6. Night out in Tel Aviv
While Jerusalem is often known as the “City of Gold,” Tel Aviv is often nicknamed the “White City” on account of more than 4,000 Bauhaus (or Bauhaus-style) buildings brought over by German Jewish architects in the 1930s.
It is also the city where visitors paint the town red – every night of the week. Frothing with cafés, such as Olive Korner and Café Bucke, the city offers an array of cocktail bars, such as the New York style 223 and speakeasy Bellboy, or you can dance on the tables at the popular ZooZoo nightclub, one of many across the city.
The city that barely sleeps gives New York and London a run for its money. Nothing typifies a good night out in Tel Aviv more than Layla lagan, or White Night, this year on June 29, and one of the city’s biggest cultural nights. From beach concerts and parties to exhibitions, live music and performances, there are dozens of events across the city keeping the most caffeinated visitors enthralled.
7. Romantic Jaffa
A pleasant summer stroll down the boardwalk from Tel Aviv brings you to the eternal Jaffa, whose courtyards, narrow passageways and cobbled alleys are a rich part of Tel Aviv’s urban tapestry.
From the historic port or the artist galleries, the city is ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of nearby Tel Aviv, and is perfect for a relaxing walk after a romantic dinner at any of the authentic local restaurants, with particular favorites, the spacious and sumptuous Arab restaurant Al Ashi while ALADI considered a must for its beautiful fish dishes and its spectacular views of Tel Aviv.
8. Ashkelon National Park
Further down the Mediterranean coast, just an hour from Tel Aviv and Jaffa, is the ancient city of Ashkelon, whose fascinating Ashkelon National Park displays archaeological remains link to the many rulers and civilizations that lived here, including the Canaanites, Philistines, Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and many others. Marble and granite columns and statues allude to the city’s history under Roman rule.
9. Ancient Caesarea
In the ancient city of Caesarea, you can transport yourself back to Roman times too, with a guided tour of the Caesarea National Park, a splendid reminder of the city’s ancient past when Herod the Great converted the small town into a small town thriving with a port, warehouses, markets, wide streets, bathhouses, temples and impressive public buildings.
Take a stroll along the promenade at sunset and absorb the view from above the Roman theatre and imagine life here more than 2,000 years ago before resting at the Dan Caesarea Hotel, the perfect spot from which to explore the city’s rich history.
10. Sunrise at Masada
If you are a photo junkie, sunrise at Masada is incomparable. The ancient fortification on the edge of the Judaean desert overlooks the Dead Sea and offers immense panoramic views matched only by the significance of the area, both historically and archaeologically.
Remembered for the Herodian palaces and Roman siege of Masada, both almost 2,000 years ago, today many pilgrimage to the site to take an early morning trek, approximately an hour, to the top of the mountain. Watch the sun peak through the Jordanian mountains. Unless you are there, no photo can ever do it justice.
Whether it is sunrises or sunsets, on land or at sea, these are some of the many sizzling attractions in Israel to savor this summer. Pack that sun cream.
Written by Lee Saunders