Worth It: Israeli Tourism Edition
There are SO many tourist attractions and hot tourist spots across Israel. However, not all tourist spots are created equal. So which are the best places to visit on your next trip, and where should you skip? Check out the 10 most common tourist attractions, ranked from trap to treasure:
1. The Dead Sea
By far one of the most well-advertised tourist attractions in all of Israel, the Dead Sea is certainly a must-do for visitors coming from around the world. However, this site isn't all it's cracked up to be. Yes, you can float without swimming in the water, and sure, the mud is fun to play with and good for your skin. But take more than a few hours at the Dead Sea and you'll run out of things to do (not to mention how much that paper cut on your finger is going to sting).
2. Camel Rides in the Negev
Most people who travel to Israel for the first time or go on short, organized trips spend at least an evening riding camels in the Negev. However, this experience is entirely curated for tourists and inaccurate to the experience of an actual native Israeli. Not that it's not fun, it's just not an authentic experience.
3. Any Beach in Tel Aviv
Going to the beach is a fun excursion, but it's not the best use of an afternoon. The best choice of the Tel Aviv beaches is Banana Beach, which is clean, but you're missing out on countless museums and experiences when you spend 6 hours playing matkot and drinking Goldstar. Stop by, but don't stick around for ~too~ long if you want to explore.
4. Ben Yehuda Street
Ah, Ben Yehuda Street. The tourist's one-stop shop for all things Judaica. If you're looking for a place to buy a cheap hams necklace and some kipper, this is the place for you. But most tourists do it wrong and leave when they're done souvenir shopping. There are restaurants, bars, and tons of snacks to try. Do it right or don't do it at all! (And whatever you do, do NOT wear your trip name tag... that's basic.)
Masada is an ancient fortress atop a mountain and is the site of a revolt against the Roman empire in 66 which resulted in the mass suicide of Jews fighting from there. It's a place of history and beauty... as long as you don't dehydrate on the way up. The Snake Path is infamous among young travelers for being a tough hike down, so be careful! Go for sunrise and you're sure to have the best views and the nicest temperatures. Definitely do this once, but don't feel bad if you don't go on every visit.
Eilat is the tropical vacation spot of Israelis and tourists alike. It's home to some of the best snorkeling, scuba diving, and water sports in the Middle East. Its tayelet is a bit corny, but it's so much fun to spend an evening enjoying the fantastic weather and beautiful scenery. Check out some of the local hikes for a full-day experience!
7. The Kotel
The Kotel is the western retaining wall of the Second Temple in ancient Israel. As the holiest site in Judaism, the Kotel is one of the most visited sites in Jerusalem and perhaps in all of Israel. It's certainly a must-do for any trip, but most people expect a little too much out of the visit. Some people have spiritual experiences at the Kotel, and some don't feel much at all. Don't raise your expectations too much, dress modestly (though you don't need a floor-length skirt like you might think), and remember to bring a note!
8. Bahai Gardens
The Bahai Gardens in Haifa are a sight to see. The Bahai World Center is the spiritual and administrative home of the Bahai faith and is host to one of the most highly regarded natural sites in Israel. The gardens are majestic and massive, covering the full length of a tall hill in the middle of Haifa. Any tourist who misses an opportunity to learn about the Bahai faith and see the expansive gardens has left a gaping hole in their travel itinerary.
9. Machane Yehuda
Machane Yehuda is the heart of West Jerusalem and a hotspot for visitors looking for a taste of Israeli cuisine and culture. Do it wrong, and your experience consists mostly of a tour guide waving a flag for you to follow and eating sugary gummies out of a plastic bag. Do it right, though, and you can take a flavorful tour of Israeli takes on food from around the world, enjoy some of the freshest fruits around, and meet tons of interesting people. Just don't be afraid to haggle and push your way through the crowds for the best deal!
10. Cesarea National Park
In my experience, Cesarea is one of the most overlooked destinations in Israel. Cesarea National Park is a collection of ruins from the time of King Herod and is an impressive archeological site. The coastline is beautiful, the restaurants in the area are classy, and all of the sites are filled with history to discover. You could spend all day there!
Where else do you love to visit? Is there anywhere else you would skip? Think about some of these spots when you're planning for your next trip, and you can make a trip that is perfect for you!