Our family group recently travelled to Israel for a wedding. For most of us it was our first time there and it was a great trip experiencing the highlights of Israel.
Our itinerary was fairly simple:
- Start in Tel Aviv
- Travel to Afula (where the wedding was)
- Ein Bokek (Dead Sea)
- Back to Tel Aviv
It was basically a large circle and back to the starting point as that was where our flights arrived and departed from. We used mainly AirBnB accommodation with the odd hotel chucked in where necessary.
The accommodation in Afula was a great one. This was on a kibbutz and was a nice large house in a good area. You will need a car to stay here as there is no supermarket in the immediate vicinity. We used this as a home base to attend the wedding.
In Ein Bokek we stayed at Leonardo Inn but I personally wouldn’t recommend it. We did not get good customer service there and the room and breakfast which was included in the price was only just OK.
Our AirBnB in Jerusalem was a really nice area although parking is limited and it is expensive if you get a parking ticket (we found out from experience).
Travelling as a group had a few logistical issues but we used a range of public transport, a rental car and private transfers. The public transport was surprisingly easy and cheap and required no pre-booking. It was easy enough to just rock up to the bus/train station and hop on. Rental car driving was easy enough apart from it being on the other side of the road from what we were used to. Private transfers were arranged by our Hebrew speaking daughter. Private transfers are a much more expensive but convenient door to door service. If I was to go again I would have no hesitation using the local bus and trains as my preferred option.
Highlights of Israel
The Old City is amazing to walk through. We had a short private tour organized and I would recommend this. We learnt a lot in the 2 hour walk. It was a step back in time and it was amazing to see all the different cultures in one area; one of the true highlights of Israel. The modern city of Jerusalem itself was also great.
We used the light train trolley to travel through the city to the market. You buy tickets at the train stop and we were lucky that someone helped us to buy tickets the first time as there was a queue forming behind us while we were trying to work it out. The only thing I will say about Jerusalem was that it was cold. Admittedly we were there in winter but the old city with narrow laneways meant not a lot of sun was getting in. I suggest you take a jacket or layered clothes with you. (Editor note: Check out this combo tour package from our affiliate.)
In Tel Aviv we stayed near the beach. I imagine during the summer months that this would be a great place to stay. The beach was lovely and many people were surfing, walking, playing. We walked along the beach one day to the old city of Jaffa. It was great. Another day we visited Carmel Market. The produce there was amazing.
Several days we went out for brunch. The local breakfast seemed to be the ‘Israeli breakfast’ which was made up of delicious fresh bread, an egg of your choice, and a large selection of middle eastern dips, relishes etc. These are a large plateful and after a few tries, we decided that one of these breakfasts was more than plenty for my husband and myself.
Dead Sea and Ein Bokek
A dip in the Dead Sea was a quick in and out for us due to the weather. We were warned not to shave and to watch out for cuts before entering due to the high salt content. We visited Masada Fortress which is a fort very close to Ein Bokek. It was worth a look and a good way to get a bit of exercise in. Our group took the cable car up but there was the option to walk as well. We were advised it would take approx. 45 minutes to walk up but it looked pretty steep.
Ein Bokek itself is on the Israel shore of the Dead Sea. It is the main little township area for accommodations with several hotels and resort type places to stay. Prices were not cheap due to a bit of a monopoly they appear to have. One day is enough time to visit here. Several spa type facilities are available as well.
No matter what, the food is always one of the highlights of Israel. Yum, yum and more yum. Try it all!
Things to Consider
A recommendation I would like to make is DO NOT fly El Al Airlines. We flew in from Asia via Bangkok. The plane on this leg is very old and the entertainment system is the worst I have seen. Basically, there are about 6 movies to choose from for a 12 hour flight. Also, El Al, as the national Israeli airline is not allowed to fly over a number of Arab countries, so instead of taking a direct route the airline is forced to fly south and then turn and head north adding hours on to the flight time. If you are forced to take this flight don’t watch the in-flight tracking as it will do your head in! Other family members in our party flew on Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong and had a much quicker and more pleasant flight.
We were conscious of security issues while we were there. There were a lot of armed police on the streets, crossing into the West Bank area etc, but at no time did we feel threatened. One night we stayed in a Palestinian hotel in Jerusalem and walked through the Damascus Gate into the Arab part of the old city. We were warned that this is a possible hot spot but again, we had no issues.
While our trip was primarily there for a wedding celebration, we loved the history and culture and would recommend this as a place to visit. Whether you take a quick taste with these highlights of Israel or spend more time in each city, there are ample experiences to enjoy.
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