The magnificent Mediterranean port of Haifa is a perfect starting point for a short virtual tour of the timeless beauty of Israel. Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel, its history dates back more than 3,000 years.
This view down on the city, port and cruise terminal was taken from the Louis Promenade over theBaháʼí Gardens and the gold-domed Shrine of the Báb, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Haifa is also known for its museums, ethnic restaurants, unique shopping opportunities and its lush civic gardens.
Visit the German Colony, one of Haifa’s many vibrant neighborhoods
Haifa is known for its many neighborhoods, each of which is unique and boasts its own cuisine, art and ambiance. One of the most famous is the German Colony, established in 1868 by a German Protestant sect.
Today, the neighborhood is alive with cafés, boutiques, hotels and restaurants (many serving German cuisine) located in quaint 19th century buildings. The Colony has also become a center of Haifa nightlife, popular with residents and tourists alike. Rising behind the Colony on the slope of Mt. Carmel are luxury apartment buildings, hotels and cultural centers.
Acre, one of the oldest inhabited settlements on earth
Acre, just a 25-minute drive by car or train from Haifa, carries the distinction of being among the oldest continuously-inhabited settlements on earth, dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BC). Today’s population consists of Jewish people, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Baháʼís, making for a fascinating mix of cultures to explore in this ancient port city.
Today, you can still see fishermen casting their nets and enjoy some of their catches in the many specialty fish restaurants along the quay, which boasts a Mediterranean ambiance and unobstructed views of the sea. Remains of the 800-year old Crusader port are still visible.
Tour the mighty Knights’ Hall Hospitaller Fortress
One of Acre’s most fascinating attractions is the Knights’ Hall-Hospitaller Fortress, which played a major role in the defense of the city during Crusader times in the 12th century. It’s quite an experience to be guided through various underground tunnels and labyrinths, used by the knights in times of battle.
The passages also lead to magnificent halls. One of the most beautiful is the Crusader Dining Hall, where the knights could meet and dine, while sequestering themselves from outside harm.
Acre’s Muslim history is visible in the Al-Jazzar mosque and the Al-Muallaq mosque minaret, an excellent example of Ottoman architecture, built in 1781 and overlooking the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, Acre was a major ancient port and has a long, varied and fascinating history.
It may look like Napa, but it’s actually the glorious wine country of Israel, which boasts more than 300 vineyards and wineries scattered throughout the nation. The Golan Heights wine region, just a 90-minute drive from Haifa, features a mountainous terrain and foothills with micro-climates that produce a wide variety of award-winning varietals.
Not that wine making is anything new for this ancient country, as it has been carried on for 5,000-plus years. That being said, in addition to a wide selection of standard varietals produced in this rich soil, the region has reintroduced indigenous Biblical-era grapes that offer a unique wine-tasting experience for the vineyard explorer.
The ancient city of Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world, is less than a two-hour drive or train ride from Haifa. The first thing you may notice are the impressive walls that surround the city, built over the centuries since ancient times.
Jerusalem is filled with many houses of worship, including synagogues, churches and mosques considered to be some of the holiest in the world. The Church of All Nations is a Roman Catholic church on the Mount of Olives.
Resting on the site of a 4th-century Byzantine cathedral, the Basilica was consecrated in 1924. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus was said to have prayed before his arrest. The Garden of Gethsemane is directly adjacent to the cathedral.
The Garden of Gethsemane remains one of the most revered sites in Christianity. Located adjacent to the Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations), and at the foot of the Mount of Olives, it’s where Jesus underwent the agony in the garden. He was also arrested there the night before his crucifixion.
Recent scientific studies have reported that the trees in the garden are upwards of 900-1000 years old.
A visit to the Old City of Jerusalem is not to be missed. For a different vantage point and great education, the Davidson Center and Jerusalem Archaeological Park enable visitors to walk through the site’s 5,000-year history. From this location, you’ll be viewing the southern wall of the Old City, which dates back to the time of King Herod during the era of Roman Rule.
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the ancient Western Wall, also called the Wailing Wall, is a revered place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people. This ancient limestone wall is all that remains of the Second Jewish Temple, whose construction began in 19 B.C. under the rule of King Herod.
This magnificent edifice is a must-see on any visit to Jerusalem.
Thousands of Jewish people journey to the Wailing Wall each year to visit and recite prayers. These prayers are either spoken at the wall or written on notes and placed in the wall’s cracks. Visitors can also explore the Western Wall tunnels on a guided tour, and walk through areas of this original site that dates back to the first century A.D.
Exposing your children to the beauty and culture of this world makes an indelible mark on their memories. This family tours the ancient wall surrounding Jerusalem, pointing out its history to their children.
If you are a lover of lox, which is a fillet of cured (but not smoked) salmon, you’ll be in culinary heaven during your visit. In Jerusalem, enjoy a serving of lox garnished simply with capers and onion strips, which will melt on your tongue. The culinary scene throughout Israel is exceptional, thanks to its farm-to-table practices.
Vegans and vegetarians will find a tremendous variety of menu options available throughout the country. In fact, Tel Aviv has the highest number of vegans per capita of any city in the world, so no matter your taste, you are sure to eat well in Israel.
The ancient city of Nazareth, located in Israel’s Galilee region, is just a 45-minute commute from Haifa. Not only is it important as the largest Arab city in Israel, it also remains in history as the childhood home of Jesus. Stroll through the Old City, famous for its colorful Arabic markets.
Israel is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community, with many artisans creating beautiful handmade jewelry, olive wood carvings and hand-cast ceramics. From quaint boutiques to open-air markets to high-end shopping malls, Israel is definitely a shopper’s paradise.
After immersing yourself in the glories of Israel, return to Haifa to embark on your next adventure. The night sky provides a beautiful goodbye to a short, but infinitely sweet, visit to this ancient and fascinating country.