Traveling to Israel is an adventure on its own, but when you discover hidden gems tucked away in out-of-the-way places, it adds even more elements of mystery, beauty, and excitement to an already memorable itinerary of activities to do, along with things to see and places to go.
Exploring Lesser-Known Historical Sites
St. James (Jacques) Cathedral
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, you will find the Armenian Quarter. It is the smallest of the city’s quarters. Within the quarter stands St. James’ Cathedral. Armenian history notes that James the Greater and James the Just are buried here.
If you want to walk the same route pedestrians took 1,500 years ago, head to the Christian Quarter and this ancient Byzantine street. The original stones were uncovered during renovations in the 1970s. It was decided by city officials to renovate and restore the stone street, which is located in the Old City.
The Small Wailing Wall
Situated in the Muslim Quarter stands the small Wailing Wall. Unlike the more well-known Wailing Wall, the smaller structure is often overlooked by visitors. It is near the location where the Temple stood and is considered a holy place. Since it is not a synagogue, men and women do not have separate areas for praying.
Discovering Charming Villages
Located in the West Bank in the Jordan Valley, Jericho dates back to around 9,600 BCE. It is considered to be one of the earliest settlements and one of the oldest to be continuously inhabited. Jericho, along with Bethlehem, are the West Bank’s most popular destinations.
Several landmarks to visit include the Spring of Elisha (Ein as-Sultan), the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos, the Mount of Temptation, and the 8th-century Hisham’s Palace.
The Mediterranean coastal town is a prime destination for travelers to the Holy Land interested in Israel’s history and architecture. It has been inhabited since around 2000 BCE. Akko was conquered by the Romans, so you will see many Roman structures. The area was later occupied by the Byzantine Empire and later under Islamic control.
The Templar Tunnel (Knight’s Hall) is a top attraction, as well as other medieval Crusader buildings from the Ottoman era. There’s also the Citadel and the Turkish Bath House. Akko is listed as a World Heritage Site.
A lovely destination for travelers to experience historical, cultural, and natural spots. Rosh Pina was founded in 1878 and is one of the earliest agricultural settlements. Known as the Princess of the Galilee, the small city overlooks the Hula Valley.
While visiting, travelers will be in the midst of pine tree forests and lush gardens while strolling along quiet cobblestone lanes with old stone houses that have been reconstructed. Visit the old synagogue built in 1887 that still holds original wood furnishings. Other sites to see include Professor Mer’s House with its museum, Baron’s Garden established in 1885, Nimrod Lookout for scenic views, the House of Dignitaries with its many exhibits, and the Old Cemetery.
Situated on a hill, Amirim overlooks the Sea of Galilee. The small self-sustainable community has the distinction of being one of the first places people chose to gather to create, support and live a healthy vegetarian, organic, and vegan lifestyle. The founders were the pioneers in Israel to form the vegetarian movement.
The small town is an ideal opportunity to explore, learn, and discover Israeli society firsthand. Several things to do while visiting include viewing scenic Mount Meron, seeing Parod Falls, visiting the Sculpture Gardens, taking a horseback riding tour, or spending some time being creative at a pottery and painting studio.
Marveling at Israel’s Natural Wonders
If you are looking for an oasis in the desert, look no further than Ein Gedi. The beauty of the area is breathtaking, with crystal-clear ponds, cascading waterfalls, and assorted plants. With four springs feeding fresh water to the area, it is a truly refreshing desert oasis situated in the Judean Desert and near the Dead Sea.
Ein Gedi is also an archaeological site as well as a nature reserve. While visiting, you won’t be far from the Qumran Caves and the Masada, both extraordinary places to add to your travel itinerary.
Bring hiking boots and explore the more than nine trails that range from an hour-long trek to a full day of exploration. Along the way, you’ll see herds of beautiful Nubian Ibex, foxes, birds of prey bats, and wolves. You can read our travelers guide to Ein Gedi here.
Gamla Nature Reserve
Situated in Northern Israel in the heart of the Golan Heights, resides the scenic Gamla Nature Reserve, which adjoins the Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve.
