Israel is a great place to visit because of the variety it has to offer tourists – just check out this list of the best things to do in Israel! From diverse cities, and historical and religious sites to relaxing quiet beaches. As a small country, it is also easy to move around a to see a lot in a short space of time. If you have a fortnight to spare, here’s my recommended itinerary for 2 weeks in Israel.
In this guide, you’ll also find a budget breakdown and tips to make your travels in Israel go as smooth as possible. I’ve become an expert at visiting the country….I married an Israel (we met while travelling!) and I’ve now visited multiple times…..I even hiked the Israel National Trail (and had a book published about my experience!). It amazes me that even though the country is so small I’m still discovering new places when I return to visit my in-laws. I’m happy to answer questions, just use the comments box below.
As part of your preparation to visit Israel, I recommend getting the Lonely Planet travel guide for Israel & the Palestinian Territories.
Only have a week to spare? Then check out my one week Israel itinerary instead.
Itinerary for 2 Weeks in Israel
The best way to get around is to hire a car. This will give you a lot more freedom to visit places along the way. It’s very easy to drive in Israel as the roads are comfortable and the signs in English. If you prefer not to drive though then you can rely on buses (which will get you to all corners of the country) and trains (which run between the major cities but not South into the desert). In the cities and big towns taxis are plentiful and can be found outside train stations or using an app. Always ask for the driver to use the meter!
Here’s what I’d recommend for 14 day Israel itinerary for a first time visitor. If it’s your second visit or you are looking for something a little different, check out my alternative suggestions further below:
3 nights: Tel Aviv
Most visitors spending 2 weeks in Israel will probably start and finish in Tel Aviv as this is where the main international airport is.
Tel Aviv is a small city so 3 nights there should be more than enough for visiting the main sights. You definitely want to make sure you see Old Jaffa, Carmel Market and also the huge stretch of beach that sits right in the city centre. Hiring bikes is a great way to explore the city and to see the park.
I’ve done a few tours in Tel Aviv but the one I would really recommend is the Vegan Tour for something a little different (and also very tasty)….did you know that Tel Aviv is often considered the vegan capital of the world?
Where to stay in Tel Aviv: Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv
($120 per night for a double room for 2, including breakfast)
Abraham offers both private rooms and also dormitory rooms. It’s a fantastic hostel right in the city centre with a great rooftop bar.
If you are a budget traveller than my guide to visiting Tel Aviv on the cheap will give you some good tips!
2 nights: Haifa
There isn’t a huge amount worth seeing inside Haifa apart from the Ba’hai Gardens. It is worth using Haifa as a base though to access the great bars and restaurants here.
Sederot Ben Gurion Street is my favourite place for grabbing dinner – it’s got a good atmosphere and an incredible view of the gardens all lit up at night. The best restaurant here by far is Fattoush.
On your way from Tel Aviv to Haifa, stop at Caesarea (it’ll take about an hour to get there from Tel Aviv) to visit the impressive Roman ruins. Then drive to Zichron Ya’akov to grab lunch in the old town (I can also recommend spending an hour looking around the Ramat HaNadiv gardens which are beautiful and free to enter). Then spend the afternoon exploring the unique artist village Ein Hod before driving the 40minutes to Haifa.
From Haifa do a day trip to see Akko – a port town. It’s nice to wander the town here, see the market and to do a boat tour.
Where to stay in Haifa: Bat Galim Boutique Hotel
($100 per night for a double room for 2, including breakfast)
A lovely hotel with great character and a brilliant breakfast.
1 night: Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful region but unless you are religious I found the sights here not of huge interest, although definitely worth a quick visit. I’d visit Tiberias and then spend the day doing a day hike to one of the many viewpoints that will allow you to take in the full beauty of the Sea of Galilee. I think Safed/Tzfat is a great place to base yourself as the town has a great atmosphere and some nice restaurants.
Where to stay in the Sea of Galilee: Rosenthalis Safed
($100 per night for a double room for 2, including breakfast)
A nice boutique hotel in a town with really lovely character.
4 nights: Jerusalem
Jerusalem is an incredible city with lots to see. On the way to Jerusalem from the Sea of Galilee stop in Nazareth for lunch and to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation. Again, unless you are religious you probably won’t want to spend more than a couple of hours visiting the city.
Use your 3 full days in Jerusalem to explore the many sites in Old City and the surrounding area. There are also 2 great museums worth visiting: The Israel Museum and Yad Vashem.
If you have a limited time in the city you can join a Holy City of Jerusalem tour that covers a lot of my recommendations.
There are lots of restrictions and strict opening times in Jerusalem so you’ll want to use my guide for visiting Jerusalem to make the most of your time.
*IMPORTANT TIP* On Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday evening) most of Israel closes down. While places in modern cities like Tel Aviv stay open, you’ll find in Jeruselum there will be nothing for you to do so make sure you account for this when you put your itinerary together! Why not join the Shabbat Tour in Jerusalem.
Where to stay in Jerusalem: Abraham Hostel Jerusalem
($130 per night for a double room, including breakfast)
Abraham provides a great location and options for both dorm and private rooms.
2 nights: Negev desert
Visiting the Negev offers an entirely new perspective on Israel and, really, the best way to experience this side of the country (and the stars at night!) is to stay in a Bedouin camp.
On your way to the Negev stop at Masada and also the Dead Sea for a swim (this can easily be done in half a day). If you can brave the early start, it’s amazing experiencing Masada for sunrise. Note that the Dead Sea has outdoor showers so you can rinse off after your salty float. There are also some nice springs in the area which can be found in Ein Gedi.
