What most visitors to Israel don’t realize is that they have arrived at the perfect destination to mix their sightseeing checklist with the thrill of outdoor adventure. Israel’s sunny climate allows visitors to explore what Israel has to offer year-round. During your trip to Israel, make sure to include a visit to these places that aren’t always on the scheduled tours.
At the southernmost point of Israel lies the beautiful resort town of Eilat, a great destination for ocean lovers. The town sits on the northern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. It is best known for its world-class scuba diving and snorkeling. Look closely and you can spot more than 1,200 species of tropical fish and hundreds of types of coral.
If you’re not scuba certified but still want to enjoy the crystal-clear water, you can swim with dolphins at Dolphin Reef, rent Jet Skis, and even go parasailing. Daredevils can test their luck and skydive from 12,000 feet with a view of Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea offers a once-in-a-lifetime swim. The sea, really a large lake, is aptly named for its extremely high salt content (33%). No plant life grows in the lake or around its shores.
The high salinity makes the lake so dense that you won’t be able to submerge your body—you can only float. Of course, you can always try to dunk your fellow travelers! A word of warning: don’t get a paper cut before you get in the water, or the pain from the salt might outweigh the novelty of being buoyant!
The black mud in the Dead Sea is world-renowned for its health benefits and cosmetic properties. One coat of mud is cheaper, faster, and more fun than a day at the spa, and it leaves your skin unbelievably smooth.
After a day in the water, try your hand at spelunking in Fox’s Chimney, one of the few salt caverns in the world. The cave is located at the southern end of the Dead Sea. In the hike, you can rappel over two hundred feet through a huge salt tube. You’ll have to crawl and climb to see the extraordinary salt structures.
David's Waterfall is one of the most popular hiking destinations at En Gedi Nature Reserve and National Park. This oasis provides rare relief from Israel's desert temperatures.
Take a short walk from the west shore of the Dead Sea to En Gedi, a striking nature reserve. Plants and wildlife flourish here, thanks to two year-round streams that flow from the Judean mountains. Herds of ibex (miniature desert goats) and hyrax (similar to rabbits) wander throughout the reserve and even get close enough to touch.
The reserve has a variety of hiking trails that can take anywhere from 20 minutes to five hours for all levels of hikers. The trails lead past ancient ruins and beautiful waterfalls. Go ahead, take a dip; temperatures can reach 100 ºF (38 ºC) in the summer months.
This limestone cave, also known as the Stalactite Cave, is located only 12 miles west of Jerusalem in the Judean hill country. Sorek Cave is famous for its spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations—some of which date back 300,000 years.
The cave boasts every known type of stalactite and stalagmite, and some of the formations are so large that they divide the cave into subsections. Just don’t let the humidity catch you unaware! Humidity in the cave ranges from 92% to 100% all year, so it might be nice to bring a handheld fan to keep you cool.
Northern Israel is home to the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake surrounded most of the year by lush, green countryside. Galilee is a popular destination for windsurfing and kitesurfing because there are strong winds every day from May to October. There are also multiple surf clubs and schools that offer lessons and rental equipment. Israel won its first-ever gold medal for windsurfing during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Drive 30 minutes north of the Sea of Galilee to try a daring tour of Alma Cave, the deepest and longest cave in Israel. Groups take about an hour to get through the cave. You will have to rock climb, rappel, rope swing, and crawl through tight spaces to make your way through. Don’t forget extra batteries for your headlamp! It gets awfully dark down there.No matter what thrill or adventure you crave, Israel has everything you need to experience a truly memorable excursion.www.goisrael.com—Kellie Bowen