Israel: Expand your horizons

Israel: Expand your horizons

Get the insiders' guide to Israel from those who know it best. Jeannine Williamson reports

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There’s nothing like first-hand experience. But if you can’t get it, then the second best thing is to borrow someone else’s.

And when it comes to knowing Israel well, you won’t find experts with much more expertise than ours. Take a look at why they love Israel, and it’ll be easy to make your clients feel the same.

With its long history, melting pot of cultures, religious heritage and cosmopolitan cities, Israel is an unforgettable destination. It’s less than five hours from the UK and once you’re there, you can pack a lot into a limited amount of time.

From the airline gateway of Tel Aviv it’s just a one-hour drive to Jerusalem and another half an hour to the Dead Sea. A one-hour internal flight or five-hour drive will get you to the Red Sea holiday playground of Eilat in the south.

SHMUEL BROWNS


Tourism guide, Israel Ministry


Favourite place: The Negev desert, which makes up 60% of Israel’s area. Stay a few days and visit the edge of the Ramon crater, a geological formation unique to this area, and at night learn to identify the stars.

Favourite food: Uri Buri is a homely seafood restaurant in Acre, near the lighthouse. What makes it stand out are the dishes based on interesting combinations of ingredients, such as sashimi with caramelised beets and wasabi ice cream. Share the tasting menu and ask the waiter for local Israeli wine.

Recommended excursion: A day trip to the Dead Sea and Judean desert, which combine history and nature. Visit Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and Masada, King Herod’s mountain palace, followed by a hike in a nature reserve to pools and waterfalls. End the day at one of the spa beaches for a float in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea.

Hidden gem: Not far from Eilat is the Red Canyon, a colourful hike for the whole family where you slide down chutes and climb down ladders of a narrow canyon with purple, orange and pink sandstone-sculpted walls.

Best way to spend a day: Drive the Jordan valley, part of the Great African Rift Valley, visit the archaeological site at Bet Shean and have St Peter’s Fish (or tilapia, as it is also known) for lunch overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Then visit Capernaum, with a 4th-century synagogue where Peter lived and Jesus preached and drive to the Mediterranean coastal town of Jaffa. Dine at a restaurant on the boardwalk overlooking the sea and watch the sun set.

NAAMA ORYAN-KAPLAN


Director UK and Ireland, Israel Government Tourist Office


Favourite place: This has to be Tel Aviv. Nothing is better than waking up after a busy night out, opening the curtains and seeing the turquoise water of the Med and beautiful coastline.

Favourite food: Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market is an absolute heaven for foodies. I love to walk around filling up a basket with crusty nut and cranberry bread, spicy olives, houmous made with local olive oil and a bottle of cold pomegranate juice that has been squeezed right before your eyes.

Best way to spend a day: The city of Safed in Galilee is the birthplace of Kabbalah, which is almost 2,000 years old. The picturesque alleys with sky-blue door frames, the green mountains surrounding the city, the little handwritten lost and found signs and the beautiful artist shops are unique to Safed. Even more unique is joining a half-day introductory course to Kabbalah.

Israel

ALISON BUTLER


Product manager, Explore


Favourite place: The kibbutz near Tiberias. It is simple yet comfortable, with peaceful surroundings, and gives you a fantastic insight into this side of the Jewish culture.

Best view: I love the view from Masada fortress looking out over the Dead Sea.

Recommended excursion: Walking the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a must.

Hidden gem: The Negev desert. Few tourists venture off the main road and head out into the desert and the best way to enjoy these stunning landscapes is by camel or four-wheel drive.

Best way to spend a day: My favourite day would start in Jerusalem followed by a drive to Masada and ascent by cable car to enjoy the site, its interesting history and impressive views. Then visit Ein Gedi to float in the Dead Sea and have a therapeutic mud bath. Visit Qumran and then head back to Jerusalem for dinner in a local restaurant.

CHARLENE BLAKE


Manager, Superstar Holidays


Favourite place: The Dead Sea is one of my favourite spots in the world. After breathing in the calm air you leave feeling 100% relaxed and your body and mind are rejuvenated.

Favourite food: The view from Manta Ray restaurant on Tel Aviv’s seafront is spectacular. It’s famous for its mezze, which is reasonably priced.

Best view: As well as exquisite food, the view of the Old City of Jerusalem from the rooftop outdoor lounge and restaurant at the Mamilla Hotel is breathtaking, especially at night.

Recommended excursion: A day trip to Acre, Haifa and Caesarea on Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast. The history surrounding these three cities is fascinating.

Best way to spend a day: Israel serves the best breakfasts in the world, so make the most of it and then walk along Tel Aviv promenade heading south. Haggle for bargains in Carmel market and wander through the atmospheric Neve Tsedek neighbourhood, which used to be home to many artists and writers. Continue on to Jaffa, grabbing a falafel and pitta to keep you going until dinner. Spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach and watch the sunset with a Goldstar, Israel’s finest beer, before enjoying a well-deserved dinner at one of Tel Aviv’s many restaurants

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