Israel is one of the best countries I’ve ever visited. It’s so diverse from the north to the south, which is pretty amazing considering how tiny it is!
On top of that, it’s a really safe country to travel to, despite what you hear on the news. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but certainly not such a European feel.
Israel has far more similarities to Europe than to the Middle East, which is also very obvious in the prices; it's pretty much on par with Australia! But the higher price is worth it to experience Israel’s unique pizazz and natural beauty.
If you have never considered Israel as a holiday/backpacking destination, I urge you to start looking into it. You won’t regret it!
Here are ten outdoor activities I loved experiencing in Israel:
1. Go snorkeling or scuba diving in the Red Sea at Eilat
Pristine water, protected marine areas and over a thousand species of fish make it an ideal place to head underwater. If you want to go to the ‘best’ spot it will cost a small fee but all funds go back into its conservation.
The Red Sea, Eilat
2. Hike around the Red Canyon
The Red Canyon is about 30 minutes drive northwest of Eilat. Unfortunately, when we were there the tracks were closed due to bad weather conditions making it unsafe to hike.
There are tours you can take around the area, but if you do go by yourself be sure to take lots of water, a good hat and pay attention to signs if they say not to go!
Sadly I don’t have any photos except for what we saw when we arrived and parked but there are
Entrance to the Red Canyon
3. Spend a day around Mitzpe Ramon
Mitzpe Ramon is a quiet desert town home to many outdoor activities. You can do a jeep or cycling tour, follow one of the hiking paths (for various fitness levels) or you can even abseil down the cliffs.
First, head straight to the visitor centre where they'll give you a tonne of information on what there is to do, the best walks for what you’re after and where and when various tours begin. You may even meet a cute little fella like my friend here…
Ibex chilling out at Mitzpe Ramon
4. Float at the Dead Sea
Ein Gedi is a great area as you’ll have a nice little spot which isn’t as touristy as Ein Bokek (when you drive past the giant resorts in the middle of nowhere you’ll realise you’re there!). With a salt content more than 8 times that of sea water, you do NOT want to get it in your eyes, ears or mouth.
The Dead Sea, Ein Gedi
5. Spend a day at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
With nine different hiking trails for all different fitness levels, you have a trail perfect for every member of the family.
The lush green surroundings meeting the desert is something you won’t see on every holiday. As a bonus, you can stop off along the way and cool down with a dip in the pools and swim around at David Waterfall.
6. Hike up Masada
“Masada is a rugged natural fortress, of majestic beauty, in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army, in 73 A.D.”
- UNESCO website
Although there's a cable car that makes it much easier to get up, there's something rewarding about slowly making your way up to the top in the scorching Israeli sun :-/
Following the well-worn snake path will take you right up to the top, the entire walk taking about an hour.
7. Walk around Jerusalem
You could spend the entire day just walking around this place, taking it all in. It doesn’t seem like it would be a very active day but there is so much exploring to do in Jerusalem. There's a path you can follow along the old walls then you can go in and out of all the little streets in the different quarters, trying all the delicious food!
Be sure to bring or wear clothes to cover your knees and shoulders so you can go up to the Western (Wailing) Wall and leave your prayers.
Above: Looking out from the Old Town walls. Below: prayers left in the Wailing Wall
8. Swim at Gan HaShlosha National Park
Gan HaShlosha is more commonly known by its Arabic name,
The water maintains a constant temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, year round, and being surrounded by exotic palm trees and lush greenery will make you feel like you’re on an island resort.
And if you're into archeology, while you’re there you can also visit the Mediterranean Archaeological Museum.
Sachne / Gan HaShlosha
9. Camp at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
There are many different areas to camp around the Sea of Galilee. You can easily Google these spots, or, even better, ask a local!
You won't need a lot while you're here; pack your car with a tent, a cooler bag/chilly bin filled with your essential beverages and some snacks. That'll be about all you need for a few relaxing days at the "beach".
The only catch is that you may need to pay to drive your car in, we did but I’m not sure if all areas are the same. In saying that, in exchange we got toilets (with toilet paper!!), showers and a clean area to unwind in.
GOLDSTAR is absolutely an essential beverage
10. Walk around the Banias Nature Reserve and Nimrod Fortress
There are four different walking tracks at Banias meaning you can do three individual short walks or one long one which includes all of them. If you do the latter, keep in mind it's not a loop, so you’ll need a car waiting for you at the other end or you’ll be walking all the way back!
When purchasing tickets you can also buy a combined Banias and Nimrod Fortress ticket which I suggest as it’s not much more and you get to see another awesome area.
Above: Walking along the Suspended Path at Banias. Below: Nimrod Fortress
10 Awesome Outdoor Activities in Israel
Extra tips for travelling in Israel:
1. If you can, hire a car
Not the most ideal for a backpacking budget, but without
Renting a car in Israel is cheap but petrol is expensive so be clear with your rental company that you want a manual car (if you can drive one) because the majority of cars in Israel are automatic. With them you’ll spend a small fortune on petrol. You can share the fare by going with a few other people.
Also, Israeli drivers aren’t the most patient of people so don’t get flustered and frustrated if you get honked
2. Buy a Green or orange Card
Pretty much any beautiful site in Israel has an entry fee, which is a shame but at least they are all immaculately maintained.
Purchasing a Green or Orange Card will get you into the sites for a fraction of the price only and are valid for 14 days after purchase. I would say that this is a must and will save you so much money while allowing you to do a lot more. They can only be purchased at a few areas, go here for more details.
3. Sign up for Couchsurfing
Accommodation is really expensive in Israel for a backpacker's budget. If you haven’t already, sign up to Couchsurfing and get a few nights for free while also meeting locals. There are surprisingly quite a lot of people offering couches in Israel and we met a really cool guy while ‘surfing’ at his house!
4. Eat as much ice cream as you can
Israel does amazing ice cream: great flavours, a very decent scoop and if you order it in a cone they will even squash a mini scoop down into it so there is no wasted cone space!
Have you been to Israel before? Or has this post now convinced you? Tell me in the comments below 🙂