Thanks to Israel’s compact size it is possible to cover the whole country in about a week. Of course you won’t see everything but a week is long enough to see the highlights and get a good overview of the whole country. If a week is all you have then you could either take a guided tour each day to a different part of the country or do it alone. Traveling independently the best way to get around is by renting a car although you could also do it using public transport. Here is an idea of a typical 7 day Israel itinerary.
Day One – Tel Aviv
Arriving at Ben Gurion rent a car and make your way to one of the excellent Tel Aviv hotels. Depending on what time you arrive you can start exploring the city. Check out the beachfront and maybe have a typical Israeli meal of falafel or shawama. Take a walk through the historic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek to see the Bauhaus architecture and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv’s open-air market – Shuk HaCarmel. If you are into art Tel Aviv has an excellent art museum otherwise you might like to visit HaTachana, a restored historic train station which has been converted into a shopping and entertainment venue. Sarona is another shopping complex created out of a number of buildings from a 1871 German Temper colony. Of course there is the old port of Jaffa; the perfect place to end your first day in Israel at one of the seafood restaurants overlooking the Tel Aviv coast. Don’t worry if you don’t fit everything in as this itinerary includes another day in Tel Aviv at the end of the week.
Sleep in Tel Aviv
Day Two – Sea fo Galilee
Make an early start on day two and follow the coastal road north all the way to the Galilee. Along the way you will pass many interesting cities and villages and you will have the Mediterranean Sea on your left most of the way. On the journey north you will also see some of Israel’s finest farm lands and pass through breathtaking greenery. The area around the Sea of Galilee is one of the most beautiful in the country. There is greenery, historic and religious sites as well as the gorgeous sea where you can swim, do water sports and go on short cruises. This is also the area where Jesus spent his ministry years going from village to village preaching. There are several gorgeous churches commemorating Biblical sites around the Sea of Galilee. Base yourself in Tiberius then drive around the Sea of Galilee visiting the Mount of Beatitudes (site of the sermon on the Mount); the House of Peter at Capernaum; Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Church of St.Peter’s Primacy at Tabgha and Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. You can stop at Yardenit to get baptized at the same place in the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. If you have no interest in religious sites then there are other attractions around the Sea of Galilee. Follow some of the many hike trails; go out on the water; explore the city of Tiberius; visit the forests and waterfalls in the Golan Heights or the thermal pools at Hamat Gader. End your day with a delicious fish dinner in one of the Tiberius restaurants overlooking the sea.
Sleep in Tiberius
Day Three – Haifa, Acre, Caesarea
Leave Tiberius and make your way south stopping at the ancient city of Acre (Akko) which was a strategic port city during the Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The old city of Acre has survived and has a lively market plus cavernous underground structures built by the Crusaders. The city is also home to some picturesque mosques and a quaint port. Continue on a little further south through Haifa where you can stop to see the famous Bah’ai Gardens. These gardens or the Hanging Terrace Gardens cascade down Mount Carmel is 19 terraces planted with brightly colored flowers and shrubs. At the top of the gardens is the gold domed Shrine of Bab and an observation terrace where you can look out over Haifa Bay. A little further south is the ancient city of Caesarea. Today modern Caesarea is a prestigious residential city and home to the rich and famous but along the coast are the ancient remains of a former Roman port city. The old city was built by Herod the Great in c.25-13BC and many structures have remained including a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheatre, aqueducts, Roman mansions and from the later Crusader era there are fortress walls and other structures. Continue on to Jerusalem to spend the night.
Alternatively you could spend this day exploring the sites of Nazareth before driving back to Jerusalem.
Sleep in Jerusalem
Day Four – Jerusalem
Start your day in Jerusalem with a tour of the Old City and the many sites within the ancient walls. Visit the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and walk the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ footsteps on route to his crucifixion. While in the Old City you could walk the ramparts, visit the Tower of David, the Dome of the Rock, see the ancient Roman main street, the Cardo and enjoy the many markets. On leaving the Old City head for Yad VaShem the Israeli Holocaust museum. Depending on your interests you could stroll through the modern streets of Jerusalem; visit the Ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Meir Sha’arim, see the Israeli parliament, the Knesset or visit the Israel Museum.
Sleep in Jerusalem
Day Five – Dead Sea
Leaving Jerusalem drive south into a completely different landscape. Whereas the north is lush and green, southern Israel is mainly desert. On the drive south you’ll pass by Mitzpe Ramon which overlooks the Ramon crater, the world’s largest “makhtesh” similar to a crater formed by a meteor. The crater is 40km long, 2-10km wide and 500 meters deep. Drive on to the Dead Sea where you can float in the water, sun yourself on the Dead Sea beaches and buy the famous Dead Sea cosmetic and health products. If you wish there is the desert oasis of Ein Gedi on the edge o the Dead Sea where waterfalls, greenery and wild animals can be seen. Driving south towards Eilat you could fit in a visit to Masada if you so wish. Continue driving south to the southernmost point of the country; Israel’s number one vacation spot the beach resort city of Eilat. Spend the night there and if you have the energy you could even enjoy Eilat’s nightlife before going to sleep.
Sleep in Eilat
Day Six – Eilat
Wake up to a glorious day by the Red Sea. Today is for relaxing and recharging your batteries. Make a beeline for the beach and enjoy the sun, go swimming, diving or snorkeling in the crystal clear Red Sea. The Red Sea has many coral reefs just off the coast and you can easily see the tropical fish and coral by just swimming a few meters out to sea. Other things to do in Eilat include visiting the Dolphin Reef, a unique attraction where dolphins swim freely between the open sea and an enclosed area. You can dive with the dolphins or relax on the Dolphin Reef beach, swim alongside the dolphins and watch them getting fed. Eilat has a unique shopping mall with a huge ice rink in the center; there are short cruises; excellent seafood restaurants; a camel range; a beachfront promenade and many luxury hotels. At the end of the day you can either stay in one of the excellent Eilat hotels or leave your rental car here and take the half hour flight back to Tel Aviv and sleep in a Tel Aviv hotel.
Sleep in Eilat or Tel Aviv
Day Seven – Tel Aviv
Spend your last day in Israel doing some final sightseeing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps relax on Tel Aviv’s amazing beaches or do some last minute souvenir shopping.
As the week in Israel comes to an end take a flight back home from Tel Aviv and start planning your second trip to the Holy Land.