The religious significance of the country means that guide books usually focus on the multiple historical sites that call Israel home. I’ve already put together the 10 Top things to do in Israel that shouldn’t be missed for first time visitors. But the country has so much more to offer beyond the main tourist attractions. Even after 7 visits to the country, I am still discovering unusual and fun things to do in Israel. If you are looking for something a little different, off the tourist track, then check out these suggestions.
1. See streets paved with art in Ein Hod
This village is home to only artists; a unique concept that has an amazing effect. Many of the friendly residents have turned their homes into galleries, the streets are littered with sculptures and dotted about are creative coffee shops. There are a total of 76 art installations and galleries to see (head to the information point first to grab a map). The town has a guest house as well as many workshops from fabric printing and mandala to pottery classes.
2. Dance all night at a Nature Party
These huge raves, called Nature Parties, take place in the middle of the desert and host some of Israel’s biggest DJ’s. They normally take place in Spring through to Autumn.
3. Become a detective at Baron Code
Zichron Yaakov is a great place to stop for an afternoon to visit the cobbled main street with its independent shops. For a really fun thing to do in Israel though, sign up to do the Baron Code escape room in Zichron Yaakov. You are locked in a room and given 1 hour to solve the puzzles and riddles. It’s a brilliant concept and, hands down, the most fun thing I have done with friends in Israel. The stories from that room are still being relived today.
4. Eat too much at the Carmel Market
Tel Aviv’s largest market is the best place to fill up for lunch. There are lots of classic dishes to try including Shwarma, Falafel and Halva.
5. Express yourself at Israel’s Midburn Festival
If you are looking for fun things to do in Israel that are a little unusual, check out Midburn Festival; The smaller, sister festival of Nevada’s famous Burning Man festival. Taking place in the middle of the Negev desert, this experimental arty festival is guaranteed to be hot, dusty and different.
6. Experience beautiful nature on the Israel National Trail
Israel has a hiking trail that stretches 1020km, the full length of the country. If you have 2 months to spare, and a desire to hike, you might want to walk the whole thing (as I did in 2016). If not though, there are some great sections of the trail that you can do as a day or weekend hike. The most interesting, but also the most remote, is the South section that cuts through the Negev desert. A memorable day hike for me was in the impressive Katan (small) Crater. Alternatively, Mount Arbel can be completed in half a day and offers great views over the Sea of Galilee. For adventure seekers, Mount Karbolet is considered the toughest day hike on the trail.
7. Try your hand at SUPing
One of the funnest things to do in Israel is try your hand at surfing or the growing sport, Stand Up Paddleboarding. For a lesson, or to hire a paddle board to go it alone, head to Tel Aviv’s beach or Mikhmoret Beach.
8. Catch an Israeli football match
The Israeli football fans like to sing, munch on sesame seeds and shout obscene phrases (usually in incorrect English). Maccabi Haifa are one of the biggest teams and you can catch a match (for as cheap as 55NIS) in their new stadium in Haifa.
9. Take on an 80m abseil into Salt Caves
In the areas surrounding the Dead Sea are some of the worlds only mountains made up entirely of salt. To fully appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of these mountains, you need to take a rapelling tour. For the brave, you can enter via the chimney, an 80 metre drop into darkness.
10. Be a hippy at Neot Smadar
Neot Smadar is one of the last remaining communes. Hikers are welcome to stay (and be fed) for 2 nights in exchange for a days work. If you have the time, you can volunteer here for a few weeks. Life here is very different and you can expect lots of talking circles, kibbutz meetings and meditation. If embracing the hippy life is a bit too much for you, Neot Smadar also run workshops and has an organic store and restaurant which will give you a short insight into commune life.
11. Observe the worlds largest diamond trade
Take a unique tour of the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange, the world’s largest diamond trading complex. This tour is an insight into an exchange where around 15,000 diamond professionals and 1,000 related businesses trade with the world.
12. See a different side to Caesarea
Much of the roman city Caesarea has been lost to the sea meaning the best way to experience it is to put on a wet suit and go for a dive. Caesarea also has an impressive open air theatre. Check out who’s playing and grab your tickets early; It’s one of the biggest venues in Israel.
13. Cycle Tel Aviv’s promenade
When in Tel Aviv, head to the promenade near Old Jaffa and hire a Tel-O-Fun bike (costing roughly 30NIS for an hours ride). A gentle ride along the flat cycle lane, Northbound, will allow you to take in the full scale of the city’s beach. The promenade finishes at Reading Power Station where there is a nice decked area, a great place to grab a coffee and frozen yoghurt. To extend the ride, continue on to Park Yarkon, following the Yarkon river.
