We stayed for nearly 2 months in Israel and finally visited our friends we have met in Australia a few years ago.
This trip was a bit different than our usual South-East-Asia-Low-Budget-Travels because life in Israel is even more expensive than in Germany or in France. But we wanted to do a reunion with some good friends! We were fortunate enough to live in our friends’ place though!
Thanks again, guys 😍
The first month we stayed with our friend Lee in the beautiful kibbutz of Nahsholim and then a few weeks with our mates Omer & Yoel in Jaffa, Tel Aviv.
Nahsholim was our base to visit the North of Israel and Tel Aviv to explore the South. We rented a car on the weekends to explore the countries magic places.
This trip was also different because we were living as roommates with our friends in their houses, meeting their families & friends – and lived the way they live.
We celebrated a few Israeli holidays and had many delicious family dinners. We honestly couldn’t ask for more, it was a great time to come.
In this guide, you will find… Amazing places to visit, where to eat and drink in Israel (with prices) & a general overview of how to travel in Israel.
We didn’t go to the restaurant every day… we mainly cooked at home but we have a nice list of good places to eat.
PS: And yes Israel is safe to travel.
First a bit of vocabulary!
Don’t be surprised if you hear people saying to their kids or to their dogs “die” – it just means “enough” 😅
GOOD TO KNOW
- Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest. It begins on Friday at Sunset and ends on the following Saturday at nightfall. During Shabbat, there are no public transport and many shops-restaurants-touristic-sites are closed.
- In Restaurant and bars, you need to give a TIP of 10 to 15 percent of the bill.
April, May, June, September & October are the best months to visit Israel (when temperatures are mild).
- We were always drinking tap water in Israel. We have a filter water bottle that contains one piece of active charcoal. The charcoal releases minerals (calcium, iron, and magnesium) back into the water which improves the taste of the water and enhances health benefits. One stick of charcoal lasts six months.
The Bottle we use is a Black + Blum and is also free of BPA (an industrial chemical).
- We rented cars via Europcar. The prices and services were good. We didn’t have any problems.
- When driving in Israel, you need “to be a shark” 🦈 They honk all the time, even when the light is red and you obviously aren’t allowed to drive! Around Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, there is a lot of traffic, be ready to be stuck in the traffic jam.
- Driving to the South of Israel was amazing. The roads are going through impressive desert sceneries where you’ll see many signs “Be aware of camels on the road”. We loved it!
NORTH OF ISRAEL
✳︎ Rosh Hanikra ✳︎
Just a few footsteps away from the Israeli Lebanon border, you will discover the splendid grottoes & the white cliffs of Rosh Hanikra.
The cable car ride offers a stunning view of the cliffs and the ocean. Then, the walk through the caves is very beautiful, the water is so blue & clear, the cliffs are so white! We loved it!
It is arguably a very touristy place. It took us more than 30 minutes to get on the cable car (on the way down & up). Even though it was pretty packed & not cheap, it is worth to visit Rosh Hanikra. We definitely recommend it!
PS: The visit takes about 30 minutes, so take your time and enjoy the landscape!
Price: 48 Shekels per person (≃12,50 €).
Read more about Rosh Hanikra here.
✳︎ The Old City of Akko (Acre) ✳︎
Acre (Akko in Hebrew) is a historic walled port-city. It was granted as a UNESCO World Heritage in 2001.
The old city is really beautiful with synagogues, mosques, churches, arts, galleries, souk, restaurants… it’s super easy to navigate.
We visited the old city on a Friday afternoon, so the souk and many restaurants were closed. But it was still really nice to wander around the narrow streets and stroll along the promenade.
We also visited the El-Jazzar Mosque. You need an appropriate dress code. They give you clothes at the entrance if you need to.
Entrance Fee: 10 Shekels per person (≃2,60€).
I would suggest a guided tour or an audio guide to really understand the history of this old town. See here the different attractions & prices.
✳︎ Nazareth ✳︎
We wandered around the old city of Nazareth without really knowing where to go and what to do! So if you want to explore this city, I would suggest you plan a bit more about your visit than us!
