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.

Bring a little bit of Greek to the Middle East: Andromeda’s Rock

Not only is Israel rich in religious history, but it has a place in Greek mythology as well. According to legend, the King of Ethiopia tied his beloved daughter, Andromeda, to a rock just off the coast of Jaffa to appease Poseidon, God of the Sea. Before the sea monster sent by Poseidon could kill her, she was saved by the hero Perseus. They married and the rocks have served as a natural, yet dangerous, dock for commercial and fishing vessels ever since.

Jaffa Port, outside the Old City, Tel Aviv

photo: looking down on Andromeda's rocks from Jaffa

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.