Trip Filter: Can't see it all, so help me decide
April 13, 2009 7:01 PM   Subscribe

What's not to be missed during nine days in Israel?

Following this post we decided on and booked Israel from 16-26 July. We're working on what to see and do, but I wanted to run it past Hivemind for suggestions/ideas/etc. On the list so far in relative order of must-see:
*Tel Aviv (crash pad after landing)
*Eilat (to do Petra)
*Massada/Dead Sea
*Caesarea, Acre (Akko) & Rosh Hanikra

We are, of course, using traditional trip planners, books, asking friends, but I wanted additional input. Anything we're missing? Anything that can/should wait for future trip? I know we're going to need to cut this down as there isn't enough time but we were time limited. We used the initial list as a brain storm. I've readthis thread but it's two years old and I thought there might be updates.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Clue Bats?
posted by TravellingCari to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Baha'i Garden is worth seeing if you can fit going to Haifa into your itinerary.
posted by rancidchickn at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: If you spend a night in Nazareth, I would highly recommend the Fauzi Azar Inn.
posted by briand864 at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: When you're in the Masada/Dead Sea area, check out Ein Gedi. It's beautiful there. And it's got a botanical garden worth seeing.

And, I recommend the experience of hiking up Masada before dawn.
posted by lullaby at 8:17 PM on April 13, 2009

Response by poster: @ rancidchickn: thanks, we're trying to find a way to fit Haifa in. Someone had recommended it in another discussion I had.

@briand864: Thanks for the suggestion, overnights are still TBD.

@lullaby: yep we're all about a pre-dawn hike for both sense of place as well as more comfortable climbing weather. Thanks for the Ein Gedi recommendation - that's the Dead Sea spa, I think? Didn't know it had a botanical garden.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:29 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: The Negev is going to be terribly hot in July. Take some time and really explore the Galilee. Go to Zichron Yaakov. If you're in the Haifa area, check out a Druse village, just to say you did. Visit the Golan Heights--stunningly beautiful, and might not be Israeli for much longer. (It's completely safe.)

And enjoy Tel Aviv, it's Israel's big city. At the very least, take a day and walk around the city, enjoy the beach, boardwalk, restaurants, etc. It's a very different Israel than you'll feel in the other places you're going, which are more religious and/or touristy in nature. (There are also great museums in Tel Aviv, interesting historical things, architecture, etc., depending on your tastes.)
posted by j1950 at 8:36 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Seconding the Baha'i Garden and Ein Gedi. I'd also recommend visiting Tzfat, if you're at all interested in art, kabbalah, or just really nifty, historic places.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:41 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Seconding Ein Geidi if you have the time & are into nature-y stuff - beautiful waterfalls. In Jerusalem, the Old City is pretty much a must, assuming you want to hit the classics (which it sounds like you do). The Tower of David is pretty cool. I also like the Supreme Court building a lot, but that might not be worth hitting on a first trip.

Tel Aviv is a very fun city but, as you may know, is quite new and therefore doesn't contain much in the way of "cool historical stuff people go to Israel to see." (Except for adjacent Yaffo.) One awesome thing about Tel Aviv is how accessible the beaches are - you can just walk right up to them from much of the city.

Since your time is short, you may want to skip Eilat. I haven't been to Petra though I'm told it's awesome, but you'll probably have to burn much of a day traveling to the south. There's not a whole lot that's south of Masada until you hit Eilat, so there's a bunch of driving involved through the Negev Desert. (There's an unusual crater called the Makhtesh Ramon, but it's a bit like driving through Death Valley to see Zabriskie Point - not hugely worth it, in my view, and I've done both.)
posted by DavidNYC at 8:42 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Oh, and wear shoes with good ankle support when hiking Masada. The climb up wasn't so bad, but the climb down was absolutely brutal.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:42 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: You've got a good list going so far. Especially the Dead Sea... so amazing!

Arab style falafel is the best (I was told this by several people and it proved true) so if you like falafel you should make it a point to get it from an arab run falafel stand. The very best I ate was in a random gas station/convenience store/restauraunt in the Jordan Valley, so don't be afraid to get it from the random falafel stands.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 8:54 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: If I may offer some unsolicited advice concerning your stop at the Dead Sea: ensure that, for the entirety of your trip prior to entering the Sea, you have access to good quality toilet paper. When I was there 20 years ago, neither myself nor my dormmates had access to toilet paper of any reasonable quality (read: sandpaper), and this made our Dead Sea experience rather, um, burny.
posted by zerokey at 9:05 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Yes, burningness; I'm glad someone else brought it up. You might experience this no matter what you do. But either way, listen to zerokey--and carry that TP with you! Half the bathrooms I visited in Israel had no TP at all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:19 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Tzfat's a good call for historical/cultural/religious stuff, as PhoB says - generally considered the second-most sacred city after Jerusalem. Definitely a good, somewhat lesser-known city to hit.

As for Masada, there's also a cable car if you don't feel like hiking up and/or down.
posted by DavidNYC at 9:35 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: sculpture garden @ maktesh ramon. so cool. when we went, we were *the only people there*. all these incredible sculptures, windchimes & whatnot, next to a big gorge-- it was like a personal playground. or maybe burning man w/out the crowd. ah man, that was cool
posted by jcruelty at 10:18 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: Go to an open air market to buy fresh fruit. It's the most chaotic and interesting experience you won't find in a first world country.
posted by JJ86 at 5:46 AM on April 14, 2009

Best answer: I don't have very much time SO I'll try not to make this too long.