We visited the Church of the Annunciation which was beautiful, wandered around the narrow streets and the closed souks, had a drink, and that’s pretty much it 😅
If you want TIPS to visit Nazareth, I invite you to read the blog post of Alberto here.
✳︎ Mount Bental, Golan Heights ✳︎
Mount Bental offers an amazing panoramic view of the valley and the Israeli Syrian Border.
To remember the battle between Syria & Israel in 1973, they called the valley below the mountain, “the Valley of Tears”. There is an old bunker that you can walk into. The place makes you understand the significant history of the Golan and its strategic importance.
Read more about Mount Bental here.
✳︎ Sea of Galilee ✳︎
The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world (at levels between 215 meters and 209 meters below sea level). It’s the famous lake where Christians believe Jesus walked on water.
We visited the Church of Beatitudes which is built on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The view is really nice.
Free entrance, just need to pay a parking fee of 10 Shekels (≃2,60€).
Running out of the time we skipped Capernaum and went to Tiberias, and I think it was a mistake.
We walked along the promenade of Tiberias and had a drink on a restaurant overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We do not recommend you stop in Tiberias. The city is really dirty and not well preserved. Skip it and instead visit Capernaum.
Capernaum is a historic & religious site. You can see the remains of the synagogue, and churches. It’s located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
✳︎ Nahsholim & Habonim Nature Reserve ✳︎
We stay one month in the Kibbutz of Nahsholim with our friend Lee. It was a super nice experience to live with her and her family.
We loved the beach of Nahsholim. It’s super quiet & beautiful.
From Nahsholim beach, you can walk along the coastline through the Habonim Beach Nature Reserve. It’s a really quiet area with stunning white sandy beaches & turquoise water. The hike is really easy & you can swim whenever you want, NICE!
🍴 Zahara Cafe in Ein Carmel
15 minutes drive from Nahsholim is an amazing cafe restaurant: Zahara Cafe (see here their Facebook page). I love the atmosphere of this place which is beautifully decorated in a retro style.
We went there for a brunch and ate the Vegan Breakfast. The coffee and the food were SUPER delicious! Everything is freshly made and super tasty. I think the Vegan Breakfast was about 48 Shekels (≃12,90€).
Around the restaurant, there are plenty of artist workshops and colorful peacocks.
✳︎ Caesarea ✳︎
Set on the Mediterranean Sea, Caesarea National Park is a must-see.
Caesarea is originally an ancient port city built by Herod. The site has been restored to create a beautiful and interesting archaeological site.
Wandering through magnificent ancient harbor ruins, pillars, the remains of a hippodrome, a Roman amphitheater amongst the beautiful ocean view was a treat!
The plus, there is a video that explains the history of Caesarea. Perfect to learn more about it.
Price entrance: 39 Shekels per person (≃10 €).
Read more about Caesarea National Park here.
At the end of the day, you can watch the Sunset at Aquaduct Beach. You’ll find it outside the national park. There is an ancient aqueduct at the edge of the beach, a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. See pictures here.
CENTER OF ISRAEL
✳︎ Tel Aviv ✳︎
How To Get Around Tel Aviv?
🛴 Electric Scooter – Download the App “Bird”
With Bird it’s way faster to move around than riding a bicycle, and you can leave it anywhere in the city.
It costs 5 Shekels (≃1,30 €) to start the ride and then 0,5 shekel per minute.
You will also find the company “Lime” who rent an electric scooter. We only used Bird.
🚲 Orange Bicycles – App “Mobike”
Amandine rented a few times the Mobike bicycles but they were pretty crap. The bicycles are old and you can’t change the gear. It was just a struggle!
The good point with these bikes is that you can leave them wherever you want.
Price: 1€ for 30 minutes.
🚲 Green bicycles – app “Tel-O-Fun”
You will find the green bicycles on stations and you need to put them back on a station. We didn’t try these bicycles but they look newer than the orange ones.
