Israel and Palestine travel guide
If looking for a mixture of history, religion and warfare, the fortified town of Akko (Acre) will suit all your needs. Dating back thousands of years, being a pillar of the Baha'i Faith and having nearly every major empire claiming rights to the place, Akko has been at the forefront of history since there was a history. Today, the UNESCO listed town is a pleasure to stroll around. An easy day-trip from Haifa or even Nazareth, the markets, fortifications, Khans and underground tunnels will have any visitor entertained for ages. On the outskirts of town is the temple of the most important person in the Baha'i faith. Although the gardens are not as impressive as the ones in Haifa, they still make for a lovely stroll.
At under 200 years old, the Baha'i faith could be considered one of the world's youngest faiths. But what they lack in age, they make up for in grandeur. The Terraces of the BahÃ¡'Ã Faith in Haifa (commonly referred to as the Baha'i Gardens) is arguably one of the most visited sites in Israel. The magnificently 18 garden terraces (plus one for the Shrine of the Bab) are both serene and exciting at the same time. The UNESCO listed gardens are open to the public (on a free tour) and it's totally worth it. Perhaps most refreshing, the entire area is 100% free. No admission costs. No tips or gratuities accepted.
Irregardless of your religious leanings, one cannot discount the significance of the birthplace of Jesus. Tucked away in the back alleyways of Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity was built on the place where Jesus of Nazareth was born in a manager over 2,000 years ago. Palestine's first, and so far only, UNESCO listed site, the church is said to be the oldest continually operating church in the world. Lacking in the grandeur if compared to the Vatican or similar structures, the Church still sees its fair share of visitors. Sneaking in between the seemingly endless stream of tour buses is half the challenge but worth it for a moment at one of the most important spots in Western culture.
© John Smith
The old town of Jerusalem deserves more than this single article. There is so much history and religious important places packed into one spot that it's hard to do more than scratching the surface. By being the holiest place on earth for Christians, Jews and the third holiest for Muslims (after Mecca and Medina) it's a place of controversy, something we won't dwell with. Go there as a traveller and just suck up the atmosphere. It's pure madness; hordes of tourist getting charmed by vendors, strangely outfitted religious characters rushing trough the narrow lanes and teenage soldiers with pimples and guns. With all the most-see sites like Western Wall, Temple Mount with the Dome of Rock and the church of the Holy Sepulchre taken the attention, there are a lot of wonderful strange sites that are half hidden. Try to find where the last supper took place, the birth place of Virgin Mary or the Ethiopian Monastery Deir-Sultan. No matter what your belief or expectations are, Jerusalem will blow you away.