If you’re wondering how 2 girls can travel more than 1230km through Israel in 5 days, while visiting Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Arad, Dead Sea, Eilat, Red Canyon, Timna Valley, Dolphins Reef and Zikhron Ya’akov, keep reading.
This Israel travel guide will provide you an optimal route for 6 days (based on my experience), tips & tricks on where to rent a car, what hostels to book, where to eat and what hotspots to visit!
Let’s start with this ride!
RENTING A CAR IN ISRAEL
We booked our Fiat 500 online in advance in Eldan Israel, local car rental company – as it seemed like the cheapest option . There are many car rentals at the airport, so you can pick up and/or return the car here. The service was quick and easy – all you need is a driving license and a credit card or deposit of $700 in cash. For 5 days, car rental was $179 and an extra $100 for gas. Google Maps worked really well and with Israeli SIM card you can have internet access at all times.
Car insurance is mandatory, so I recommend the basic one if you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Before signing the rental contract, make sure that you have marked all the scratches on the car prior to signing to avoid extra fees later on.
Credit card owner should also be the driver. In case you want to add another driver to the contract, it’ll cost you $3 more a day.
To avoid the extra tolls cost, eliminate them on Google maps and don’t go on route 6.
DRIVING IN ISRAEL
Roads are really good and traffic signs are placed everywhere. The only thing that you should pay attention to is going through Palestine. We didn’t look so carefully at navigation, so it took us from Jerusalem to Arad through West Bank. The internet and navigation in this area didn’t work so we got lost in the city of Hebron. People on the street didn’t speak English very well so it was difficult to find a way out. People looked at us like we did something wrong with driving here and we were scared. I wouldn’t recommend getting to this area alone.
There are two options for the must see in Israel – travel route: Tel Aviv – Eilat – Arad – Jerusalem – Zikhron Ya’akov (Haifa) – Tel Aviv or the other way.
Day 1: Zikhron Ya’akov
Zikhron Ya’akov (best to visit on the first day) – Israel is full of wineries, especially in the north part of the country. If you’d like to try different wines, book a visit to Amfora winery close to this place. We’ve got a few recommendations, but unfortunately didn’t have enough time for a visit. Haifa is really close (one hour drive) so I’d suggest visiting Bahai Gardens. It looks beautiful!
Hotel Beit Maimot offers nice rooms, spectacular bath tub and delicious food. I loved hummus and the friendly receptionist. Definitely felt like home!
Day 2: Tel Aviv
Explore different parts of Tel Aviv – huge buildings scenery, Mediterranean coast and Old Jaffa town. It was sunny but windy in February. The temperature was between 13-15C.
Hostel: Overstay hostel, hippy, cheap and located close to Jaffa town. You can walk to the whole city from here. $14 per night with breakfast in 8 bed mixed dormitory worked well for us!
Nice place to eat: Par Derriere. This place offers many happy hour discounts. During business hours 12-4pm, we had the appetizer for free. Wines are pretty expensive though. We paid for one glass more than $10.
Day 3: Jerusalem
Start the day by leaving early to Jerusalem. The most sacred place in old the city, Temple Mount, opens for visitors at 6.30am. Pay attention that you don’t visit on Shabbat (during Friday or Saturday) as this is Jewish rest day and everything is closed. Use Sandeman’s New Europe tour to explore the city for 2 hours for free (tip based) and get to know the city with an amazing history of Jerusalem. You’ll walk through Christian, Muslim and Jewish quarter and learn where Kim Kardashian child was baptized, and many other interesting things. After the tour, you’ll get the discount for Tala Hummus and Falafel – use it! It has the best hummus I ate in Israel. Go upstairs, don’t sit close to the door.
Take some time to stand at Wailing Wall and feel the amazing energy at this place. When I closed my eyes and stood close to the wall, I felt the tears in my eyes and a strong feeling in my chest. I never experienced something like this before. Jewish people from all around the world come here to pray and leave small pieces of paper with written messages on the wall. Twice a year, all the prayers are buried at the hill above the Jerusalem.
Sleep in Arad as this place is close to Masada and Dead Sea.
