This city dates back to Canaanite times when it was occupied and served as an adminstrative center for the conquering Egyptians. The city reached its prime in Roman times and was abandoned in 749 AD after an earthquake.
Beautiful spot on one of the most contentious borders in the world.
Chalk outcrop that juts out to sea (hence the natural border) - on a sunny day (about 320 of them a year), the white of the chalk against the blue sea is spectacular.
'Inside' the outcrop a series of sea caves that can be explored by foot, irridescent green and turquoise sea, white tipped waves breaking.
A small furnicular will take you down to the caves.
Not a place to spend the whole day, but there's plenty round it to keep you occupied (south of the border, obviously) including the extraordinary beach (don't know the geographical terminology but flat, layered rocks ) with occasional small rocky outcrops. Beach leads on to Akhziv National Park.
Akhziv and Rosh Hanikra together can certainly occupy you for a day, although the (small) mountains to the east including the Keshet (natural rock 'bridge') are spectacular (northern Israel is a personal favourite).
Note that part of Hanikra is out-of-bounds as it forms part of the border. Army stationed there but other than one spot where lookout is stationed (looking out to sea), they do not interfere with the enjoyment (remember it is part of the 'quiet' border with Lebanon). Part of the rock also formed the railway tunnel from Haifa North - so there is a bit of an explanation about its history and there is short introductory film if you are interested.
The town of Mitzpe Ramon is the main service town of the Central Negev. Not that is saying much :)
It's a sleepy little place - although it has a couple of hotels, cafes, banks etc. But it is also built at the cliff edge of 'Mitzpe ramon' - the big crater. Thousands of years ago, a meteorite slammed into the earth at this point, creating an extraordinary 'big crater', with the land dropping steeply away on the outskirts of the town (and rises again just as steeply to the south).
Desolate, spectacular, controversial - the incredibly inhospitable Judeaen desert, with little water, forms 'the borders' between Israel and the Palestinian Authority - land which, in part, is gradually being encroached upon by settlements leading out of Jerusalem but which is officially to be part of the state of Palestine.
Eking out a living in this environment are Bedouin tribes, with many small encampments to be found. Between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, there are also kibbutzim that have made 'the desert green'. creating sustainable living conditions.
For 2-3 weeks in the year (approx March) the approaches to the Negev desert are covered in carpets of wildflowers (mainly red anemones).
It's a beautiful sight, especially knowing that less than 20kms away the desert is almost inhospitable. Hundreds of cars head south from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to see the sight - and it is stunning.
A fabulous hike through the desolate wadi of the Negev to the spring of Ein Ziq.
A 5 hour round trip from Sde Boquer (Ben Gurion's burial place) that takes you through some stunning landscapes. The round trip is quite an arduous hike (although it involves little in terms of climbing, there are a lot of steep pathways). If it's not your bag or it is simply too hot, head along the valley floor to the spring and return the same way.
Discovered as recently as 1997, the ruins had remained covered for nearly 2000 years.
Only opened to the public in February 2002, archaelogists believe this could be one of the most important discoveries in the region for years. There's not a great deal uncovered at the moment, but what there is is deeply impressive (and you can walk among the alleys, streets and foundations).
But it is believed that there is still much more to uncover - including an amphitheatre, making it as important as the coastal town of Caesarea. Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman as well as Ayyuban (local residents of the 13th century) remains are all to be found on this one site, as well as the natural beauty of the landscape and, a hard up-hill 2km hike away, the magnificent Crusader Nimrod Fortress.
Quite an incredible place. (And if you go in winter, you may see it all under snow!)
Ruins of 3rd Century BC temple to Pan.
The main temple backed on to an enormous cave in the cliff-face. To the side, a host of smaller buildings (now all ruins) and carved lintels into the cliff-face. Columns, capitals etc litter the site.
The site is also the spring of the Banias river - immediately below the ruins are ancient dams, creating a whole series of pools, fed by ice-cold (even in the height of summer) waters. The dams and waters pass the foundations of 6th century Byzantine Church and a 19th century Ottoman Mosque before leading off to the waterfalls and Banias Falls (1 hour hike).
The hike is sun-dappled along the banks of the gurgling Banias and Gov HaZor streams, - glimpse the peaks of the Dov and Hermon mountain range (and therefore see across to Lebanon) through the breaks in the willows and fig trees. A 15 minute walk will bring you the Roman bridge, where the the two streams actually meet (and later go on to join the River Jordan), 5 minutes beyond that and you come to the Ottoman flour mill, only opened to the public in 2002. Keep walking!
Another 5 minutes and you are at fork in path - decide whether to go on to Banias Falls 30 minutes away or back towards the car-park. If you chose the second option (and you will have to return this way anyway unless you have travelled with 2 cars and left the 2nd at the entrance to the Falls), the extraordinary ruins of the Palace of Agrippa await you. (see next recommendation).
Opening times: April-September: 8am-5pm
October - March: 8am - 4pm
Known as Kayaking, but in reality inflatable dinghies for 2 or 4 people.
Take a short (1 hour) or long (between 2-3 hours dependent how often you want to stop and how good you are at controlling the boat!) trip.
Fantastic experience - the longer trips start high above the source of the Jordan on the Dan or Banias rivers. Dependent on the season, the degree of difficult varies accroding to the water level. Whilst hardly white water rafting, it is nevertheless a thrilling experience careering along the wild waters and through the eddies and small waterfalls.
Tree-lined virtually all the way, the journey slows down to a more sedate and calmer pace as it reaches the slightly wider River Jordan. You will get very wet but hey, its the waters of the River Jordan.....
