EAT. PRAY. LOVE. Israel.
After reading my first two blogs about Israel some of you might have already fallen in love with this country and this 3rd blog in the 3 part blog series to Israel will only make your love stronger. But for those of you who haven’t fallen in love with Israel or aren’t convinced about its beauty, after reading this you will definitely want to take the next flight there.
Israel has set the bar so high for us, it’s literally become difficult to choose our next holiday destination. But many still ask – Why Israel? Is it Safe?
To that I would answer WHY NOT ISRAEL! This country has it all from its palatable, delicious food, to its rich and diverse culture, to its breath-taking scenic landscapes and its deep and wide history, why would any traveller not want to come and explore such a gorgeous place. And as for its safety, I can vouch that there is absolutely no threat out there, we felt super safe and secure throughout our trip.
Well, now that, that’s clear-
I want to lure you to plan a trip to this country as soon as possible via my experience. To make it easier, I’ve split my trip to Israel into 3 blogs: EAT, PRAY & LOVE – Each blog describing different facets of my trip to this beautiful country. You can read the first edition – EAT right here and the second edition – PRAY here.
This is the third and my personal favourite edition – LOVE. This one is all about the popular tourist attractions, the scenic landscapes and the breath-taking views this country has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Come fall in LOVE, dive right in…
Day 1 – Exploring Jerusalem
Jerusalem, considered as the holiest place in the world is a city split into two – The Old City & the New City. We were staying in the new part, right in the middle of Jaffa St. (one of the main streets) which made it super easy to navigate wherever we wanted to and I can’t stress enough how perfect this location was.
Old City Jaffa
We reached on a Friday morning, checked-in, freshened up & immediately left for the Old City Jaffa Gate, on our way we explored Ben Yehuda St. and walked down the steps to Mamilla Avenue- a shopper’s paradise in Jerusalem, filled with designer stores like Zara, Mango, American Eagle, Rolex, etc and a couple of cafes. This is the perfect place to chill after you are done exploring the Old City of Jerusalem.
As soon as we entered the Jaffa Gate, on our left we saw the Tourist Information Centre from where we got a map of the Old City – totally worth it, so get it! On the right was the entrance to the Tower of David museum from where we bought our tickets and an audio guide to see the museum. Another interesting thing here was the Night Spectacular – a sound and light show projected on the walls of Tower of David. I would totally recommend it during your stay in Jerusalem.
After we heard and read all about Jerusalem’s history in the Tower of David museum we went to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The walk from the museum to this church was so colourful since we were surrounded with shops selling beautiful jewellery, artefacts, clothes, spices & condiments- the best part was that it was covered hence we were saved from the scorching sun. After seeing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we went to see the Church of Redeemer and then, Temple Mount. (To know more in detail about these holy places read the PRAY edition of Exploring Israel).
Day 2- A trip to Bethlehem
When you’re in Jerusalem, Bethlehem is a must visit. It’s a town in Palestine most famously known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. We took around 4 hours to travel to and explore Bethlehem and on our way back our driver took us to Shepherd’s field – This is the place where the Angels came down to inform the shepherds about Jesus’ birth. It was so beautiful and serene. But other than the history and religion, I was also very interested in the land of Palestine. There was a stark difference as soon as one crosses the border, everything looked more barren, more abandoned, more undeveloped and sadly poor. I would not say it was one bit dangerous, the people were very warm & their economy was also somewhere thriving on the tourists. Moving on, we headed back to Jerusalem for lunch after which we left for Mount Zion.
Mount Zion –
We drove all the way up to Mount Zion just for its amazing view. It’s barely a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem and totally worth it. You can drive up there if you have a personal vehicle and get free parking or you could just take a cab. After Mount Zion we headed back to the main city centre. Since it was Shabbath and everything is usually shut till 9-9:30, once we were back all the restaurants & bars were opening up and town was back on its toes. This was a sight to behold- especially the stark difference between Shabbath & as soon as Shabbath ends.
Day 3 – Visiting the One & Only Dead Sea
We spent our last day in Jerusalem visiting the one and only – Dead Sea. It’s a must, must, must do. Carry a towel, lots of sunscreen, water, food if you are vegetarian, sunglasses, hat and rubber flip-flops to walk on the beach. You can either drive, take a private cab or sign up for a Dead Sea tour to go to Ein Bokek beach. On the way you will cross Ein Gedi beach which has been shut down completely for tourists since the beach in Ein Gedi has developed sink holes. Once you reach Ein Bokek, you will see a lot of hotels around – please do not waste time going there until and unless you plan to spend the night there. They are exorbitantly priced. The beach has a lot of changing rooms & showers & you can pay 10 shekels for a chair to relax on the beach.
The Dead Sea mud can be purchased in packet form from any of the stores on the beach, keep in mind all stores are differently priced for the same mud and you shouldn’t be paying more than 5 shekels for one packet. Apply it on your entire body but not the face, leave it on for 15-20 min and then enter the waters with the mud on. Please do keep in mind, the smallest of cuts/sores/rashes are going to burn as hell in that extremely saline water- there’s a reason it’s called the Dead Sea! The mud starts getting washed off on its own and now comes the best part – just tilt behind and suddenly it’s like gravity is entirely against you, the waterbed pushes you up and there you are floating away to glory. What an experience! So, enjoy and relax in the waters and get lots of pictures, but do not spend more than 20 minutes inside since it gets quite dehydrating.
