If Israel is on your list of must-see destinations, you are not alone. The Holy Land welcomed a record number of tourists last year, and expects even more this year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the modern Israeli state.
Israel is a land that has special meaning for all major Western religions, and the obvious reasons to travel there usually include those spiritual ones, a love of history and an appreciation of archeology. Almost everyone, however, finds the joy of discovering some surprises as well when they explore this beautiful country.
Beyond Hummus and Falafel
Israel is becoming a culinary destination that boasts an inventive and creative fusion of food and wine recently recognized around the world. While it might not be the initial reason you embark on an Israel journey, it is certainly something that resonates throughout your stay. One reason is the melting pot nature of the Israeli culture: everyone arriving with their own traditional offerings and taking advantage of the abundance of healthy, fresh ingredients including fruits, vegetables and fish. Tel Aviv apparently boasts two interesting food–related records: the most sushi restaurants and the most vegans per capita anywhere in the world.
Tourists always come home to regale their friends of the remarkable breakfast buffet in hotels and restaurants across the country. With its origins rooted in the communal kibbutz experience, these breakfasts now include salads and fruits, dozens of cheeses, hot and cold offerings, artisanal breads, and traditional favorites such as hummus, tahini, shakshuka and oh so much more.
While there is no denying the culture, history and spirituality of Israel, many travelers are unaware of the adventurous opportunities that await in the entrancing landscape of this small country.
An exhilarating Jeep ride in the moon-scape Judean hills is a perfect example of an adventure-filled few hours that can accompany a visit to the Dead Sea or historical Masada. Adrenaline junkies can coordinate their exploration with biking and rappelling. The list of possibilities doesn’t stop there! There’s hot-air ballooning, kayaking, snow skiing, and many more outdoor adventure opportunities.
In addition, there’s amazing hiking throughout the country. National Geographic named the Israel National Trail that runs from the southern tip of Israel all the way to the Northern Lebanese border one of the epic trails of the world.
Vibrant Street Life
Despite what we are led to believe by media and common misconceptions, Israel boasts a thriving, vibrant activity level in all its towns and cities.
In Tel Aviv, for example, families are out in force in the newly restored neighborhood of Neve Tzedek where galleries and boutiques line the street. The sidewalk is full of strollers and there is a long line outside the corner gelato hotspot.
Nightlife is also bustling throughout the country where young professionals visit the outdoor bars and restaurants and add to the creative energy of city life. Popular shopping malls and pedestrian courtyards are natural magnets for young and old.
During the nicer weather, the beautiful beaches are filled with people enjoying a day with sun and sand.
All in all, Israel is far from a country that feels tense and anxious, but one that is alive with possibility and a little something for everyone that travels there.
That might be the biggest surprise of all.
Roni Fishkin has visited Israel numerous times. She is the Marketing Director of Mann Travels, which, with local ownership in Charlotte, has been serving travelers with personalized service for more than 35 years.
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