Mike's Travel Tips

Israel

Day Area Things to do
- Intro Resources: Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Day 1 Tel Aviv Getting there: Flight to Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion Airport - TLV). You can rent a car at the airport - some of the rental places will take you to the car pickup which is about 2 km from the airport in a hi-tech area. Mobile SIM cards (pre-paid) are pretty cheap and can be bought at the airport - it is acceptable to ask them to insert the card and activate etc. If you want a taxi, the airport has approved taxis - only these taxis are allowed at the airport. As you pass customs and then exit the airport hall, turn left and you will eventually see queue of taxis organized by someone. You can ask them to put on the meter or fixed price. You can also take a train to Tel Aviv from the airport.
Hotels: You have expensive hotels along the beach road, but as Tel Aviv is easy to get around, most areas are good. I wouldn't recommend Jaffa area (at night sometimes feels a bit unsafe). Many airbnb offers and small boutique hotels.
Restaurants:
Minna Tomei: Excellent Asian food restaurant! Offers five different Asian food - Thai, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean. Highly recommend and should book in advance. I would order a few dishes of each food type - Korean Buns with beef etc., Indian Curry Goa, Thai Green Curry, Sushi -- but everything is good!
Day 2 Tel Aviv Sarona Market: The Sarona Market complex was established to be the heartbeat of Israeli culinary art. On an area of 8,700 square meters and with 91 shops of all categories, stalls and restaurants, Sarona Market is Israels largest indoor culinary market and operates seven days a week. Sarona Market is an innovative, contemporary urban market that combines the old world with the new. A gourmet and consumer product market featuring imported cheeses from across the globe, premium balsamic vinegar from Italy, fresh seafood from the Atlantic Ocean, French champagne and spices from the Far East along with the best local produce - fruit and vegetables from Emek Hefer and the Arava, lamb and veal from the Golan Heights, fresh fish from the Mediterranean Sea, local wines, boutique beer, chocolates and hand-made pastries. A central place where you can experience the full intensity of all the flavors of contemporary Israeli culinary art under one roof.


Sarona German Colony Compound: Located adjacent to the Sarona Market, Sarona was established over 140 years ago by German Templars, Christians who headed to the Holy Land and created a colony similar to those found in Haifa, Jerusalem, and elsewhere across Israel (Beit Lechem in the Galilee, for example). The Templar Colony, established before even the first construction of Tel Aviv took place, became a leisure and commerce destination until, in the 1930’s a number of the Templars became engaged in activities with the Nazi Party. The British, who controlled the land at the time, declared the German Templars ‘enemy nationals’ following the outbreak of World War 2, and the Templars were exiled to Germany and Australia. With the Templars gone, the British occupied the colony, fortifying it, and creating there a military base which was attacked numerous times by the Jewish underground groups in the pre-State era. The British handed the Sarona compound to the Jewish leaders in December 1947, and the camp was renamed “Machane Yehoshua” (Joshua’s Camp). Sarona has become one of the hottest destinations in Tel Aviv, with the restored Templar buildings housing an amazing array of boutique stores, and eating and drinking destinations, as well as a visitor center documenting the history and restoration of Sarona, and beautifully landscaped gardens.


Azrieli Shopping Mall: Located about a four minute walk from Sarona is one of Israelis largest and most exclusive malls. It is part of a three-building complex where each is a different shape - triangular, round and rectanglular. The high-rised buildings are occupied by hi-tech, financial and a hotel. If you into shopping, this mthis may be an interesting place to visit; otherwise, give this place a skip.
Day 3 Tel Aviv Jaffa Flea Market: The old market of Jaffa ("Shuk HaPishpushim"), which has been given a "face lift" by the Tel Aviv municipality, is a treasure of antiques, handmade and second-hand items as well as hip and trendy coffee bars and restaurants. The market is located next to Jaffa's Old City and ancient Clock Tower. This port-side neighborhood of alleyways, covered walkways and outdoor verandas has been operating for more than 100 years across the same sprawling streets. Open six days a week, from Sunday through Friday (best day), from morning through early evening hours, this is where to go for finding those unique, one-of-a-kind items from long ago. Recently a number of trendy furniture and clothing shops have cropped up alongside vendors selling traditional Arabic pottery and ceramic items. Restaurants and coffee shops line the streets for weary shoppers to refresh and watch the crowds go by. You can spend a few hours (4 hours) here - I would arrive at 9:00 for breakfast and then meander through the alleyways and streets.

Day 4 Tel Aviv Carmel Market Carmel Market ("Shuuk HaCarmel") is the most famous of all Tel Aviv marketplaces. In past years, it was THE market for fresh and locally grown produce. However, in recent years, it has become very trendy with bars, restaurants, coffee shops and chef-owned food stalls. If you want a great experience of middle eastern markets where the workers at the vergetable and fruit stalls shout out their prices trying to entice buyers to their stalls, then this is the place! The market is one long alleyway, but it does have a few side streets. For a quick hussled bite, you can eat at Arepas - amazing Venezuelan food - or Bunny Chow (South African dish and run by South Africans) - curried meat or vegetables in a bun. But there are many others (Including Ethiopian - see below).

