The Land of Milk and Honey, Part 1
Greetings! The next adventure is a little different from the rest. I visited Israel for a few days and took a couple of tours around the Golan Heights, the Jerusalem area, and northern Israel (Caesarea, Haifa, Rosh Hanikra, and Akko). The Golan Heights was guided by a friend and I used a tour company for Jerusalem and northern Israel, which I would highly recommend doing. There are so many tour companies to choose from and so many different types of tours you can book. Like every place on earth, each has its own pros and cons and Israel is no exception. Israel has an interesting history and is often a controversial topic to discuss, so I will just stick to basic observations of areas where I visited.
Bein Harim (this was the company my hotel used): https://www.beinharimtours.com
General observations I thought were worth sharing:
The exchange rate is pretty good in Israel, 1 USD was about 3.4 NIS (at the time of my travels), but things are expensive, especially in Tel Aviv. Also of note, like in the US, you are supposed to tip drivers, tour guides, waiters, etc.
Driving: I wouldn't suggest doing that in Israel, at least in my opinion. Drivers drive fast, and move into a lane prior to indicating they want to move into the lane. I would stick to tour companies or friends who know their way around. In the two taxis I took (to and from the airport), I thought I was going to die on more than one occasion. Taxis from the airport were nice because attendants at the airport will give you the total cost of your ride (from the airport to your destination) so you know what to expect before getting into the taxi. Roads can be confusing and parking can be hard to find, especially in Tel Aviv.
Personal space: Forget about it in Israel. Queues for things are a cluster and people constantly invaded my personal bubble. I understand that this is pretty common all over the Middle East.
Fridays and Saturdays in Israel can be tricky because of the Shabbat. Shabbat lasts from sunset on Friday night until Saturday night and is a day of rest for the Jewish people. So, shops, restaurants, and other places are typically closed around Israel in observation of this. There are even special Shabbat elevators in hotels.
Sunsets: Absolutely stunning over the Mediterranean. The sky has so many colors...just gorgeous and best of all they are free :-).
Food: AMAZING...If you love Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. Fresh vegetables, all of the hummus you could want (and it taste so much better than store bought variety) and my personal favorite, falafel! Here are a couple of the restaurants I ate at for dinner:
I stayed in the Sheraton in Tel Aviv, between the Frishman and Gordon beaches. It was in a central location and made it easy to walk around to restaurants, shops and the beach. There are tons of hotels along the beach and AirBnbs. I made my tour reservations through the concierge at the hotel. The concierge was very nice and arranged everything. The tour company even picked me up and dropped me off at the hotel.
Views of Tel Aviv:
Onto Israel part 2...