14. Watch Israel’s coolest show, WOW Splash
Keeping the holiday makers entertained in Eilat is WOW Splash, a water themed acrobatic show. Expect all the glitz and glam of Las Vegas with a bit of Jewish humour thrown in. This fun and impressive show will see you leave with a smile on your face.
15. Taste some famous Israeli Wine
Israel is well known for its wine. There are good wineries all over Israel but Israel Wine Tour in Tel Aviv offer great tours.
16. Sleep like a bedouin in the desert
The bedouins of the Negev desert are a fascinating and secretive community. To have a taste of their culture, spend the night in a traditional bedouin camp. Kfar HaNokdim has beautiful tents to sleep in or try Spice Route Khan which also has an amazing outside natural hot spring.
17. Take a stroll in the Ramat Hanadiv
One of my favourite fun things to do in Israel is visit the Ramat Hanadiv. These (free) gardens, in Zichron Yaakov, are looked after in honour of the towns founder, Edmund de Rothschild. There is a wild reserve, with a number of varying length trails you can follow, as well as a well maintained garden (don’t forget to visit the sensory garden)
18. Take a night time Jeep Safari
At night, the inhabitants of the Negev desert come alive. Join a Jeep safari tour to go in search of all kinds of animals from vultures, desert cats and hyena.
19. Observe incredible reefs at Coral Reef Beach
Eilat, in the South of Israel, sits on the Red Sea. Surrounded by mountains (all accessible as day hikes), it has nice beaches and some incredible colourful reefs. Coral Reef Beach offers great beach side snorkelling and the marine life sits just a few metres from the shore. Kite Surfing is also popular in the area as is (very affordable) diving.
20. Go for a paddle on the Yarkon river
Yarkon Park is Tel Aviv’s answer to Central Park. On a sunny day you will find the park busy with runners, cyclists, picnics and sports players. Hire a rowing boat for a gentle journey up the Yarkon river. If that seems like too much effort, golf buggies are also available for hire in the park.
21. Take an arabic style boat ride in Akko
Akko is a colourful port town with a bustling local market . The best way to see the place is on one of the battered boats that take tourists out on trips around the port (don’t forget to haggle the price down). Don’t be alarmed when the driver starts blaring out arabic songs at a deafening volume.
22. Visit the West Bank
See a side of Israel that you wouldn’t normally by joining a tour of the West Bank. Not only will this give you an insight into the lives of Palestinians, but it will also leave you with a deeper understanding of the conflict and issues that Israel face.
23. Swim in a hidden oasis
One of the fun things to do in Israel on a hot day, following a stroll, is going for a swim in a cool natural pool. Upper Amud River, in the North, has a number of natural pools, nestled in a beautiful wooded reserve. Alternatively, you could take the short walk near the Dead Sea to Ein Bokek.
24. Explore the city of Petra
Ok, so this one isn’t in Israel. But, being able to visit the city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a day trip is pretty cool. Check out Tourist Israel who can arrange a tour from Tel Aviv.
25. Swim with wild dolphins at Dolphin Reef
If you followed my Walking Israel journey, you will know how much I fell in love with Dolphin Reef. The wild dolphins here make the choice to come and swim with the people who take part in a snorkel or dive. They are not chased down by aggressive boats or encouraged to interact in return for food. This is a special place that allows you to see these creatures in a calm way. Following the dive or snorkel, make the most of the viewing platform or grab a drink in their comfy cafe that overlooks the sea.
26. Take on the locals over a game of backgammon
Fureidis is a traditional Arab town sat North of Zichron Ya’akov near the sea. In the entrance of the town, you will find a row of shops that sell amazing foods including pitta, falafel, hummus and shwama. Join the locals in one of the small coffee shops for a strong arabic coffee and a game of SheshBesh (backgammon).
27. Celebrate in Tel Aviv
Each year, Tel Aviv hosts a handful of celebrations that brings thousands of people together on the streets. Pride (around June) attracts over 200,000 people. Alternatively, you can join one of the traditional Jewish celebrations like Hanukkha (around December), Purim (around March) orPassover (around April).
If you know any other fun things to do in Israel that I have missed, or have any questions, let me know in the comment box below.