Home to some of the world's most famous historic sites, Israel and the Palestinian Territories are often thought of as simply a pilgrimage destination. After all, this is where some of the main events for those of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths is said to have happened. But for travelers not seeking out religious highlights in the churches, synagogues, and mosques, there are plenty of other attractions. The Dead Sea is a bizarre natural wonder where you can't sink. The Galilee region's natural beauty ticks all the boxes for those who want to hike in nature. And the Negev desert's raw and rocky landscapes are ripe for adventure seekers looking for some dusty action. Sure, the religious sites here will always be the main draw card for a visit, but scratch below the surface and you'll find there's so much more.
Forever linked to the Bible, Nazareth is one of the main pilgrimage destinations in the country. The holy sites here are some of the most important in the world for those of the Christian faith. This is where the Annunciation took place, and where Jesus Christ was brought up, and the center of town is home to important churches that celebrate this history. Don't miss the Basilica of the Annunciation and exploring the vibrant bazaar area, which adds some modern bustle to the twisty, old city lanes.
5 The Dead Sea
The lowest point on earth and one of the world's most wacky natural wonders, the Dead Sea is the mineral-rich and overly salty sea where no one can sink. Locked in by the cliffs of the Great Rift Valley, this bizarre body of water (where natural buoyancy occurs due to the high salt content) has been wowing travelers for centuries. Take a float - you can't really sink - and you'll be won over as well.
7 Timna Park
8 Sea of Galilee
Gorgeous countryside and bags of history, the shoreline that wraps around the Sea of Galilee is packed full of attractions. Whether you're here to visit the churches of Tabgha, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and carried out much of his preaching, or you just want to soak in the hot pools near Tiberias and do some hiking, this beautiful region is a major highlight of any trip. Don't miss taking a swim in the sea itself and soaking up the views across the lake on a hillside hike.
10 Mar Saba Monastery
Mar Saba Monastery is an architectural marvel of the Byzantine age, precariously snuggled into the cliff face as if it had sprouted organically out of the sheer rock. Although female travelers are not allowed to actually enter the monastery, the view is enough of a reason to visit, with the metal domes glinting in the sun between the rock face. An easy day trip from Bethlehem or Jerusalem, Mar Saba Monastery is one of the Holy Land's great historic sites.
11 Beit Shean
In a country full of ruins, Beit Shean stands out from the crowd for its excellent preservation. Here, you can get a real feel for the life of a Roman and Byzantine town with its colonnaded streets, well-restored theater, and extensive bath house remains. Stroll the once mighty streets, explore the extensive ruins, and sit in the theater where the Roman city's cultural life was played out. It's a fabulous slice of the ancient world that any history lover should see.
Wrapped up in Crusader history, Akko (Acre to the Crusaders) has a mellow harbor full of colorful, bobbing fishing boats; a vibrant bazaar crammed with spice, produce, and interesting artisan products; and a truckload of history to boot. The city walls, old khans (caravanserais), and fort remnants speak of another age, when this town was the center of the empire. One of the most fun towns to explore (who doesn't like a secret tunnel?), Akko is a great mix of historic sites and modern life.