How many countries in the world offer deserts, vibrant cities, beaches, archaeological and biblical sites - all within such short distances from each other? We reveal why Israel makes for a great short break destination...
With over 300 days of sunshine a year, two hours' time difference and under 5 hours' flight from London, Israel is the perfect short break destination - or indeed a longer one. I have just spent seven days zooming around the country, and there really is enough to keep people busy for at least a couple of weeks.
So, where do I start? Many people think of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and that's probably about it. Yes, they are wonderful places to visit, but there is so much more to see! Tel Aviv boasts rocking nightlife, incredible restaurants, wacky street art and - of course - beaches to flop on when those nights have been just a little bit too late.
Jaffa and Jerusalem
Don't miss Jaffa, a sweet sandstone town that was of strategic importance in military history. Then, head just 45 minutes south east to Jerusalem, which is brimming with history and culture, and be sure not to rush around - it's important to step back sometimes and soak up the atmosphere.
We spent an hour down by the Western Wall on the sacred Shabbat, watching Jews come to the Western Wall, some in full Orthodox dress with their Shtreimels (fur hats), socialising and praying - and some even dancing post-prayer.
There are so many other fascinating places to head to: the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, Sea of Galilee, Nazareth...I found there was something so special about going to these places that are mentioned in the Bible that we have all read about. Dipping my toes in the Sea of Galilee having been standing outside the Church of the Beatitudes and reading the Sermon on the Mount was a very memorable moment.
Off the tourist trail
So, on to the less well known areas. We ventured right up to the north of the country to the Golan Heights area, which is perfect for those interested in wine and beer tasting, fruit-picking and hiking trails in Banias National Park.
Ein Gedi National Park is also well worth a visit for a good leg stretch on the way down to Masada, King Herod's southern-most fort. You'll be thankful for technology, since there's now a cable-car to take you to the top! The view over the Dead Sea from here is definitely one to savour.
Though you're in the desert in Masada, I would highly recommend driving an hour further south and staying for a couple of nights right on the rim of the Makhtesh Ramon crater - there's a gorgeous spa hotel, the Beresheet Hotel, and the location is unbeatable. The infinity pool looks out onto the desert crater, and the spa treatments are divine - you're likely to have deserved one if you've been on the go for a week or so.
For more information on tailor made travel to Israel, contact Original Travel.