You can pay with your credit card on the terminals near the stations or you can purchase a daily or weekly card on their website, link here: Tel-O-Fun website
🚖 Taxi – App “GETT”
GETT works like UBER. It’s working really well and it’s easy to get a car quickly.
The only annoying point is that you don’t know in advance (like Uber) how much the drive will cost.
How to go from Tel Aviv to the airport (Ben Gurion)?
Depending on your schedule, you can take the train. Here is the website from the company: https://www.rail.co.il/en
Our plane was too early in the morning to take the train – so after comparing a few websites, we ordered a taxi via “Get Transfer”. The driver picked us up at our place. It’s super easy to use and it’s cheaper than a “normal” taxi and than the “normal” GETT.
We paid 38 euros on the website. Here is the link: https://gettransfer.com/
What to do in Tel Aviv?
- Visit, Shop, Eat & Drink at the Carmel Market
- Explore the Florentin Quarter
- Explore the Neve Tzedek Quarter (French Quarter)
- Walk/Ride along the promenade from Tel Aviv to Old Jaffa
- Visit Old Jaffa (see more below) & the flea market
- Relax at the beach
Visit the Association For Urban Farming
🥕 The Association For Urban Farming
“The Association For Urban Farming is a non-profit organization that aims to transform urban areas into self-sustaining food systems. The organization’s goal is to create highly nutritious, local produce that is accessible and available to all.”
Our friend Omer is working for this association. He started as a volunteer and he now is project director, professor of urban agriculture, and lecturer at the Municipal Academy of Agriculture 👏
Where to eat & drink in Tel Aviv?
🍴 Panda Pita, delicious street food
Located in the Carmel Market, Panda Pita serves 3 options in pita bread: lamb, fish or eggplant. The beetroot sauce is AMAZING! The Pitas are tasty and always served with big smiles.
Good vibes and good food, highly recommended! Here is their website.
- Eggplant: 27 Shekels (≃7,30 €)
- Meat: 37 Shekels (≃9,90 €)
- Ceviche: 39 Shekels (≃10,50 €)
🍹 Rega, Shenkin Street, Tel Aviv
Rega is an authentic local cafe in the city, where you can drink good teas, coffees, or any other (alcoholic) drinks while enjoying great live music.
This cafe “was the first home of the Tel Avivian “Cafe Culture” founded by the cities artists, authors, and cultural leaders”.
🌿 Tea lovers
Founded by our friend Yoel in 2018, Tea Lovers was created out of passion & love for the ancient tea culture. He and his team produce natural & unique tea extracts that you can enjoy in many coffee shops and restaurants all around Tel Aviv. Keep your eyes open 👀
🍹 Drink a healthy shot at Uzi-Eli
At the top of the Carmel Market, you will find the small shop Uzi-Eli, a health paradise. We do recommend you to try the healthy spicy shot! The shots are made with herbs, spices, seasonal fruits, and plants. They also served fresh juices, smoothies, acai bowls and much more.
Read more about the story of Uzi-Eli here.
They also have one shop in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.
🍺 Beer Bazaar, a MUST for craft beer lovers!
Find the Beer Bazaar on a quiet street close to the Carmel market. The outdoor seating is really nice, not casual.
They serve really good beers, and they have an amazing happy hour (from 5pm till 8pm). You can try 6 beers for 55 Shekels (≃14,70 €) = a really good deal!
We also ordered a pizza, a salad and a sandwich: Good Food & Friendly service.
🍴 Shaffa Bar
We went to Shaffa Bar for a few beers and to have dinner with our friend Tal 😊 Good location in the flea market with a cozy and vibrant atmosphere. We all enjoyed our dinner, this is what we ate:
- Thai me up: Really Tasty Vegan Noddles served cold with Thai sauce, beans, cucumber, peanuts, coriander, and mint leaves – 54 Shekels (≃14,50 €)
- Pizza Margarita: classic pizza but really tasty – 56 Shekels (≃15 €)
- Bun Burger: meat burger (without fries…) – 52 Shekels (≃14 €)
🍴 A La Rampa
We went to A La Rampa to enjoy live Brazilian music and drink some beers 😉 They also serve a variety of vegetarian food but we didn’t try it, the menu looks yummy though!
