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.

Other facts, tips and tricks: Logistics

We've rounded up a handy-dandy list of things to think about when loading up the luggage.

  • The attire worn by the locals is rather casual when doing non-religious activities, so leave the heels at home. The terrain isn't all that suitable in most places for the stilettos and you'll be much more comfortable for all the walking you have in store.
  • Keeping a sweater or light jacket with you at all times is a good idea in case you find yourself in a holy site, where women need to make sure their shoulders and knees are covered as a show of respect.
  • Trust us on this one, always keep a bottle of water by your side. The dry air, desert sand and sunshine, coupled with lots of walking, makes you extra thirsty. Water can be hard to come by, so it's best to leave the hotel with one in hand.
  • You'll want to pack a converter if you plan on using any sort of electrical devices.
  • We'd recommend investing in an inexpensive travel blow dryer that has the option to switch between 125V and 250V instead of relying on the ones provided by the hotel. A lot of times the hotel dryers don't pack enough punch in terms of power and heat and you have to hold down the "on" switch the whole time or it shuts off.
  • Many of the hotels don't have in-room irons, so consider bringing along a spray that helps get the wrinkles out in case room service doesn't provide one. There are some hotels with shared ironing rooms, so be on the lookout for that, as well.
  • Upon arrival at the Tel Aviv airport, you will not receive a stamp in your passport. Instead, customs gives you a small business card sized slip with your photo and travel information that you'll need to keep accessible for hotel check-ins and when departing the country. Do not lose this.
  • Shekels is the currency. Most places will accept credit cards, rarely US dollars, but make sure you let your bank know ahead of time that you're traveling. There are currency exchanges in most high-trafficked areas and some ATMs available that accept US credit and debit cards and dispense Shekels.

photo: courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Travel

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.