The Dead Sea is a natural wonder that you’ve probably heard of: it’s a pool of seriously salty water in the Negev Desert shared by both Israel and Jordan. It’s so salty that no visible organism could live in it and is estimated to be between five to eight times saltier than normal seawater. Rocks of salt crystals collects at its shore, which spas around both countries and beyond use in skin-smoothing salt scrubs, and the mud deposits are packed with so many minerals that it’s common practice to slather yourself in it while you bathe for the ultimate au naturel pampering session. It’s practically impossible to swim in the Dead Sea; the viscous water keeps your body firmly afloat, comfortably above the surface enough to read a newspaper – or pretend to for the classic photo that no Dead Sea trip is complete without.
Tiberias is one of the four Holy Cities of Judaism. Named after Roman Emperor Tiberius, this relatively little-known destination became an important refuge for Jews exiled from Jerusalem and is awash with white blocky buildings at the edge of the freshwater lake. People come to bathe in its hot springs and some of the most prominent Jewish sages have been buried here. It sits on the Sea of Galilee’s western shore and makes a good base for exploring the area’s holy sites of interest. Take the walking trail to Mount Berenice to see Byzantine ruins and views over Tiberias, or drive over to Hamat Gader where you can relax in its springs, see old Roman baths and peer over the border into Jordan.
Sea of Galilee
Known locally as Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee is a special place in Israel. In Christianity, the world’s most widely-followed religion, Jesus was said to have lived and taught among its shores and it’s here that he met five of the people who would become his disciples. Christians believe that Jesus lived in Capernaum, a town at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. It's around this area that Jesus is believed to have given some of his most famous sermons and performed miracles like multiplying fish and loaves of bread to feed 5000 people, walking on water and calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee. There's a walking trail that runs around the whole freshwater lake for leisurely walks or cycling, though its worth keeping in mind that the area is popular with locals in the summer and on major Jewish holidays and can get quite busy.
This port city is packed with history – from mosques built by the Ottomans to a Crusader network of underground tunnels that run under the city streets. Acre, or Akko, has been passed between rulers who have each left their mark on the city. It is also significant because it is part of the centre of the Baha’i faith, a relatively modern religion founded in the 19th Century with shrines and a splendid garden in nearby Haifa. Acre is an hour and a half's drive from Tel Aviv – so you could head over just for a day – but we recommend spending longer here. There’s so much to see and soak up that most day trippers wish that they had stayed a few days. Shaded stone alleyways lead to at the old city centre treasures like Acre Market and Al-Jazzar Mosque, the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem. Blue sea views are painted neatly on top of the city walls and the Crusader Citadel is real history buff material – there’s even a 150-metre tunnel which connects the palace to the port that was only rediscovered in 1994.
Northern Israel is conveniently close-knit with relatively short journeys – Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee are just an hour’s drive from Acre, and Acre and Haifa are half an hour apart. The Dead Sea is accessible from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so you can stay in the city and still tick-off must-see attractions. Combining Israel's cities and historic sites on a multi-centre holiday is the best way to make sure you’re seeing the most important attractions and getting an in-depth experience of the country as a whole. We’ve put together some suggested itineraries to give you an idea of how to see it all, or you can create your own itinerary and add excursions to see key sites with the expert knowledge of a local guide.