Roman city (hence caesar) on the coast that has a long, chequered history (hence the reason why there is a Bosnian mosque from the 19th century). (You can ignore the modern 'town' as it is nothing more than a des'res place for seriously wealthy people to build modern villas with pools etc..)
Restored amphitheatre (used for major concerts,opera, dance) but which still has an atmosphere of days gone by, the grounds littered with artefacts). This is at the southern end of the old city.
Major digs continue to expose the old city between the amphitheatre and the port - mosaics, steam baths, buildings etc - about 1 km to the north and running along the coast (constantly changing, finding more and more interesting things to see).
Shallow beach which can be pleasant to break the explorations - can find small pieces of coloured sea-worn glass (some of it ancient, some if likely to be nothing more than weathered Heineken bottles, but in small pieces and large numbers and look rather lovely).
The port is the most rennovated part of the site (a little too much for my personal liking as it includes 2 or 3 restaurants, a couple of shops) but there is still enough to see without the over-development spoil the exploration. Completely natural (albeit small) harbour, with much now under the sea (earthquakes etc resulting in the city literally 'sliding below the surface). Walled moated city, with parts of the moats, the original walls and the gatetowers can be explored. To the north of the port is the remains of an aquaduct (for real ruins afficiandos).
Caesarea is one of the highlights of Israel's ruins and you can easily spend a few hours here, combining it with a lazy time on the beach. Avoid Saturdays as is very busy (also popular for the setting for wedding photos). Try and combine with a performance in the amphitheatre.
It is a little awkward to get to if you are relying on public transport - closest train stations are Pardes Hanna and Binyamina (a taxi or bus is then required).
Delightful small, essentially Arab, town on the north Mediterranean coast. The Old City is a wealth of alleys, semi-derelict buildings, Crusader subterranean vaults and cisterns all built round a charming port, one of the oldest in the world.
There's lots to do in Akko - the Citadel, the port itself, take a cruise along the coastline, the Mosque and just wandering through the old city, the market, the old walls and more.
The newer part of Akko is of less interest to the casual visitor - residential with little history.
Akko is easily reached as it is on the train line and is some 90 minutes from Tel Aviv, 20-30 minutes from Haifa.
The road that circumvents the Dead Sea cuts along the shoreline. As the waters sadly retreat due to lack of fresh water and over-extraction of the minerals, so the landscape proves to be wholly inhospitable and almost barren - the only exception being the occasional natural spring running down the slopes from the Jerusalem Hills.
There are pathways that head inland, normally following dry creek beds.
Capital of the northern Israeli Arab population and a modern, bustling city, Nazareth is not quite what tourists and Christian pilgrims expect. And, considering it is one of the most important Christian sites, there are actually more mosques than churches.
More or less 100% Israeli-Arab (a neighbourhood on top of the hill - Nazaret Illit - being exclusively Jewish), it has a very different feel to many larger Israeli towns and, built on the slopes of many hills, is very steep - not always that easy to move around.
Reportedly the home of Mary and Joseph, the 'son of God's' parents, it is in Nazareth Gabriel informed them of their forthcoming child and where he lived until early adulthood. As a result, the Church of Annunciation (a modern, ugly building built on the site of 5 previous churches) is to be found in the middle of the town along with many other monasteries and churches, including St Gabriel, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, an alternative spot to the Gabriel visitation a few hundred metres from the other Church of Annunciation.
Mosques are mainly found in the old quarter of town around the market. Less in the public eye are the interiors of many (now) private homes and their stunning, ornate murals and friezes from the early and mid-19th century.
Nazareth Village is a recreation of Biblical times with actors playing roles of everyday people.
See separate Nazareth page
We came here to visit the Shrine of the Book and the impressive model of Jerusalem.
The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls that were found some years at Qumran - which at the time got the world talking as they were found to be the worlds oldest biblical manuscripts and showed the biblical manuscripts being used today were in accurate correlation.
Some other very ancient manuscripts are also displayed here.
The Model of Jerusalem is a huge model of Jerusalem up until the destruction of the 2nd Temple period by the Romans in 70AD.
We also enjoyed a wander around the sculpture garden outside which included the 'famed' sculpture of 'Man on Horse' made in 1992 by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Going to the Israel Museum website proves very informative - in addition to what we came to see this visit the museum houses nearly 500,000 items making it the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel.
Featuring the most extensive holding of biblical and Holy Land archeology in the world it is ranked among the worlds leading art and archeological museums.
Since we visited in 2008 the 20 acre Museum campus has been extensive upgraded.
Open Sat, Sun, Mon, Wed 10am-5pm
Fri and holidays 10am-2pm
closed on special holidays such as Yom Kippur 25-25 September
Buses 7, 9, 14, 35 come past as would I would imagine the hop-on hop-off bus
The oldest continually-in-use port in the world (more than 4,000 years), Jaffa is now part of the greater Tel Aviv-Yafo metropolis. It was the overcrowding in the old port that led to Jews moving 2 or 3 kms further north (present day Neve Tzedek neighbourhood) that led to the founding of the city of Tel Aviv a little over 100 years ago.
The old port, with its steep alleys full of galleries, antique shops, theatres and occasional cafe, is a major attraction, as is the port itself, full of fishing boats, tourist craft and the occasional yacht. The old boat sheds are being slowly converted into cafes, restaurants and function rooms, but there is still enough character remaining to wile away a few hours.
Away from the old port and towards Jerusalem Boulevard is the Turkish early 20th century clock tower, the centre of 'modern day' Jaffa, with its cafes, bakeries, tourist shops and the famed Flea Market.
(See separate Tel Aviv page)
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