Israel’s a wonderful place for a summer holiday, with a real variety of activities for young and old. Whether you’re young and curious, a family with kids or a live-wire who is looking for constant activity, you can find it here. We’ve put together a list of five great activities that aren’t just fun, but they won’t break the bank either. Enjoy your summer in this unique country…
1. Take a hike – Israel’s an amazing place to take a hike, and even in the summer, as long as you dress appropriately and carry plenty of water, there are plenty of trails to enjoy. One we’d recommend is the Golan Trail – and you can join it at all different points. The actual starting point is 10 minutes drive from Majdal Shams but a good place to pick it up is Mount Bental.
The scenery is both beautiful and varied – from rocky valleys to flowing rivers (with well-deserved shade in which you can rest). The trail runs along all kinds of sites… the Nimrod Fortress, the Hula Valley, Ein Mokesh (a beautiful spring) to name but a few. You can hike past Druze Villages, established kibbutzes and the Gamla nature reserve. Soak up that scenery – and check out the map here…
2. Wander the Old City of Jerusalem – You could spend days, if not weeks, wandering inside the walls of this astonishing city. Home to three major religions, and crammed with history, culture and religious sites (all of which are free to visit) the only question is where to begin?
The “Big 3” are obviously the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and Dome of the Rock, but the Old City but if you’re curious, just head off the main streets and let yourself get lost. There are nooks and crannies everywhere – tiny courtyards, small churches, stores that sell hand-made jewellery and religious souvenirs…and from the top of the Austrian Hospice on the Via Dolorosa (where they serve delicious coffee and apple strudel) you can admire panoramic views.
3. Float in the Dead Sea – Who doesn’t want to spend a day at the lowest (and saltiest) place on earth, and have endless fun in the process? Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Israel or a local, the Dead Sea’s a great place for a day out. It’s also great for anyone with ailments – the water is high in minerals, ultraviolet rays are lower and there the lack of pollen and allergens in the air makes it perfect for those with asthma.
And if you don’t want to pay an admission charge, try the Neve Midbar beach. There are swimming pools, a restaurant and bar and mud pools, where you can slather yourself in the black stuff for free. Just remember, if you want to go into the Dead Sea itself, and read a newspaper whilst you enjoy the view, the salt’s going to go into any wound you have. Watch out!
Other than that, float, relax and enjoy!
4. Hike in Mitzpe Ramon’s crater – ok, you’re going to have to get up early to do this, but not only is it free but it’s astonishingly beautiful. Mitzpe Ramon (about 2.5 hours drive from Tel Aviv and easily accessible by bus) is home to the world’s largest crater. Some say it came about as a result of meter impact or volcanic eruption, but in fact it was formed as a result of water erosion. With it’s distinctive heart shape, and at 40 km long and 9 km wide, it’s Israel’s largest national park.
The shortest hike is around 2km and longer ones go much further but you will need to be mindful of the midday heat (so begin with the sunrise). Walk through sandstone hills, gaze at the desert flora and fauna, admire the endless rock formations and soak up the deafening silence. At night, throughout the summer, Mitzpe holds free jazz concerts in the town centre, where you can grab a coffee or juice and listen to music under the stars. Camping grounds are close by which makes this small desert town a great place to spend a budget weekend.
5. Go to the beach – Israel has almost 200 kilometres of fabulous beaches – white sand, clear water and endless facilities – and at least 50 of them are free to the public. Obviously, it all depends what you’re looking for – cafes and bars, noise and action, water sports, peace and quiet…but for sure there’s something for everyone.
Tel Aviv has a wide variety – including one for dogs, one for water sports, one for surfing and another that’s segregated (for the more religious public). All have cafes and bars lifeguards and volleyballs facilities, and on Banana Beach on Friday afternoon, locals bring their drums to drum in the Sabbath….
Outside of the centre, there’s Gaash, Habonim, Mayan Tzvi, Caesaria and Achziv to name but a few. Gaash has a nude section (for those who are more risque), Caesaria is next to some spectacular Herodian ruins and Achziv has natural water breakers and wonderful sea pools. With a book, an umbrella and picnic, you’re all set…come early and stay until sunset.