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Israel is an ancient land where cities’ ages are measured in millennia rather than years. Occupying only a small strip along the Eastern Mediterranean, its huge historic footprint reads like a roll-call of world empires and major religions. The flipside to Jerusalem's ancient holy sites are the golden beaches and skyscrapers of Tel Aviv. Church bells alternate with the chants of the muezzins in the mosques. The dizzy heights of the Masada Fortress cast sweeping views over the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. The shifting sands of the Negev Desert engulf an impossibly green valley, cultivated with vines. These opposing elements all contribute to a social, political and cultural environment, pulsating with energy, creativity and beauty.
Inside the golden limestone walls of Jerusalem, faith has an expected powerful presence. Walk the route Jesus took to his crucifixion along the Via Dolorosa, culminating at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. See Mount Zion and the Room of the Last Supper. Pass through the Jewish Quarter and Bazaar to the great Western Wall. Then ascend the Temple Mount (one of Islam's most holy sights) to see the beautiful gold-domed Mosque of Omar and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Also visit Bethlehem and its famed Church of Nativity, Nazareth, which proudly possesses the Church of Annunciation, as well as Acre, which holds the crypt of St. John and an incredible underground crusader city. Tel Aviv is a truly diverse 21st-century Mediterranean hub, bursting with captivating museums, galleries and theatres to match the whole of Europe. The nightlife and beaches in this modern city make for a youthful and energetic buzz that is contagious whatever your age; despite its cool demeanour, the city is actually a world heritage site too.
Israel often surprises visitors with its creative side. From its innovative museums in Jerusalem to its bustling nightlife in Tel Aviv, the country is rich in culture and entertainment. Many hotels stage performances of traditional song and dance but you can also sample nightlife Arabian style if you wish. Bedouin style parties involve a buffet where everybody is invited to join in and experience the preparations.
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Israeli new shekel
When to go: November-April for cooler weather in a dry country which allows its incredible history to shine through.
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