Within the reserve is a variety of wildlife to observe, including deer, striped hyena, wild cats, wolves, and many more. The reserve is also home to the largest colony of raptors in Israel, which have chosen the reserve as their nesting destination. It is a historical site, as well, dating to Roman times. Known as the “Masada of the North”, there are archeological sites to explore, such as the ancient city of Gamla, the remnants of the world’s oldest synagogue, trails to traverse, waterfalls to see, panoramic views to experience, and more.
Gan Hashlosha National Park
No matter what time of year you plan to visit, Gan Hashlosha National Park offers a relaxing respite for weary travelers and sightseers.
Located near Mount Gilboa and only 30 minutes from Nazareth, the park is known for its natural warm spring water that invites visitors to take a dip to unwind and relax any time of the year.
Enjoy a picnic near the spring-fed pool, walk around and observe the lush landscape with its swaying palm trees and assorted vegetation. There are also archeological sites to explore, such as the old water-powered mill, a stockade, an Arab hospitality room, and a refurbished tower. Visit the Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archaeology with its display of Greek artifacts and tools.
Rosh HaNikra Grottoes
Situated between Israel and Lebanon along the Mediterranean Seacoast reside the Rosh HaNikra Grottoes. The stunning white chalk cliff invites visitors to enter the grottoes where turquoise waters and fascinating geological formations create a surreal setting.
The grottoes were created over many years by the waves interacting and molding the white-faced cliffs.
Off the Beaten Path Adventures in the Negev Desert
If red is your favorite color, include a visit to the Shokeda Forest on your vacation itinerary. During the winter, the forest comes alive with the vibrant red blooms of the red anemone coronaria blossoms.
Hike or bike your way through the landscape of eucalyptus trees and a red carpet of flowers for an exceptionally serene experience. The forest during the winter is a popular attraction for visitors.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a surreal landscape, plan a day at Timna Park, which was one of the earliest sites for copper mining in the world. The park is riddled with thousands of mineshafts. You’ll also see remnants of ancient smelting furnaces from Egyptian times.
While visiting, you’ll encounter a colorful desert landscape with plants and trees and networked with short and long hiking trails suitable for all, whether you are a novice or a veteran hiker. There is also a lake with pedal boats for rent and guided tours of the park. Use the Safari Shuttle to get around easily, dine at the restaurant, and if you want to camp, there’s also a campground.
It is a popular destination for travelers, and one that offers an interesting look at nature and history in an unspoiled desert setting.
Coral World Underwater Observatory Park
About an 8-minute drive from the Negev desert to Eilat, you can get in touch with the beauty and the diversity of the many species that thrive underwater at Coral World.
Go sailing, diving in the shark pool, visit the underwater observatory tower, feed baby sea turtles, and learn about oysters and pearls. It is worth the short drive to learn the secrets and see the denizens of the deep that reside in the Red Sea.
Tips for Exploring Israel’s Hidden Gems
Whether this is your first visit to Israel, or you’ve visited before, there are a few tips to know before you go and remember once you arrive.
With so many places to explore that are part of the country’s culture and heritage, it is recommended that you acquaint yourself with Israel’s history. Knowing the who, what, why, when, and where of the places you’ll visit will give you a better understanding of its significance in history.
Keep in mind that there may be specific rules/requirements to visit some sites. Also, remember everything is not accessible, especially on religious holidays.
Decide what type of weather is best for your excursions. During the summer, which runs from April to October, expect hot and humid conditions. During the winter, from November to March, the weather is cooler, but it is also the rainy season.
Pack, accordingly, keeping in mind the weather, and some religious sites have dress code requirements.
While exploring hidden gems, wear comfortable shoes and a hat, have plenty of sunscreen available, and bring your sunglasses.
A few “just in case” items to bring along in a small backpack include hand sanitizer, a small roll of toilet tissue, and a pack of wet wipes. A small umbrella is also recommended for unexpected rain.
Always stay alert, be respectful of historical sites, and follow any designated regulations that may be in place before entering or experiencing sites.