Day 4 & Day 5 – In and around the Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Akko and Haifa
Sea of Galilee – On our fourth day we drove towards Tiberias to see the Sea of Galilee – A freshwater lake situated between the Golan Heights and the Galilee region whose main source is the Jordan River. After we saw the view of this beautiful sea from the Decks Restaurant we headed straight for the mountains – The region of Golan Heights.
Golan Heights – The Golan Heights was the most overwhelming experience of my life. Apart from just bordering Syria & Lebanon, the Golan region is very famous for its vineyards. But since we aren’t really wine people we skipped them and drove up to Mount Bental all the way up to the peak. Just a piece of caution, you’ll cross a lot of landmines while driving up and most of the Golan region is covered with them so make sure there isn’t any off roading while you are driving 😛
Mount Bental had real time bunkers once upon a time where in soldiers were posted to constantly keep a check on the Israel – Syria border. They have still preserved the bunker which is purely amazing and there are always a couple of United Nations Peace Corps soldiers posted there. In fact we were told that every day they would hear shelling & machine guns being fired due to the fights going on in Syria, luckily the day we went it was quiet. We even saw the border between Israel & Syria.
So you see one can just have so many varied and diverse experiences in Israel within a week’s time.
After Golan Heights we headed towards Akko – a beautiful white-washed Mediterranean town in the north of Israel by the Mediterranean sea.
Akko – At Akko, we stayed right in the centre of its 2000 year old-Old Town in a beautiful apartment by Arabesque. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit any of the touristy sightseeing attractions because everything in the Old Town of Akko shuts by 6pm and we reached pretty late. Since we had only one night in this beautiful town and we wanted to make the most of it we went to the lighthouse by the sea and made sure to click some Instagram worthy pictures.
Haifa – Before leaving for Tel-Aviv our last stop was Haifa. Trust me, no trip to Akko is actually complete without visiting the beautiful Bahai gardens of Haifa. So we entered these from the Upper gate at Mount Carmel at Louis Promenade and explored them after which we left for Tel-Aviv.
Day 6,7,8 & 9 – Wanderlust at Tel-Aviv
Wow! Wow! Wow!
I am going to list down every single detail for you guys to get tempted enough to see this amazing amazing city. Tel Aviv is just THE place to be! We stayed at just the perfect location – Eclectic Aparthotel at the intersection of Allenby & Rothschild Boulevard. The best part of this apartment hotel was that one of the best bars in the city – Sputnik was right in its backyard and it’s also right next to Tony Vespa’s pizza parlour which stays open till 4:00am. While the place does get a little noisy over the weekends we didn’t mind it at all because we loved being in the middle of all the action.
Nachalat Binyamin & Hacarmel Markets – Colourful Markets
On our first day in Tel Aviv we got the chance to attend these beautiful art & food markets, happening on the Nachalat Binyamin St. which was right behind our apartment. This market was very artsy & full of beautiful artefacts, handmade jewellery, vintage products etc. So, after walking past these colourful stalls we headed straight for the Shuk HaCarmel market, selling fruits and vegetables along with lots of food stalls all around.
Rothschild Boulevard – A lively street
That evening we spent our time walking around the entire Rothschild Boulevard. Most of the restaurants on this street were literally at a 2 minute walking distance from us with the exception of a few at the end of the Rothschild Boulevard Street near Habima square that took about 10-12 minutes but we didn’t mind that at all! Basically the location we stayed at was always bustling and wouldn’t ever disappoint you when it comes to food or the nightlife.
Tayelet – A promenade by the beach
Back in the city the Tayelet which is a 5 km promenade by the beach from Jaffa port to the last beach of Tel Aviv is a must must visit. It’s lined up with restaurants and bars and the best place to just cycle around or go for a jog. You can just hit any of the restaurants for a delicious meal or go for some good sheesha or just enjoy the live music in the evening.
Neve Tzedec – Our personal favourite
By far this has been our favourite part of the city, also known as the Soho of Tel Aviv- this area is full of fashion boutiques, avant-garde design stores, artsy shops some amazing cafes, restaurants & ice-cream parlours.
Old part, Jaffa – Known for its flea market, the marina by the port and line of restaurants
This is another intriguing part about this city, although it’s not contemporary it is very unique and old-school in its own way. So we started with the Jaffa flea market that had a lot of stalls, stores, kiosks and boutiques. This part is also known for its port and the entire marina by the port which is lined with some amazing restaurants to enjoy meals by the sea- another experience by itself, and you can read all about it in our Eat edition!
Sarona Complex – The place that has something for all age groups
Every resident of Tel Aviv and every tourist will tell you about Sarona Complex. It has everything one would need to spend their Saturday morning during Shabbat. It has some mom & pop food stores, some stores selling Israeli dry fruits and condiments, Max Brenner, ice cream and yogurt parlous, shops, restaurants, a park for kids – basically a place for all age groups to while away a Saturday.
And sadly that’s the end of our much loved, much awaited and most exciting trip to Israel – the ideal holiday destination. So let’s face it, we all want to do something different from the rest – add some or the other novelty factor to our daily lives and make people go WOW. Nothing beats visiting Israel – as I described, there is a new experience laid out for each day of your travel.
Travel, make it all about the People, the Places & the Stories you live to tell.