By virtue of its location –on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea– Tel Aviv makes a great base for easy day trips along the coast of Israel. In fact, you can pretty much cover the entire country from Tel Aviv, but some destinations may be more difficult to reach than others because of traffic. Nonetheless, most points of interest in Israel are within 2-3 hours drive from Tel Aviv.
Coastal Day Trips from Tel Aviv
The town of Jaffa (also known as Yafo) is one of the oldest ports of Israel out of which the city of Tel Aviv has developed.
Jaffa has a very unique character, with small narrow streets lined with boutiques, art galleries and quirky restaurants. Jaffa’s biggest attraction is the Flea Market (Shuk Hapishpishim) with vendors selling an amazing variety of products. If you like bargaining and treasure hunting, this place is for you!
Another must-see place in old town Jaffa is the Ilana Goor Museum, which enjoys a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. The museum displays an eclectic collection of unconventional but very expressive pieces of art.
Tips for Traveling to Israel
Caesarea was a port city erected by Herod the Great in 21 B.C. The archeological park is huge and contains many amazing structures that. There is an amphitheater, some baths, a hippodrome by the sea, and a great port.
Do not miss the limestone block in the theatre ruins on which the name of “Pontius Pilatus” is inscribed. This is the first archeological proof that he existed.
A little further north, outside the archeological park, you can visit the ruins of an ancient Roman aqueduct that sits right at the edge of a beautiful beach.
Caesarea is one of Israel’s most impressive archeological sites. The park is easy to visit on a day trip, but reaching it on public transportation from Tel Aviv is difficult. My advice is to either rent a car, or go with an organized tour.
The port of Haifa stretches from the Mediterranean Sea up to the slopes of Mount Carmel. The city may not be on the list of must-see places in Israel, but it’s still wort visiting on a day excursion, if you are in Tel Aviv. There are a few nice spots here that will totally justify your trip.
Haifa’s biggest attractions is the famous Baha’i Gardens. The gardens are built in terraces in concentric circles, on Mount Carmel. At the heart of the gardens stands the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. Although a religious site, the Baha’í Gardens are a wonderful place to relax. There is no entrance fee to access the gardens.
At the foot of the gardens lies the German Colony. Back in 1868 this was the first settlement established by the Germans that were part of the Templar cult. Consequently, the neighborhood still has many 19th century buildings with shops, galleries and restaurants.
Another attraction in Haifa is the Stella Maris Monastery, one of the oldest abbeys in the world, dating back to 1291 A.D.
Another interesting place to visit in Haifa is Elija’s Cave, located at the foot of Mount Carmel. The cave is where the Prophet Elijah (9th Century BC) lived and conducted many of his teachings. Elija’s Cave holds religious significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
To reach the cave, you’ll need to take a short cable car ride from the Stella Maris Monastery down to the beach area. From here you’ll have to cross the road and climb a few flights of stairs that lead to Elija’s Cave.
4. The grottos of Rosh Hanikra
Just a short distance from Israel’s border with Lebanon, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, there is an incredible geological formation: the grottos of Rosh Hanikra. The caves are the result of thousand of years of the sea pounding into the cliffs.
The grottos make an ideal day trip if you have a car, but there are also organized tours to Rosh Hanikra from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The best time to visit Rosh Hanikra is in winter, when the stormy weather creates dramatic waves that crash into the cliffs. To reach Rosh Hanikra, you’ll have to ride the world’s steepest cable car that will take you from the top of the cliff to the grottoes and back.
5. Akko (Acre)
Akko (also known as Acre) is a 4000 years old city, about 113 km north of Tel Aviv, on the coast of the Mediterranean. The fortress of Akko changed hands many times over the course of time and had a tumultuous history. You can still see the remains of the Crusader town, as well as the walls, mosques, and baths, from the Ottoman period.
The old city is an interesting mix of archeology, open-air markets, and fishing port. One of Akko’s biggest attractions is the Hospitaller Fortress, where you can wander through enormous stone rooms with vaulted ceilings.
Inland Day Trips from Tel Aviv
6. Bethlehem & Jericho
For Christians, Bethlehem and Jericho rank very high on the list of places to visit in Israel. Both cities have very strong ties to the biblical history. Bethlehem and Jericho are located on the West Bank, which is part of the Palestinian Territories.
Unfortunately, the West Bank sits at the heart of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, therefore many people consider it unsafe to visit. Although Israeli citizens can’t visit the West Bank, the area is pretty safe for tourists.
One of the biggest attractions in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity, erected over the place where Jesus was born. The church is a big pilgrimage destinations for Christians. Other interesting sites to visit in Bethlehem include the Grotto of the Nativity, Church of St. Catherine and Herodium – an impressive archeological site just 5 km away from the city.
Another important site to visit in the West Bank is the old city of Jericho. This settlement goes back more than 10,000 years. While many people visit the West Bank independently, I think it’s safer and easier to use a guided tour for this area. There are organized day trips to Jericho and Bethlehem from Jerusalem or from Tel Aviv.
Nazareth is Israel’s largest Arab city, but it’s also a place of great biblical importance. One site that you shouldn’t miss in Nazareth is the Synagogue Church, which belongs to the Greek Catholic Melkite community. According to Christian tradition, this is the place where Jesus declared himself as the Messiah in front of the entire congregation.
Another important Christian site is the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is said to rest on the exact place where Mary received her message from God.
There is also an open-air museum – Nazareth Village – that reconstructs and reenacts village life in the Galilee in the time of Jesus.
8. Negev Desert
The Negev Desert is famous for its jagged landscape and red-colored rock formations, but also for its copper ore. One of the biggest attractions in the Negev Desert is Timna Park, about 25 km north of Eilat. Since Timna was the center of metal production in the ancient world, many historians believe that King Solomon’s Mines were actually here.
The park is quite impressive and has endless beautiful trails to enjoy.
9. Dead Sea & Masada
A visit to the Dead Sea is at the top of every Israel itinerary. Soaking in the super salty water of this gigantic lake that lies 430 m below sea level is something you should experience at least once in your lifetime.
Usually, the day trip to the Dead Sea is coupled with a visit to the next-door Masada. Of all the archeological sites we visited in Israel, the fortress of Masada impressed me the most. It wasn’t only its fantastic location, atop of large hill, but also its tragic story.
According to Josephus Flavius, 967 Jewish Zealots retreated at Masada, with nowhere to run from the Roman army. The siege lasted for 3 years, but finally the Romans managed to gain access to the fortress. When they realized the situation, the Jews decided to die rather than be taken hostages.
Jerusalem is one of the most interesting and inspiring places in the world that deserves more than just a day trip from Tel Aviv. But regardless of how many days you’ll decide to spend here, there are several sites of great historical importance that you shouldn’t miss.
You can start your day on the Mount of Olives, which is just across to the Old City walls. Here you can visited the Chapel of the Ascension and the Jewish Cemetery, then walked downhill towards the Old City. Along the way you should visit the Dominus Flevit Church, Church of All Nations, Garden of Gethsemane, and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.
Read more about our complete Jerusalem itinerary:
What to do in Jerusalem – a Complete Itinerary
In the afternoon you can visit the sites located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Those include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, the Tower of David Museum, and the Ramparts.
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