Rick Steves

4 Great Places to See in Israel

For Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, the Middle Eastern country of Israel is the Holy Land. And with so many sights and experiences, both religious and secular, it's easy to understand why this small country is treasured by so many.

Renowned travel expert Rick Steves takes us on a journey through four parts of Israel during this episode of "Rick Steves Europe." Our host delves into the country's diverse culture and history, showing us how to simply explore and enjoy all the rich sights, sounds, and experiences Israel has to offer the curious traveler.

Get all the details by clicking on the full episode above. More episodes of Steves' travel show air 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

1. Jerusalem's Old City

Israel's sprawling capital city is home to nearly 800,000 people. And even though Jerusalem has its trendy shopping malls and other modern amenities, its Old City feels lost in time and is worth exploring. Within a 10-minute walk, you can see three of the city's most sacred religious sites there: the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock (treasured by Muslims,) and the Western Wall -- the holiest place in Judaism.

In addition to visiting these three worthwhile monuments, Steves walks through the Old City's diverse four quarters: the Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, and Christian. Each has its own significance to its residents and pilgrims, as well as its distinct charms.

2. Masada

Next, Steves takes us on a drive along Israel's modern freeways to the ancient fortress of Masada. Set high atop a mountain and overlooking the salty Dead Sea, the fortress was built more than 2,000 years ago as one of King Herod's palaces, and served as a refuge for Jewish rebels who were fighting Roman occupation around the year 70 A.D. Today, visitors can take a gondola up to the summit, explore its great ruins, and hear the chilly story behind this fortress.

3. Tel Aviv

Israel's second major city is modern and young Tel Aviv. Whether you're looking for historic charm, a cosmopolitan vibe, or want to see some of the best sandy beaches in the Mediterranean, this city has it all. You can stroll through the cafés and grand buildings on its main drag, Rothschild Boulevard, or enjoy its beaches and try some delicious Israeli cuisine. As Steves says, here, food is love.

4. The Sea of Galilee

Israel's primary source of fresh water, the Galilee has also long been popular with both vacationers and religious pilgrims. For Christians, Galilee is significant as the place where so many Bible stories were set. Because of that, many make the pilgrimage there to worship and to essentially walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Nearby sights include a church containing a rock marked Mensa Christi, believed to be the spot where Jesus ate with his disciples after he was resurrected, and Mount Beatitude.

Over all, whether you're religious or not, the great sights and experiences you'll have in Israel are sure to leave you impressed.

Dome of the Rock | Photo: Brian Negin/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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