Starting from the south and working my way up:

Eilat sucks balls, in my opinion, so feel free to skip without feeling like you missed anything. I'd take at least a day in the Negev. The town of Mitzpe Ramon has a beautiful view and a cheap hostel (as well as more expensive zimmers, which are the Israeli version of B&Bs, sometimes without the breakfast).
You should plan a day hike through the Ramon crater, it's stunning. Since it's July you'll want to make it a short hike (uber hot) and bring loads of water, but don't miss it. The desert is something truly unique.

Going further up, the dead sea is cool but packed with people in July, so in my opinion you should stop there on your way up from the Negev just for a dip in the water (remember not to get your eyes wet!) and then keep climbing north.

Jerusalem is spectacular. The Western Wall is beautiful even for non-Jews and very secular Jews (like me). The old city is amazing, and if you're into good cheap food, the Austrian Youth Hostel has great food and an awesome view. Also when you're in the Arab part of the old city, sit down for some Taibe beer. It's Palestinian beer and it's pretty good.

You need to reserve about two-three days for Tel Aviv, because it's not a city you can experience in 24 hours. I recommend heading down to Shuk HaCarmel (the Carmel Market) for some fresh fruits and veggies and cheap T-Shirts with cool Hebrew writing on them. If you head down to the Market on a Tuesday or Friday, right beside it is a special artist's market that's open from morning until afternoon on those days. Things there are expensive but very beautiful!

When getting out of the market go for a stroll on King George; it's one of my favorite streets in Tel Aviv. You can stop on the way for great sushi across the street from Meir Park, which is also a nice place to visit (just a nice small park that has a great vibe).

Check out Neve Tzedek, the oldest neighbourhood in Tel Aviv. The houses are mostly restored and the bottom floors of many turned into stores. Eat ice cream there at Glida Savta (grandma's ice cream)! It's one of the best ice cream places in the area.

Check out the Levinsky market, it has two really great Indian restaurants (24 Rupee and Subkuch Milega [sp?]). Other than that, make sure to check out Shenkin on a Thursday night, it's bursting with life. Also, the place where the artist's market is has a lot of cool pubs open during the night.

Other neighbourhoods to check out in Tel Aviv: Florentin, which kicks ass, and Bazel street, and Frishman street.

Also, depending on what kind of music you're into, it might be fun to go listen to some Israeli music one evening.

Going further north you have Haifa, which you should visit because it's very pretty, and of course Qaesaria. You didn't mention Zichron Ya'akov! It's a beautiful small city with a cobblestone street with lots of cool shops and a great humus place.

I'm running out of time, but allow me to introduce myself: I'm Alona, I'm 18 and I live in Israel (very close to Tel Aviv). I am a native English speaker and know my way around the Tel Aviv area pretty well, so I would be more than happy if you gave me a call when you're here and I could show you around :)
MeFi mail me if you'd like my number.

Have a great trip!!! Israel is a beautiful country!
posted by alon at 6:05 AM on April 14, 2009

Oh and I forgot Yaffo! Anyways MeFi mail me and I will go into even more detail! :)
posted by alon at 6:06 AM on April 14, 2009

(sorry for the triple-posting! but may I offer lodgings while you're in Tel Aviv?)
posted by alon at 6:08 AM on April 14, 2009

Best answer: Just chiming in to say "Don't miss Tzfat." It was especially lovely on a Saturday night when the people who have been there over Shabbos start playing drums and dancing. Also: be careful walking down Masada. I fell and then we were headed to the Dead Sea right after and I couldn't go in because of the open wounds. Sadness. Ein Gedi more than made up for it, though. It was lovely.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:37 AM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: Oh wow, lots of fabulous suggestions - thanks so much!

Toiler Paper: Noted - with respect to quality and availability it seems as if Israel might be a lot similar to Japan. I'll make sure I have tissues on hand.

Eilat: if we do it, we'll fly. We found a good deal on a domestic flight from Tel Aviv, which though pricey is worth it in terms of time saved in the RT drive. I'm not generally a huge fan of tours, but it may make this more doable. If we do it, also the whole point is to do Petra, less so Eilat.

I'm definitely about the classics. I'm not religious, but raised Catholic. The history of the region, no matter from which religious POV, fascinates me - always has. It's a big part of why I chose Israel for this trip.

Phenomenal answers, off to mark them as best. Alona, I'll be in touch. Thanks so much for the generous offer.
posted by TravellingCari at 11:06 AM on April 14, 2009

Tossing another vote for Tzfat (I've been trying to remember the name all day - it's also known as Safed). If you're lucky, the town will be completely enshrouded in fog like it was when I went; it really adds to the town's mysticism.
posted by zerokey at 5:10 PM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: Just a follow up, I just got back and had an amazing time. We were able to see the following:

-TA/Jaffa - more time in old Jaffa as I just used Tel Aviv as a Shabbos base. Loved the old city.

-Petra-amazing, out of this world.

-Jerusalem-old city, City of David, Yad V'ashem. Too amazing to even sum up. The first view of the Old City from Mt. Scopus was beyond belief. Sadly Temple Mount was essentially inaccessible and I wasn't able to see all I wanted to, but then again you never can on the first trip.

-Masada, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea - would do Masada again when it's a bit cooler as July was a bit too hot. I didn't like the Dead Sea, not because it's not amazing but because I hate the ocean and this was no exception. Floating was cool. Loved the mud wrap.

-Nazareth, Tiberias, Capernaum, Galilee - loved the Christian History. Regardless of beliefs, a lot of people have been there for a very long time.

-Caesarea, Haifa, Acre, RoshHaNigra- loved the Crusader history and the Bahai Gardens. The grottoes of Rosh HaNiqra were amazing.

Thanks all - got lots on the "next time" list.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2009

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