Yemenite District: This neighborhood ("Kerem HaTeimanim" or Yemenites Vineyard) is adjacent to the Carmel Market (see above) and was settled in 1904 by Yemenites who immigrated to Israel in 1881. It was the first area of Tel Aviv to be built outside what was then the thriving port city of Jaffa. This Yemenite Quarter, as it was later called, was the beginning of the new city of Tel Aviv. It is pretty authentic with still old and run-down houses, but paved alleyways and just calmness - you can still feel the authenticity of it. On Fridays after 12:00 or 13:00 it turns into a trendy place with music and small Yemenite restaurants offering fresh and just-made Yeminite humous and tehina with pita! I highly recommend as well the Ethiopian restaurant Balienjera (4 Malan St.). I had a full meal with Ethiopian bread (injera amde from the healthy and I think gluten-free Ethiopion wheat) where the vegetable dishes where placed on the injera. Beautiful Ethiopion-born Israelis - a must - great experience - Ethiopion music in the background! To access the Yeminite district, simply take one of the small side alleyways off the main alleyway of the Carmel Market.


Tel Aviv Port and Beach Front: This is one of the jewels of Israel if you love the beach and sea! Tel Aviv beach front is amazing. There are many different beaches, including one for those who are religious (separate bathing for men and women), beach for dogs, sailing beach, beach popular by the "gay" community and with rainbow flag sun covers, sailing beach, and the long stretch of beach. This is the exciting part of Tel Aviv! The Tel Aviv port is located on the northern end of Tel Aviv. It was Israel's first "new" port, but it's use was discontinued a few years after the establishement of Israel. It is now renovated and its surface is covered by a wooden deck. The place includes shops, restaurants and cultural areas..
Day 5 Masada and Dead Sea As Masada is just off the Dead Sea, it can be visited on the same day as the Dead Sea.
Masada National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous to Jews, this ancient palace and fort is located on top of the Masada mountain in the Judean desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great, king of Israel, built a beautiful palace on the flat-shaped top of the mountain around 31 BC. When the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD (second destruction of the temple) during the Great Jewsih Revolt against the Roman Empire, a Jewish sect (Sicarri) had taken over Masada from the Romans and established a place where Jews could escape to. They held out from the Romans and eventually committed suicide before the Romans conquered it. It is a fascinating story (told by Josephus). A great historical fictionl novel to read about Masada is the Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman.
You can get to the top by cable car, winding path ("Snake Path"), or the Roman ramp.
Location: Google Maps It is located just off the Dead Sea. There are two ways to approach Masada - "east" and "west" side; once you choose the side, there is no road to drive to the other side. I went the side facing the Dead Sea ("east side") as this side has the cable car (and "snake path") that takes you to the top. This side also has a museum and a hotel at the base of the mountain. The road to this side is also much better (from Tel Aviv - Highway 6 > 40 > 31 which bypasses Arad > 90 on the Dead Sea road). For elderly etc, this is probably the best. The "east" side has the famous ramp to the top that the Romans built (with Jewish slaves). To get to the top, you walk up the ramp. To get to the east side you need to go through the small town of Arad (from Tel Aviv - Highway 6 > 40 > 31 and then enter Arad and exit its rear on to a small winding rode 3199). This side also has a camping site. For backpackers, it might be fun to sleep at the camp site and then go up the mountain and go down the cable car way on the west side and then on to the Dead Sea.


Dead Sea: The Dead Sea is a salt lake and considered the lowest place on earth - about 430 meters below sea level! It is so salty that no creatures can live in it. But due to the high concentration of salt (approx. 34%), it provides bouyancy to anyone who steps into it! Yes, you literally float - impossible to sink. Many around the world also visit this place peridiocaly due to its health benefits especially for the skin (great for eczema etc.). Not only is the water high in various minerals, but the sand around it is also extremely high in minerals and the main attraction is to cover yourself with the Dead Sea mud. The beaches are located in the same place as the hotels. All the hotels are located in the same area, accessed by a side road off the main road (#90). If you are not staying at a hotel, I would recommend parking at the free beach next to Herods Hoteland then walking on the beach to the Herods beach, which is quiet and very nice. Before getting to the beach, buy a packet of Dead Sea mud from one of the shops in the area. You can then smear your body with the mud when you are on the beach.

