I was nagged by the need to find a new hotspot to easily fall in love with, just like I did with Morocco. The options were obvious, having been enchanted, time and time again, by the Arabian lifestyle, food, culture and deserts. I knew my choice had to be on the affordable side of the Middle East.
I excitedly settled for Israel, which, to be honest, is quite an unusual place to pack your bags to visit (unless you’re heading out for a pilgrimage). But as an adventurer/free spirit that I am, I packed my boxes and off I was to the land of creation, eager to explore their history, local culture, nightlife, beaches, tourist attractions and, most importantly, its neighbouring country Jordan.
Should you be travelling to Israel sometime soon, I’ll advise that you check out our Israel bucket list for some must-dos in Israel. Israel is a small, diverse country that boasts of many unique attractions to travellers of all ages and backgrounds, and is home to scenic desert landscapes, lush forests, cool beaches and some of the most important historic sites in the world
The State of Israel is a country in the Middle East, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It amazingly shares land borders with 7 countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon.
The weather in Israel is almost sunny most of the year with the coldest and rainy months between November- February. Thankfully I visited in October, and the weather was amazing.
It’s home to many religions and modest dressing is recommended when visiting holy sites.
The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. English is however the main language for external relations and most people in Israel speak English. Your must-see cities in Israel are Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, and Eliat. The currency of Israel is the New Israeli Sheqel (ILS), 1 ILS= N100.
There are no direct flights from Nigeria to Israel. Your cheapest option would be Egypt Air. Alternative options are Ethiopia Airways or Turkish Airways. Flights seat go for around the price of ₦300,000 to ₦400,000 during off-peak travel season. The travel time plus layover can take up to 10 hours from Lagos.
The type of accommodation you’ll get depends largely on the your set budget, however, the average cost of a 4-star hotel in Tel- Aviv city (not beach front) is around N35,000 per night.
By law, all taxis in Israel must be equipped with a meter that must be operated for all local rides. Legal taxis are white with a ‘taxi’ sign. This law also applies to Uber so I can’t say it will be cheap. I didn’t try the buses either and they have very few train lines in Israel. The easiest option is to arrange for a guide/driver for your entire stay. I luckily had the best tour operator and guide Hezy of Shalom Tours who ensured I visited every spot on my list.
I’d advise that you join a group trip, as this would save you the stress of going to the embassy in Abuja. The group trip organiser would usually go on behalf of individuals (a group of 12 and upward). Embassy information can however be found here.
To Do in Israel
Make A Wish
One of the highlights of my trip was the ‘Wishing Bridge’ in Old Jaffa, where you get to hold onto your zodiac sign, look up to the heavens, and make a wish (I made several wishes for enemies in the village).
If you’re all about that beach life, then you just might really love Israel. Spanning across the gorgeous Mediterranean coast, the beaches in Israel are some of the most beautiful in the world.
- Tel Aviv: From Jaffa, Banana Guela, Bograshov to Frishman and Gordon, the experience is beautiful all round. The beaches here are truly the best I’ve ever seen. The sands on the beaches are smooth and soft, almost like they came right out of the Sahara Desert. They are all blue flag beaches, clean with lots of beach volleyball spots. You’ll hear live music constantly from the bars along the promenade, calling your attention to grab a drink.
- Coral Beach: Is a nature’s reserve on the Red Sea, with the most magnificent views of the coral reef (1,200 metres long). If you love snorkelling, then this beach won’t disappoint you with its combination of strange and beautiful corals that create colourful underwater gardens.
- Underwater Observatory: On the same coast line as the coral beach lies the underwater observatory. Here, you can see the most amazing coral reef without getting inside the water. This was, for me, a great alternative to snorkelling considering I have aquaphobia. One of the world’s most spectacular underwater universes, including an observatory, a nature museum, 40 fish tanks, a sea turtle/stingray pool and a shark pool.
- Dead Sea: This is great for those of us who have been skipping swimming classes. You will always float in the dead sea no matter what. It is the lowest point of the earth, and its high level of saltiness doesn’t allow for the existence of underwater creatures. Hence, its name: the dead sea.
Historical Sites and Museums
Israel is filled with impressive historical sites that are special to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Whatever your background, you can spend hours immersed in the knowledge of the historical happenings in these places. Take a stroll along the ancient pathways of the Old City in Jerusalem. The Old City is a 220-acre walled area overflowing with more history, culture, and spirituality more than any other place in the world. Israel houses some of the most interesting museums, from modern and contemporary art to important historical events.
In Jerusalem, I visited important landmarks such as:
- Dome of the Rock.
- Garden of Gethsemane.
- Church of Annunciation.
- City of David.
- Via Delarorsa.
- Church of Condemnation.
- Holy Sepulchre.
- Western Wall.
Visit other cities/towns
Don’t restrict your visit to only Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Visit other such as Haifa, Caesera, Eilat, Nazareth, Bethlehem, etc., as each city holds it’s own surprise.
Visit natural sites
- Bahai Gardens, Haifa: The immaculately manicured and perfectly gorgeous gardens with a stunning view of the sea were built by the members of the Baha’i faith. The gardens offer a splendid view of the Haifa Bay, the Galilee, and the Mediterranean.
- Mount Precipice, Nazareth: It is believed by some to be the site of the rejection of Jesus described in the Gospel of Luke.
- Mount of Olives, Jerusalem: It is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven.
- I didn’t get to visit the Negev Desert due to time, but from reviews, I would definitely recommend a stop there. It’s within close proximity to Timna Park where you can zipline, get the buggy ride, camel riding or ATV. It’s also close to the phenomenal Red Canyon.
Shawarma and BBQ lovers, get in here! There is so much to eat here. Lemon and mint is a very popular drink and you must try it.
You would be wrong to assume that the religiosity of Israel automatically means zero party life. Old Jaffa welcomed us with great live music and there was a large turnout of guests during weekdays. I’m aware the weekend has beach parties as well.
Visit neighbouring countries
Israel shares borders with so many countries and planning a multi trip would be well rewarding. You could combine your visit with Egypt or Lebanon (but you would have to travel through Jordan to Lebanon).
I visited Jordan during my stay, and the crossing was by foot from Arava in Israel to Aqaba in Jordan. One of the major highlights of Jordan, is Petra, the lost city, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Despite its political and religious complexity, Israel was filled with so many surprises; it answered questions, cleared several doubts and, let’s not forget, it helped me create the most beautiful memories. I’ll definitely be returning soon.
P.S: If you wish to visit Israel, you will need to ensure you visit there before Lebanon. Due to their political rifts, you cannot enter Israel with a Lebanon stamp on your passport and vice versa. I recommended visiting Israel before Lebanon because Israel won’t necessarily stamp your passport unless you apply for their visa directly from Nigeria. If you are travelling with a group, you will be given a visa slip which leaves no trace on your passport, thereby making it possible to visit Lebanon.