Israel Travel: Seeing the Highlights

Traveling All of Israel: A Guide to the best places to visit

Sunset on The Mediterranean Sea across from the Uri Bur Fish Restaurant. Jean Miller Spoljaric Photos.
Sunset on The Mediterranean Sea across from the Uri Bur Fish Restaurant. Jean Miller Spoljaric Photos.

By Jean Miller Spoljaric

Locals relax by the beautiful water.
Locals relax

The Holy Land is a crossroads of three continents, Africa to the south, Asia to the east and Europe to the west. Israel’s boundaries stretch from The Mediterranean Sea in the west, inland to the Jordanian deserts, from The Sea of Galilee in the North to the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. That may sound vast, but I’ve been told it’s equivalent to the size of New Jersey.

I made my way around Israel coming up short and missing the southern tip, notably, the Red Sea. I managed to swim in the Med, bob in the Dead and almost walk on water in the Sea of Galilee.

I might add that other than the Mediterranean, these bodies of water are not sea’s at all, they are in fact lakes, some natural some man-made. Regardless, they are all magnificently beautiful.

Overlooking The Dead Sea.
Overlooking The Dead Sea.

As I found myself traveling throughout the country, I was constantly reminded of how incredible it really is. Surrounded by the tawny colored land and stone buildings, the magic, the history, encompassed by the beauty of the place they call The Holy Land.

I flew El-Al, Israel's finest airline, I departed from JFK in NYC and flew non-stop to Israel. The flight was crowded with many families and small children but the staff was friendly, professional and excellent at meeting everyone’s needs. ElAl prides itself on top notch security and as of June, 2015 they offer nonstop flights between Boston and Israel.

The Best Tour Company: Contact Routes for all your travel needs in Israel. They are top notch and provide the best qualified tour guides. Ask for Senior Tour Guide, Yehuda Ben Baruch. You will love him! He’s speaks fluent English, Hebrew & Danish. His email is yehuda@routestravel.com or his cell phone number is +972-52-4440-3373 Visit the company website.

Places to Stay

The Dan Panorama Jerusalem: a great hotel with a breakfast buffet, a beautiful atmosphere, friendly staff and free wifi. They offer 289 rooms including suites and they have a fabulous roof top swimming pool and a newly renovated exercise room.

They offer conference and convention facilities as well as children services. When in Jerusalem, choose The Dan Hotels and you won’t be disappointed.

Family yoga at Kibbutz Ginnosar.
Family yoga at Kibbutz Ginnosar.

My pick in Haifa is without a doubt The Colony Hotel. It’s a unique boutique hotel situated in the German Colony on Ben-Gurion Blvd in the heart of the city. You only need to walk up the hill to the amazing Baha’i Gardens or down the hill to the historic seafront.

If you find yourself traveling through the ancient port city of Akko, check out the Efendi Hotel. With only 12 rooms this place packs a big punch.

Some rooms display painted ceilings, others ancient original wooden ceilings and all of the windows entice you to either look out at The Sea or towards Old Town. The best part is the spa that offers a 400-year-old Turkish bath dating back to the Crusader period.

Also check out Efendi’s wine cellar that also dates back to Crusader time. For more information on Efendi, check out their website.

Myself and Chef Moshe from The Eucalyptus Restaurant in Jerusalem.
Myself and Chef Moshe from The Eucalyptus Restaurant in Jerusalem.

During my time at The Dead Sea, I stayed at The Daniel Resort and Spa, another great choice! I visited the Spa Shizen and ordered up a Dead Sea mud massage—the masseuse slathered warm mud over my body with relaxing music playing in the background followed by a salt scrub. You can’t go wrong with a little pampering. And its location is a short walk to the beach where you can bob in the Dead Sea. Visit www.tamareshotels.co.il.

For a unique Israeli experience you should stay in a Kibbutz for one night at the very least. I stayed at The Maagan Holiday Village, Kibbutz Ginnosar, located on the southern shore of The Sea of Galilee near Tiberias in the midst of green fields and plantations, surrounded by historical and ancient sites.

The Kibbutz lifestyle is that of communal living, although I had my own room, complete with TV and free wifi, staying at a Kibbutz is not only economic but it’s one of family living: eating, sleeping, and bonding together, enjoying life and all that Israel has to offer.

A metal Smith working on his goods at the market place in Tel Aviv.
A metalsmith working on his goods at the market place in Tel Aviv.

The Maagan Holiday Village has a pool and a private beach directly on the Sea of Galilee. Check it out--you’ll be glad you did.

When in Tel Aviv you have several choices, however, my picks are The Leonardo Basel for it’s convenient location directly across the street from the beach. If you’re looking for a high-end romantic boutique hotel located in the heart of the city check out The Market Hotel.Visit  www.atlas.co.il.

Notable Restaurants

For the best and freshest fish on the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll need to check out Uri Buri Fish Restaurant,  and trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Plan your trip around sunset because after dinner you can walk to the edge of the sea and take in the most magnificent sunset in all of Israel.

A side note: Uri Buri is owned by Uri Jeremias who also owns and operates The Efendi Hotel. You’ll know him for his long grey beard and kind smile. Be sure to say hi to him for me and tell him I sent you!

Also check out the Brasserie Restaurant located next to Mary’s Well just outside of Jerusalem.

Hiking the Judaean Desert.
Hiking the Judaean Desert.

Visit The Eucalyptus Restaurant in Jerusalem where Chef Moshe Basson will cater to your every need. It’s “slow food” the way it was meant to be. They have indoor and outdoor seating, a fabulous wine list and Chef Moshe goes out of his way to make sure all of your culinary needs are met.
If you find yourself walking around the Old City of Jerusalem do yourself a favor and find Abu Shukri Restaurant on Alwad Street for the best hummus, tahini sauce and falafel. They don’t have a website but they are worth visiting. (02-6271538/ 6289303)

Places You Shouldn’t Miss

I stumbled upon Amphorae Winery one afternoon. If you have a love for wine and romantic nature you will love this little place. They also have a gift shop where you can purchase Israel’s best olive oil. They offer lunch, cheese and all things wine related. GREAT PLACE!

Masada National Park: http://www.masada.org.il/en

Check out The Night Spectacular at The Tower of David in Jerusalem, a light show that will guide you through stories of the past. It’s a mesmerizing experience of virtual reality.  Also, don’t forget to tour the City of David.

Last but not least in my top picks of things to do is a visit to Yad Vashem. A visit to Israel would not be complete without spending time at the Holocaust Museum. I was moved to tears several times throughout my tour. The Hall of Names brought me to a somber place in myself, a place where I felt connected to every person in the room.

I will forever remember this museum for its commitment to remember and never forget the crimes perpetrated against the Jewish people. Please be sure to see this if not plan your visit around it. For more information on Yad Vashem, check out their website.

For More Information on Israel Please refer to their Tourism web page.