Many people who come to Israel are at least aware of its historical and religious significance. For me, I was interested in the religious aspect of the country as much as the bohemian elements that make this country so unique. Here are a few highlights from my trip.
Haifa & Akko
Located in the north of Israel, Haifa is the country’s third largest city with The Bahá’í Gardens serving as the most important religious site for the Bahá’í people. Akko is the ancient Phoenician and Crusader seaport and is designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO. While many travelers tend to skip Akko, I definitely recommend taking a tour of the secret city, the fishermen’s port and Turkish bazaar.
Jerusalem – The Old City
An important city for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, Jerusalem often requires more time than other large cities. Most of the historic monuments are located in the Old City including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Western Wall and Dome of the Rock. The New City has an eclectic series of cafes, restaurants, bars and dance clubs. Jerusalem is a walkable city, making it relatively easy to travel between the Old and New cities.
Galilee & Tiberias
There are several sites located near the Sea of Galilee that are worth a visit. The Yigal Alon Museum at Ginosar houses a First Century wooden sailing boat found by two brothers in the Sea of Galilee. An important event in Christianity, the Mount of Beatitudes is also located nearby. Tiberias is a historical resort town along the Sea of Galilee and one of Israel’s four holy cities. We didn’t spend too much time here but it does have a nice beach front with many bars, restaurants and shops.
The Dead Sea & Masada
It’s hard to come to Israel and not make a detour to swim in the Dead Sea. The large amount of salt causes people to float, making for many touristy yet amusing photographs. Close to the Dead Sea is Masada, a mountain and fortress with a very interesting story. Build by King Herod, Masada was the last stronghold in the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 73 CE. TThe men of Mesada chose death over slavery to the Romans, killing their families before the attack.
Caesarea & Capernaum
Speaking of ancient ruins, Caesarea National Park is a day trip in itself, although we stopped by for just a few hours. Here, you can visit the remains of the Roman theatre, hippodrome, bathhouse and Herodian port – all part of the old Crusader city and former Roman Capital. Capernaum is an old Jewish fishing village and the place where Jesus began his Ministry. The site includes ruins of the ancient synagogue, church and original stones from this era.