Relax and take in the views of the Negev desert. I would also suggest doing a day hike as long as it is not in summer when temperatures really are far too hot. The HaMakhtesh (small crater) offers the best views for a day hike.
Where to stay in the Negev: Kfar Hanokdeim
($240 per night for a double room, including breakfast)
This tented Bedouin camp is comfortable and full of character! If you really don’t fancy glamping then alternatively look at staying in Yehelim Boutique Hotel, Arad.
2 weeks in Israel; Itinerary Summary
1 Day: Arrival in Tel Aviv
2 Day: Sightseeing Tel Aviv
3 Day: Sightseeing Tel Aviv
4 Day: Travel to Haifa, visiting Caesarea, Zichron Ya’akov & Ein Hod along the way
5 Day: Day trip from Haifa to Acco
6 Day: Travel to Sea of Galilee, visit the Ba’hai gardens in the morning
7 Day: Sightseeing Sea of Galilee
8 Day: Travel to Jerusalem, stop at Nazareth along the way
9 Day: Sightseeing Jerusalem (the old city)
10 Day: Sightseeing Jerusalem (Yad Vashem, Israel Museum & Mahane Yehuda Market)
11 Day: Sightseeing Jerusalem (the old city & Mount of Olives)
12 Day: Bedouin camp, visit Masada and the Dead Sea along the way
13 Day: Bedouin camp, do a desert day hike
14 Day: Departure day
Need some inspiration?
My debut published book – Three Stripes South – shares my story of hiking the full length of the country on the Israel National Trail. Read about the highs and lows of this life-changing adventure exploring Israel and crossing the dangerous Negev desert.
I hope you enjoy the book!
Alternative ideas for your time in Israel…
This itinerary really will show you the best that Israel has to offer. It fits in a lot but you will also have pockets of time here and there for a lazy morning to catch up on sleep.
If this is your second visit to the country, or you are after something a bit different, check out these alternative ideas:
Want more nature?
If you aren’t a big city person, I would suggest doing 1 less day in Haifa and Jerusalem and staying longer in the north where you can find lots of nature and a slower pace.
There are also lots of hiking options if you enjoy walking. Israel has a National trail which runs the full length of the country!
If you are into hiking take a look at this list of the best hikes in Israel for ideas.
Want some beach time?
Eilat is a bit of a drive to get to as it is right in the South of Israel….but it’s great to visit if you want a bit of beach time or enjoy diving and snorkelling. There are a few ways you could fit in a visit to Eilat – by skipping the stay with the Bedouins or by reducing your time in the North (I’d take out the visit to Akko or the Sea of Galilee. If you don’t stop at Nazareth you could arrive earlier to Jerusalem and easily stay a day or 2 less).
Check out my suggestions for things to do in Eilat. If you are looking for something a little more unusual I can suggest checking out doing a freediving course in Eilat. I put together a short video about my experience freediving in Eilat if it’s something you are considering:
Want to visit Petra?
It is also possible to fit in a busy 2-day tour to Petra. I’d suggest using Abraham Tours (if you stay at Abraham Hostel you get 10% off their tours). It really is worth a visit if you can fit it in. Note that it means a very early start and lots of travelling so it might be too tiring to add onto an already busy schedule.
How much does it cost to visit Israel?
Israel can be quite expensive to travel in. Hotels are comparable to UK prices, as is eating out in restaurants and joining tours. The only things that are cheap in the country are street food and public transport.
What’s great though is there are so many free historical and religious sites that budget travellers can see a lot without spending a fortune.
Below is the rough cost per person (based on 2 people sharing a double room) for the 2 week itinerary above. This was based on prices in 2020.
Flights (from London to Tel Aviv return) – $200
Car hire & gas – $180
Accommodation – $900
Food & drink (A dinner meal with a drink costs around 100NIS / $25 although street food is very cheap. A filling falafel costs just 10NIS / $3) – $360
Entry fees (Masada entry, the Israeli Museum, boat tour, bike hire) – $50
Extras (the market souvenirs are hard to ignore!) – $60
TOTAL (with international flights from the UK) – $1,750
TOTAL (without international flights from the UK) – $1,550
You could definitely make this trip much cheaper by staying in more affordable hotels along the way or using Airbnb. If you’ve not used Airbnb before you can click here to get a first time £34 off voucher.
Travel Insurance for Israel
I’ve found Israel to be a very safe place, despite media perceptions and the ongoing conflict (which you almost certainly won’t be aware of while you are travelling there).
Because of the conflict though, flights can be disrupted from time to time so it really is worth making sure you have proper travel insurance.
Top Tips for travelling in Israel
- Generally, you do not need to worry about dressing conservatively or covering your shoulders and knees (ie, you can wear a bikini on the beach). The exception is if you are visiting a religious site or if you are in Jerusalem
- English is a national language so signs are in English and it is widely spoken
- Try and enjoy as much of the street food as you can. Including bourekas, hummus, falafel, Arabic tea, baklava and jachnnu
- If you stay in Abraham hostels in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem you can 10% off your stay and off their tours (which are very good!). They also offer a shuttle between their hostels
- In markets, it is common to haggle on the price given
- When using taxis ask them to use the meter
- If using buses in the cities payment is often done using a machine that doesn’t give change so make sure you have change
For a bit of final inspiration, watch this short film which will give you a flavour of what to expect when you visit:
I hope this list of best hikes Israel has given you some inspiration. If you have any questions please ask in the comments box below.
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