Check their Facebook Page here to find if some events are coming. TIP: If there are any events you want to go to, book a table before.
🍴 24 Rupees, A Taste of India in Tel Aviv
24 Rupees is a vegetarian Indian Restaurant. We loved the atmosphere. You take your shoes off and sit on cushions on the floor (don’t worry it’s super comfy!).
The food is unfortunately not as hot & spicy as in India but it still pretty good. We shared 2 Thali for 3 people and it was way enough! They give you free water. They sell soft drinks and alcohol.
- Classic Thali: 50 Shekels (≃13,40 €)
- Special Thali: 58 Shekels (≃15,60 €)
✳︎ Jaffa ✳︎
Explore the old city of Jaffa. Wander through its winding streets, narrow staircases, and hidden passages. It’s super charming.
The architecture contrast between Jaffa and the new buildings of Tel Aviv is pretty interesting/impressive.
You can also relax at Jaffa port, on the beach and walk through the flea market.
Where to eat in Jaffa?
🍴 Abu Hassan – The best Houmous in Tel Aviv!
Abu Hassan is a small local restaurant located in Jaffa. The restaurant is really casual and simple. They offer 3 different kinds of houmous and soft drinks.
Freshly made every day, the restaurant closes when the houmous is finished. So – make sure to come there before 3pm.
You can easily share one houmous for 2. It’s about 20 Shekels – 5,40€ for one houmous served with pitas. You can pay with a credit card.
🍴 Basma Coffee – Yummy Knafeh
We went to Basma Coffee to try their Knafeh.
Knafeh is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet pastry made with cheese, noodles and other ingredients (don’t remember exactly which ones) but the Knafeh was really tasty! Not too sweet, we loved it!
The restaurant is located in old Jaffa. The atmosphere is really nice, with beautiful decoration inside and a lovely terrasse outside.
We didn’t try it but we heard that they also make a delicious shakshuka.
✳︎ The Dead Sea ✳︎
Floating in the Dead Sea was a unique experience✨
We went off a beaten path to swim in a quiet area of the Dead Sea far away from the touristic beach of Ein Bokek. It was super quiet – we loved that secret spot 😊
When you swim in the Dead Sea, the feeling is INCREDIBLE. You are floating and feel super light and when you go out of the water, your skin is super oily. It’s so weird!
We obviously covered our bodies with the black mud (from the bottom of the Dead Sea), it’s funny to see how fast the mud is drying.
Floating in the Dead Sea, surrounded by the beautiful Mountains of Israel and Jordan is an unforgettable experience!
If you can, stay till the sunset. The sea became a mix of blue, pink & yellow 😍
- Do not put your head underwater
- Do not touch your eyes
- Do not shave before going into the Dead Sea
- Drink mineral water
- Do not leave any litters
- Have fun 😊
✳︎ Masada National Park ✳︎
Quick Fact: The Masada Fortress is an ancient fortification erected by King Herod to protect against Egyptian invasions. Later, it was the Romans who conquered the site and turned it into a real fortified town. Masada is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can decide to take the cable car or walk to the top. The walk up takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on your speed.
We all went with flip-flops – so a guide recommended us to take the Cable Car. I think we were pretty lazy this day and didn’t argue with this idea!
Visiting the Masada Fortress was a real challenge for us… It was crowded! At first, it wasn’t really easy to fully enjoy the visit, but fortunately, our friend Omer acted as our guide with LOTS OF FUN and shared his knowledge about this place.
A-MUST: The Fortress offers a spectacular view over the Israeli deserts, the Dead Sea and Jordan. ABSOLUTELY STUNNING!
Prices (per person):
- Entrance (without cable car): 31 Shekels (≃8,50€)
- Entrance + one-way cable car: 59 Shekels (≃16€)
- Entrance + cable car (both ways): 77 Shekels (≃20€)
Read more about Masada here.
