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The Ultimate Guide to Israel’s Best-Kept Secrets

There are a lot of famous and well-known attractions to be seen in Israel. There are also those out-of-the-way places of interest and intrigue considered to be the hidden gems of Israel. A visit to these lesser-known and visited sites can turn your travel plans into memorable excursions that will not be forgotten.

palmahim beach tel aviv

Off-the-Beaten-Path Beaches and Coastal Towns

Israel has choices for beachgoers along the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea coastlines. Israel’s two lakes, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea, also provide picturesque beach destinations. The many beaches offer relaxation, opportunities for diving, taking advantage of the healing properties of the mineral-rich seas, scenic camping sites, and access to amenities, such as nearby cafes.

Along the Mediterranean Sea, a lesser-known beach that isn’t crowded is Palmachim Beach in Tel Aviv. It is lined by low cliffs that run along the beach area. There are limited facilities, but the beach has unlimited peace and quiet. Beachcombers enjoy sunbathing, photography, and water activities.

A beach situated along the Red Sea provides the opportunity to swim with the fish. Plan to visit Dolphin Reef to enjoy watching the dolphins at play, or swim beside them. Dolphin Reef is also an ecological site where you will find observation decks to view the landscape.

When traveling to the Sea of Galilee, Gofra Beach has become a popular site for campers. The beach area is dotted with eucalyptus trees, providing a respite from the sun. There’s also Tsemach Beach on the eastern shore.

The Dead Sea is known for its high level of salt, which makes floating in the waters a peaceful and relaxing activity. At Mineral Beach, health enthusiasts can also slather themselves with mineral-rich mud from the mud pit. There are also hot sulfur pools.

Remote Nature Reserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries

Bring a pair of durable hiking boots so you can traverse the terrain of Israel’s nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. From cliffs and trails to lakes and waterfalls, the scenery is breathtaking, and the wildlife is diverse.

The Poleg Nature Reserve is an example of nature at its best. The reserve’s history goes back to Roman times. During the spring and winter seasons, the reserve is alive with lush landscapes and patches of colorful, blooming flowers, such as narcissus and daffodils, dot the area. The reserve offers a quiet environment, walking trails, and a nice place for a picnic.

Nahal Mearot Nature Preserve is designated as a UNESCO Site of Human Evolution. The preserve is near Haifa near the Carmel mountain range. The prehistoric caves within the preserve are open to the public. Inside the caves, there are exhibits and audio-visual information about how people lived in the caves centuries ago. Explore on your own or take one of the guided tours. The preserve also has hiking trails. One is the cave trail, and the other is the botanical trail. Each provides beautiful scenery and views. 

Protecting wildlife is important, and there are several centers in Israel dedicated to nurturing, protecting, and researching the country’s wildlife population. 

The International Birding and Research Center in Eilat studies and supports the thousands upon thousands of migratory birds that travel back and forth through the country. Visitors to the center can walk around the area, see the habitats, observe birds in the wetlands, take a guided tour, and just enjoy the tranquility of the area that is open to all birds.

The 3,000-acre Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve is home to a variety of rare animals. The goal of the reserve is to protect endangered species and restore the diverse wildlife population in Israel. At the reserve, visitors enjoy a self-guided mini-safari-style tour in their own vehicle. You will receive information about the reserve’s wildlife, such as gazelles, ostriches, Nubian Ibex, addax, white oryx, sand cat, Somali mules, and many more. Carnivores are kept separately and not accessible to the public. The drive can take about 45 minutes, and along the way, many different types of animals are roaming freely in their natural habitat. Feeding time is the best opportunity to see many different animals. Obviously, you are not allowed to get out of your vehicle or attempt to feed the animals. The reserve as established in 1970 and managed by the Israel Nature Reserves and National Parks Authority.

israel national parks

Ancient Ruins and Archaeological Sites

The ruins of the Caesarea Aqueduct make a lasting impression, as you see the amazing structure constructed 2000 years ago by Herod the Great to transport water. Several centuries later, the Romans constructed a parallel aqueduct. At Caesarea Aqueduct Beach, you will be up close to this historic site from the 1st century BC.

Ein Keshatot in the Golan Heights dates back to around 749 C.E. It was a Jewish settlement that experienced an earthquake causing the people to abandon the site. Eventually, a synagogue was built on the site near a spring. The area was named Spring of Arches. 

Access to water was a concern in ancient times, and within the ruins of Horvat Rehobot, it is clear from the crumbling ruins that the irrigation and water-management systems served as a significant resource for travelers and tradesmen. The site is estimated to have been used by Nabatean traders at least 2,300 years ago and on to Byzantine Roman times. During the early Islamic period, the site was abandoned. The remaining arches, walls, and vaults have provided archeologists with important information about seasonal weather that affected this and other ancient ruins.

Shivta was part of the spice trade network supplying goods to the ports at Jaffa and Gaza. The ruins were recognized in 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shivta, itself was a major contributor during the Byzantine period for its production of wine. Through excavations, archaeologists have found proof o a settlement. Artifacts found at the site include three churches. A mural on one of the remaining walls has been identified by an Israeli art historian as being the face of Jesus. 

Quirky Museums and Cultural Experiences

Museums are excellent resources for learning about history and culture, science, and more, and Israel has over 200. Included in that number are some unusual museums with a twist, such as the Museum of Illusions. Providing fun for all ages, the interactive museum has visitors walking on walls in the Rotated Room, shrinking to become miniature in the Ames Room, and floating freely in the Anti-Gravity Room.

At Otzar HaSTAM of Tzfat, visitors see and do at the museum dedicated to the writing of scrolls. Take a walk through the garden, where giant sculptures depict each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Inside, a 3D movie discusses scribal art followed by a guide instructing visitors on the art of crafting their own scroll. A visit is both an educational and entertaining cultural experience.

Another of the hidden gems of Israel is a museum with a sweet attitude. The Shulman Chocolate Museum in northern Israel is where you will learn about the history of chocolate. Owner and artist Dimitri Shulman shows how he makes his sweet creations. In the museum, there are exhibits of his creative artwork with chocolate, from portraits to stilettos. While perusing the artwork, be sure to sample the goods or buy your favorite chocolate goody.

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