State of Israel – the country of juxtapositions. It’s overflowing with historical sites of important religious significance, yet it plays host to one of the most well-known gay pride celebrations in the world. The Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea all touch its land, but deserts blanket well over half its surface. It’s home to the lowest point on Earth, The Dead Sea, that can be viewed from atop a mountainside fortress. Contemporary and ancient exist cohesively, each respecting the other. It’s small, roughly the size of the United States’ 5th smallest state, New Jersey, but within its borders, you can sunbathe, take a salty float, ski, hike, immerse yourself in history and well, just read on for more. We’ll tell you why this destination that may never have been on your family travel radar should actually top the list.

Visit Tel Aviv’s ancient neighbor: Jaffa

Old Jaffa neighbors Tel Aviv, you can even see one while standing in the other, but they couldn't be more different. Jaffa is marked by winding alleyways interspersed with art galleries, historic stone buildings, mosques and churches and the ancient Jaffa Port, which is still an active fishing port. From Jaffa Park on the hilltop, you can see all of Tel Aviv, walk among the gardens, see ancient ruins that date back to the Egyptians, and the kids can take a look at cannons left behind when Napoleon conquered Jaffa in the late 1700s.

You can visit St. Peters Franciscan Church, which commemorates St. Peter's stay in Jaffa and the miracle from the New Testament that occurred at the house of Simon the tanner.

Online: touristisrael.com

photo: Napoleon's cannons via Maria Chambers

Have you had the opportunity to visit Israel? We’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers

This trip, including hotel stays, food and activities, was paid for by Israel’s Ministry of Travel.