Israel

In Israel, the land is so steeped in history that it can seem like a quality of the very air and even non-religious tourists will find themselves awe-struck by the beauty and majesty of some of the most famous churches, temples, mosques and synagogues in the world.

Ancient, modern, conservative, diverse and crammed with clashing cultures, Israel, a small country no larger than Wales, punches above its weight when it comes to history and lifestyles. Its landscape is diverse, with snow-capped mountains in the north through sweeping hills down to the scorching desert in the south. Most of Israel’s population lives on the narrow coastal plain near the Mediterranean Sea to the west. The Dead Sea which lies between Israel and Jordan is the lowest point on the Earth’s surface at just over 400 meters below sea level. It’s so called because the water is so salty and rich in mineral deposits that no plants and animals can survive there.

A shining highlight of any trip to Israel is surely Jerusalem, its Old City steeped in spiritual history and sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Over a span of thousands of years, Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt time and time again. With its discordant cultures and entangled histories, the Old City provides an extraordinary and intense assault on all the senses. From the prayers of boys being bar mitzvahed at the western (or wailing) wall to church bells ringing out from the church of the Holy Sepulchre and to the Islamic call to prayer, Jerusalem is full to the brim with the sounds of its rich and varied life. You can get totally lost in the narrow alleyways of the Old City, taking in the calls of market traders advertising their wares and breathing in the pungent, musky scent of sandalwood and oranges from nearby fields.

You’ll find sharp contrast in the modern, urban bustle of Tel Aviv. The social scene is young and vibrant and the restaurants here offer food as exciting and delicious as any cutting edge London restaurant. In the ancient port of Jaffa you can relax and wander around the busy flea market full of intriguing stalls selling 20th century antiques, vintage clothing and wonderful arts and crafts. Top beaches, outstanding food, international culture and lots of fun; Tel Aviv has them all. It’s only an hour or so from Jerusalem but these two cities could hardly be more different.

Outside the main cities, there are ancient archaeological sites such as Akko, or Acre, which date back centuries into pre-biblical times. Acre is a profoundly evocative town where you can enjoy wandering around alleyways with age-old walls, mosques, gardens and museums. This atmospheric Crusader stronghold has survived centuries on this Mediterranean peninsula. Once you’ve explored the town, you can have a delicious lunch of fresh-caught fish at one of the many restaurants down by the old port.

Elsewhere, Galilee has an abundance of wineries as well as a beautiful freshwater lake. Haifa has the extraordinary Baha’i Gardens, known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, where garden terraces lead down to the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel. Amazing Israel must be seen to be believed.

The country welcomes millions of visitors to its shores annually, making it one of the most popular places to visit in the Middle East.

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