✳︎ The Old City of Jerusalem ✳︎
Good To Know
- Before heading to Jerusalem, I suggest you organize your visit, especially if you only have one day to visit the old city (like us).
- If you can, hire a guide to really understand the history of this mystic city.
- To make sure we could visit most parts of the old city, we pinned all the monuments on maps.me It was way easier to wander around the city.
- The old city isn’t that big, you can easily walk from one part to the other.
- We parked the car at Karta Parking. It was pretty expensive (60 Shekels – 16€ for the day) but super convenient: it’s located right near the Jaffa Gate.
- The old city of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian.
What to visit in Jerusalem?
There are so many things to see, these are the places/monuments we visited (or missed!).
⤏ Temple Mount, Dome of The Rock
Do not make the same mistake as us!
Choose the right time & day to visit the Dome of the Rock. If you’re not Muslim, you can’t enter the monument all the time. The Temple Mount is closed to visitors on Friday and Saturday. Opening Hours (for non-Muslim) from Sunday till Thursday:
- Summer: 8:30am – 11:30am & 1:30pm – 2:30pm
- Winter: 7:30am – 10:30am & 12:30pm – 1:30pm
So as you can imagine, we totally forgot the time table and when we headed to the Temple Mount it was closed 😕
⤏ The Western Wall
The Western Wall is the most significant site in the world for the Jewish people. It’s a place of prayer and pilgrimage. These prayers are either spoken or written down and placed in the cracks of the wall.
Women aren’t allowed to come to this part of the wall, so I stayed in the back observing and taking pictures, while Adrian completed his mission to add his grandmother’s written prayer to the Western Wall.
⤏ Via Dolorosa
It’s the route that Jesus took between his condemnation and his crucifixion.
⤏ Jaffa Gate
The Jaffa Gate is one of seven main open gates in Jerusalem’s Old City walls. We entered the old city by this gate.
You will find the tourist office at the Jaffa gate. You can grab a map (for free) and buy the tickets for the ramparts walk.
⤏ Tower of David
I don’t know why we didn’t visit the Tower of David… That’s too bad because the view from the top looks pretty amazing. See the admission fees here.
⤏ Church of the Holy Sepulchre
“The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is identified as the place both of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth”. Free access.
⤏ Explore the souks of the old city
⤏ The Ramparts Walk
The entrance ticket for the Remparts costs 20 Shekels (≃5,40€), you can buy it at the tourist office near the Jaffa Gate.
It’s a nice walk which offers you a beautiful view over the roof of the old city (you can see the Temple Mount from the ramparts).
⤏ Hotel Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family
You can access the rooftop of this hotel for 5 shekels (≃1,40€). It offers a beautiful view over the old city and the Temple Mount.
⤏ Mahane Yehuda Market
When we left the old city of Jerusalem, we stopped at the Mahane Yehuda Market. It’s located in the center of Jerusalem. The food and atmosphere are pretty amazing. You can find everything you might think of.
We tried a spinach and cheese sandwich/bread – sorry I forgot the name (and the price) but it was super tasty!
Read more about the Mahane Yehuda Market here: https://en.machne.co.il/
SOUTH OF ISRAEL
✳︎ Makhtesh Mitzpe Ramon, a MUST-SEE ✳︎
On our way to the South of Israel, we stopped in the town of Mitzpe Ramon, located in the Negev desert. This town sits on the edge of the Ramon Crater. The crater is 40km wide and 2km long. It’s the world’s biggest erosion crater and it’s BREATHTAKING.
If you have time, definitely take a day or two to explore the area and hike. If you don’t have so much time, just have a stop at the visitor center and enjoy the view.
30min – 1h to enjoy the view is already better than not seeing it!
PS: Makhtesh means crater in Hebrew
Where to eat in Mitzpe Ramon?
