Israel: from sunny beaches to desert hiking

Bustling Tel Aviv in Israel is no hidden gem to today’s travellers, having become a well-known destination to catch good vibes.

Other cities in the country, such as Haifa, are trying to keep up, but Israel also boasts a range of natural diversity rarely seen even in large countries – from the salty Dead Sea with the lowest elevation on Earth and vast desert areas in the south to wonderful beaches along the Mediterranean coast and even mountains with ski resorts in the north.

Israel boasts a range of natural diversity rarely seen

Photo on Unsplash

Another fascinating aspect of travelling around Israel is the sheer concentration of historical sites and places of profound religious significance.

While Jerusalem and its environs may be the first that come to mind to enthusiasts of history and the history of religion, Israel’s natural features – deserts, rivers, lakes, grottoes – have also played a role in events that are still so important today.

On top of that, well-preserved and carefully revived ancient cities await in the desert, having themselves become a unique part of their surroundings.

A view to Jerusalem

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The Dead Sea has attracted tourists for decades, but for various environmental reasons, visiting it may become more complicated in the future. Since the 1960s, the sea has shrunk by 33% and the decreasing water levels are changing the characteristics of the sea and the surrounding region.

Large sinkholes, attributed to the decline in water levels, have started to appear along the sea’s western coast at Ein Gedi, swallowing parts of roads and buildings and turning entire resorts into ghost cities.

Mushrooms of the Dead Sea

Photo on Instagram

Here’s our pick of the most beautiful places to visit in Israel.


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The desolation of the Dead Sea

The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest land-based elevation on Earth, and the sea itself is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water.

While its elevation is more of a fun geographical fact, the saltiness has a very real effect that anyone trying to take a dip in the sea will feel – it makes you effortlessly float in the water.

Dead sea makes you effortlessly float in the water

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Fish and other water creatures cannot survive in this environment, but the mud from the sea has many health benefits for human skin when applied correctly.

The resorts right next to the accessible parts of the Dead Sea are very touristy and somewhat inauthentic.

Spend the night with breathtaking view

Photo on Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel

However, if you look a little further, there are cosy options away from the crowds that will also be more gentle on your budget.

One of the best options is the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel (with an entire botanical garden!) located just a short drive from the sea. The hotel also has an adorable camp lodge with RV parking and an option to spend a night in a vintage VW van.

In Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel territory you will find a botanical garden

Photo on Tripadvisor


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The wonders of the Negev Desert

Even though the Negev Desert covers over 55% of Israel, it hosts only a little over 8% of the country’s population.

It contains the oldest discovered surface on Earth, dating to an approximate 1.8 million years ago, and is also home to a unique geological formation called a makhtesh. These crater-like landforms are only found in the Negev and its extension into Egypt and have been created by extreme water erosion.

The Negev Desert covers over 55% of Israel

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Even though visitors oftentimes overlook deserts, they are in fact full of life and surprises, and the Negev is no exception.

Some popular destinations include Timna Park (with many interesting geological formations as well as the world’s first copper mine), the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the ancient city of Avdat, and the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve dedicated to breeding and reacclimating animals mentioned in the Bible that have become endangered or locally extinct. Adventure seekers can also try sandboarding in the dunes.

Visit Timna Park - one of the most beautiful parks in the world

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The Eilat Desert Marathon takes place every December, with a starting point in the desert and the finish line on the shores of the Red Sea.


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The depths of the Rosh HaNikra grottoes

The world’s steepest cable car will bring you down to the Rosh HaNikra grottoes
Photo on Tripadvisor

At Israel’s northwestern tip, on the border with Lebanon, you’ll find the Rosh HaNikra grottoes, which are the result of rain and waves chipping away at the chalky white cliffs.

There, visitors can take a cable car (that claims to be the world’s steepest, descending at a gradient of 60 degrees) down to the grottoes, explore the caves, listen to the sound of the waves amplified by the cave tunnel, and watch a movie about the formation of these natural wonders.

Listen to the sound of the waves amplified by the cave tunnel in the Rosh HaNikra grottoes

Photo on Unsplash

Apart from the beauty of the grottoes, the place has an interesting history. During the Second World War, the British army dug a tunnel for the railway running between Haifa and Beirut to facilitate the movement of supplies from Egypt. However, as the British withdrew in 1948, Israeli forces took over Rosh HaNikra and blew up the railway bridges in the grottoes to prevent them from being used by other invading forces.

Today, visitors can walk around in the remaining parts of the tunnel, which contain detailed information about the railway and the events leading up to its destruction.

Visit the Rosh HaNikra and get to know its an interesting history

Photo on Instagram


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Read more about authentic travel experiences in Baltic Outlook.

Cover photo on Unsplash
Text by Nadīna Elekse

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