Hostel: Dead Sea Adventure hostel is amazing! Loved the host, rooms were clean and the whole place is really charming and clean. The towels are charged, but we got them for free. Pictures on the walls are really emotional and unique. Ask Gilad to tell you more about his adventures in Kosovo, Azerbaijan or Palestine. He is an awesome guy!
Food: Bring something for breakfast, as the kitchen is functional and really nice. The guests were preparing the breakfast at that moment, I was sad that I did not think about it.
Day 4: Arad & Dead Sea
If you enjoy morning walks, get up early (4.30am) and watch the sunrise on the Masada fortress. The sun goes up around 5.30am and the hostel is 30 minute drive from the starting point. As it was cloudy and we were tired, we went there after breakfast. You can have a one our hike, or park more closely and get to the top with a 10 minute walk. The view from the Masada is astonishing! You can see the whole Dead Sea and Jordan behind. Everything is totally different than any other place where I have been. Entrance fees vary $8-20, depending on the type of service included.
After Masada, continue to the lowest place on Earth – 500m below the sea level. Dead sea beach looks like it is made of crystals. When you walk barefoot on the salty hills, it’s a painful experience. Pay attention not to shave your legs/beard the morning before going on the beach, as any type of wounds will hurt a lot. After getting your legs (or hopefully the whole body) in the water, you’ll feel how different it feels on your skin. After a few minutes outside the water, the skin gets white because of the salt. I have licked the water and felt strong salt on my tongue, like chili.
Leave to Eilat in the evening.
Lunch: We ate at Prem Ursula, but I wouldn’t recommend this. The service was really bad, and we’ve got some strange pastry with ingredients that were not listed.
Room in Eilat: C Suite is clean, spacious and has an amazing pool! Situated in a nice area, this accommodation gives you privacy and a place to rest. $23 per night in a double room is a decent price! Stay 2 nights.
Day 5: Eilat
We spent only few hours here but Eilat Dolphin Reef has so much to offer, that I’d suggest watching the dolphins in their natural habitat and staying here for a whole day. You’ll meet Nana, Luna, Nil and Nikita – 4 dolphins that are living here in the bay and you can go diving with them. The dolphins choose if they’ll swim next to you or if they’ll touch you. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly. Entrance fee is $17 and diving is charged additionally. We only watched them swim and enjoyed the view. You can have lunch here and relax in 3 different types of pool.
Dinner: don’t visit The Last refuge. We ate shrimps in cheese and grilled squids with the taste of beef. I didn’t feel like the food was fresh.
Day 6: Eilat
Start the morning (9-11h) with the breakfast on the beach. Barbeach is a nice restaurant, with amazing food and a lovely view of the Red sea. Loved the omelets and avocado cream. Be careful not to get sunburns – even though it was only 19C , it still ended up being sunburned after 2 hours
Head to the Timna park for a bike ride through an amazing scenery. Stop by and explore rocks in interesting shapes and colors. Spend some time at the lake in oasis and chill. The park is open from 8-4pm and it is suggested to leave before dawn. For the bike ride you will need around 4 hours.
At the end of the day, visit Red Canyon and enjoy the silence. This place looks like you are in Colorado – not Israel. The canyon itself is really small, so you won’t need more than one hour here. Would be nice to enjoy the sunset. (16.30-17.30h)
In the afternoon leave to Tel Aviv for the night and departure.
TIPS & TRICKS IN ISRAEL
Currency: ILS, you can exchange money anywhere. It’s ILS3.63 for $1. (February, 2019)
Gas: ILS5-6. It is a bit complicated to pay by card, as everything is written in Hebrew. For paying in cash, you have to go inside and pay prior to filling up your tank.
Booking accommodation: Airbnb or Booking a few hours prior to check in. There were plenty of places to stay, so we didn’t have any problems with this.
Safety: I felt safe everywhere, beside the West Bank and Muslim part of Jerusalem. Not that I had bad experience, but it was more of a feeling.
Vacation type: this is not the relaxing vacation but an active one. I felt really tired every day. If possible, I suggest staying at each of these places for 2 nights as it would be more of a relaxing holiday. For me, the ideal tour would be 10-14 days 🙂
Hope that you’ll find this guide useful, Enjoy your trip and feel free to ask away if you need anything else 🙂
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