🍴 Mauna (Vegan Kitchen)
Mauna is located in the center of Mitspe Ramon. We ate 2 delicious vegan sandwiches. I had the Adashimus Sandwich with lentils, zucchinis, peppers, mustard, and basil. It was the best sandwich I ever ate 😋😋
This tiny restaurant also serves a variety of homemade vegan food, coffee, and other health specialties.
Price: 23 Shekels (≃6 €) for 1 sandwich
✳︎ The Red Canyon ✳︎
Located in the Eilat Mountains (15-20 min drive from Eilat), the red canyon is a natural Gem! The colors are a mix of red, orange, white & yellow, the shapes are unreal. It kinda is the Israeli version of the famous Antelope Canyon in Arizona 😉
The hike through the canyon was pretty easy. Even though you need to climb up and down, I did it with flip-flops without any problems! But if you have baskets, just wear them, it’s gonna be much easier!
Free access – About 1h walk for the short circuit.
✳︎ Eilat ✳︎
Eilat is a seaside resort nestled on the Red Sea. Located in the complete South of Israel, the town is surrounded by sea and desert wilderness. Jordan and Egypt are both a few kilometers away from Eilat.
What to do in Eilat?
⤏ Hike the Mount Tzfachot (also spelled Zefachot)
The Mount Tzfachot offers a beautiful panoramic view over the Red Sea. When you’re at the top, you can see four countries: Israel, obviously, but also Jordan, Egypt & Saudi Arabia. Love it!
We didn’t do the complete trail which is about 4km – we only started near the Camping Eilat Field School and climbed up.
To get more information about the hikes in Eilat, click here.
⤏ Snorkel in the Red Sea
Coral Beach Nature Reserve is a pretty nice spot to snorkel. The area is beautiful, clear blue water, surrounded by the Red mountains of Jordan 😍
It was also nice to swim with the fishes and seeing colorful coral again.
- Access Coral Beach Nature Reserve (2 people): 70 Shekels (≃18€)
- Rent Snorkel Equipment (for 2 people) + locker: 73 Shekels (≃19,50€)
Where to stay in Eilat?
We camped at the camping Eilat Field School. We had our own tent. I don’t think they rent equipment. The campground includes toilets, showers, BBQ areas, and tables.
It cost us 60 Shekels (≃16€) per person and per night.
If you’re on a budget, you also camp for free on a few beaches of Eilat. To get more information about the campings in Eilat, I recommend you to read Lior’s blog post here.
Good To Know: Eilat Field School camping is located right in front of the Coral Beach Nature Reserve, and just near the start of the hike to reach Mount Tzfachot. Good Location.
Is Eilat worth a visit?
On the one hand:
- Coral Beach Nature Reserve is super touristy, the breach is crowded, you need to follow “a circuit” while snorkeling and it’s expensive.
- The city of Eilat is NOT interesting, you’ll find so many malls, shops and thousands of people. Not our thing at all.
On the other hand:
- The Red Canyon is amazing
- The road 12 from Neot Semadar to Eilat is absolutely breathtaking
- We loved being able to see and to swim in the Red Sea
- The Mountains around Eilat are stunning
SO in the end, I would say YES it’s worth it to drive till Eilat!
What I would suggest, is to stay only one night in Eilat. For example, on your way to Eilat, you can hike through the Red Canyon. The following day, in the morning, you can hike The Mount Zefachot (or another one, there are plenty of tracks), and snorkel in the afternoon. Easy!
Is it Safe To Travel in Israel?
We stayed nearly 2 months in Israel and we didn’t feel unsafe. People are kind, friendly and very welcoming.
At the end of our trip, we experienced an exchange of missiles between Gaza and Israel. We were in Tel Aviv. It was really intense when the alarm rang, and when the defense system intercepted the rockets. But in Tel Aviv, life went on, people were hanging out at the beach, and we went out in the city too.
Read Melissa’s blog post for more information about the situation in Israel, she also shares useful safety tips! And check here the website from the health government of Israel for updates about the corona.
If you enjoyed this blog post or you know someone who’s thinking of traveling to Israel, make sure to let your friend know and share it! Thank you for reading!
Amandine & Adrian @whynotabroad