During my trip to Israel last month, as is always the case when I travel, I came across some places, some activities and of course, some people, that I feel would help enhance anyone’s trip to this region. I’ve already stated, in my post “My First Trip to Israel”, that my time in this country was short and my experiences limited, however, that doesn’t change the fact that, every day, I found myself doing something that I thoroughly enjoyed and/or found truly interesting.
This post is to provide a small handful of Israel travel recommendations based on my own experiences:
Abraham Hostel (Jerusalem)
It’s a large hostel with 250 beds scattered among dorm rooms and private rooms, situated in a great location just minutes from the all-day-visit worthy Mahane Yehuda Market. The staff are excellent, the facilities impressive and the number of opportunities to meet other travelers and locals alike are infinite with their long list of daily activities and tours. There is always something going on here. The vision of this hostel is to support independent travelers throughout the Middle East by ensuring that you have a chance to experience the city, the country and the region in a variety of different ways.
Details: Abraham Hostel
RZR Israel ATV Adventure (Upper Galilee)
When I sat down inside the ATV, my first thought was, “At least this will be over in a couple of hours”. For some reason, the thought of another ATV trip just didn’t excite me as I used to go on ATV trips all the time when I worked as a Tour Manager on board cruise ships. Oh how silly was I. This ATV adventure was unreal. Perhaps it was the bold, yet serene, landscape or the extremely fun-to-drive vehicles (Polaris RZR) or maybe it was the guide, Osher, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy showing visitors around this area of the country. Or most likely, it was a combination of everything. All I know is that I had difficulty deciding whether to stop the vehicle every time there was another perfect photo opportunity or just step on the gas and fly through the beautiful surroundings. Tough position to be in. And that’s why I can’t think of a better way to experience the Upper Galilee.
Details: www.rzrbar.co.il (in Hebrew but contact details are there)
Alternative Tel Aviv – Street Art & Graffiti Tours
I already talked about this very cool experience in my first post about my trip to Israel and once again, if you’re in Tel Aviv, I highly recommend contacting these great people and joining one of their tours. This was a great find and I could have walked around the city with Yael, our guide and the founder of the company, for 10 hours listening to her talk about all of the street art and graffiti we came upon.
Flea Market (Jaffa)
This flea market, sprawled out over several blocks in the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv-Yafo, consists of endless small shops offering all kinds of stuff, pretty much anything you could imagine. There are shops selling antiques, furniture, clothes, home products, fruit juice, books, art and more. You can easily spend a day here wandering around, taking a break at one of the many cafes with outdoor seating and then continuing to explore, and I highly doubt you would get bored. I spent 20 minutes in one shop that was the size of a large closet and sold a crazy collection of some of the strangest antique items I have ever seen – bizarre cameras, helmets, forks, record players, chairs, used electrical wires and much, much more.
Dvir Hollander (Jerusalem and beyond)
His name is Dvir Hollander and while he might not be the kind of guide that yells out with tons of energy about every site we visited, he’s the kind of passionate guide that will make sure your day in Jerusalem is the educational highlight that you want it to be. Laid-back, super kind, extremely respectful and full of knowledge from his own experiences growing up in this city, Dvir seemed to know people in every corner of every quarter of the Old City, all of whom greeted him with a huge smile. I personally could not have wanted a better guide and would recommend Dvir without a doubt to anyone interesting in learning more about this city than you could possibly learn by just wandering around on your own. He’s also a guide for other parts of the country as well.
Alon (at Abraham Hostel)
This guy is a little different and he was the driver/guide for my trip over to Masada and the Dead Sea. Alon was an Orthodox Jew until a couple of years ago when he decided to give it up and now, he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s struggling to figure out his place in the world during this transition. He’s quirky yet incredibly sincere and always willing to share his personal experiences, opinions, inner conflicts and more as related to Israel and the region. At the end of the day, he’s a guy who simply wants peace for everyone and spending some time with him as your driver/guide for a day outside of Jerusalem will surely enhance your overall trip.
Details: Anon can be reached through the Abraham Hostel. Just contact them and they’ll put you in touch.
(Here’s a quick side note…I have no doubt that if you hop on couchsurfing or any other social media platform and connect with a few locals right now, you would find yourself with a bunch of friends before you even arrive in Israel. And when you do meet them in person, it will seem as if you’ve known each other for years. That’s just how it works in this country.)
If you’re in Tel Aviv, go here. Please spend an evening at this popular bar/restaurant, eating whatever is on the menu – it changes often – and drinking whatever it is you prefer to drink. The food was amazing, with endless small tapas-like dishes to share. Talk to those sitting at the tables next to you, enjoy the lively outdoor atmosphere and the music selection and you will have one of the most memorable nights of your stay in this country. (The photo at the top of the post is from my evening at Port Sa’id.)
Details: Port Sa’id Facebook Page
When you’re at the Jaffa Flea Market and you need some food, this little restaurant serving up Arab-Israeli cuisine is an excellent option. The chef, Felix, prepares his dishes based on what’s available at the market, with a frequently changing menu as a result. We had a wonderful meal here and there wasn’t a single thing on the table that I wouldn’t happily eat again…right this very moment in fact. Their kunefe – a thick and creamy cheese pastry covered in sweet syrup – might be at the top of the list.
Details: Han Manuli Facebook page
Abu Ahmad Falafel & Hummus (Via Dolorosa, East Jerusalem)
When you’re wandering around the Old City in Jerusalem, find this simple eatery in the Muslim quarter and take a seat. The sign is in Arabic and Hebrew only but just ask anyone and they’ll lead you here. Order the falafel, the hummus, the labneh, the ful, the tabouleh and whatever else catches your attention…the friendly owner and his son make it all fresh and you’ll be treated to a mouth-watering meal at a place you might ordinarily never think about entering.
Details: Abu Ahmad Facebook Page
Having a chance to spend an evening with local hosts who will prepare you a home-cooked meal is the reason EatWith is becoming so popular. We used EatWith in Tel Aviv and before we knew it, we were sitting at a large table on a beautiful backyard terrace with six other guests, enjoying great conversation, good wine and an absolutely delicious meal prepared by our talented hosts, Loran and Aviya. It was my first EatWith experience but, as they say, it won’t be my last. Any concept that helps connects travelers with locals is a good one to me and one that involves a high-quality meal is even better. If you’re in Tel Aviv, definitely something to try!
Details: EatWith – Loran & Aviya
There’s my handful of recommendations. And if you do travel to Israel and end up checking out any of the above, please let us all know how it went in the comments below.
If you’ve been to Israel already and want to share any other recommendations, we certainly welcome those in the comments as well!
[Photos by Or Kaplan]
*I was invited to visit Israel by the nonprofit organization, Vibe Israel, which brings international online opinion leaders to the country for weeklong personalized experiences. Nothing at all was required of me in terms of promotion or content and everything I’ve written is, as always, 100% my own thoughts, interpretations and experiences.