There are many hiking trails in the area:
Ein Bokek: A short hike, mostly in shallow waters (in winter season), and suited for the whole family. The path starts from across the road (#90) from the hotels area (right across from Ein Bokek hotel) in the Southern end of the Dead Sea. The path along the Bokek stream will get you in less than half an hour from the hectic hotel-zone to a pastoral spot with a waterfall in the heart of the desert.
Davids Waterfall ("Nahal David"): Beautiful hike that is suited for the whole family and a year-round waterfall along the course of the David stream. It is located within the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve (farther north than the Herods hotel that I mentioned above). Just 30 minutes from the entrance is the waterfall – a great picture spot. You can dip your toes but swimming is not allowed. Along the way youll see plenty of ibex and hyraxes. It is believed that at this place King David hid from the wrath of Saul some three-thousand years ago and it was here that he cut Sauls (who was the king at the time) robe rather than killing him.

Day 6 Eilat Area If you are driving to Eilat (road #90, which is from the Dead Sea), there are many community farms (called "kibbutz") along the way and whose ideology is alternative living - permaculture - etc. You can either stop over for a quick visit or spend a night at their guest houses. I highly recommend visiting two kibbutzim (located within 2 minutes from each other):
Kibbutz Ketura: This kibbutz is involved in research on growing food plants-trees in harsh environments (desert), alternative energy (has a solar energy farm), and does many colaborative projects with universities in Israel (patent on making pool-grown salmon have a pink color, etc.).
Kibbutz Lotan: This kibbutz grows dates and is intensley involved in permaculture - growing food and building (organic gardens and geodesic domes etc.). They have an eco-tourist center. Many of their members are anglo-saxon of origin.


(Not a Must) About 15 minutes from Eilat and 15 minutes from the kibbutzim mentioned above, is Park Timna. The area is rich in copper ore and has been mined since the 5th millennium BCE (as part of the Kingdom of Edom and worked by the Edomites, described as biblical foes of the Israelites). There is controversy whether the mines ("King Solomon's Mines") were active during the Kingdom of Israel and the reign of biblical king Solomon. The park has many attractions: 1) "Solomon's Pillars", which are natural structures formed by centuries of water erosion through fractures in the sandstone cliff until it became a series of distinct, pillar-shaped structures; 2) the "Mushroom", an unusual monolithic, mushroom-shaped, red sandstone rock formation known as a hoodoo. The mushroom shape was caused by wind, humidity, and water erosion over centuries; 3) the "Arches", natural arches formed by erosion; 4) a small Egyptian temple dedicated to Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of mining, at the base of Solomon's Pillars, built during the reign of Pharaoh Seti I at the end of the 14th century BCE, for the Egyptian miners; 5) different color sands due to the natural minerals that you can fill in bottles; 6) a man-made lake that kids can boat on...


The city of Eilat: A VAT-free city, Eilat is Israel's most southern point located on the northern-most end of the Red sea and bordering with Jordan (Akkaba) and Egypt. This is the main place where Israelis have their holidays in Israel. There are many atractions. For a comprehensive list of things to do in Eilat, click here.
Below are just a few of the top attractions:

Dolphin Reef: This is a must! One of the only places in the world where the dolphins can freely leave their natural pool and swim out into the sea! The place has natural atmosphere, magical views, secluded beach, together with the opportunity of swimming with and observing dolphins in their natural habitat. You can swim with the dolphins with snorkels or with an oxygen tank. They are very strict and toucjing of the dolphins is not allowed. The best time to swim with them is in the early morning. The second time I went it was mid-day and the dolphins didn't come near us but stayed in their shaded and no-trespassing area. Those who don't want to swim can whatch the dolphins from the beautiful jetty that juts into their swimming area - fantastic! The beach for human swimming is alongside the dolphins area and is really nice (quiet).

Camel Treks: Take a camel ride into the desert. The place also has a rope park. To get there, after you pass the Dolphin Reef (Egypt border direction), keep looking for the camel sign on the right of the road and turn right onto a gravel and sand road. It's about 3 km drive on this dirt road to the ranch.

Underwater Observatory Park: This is not a very big aquarium, but it is pretty nice to visit. One of the main attractions is its underwater tower, which is located about 20 meters (my personal estimate) from the shoreline. It is connected to the shoreline by a bridge. When you enter the tower, you can descend to the floor level situated below the sea surface and see interesting fish and coral in their natural environment! Other attractions at the aquarium are the turtles and their feeding, sharks as well as other exotic fish as well as reptiles. The aquarium is located about a 5 minutes drive from the city center on the road that goes to the Egyption border crossing.

Ice Park & Mall: This is dome-roofed shopping mall with a few food places and a lot of entertainment for kids and the family. For entertainment, there is an ice skating rink in the center of the mall, roller coaster for young kids, a fantastic climbing area of a few floor levels for young kids (probably less than 12), arcade of all types of games, and more. This is a great place to spend for a few hours to cool off from the heat! The mall is located near the main hotels - between the airport and the beach.

Day 7 Jerusalem Main attractions: