Travelling to Israel on holiday is an amazing experience – even though it is a small country, it packs a punch in terms of holiday attractions and places to visit! I spent two weeks in Israel, driving around a big portion of the country but I still did not manage to see everything so I will definitely go back again.

Public transportation is pretty good in Israel so you can easily visit most places by bus or train, although renting a car will make things far more convenient. There are (false) rumours about poor driving conditions and dangerous roads in Israel, but all of that is complete non-sense and just ignore them all. I’ve been to many countries around the world and the road network in Israel is probably one of the best – there are plenty of motorways and a huge number of wide, good quality highways.

The rail network is also pretty spectacular, although it mostly covers the northern half of the country, so if you want to travel south you will need to take a bus.

Here is my 14-day Road Trip Itinerary for Israel:

  • Two days in Tel Aviv enjoying the beaches
  • One night at Kibbutz Shear Yashuv (Banias Nature Reserve)
  • One night at Yehudiya Nature Reserve
  • Hiking in Nahal El Al Nature Reserve
  • Visit the Sea of Galilee
  • Visit Kibbutz Alfa
  • Two nights in Jerusalem
  • Visit the Free Dead Sea Beaches
  • Climb up to Masada
  • Spend three days in Eilat
  • Visit Timna Park, the world’s oldest copper mine
  • Hike the hills and valleys around Mitzpe Ramon
  • Visit Sde Boker, the home of Ben Gurion

Start Your Holiday in Tel Aviv

There are various direct flights between Europe and Israel, with most flights arriving in Tel Aviv – I flew from London with British Airways. You can watch my review of the flight between London and Tel Aviv here.

Tel Aviv is the largest city in Israel with beautiful beaches and some amazing cafes to spend the afternoon in. Being a big city it is also quite expensive but since most flights come here you should spend at least a weekend here.

Beach in Tel Aviv, Israel

Beach in Tel Aviv, Israel

You can find many deal sites for cheap hotels and if you go on a road trip you can also buy a tent and sleep at camp sites to save money. I bought a tent in Tel Aviv at the Home Center in the Dizengoff Shopping Mall. The tent itself was only about US$45 with a polyfoam mattress to lie on. I visited several of Israel’s national parks and when I was in them I tended to pitch up a tent at the local campsite and sleep there after an exhausting day. This saved me tons of money as some of the sites only cost about 20 Shekels.

While I was in Tel Aviv I spent two nights in an AirBnB  on Bograshov Street, which is right on the beach. It is also easy to walk to historic Jaffa’s old city from here for a breakfast so I would recommend looking for something around here. The beach at the bottom of Borgrashov Street was also amazing with soft sand, big waves and lots of beautiful people lying on the sand sunbathing.

Renting a Car in Israel

I rented a car from Cal Auto, an Israeli rental company for two weeks. The cost of the car came to US$25.00 a day including insurance but on top of this I purchased some extra insurance for the underside, tyres and glass which came in at an extra US$6.00 a day. So in total I spent more than US$400 on the car but it was still worth it as I was able to see far more driving to far flung places where buses don’t go. Watch the youtube video below in which I review my rental car.

Parking in Tel Aviv for Free

Parking in Israel is not as difficult as some people make it out to be and if you do a bit of research you will be able to park for free in most places like I did. There is a huge FREE car park in Tel Aviv, the size of at least ten football fields not very far from the city center.

The free car park in Tel Aviv is called Reading Car Park near the power plant and the bus terminal which is in the north of the city. If you park your car up here you can easily walk to the bus terminal and catch any connection downtown. Alternatively, you can walk along the beach like I did on at least one occasion.

I left my car in Reading Car Park on a couple of occasions and it was still there when I went to collect it so I would say it is a safe place to park your car in Tel Aviv. The alternative is risking a parking fine if you park on the curb or paying a fortune in a parking garage.

Car Park Near Reading Power Station

Car Park Near Reading Power Station

I was in Tel Aviv on holiday but I decided to meet a few Yom Kippur War veterans while there to learn about the recent history of Israel. Once I picked up the car I went to interview Avigdor Kahalani in his apartment. Avigdor Kahalani is the former Securities Minister for Israel and also a Yom Kippur War hero. I met Kahalani and two other veterans, Uri Ehrenfeld and Amnon Sharon, to talk about their experience in the war and how they saved the country from certain destruction under the hands of the attacking Arabs.

Related: Read my interview with the three veterans here

After the interview with Kahalani I hopped in the car and drove up north to Caesaria where there are some Roman Ruins and another stunning beach. I spent some time here to enjoy the sea and sun and then I decided to head north towards the Golan Heights.

Originally I also wanted to visit Tsfat but I decided against it as I wanted to set up camp near the Golan Heights that same night. So I drove all the way to Tiberias and then towards the Banias Nature Reserve.

Tel Aviv Skyline

Tel Aviv Skyline

Picking Up Hitch-Hikers in Israel

Buses not being very frequent you might see some hitch-hikers on the road trying their luck in case someone picks them up before the bus arrives. It is polite and safe to stop and pick people up and help them out instead of letting them wait in the scorching heat. That’s exactly what I did many times and this way I met many very friendly people who told me about life in Israel.

One of the hitch-hikers told me that the best falafel is in Katsrin, a small town in the north of Israel where they were heading so I decided to have lunch there. After Katsrin I put the pedal to the metal and drove all the way to Shear Yashuv, a kibbutz near Banias Nature Reserve. My fuel gauge was pretty low at that point so I decided to fill up.

Paying at Petrol Stations

This was the first time I filled up at an Israeli station and I duly got ripped off. I paid by card and stupidly I didn’t check how much it was on the pump before I went inside to pay. So the guy just put any amount in and I didn’t even bother to check because by then I was so tired. Fortunately he only ripped me off by about 30 shekels but I still felt very betrayed especially because I trusted him as much.

Tip: Always check the price on the pump and the terminal before you pay!

Banias Nature Reserve

Banias Nature Reserve

After the petrol station I started looking for a place to stay and eventually found a campsite run by a hippy family on the edge of Shear Yashuv in the Golan Heights.

I went in fully expecting to be ripped off again but the owner was very friendly and only charged the going rate of about 60 shekels for the night. The campsite is mostly used by families on holiday with children in the Golan Heights.

It was the school holidays when I was there so the campsite was full of children running around and screaming until at least 10 pm. I set up my tent in the quieter side of the campsite – so I thought – and was about to proceed to lie down to sleep when the owner of the neighbouring house told me I was actually camping on her grass! So I had to take the tent down and go to the other end of the campsite where there was no grass only stones and sand on the ground.

I wasn’t very happy because the toilet was also only about ten meters away so I could hear people coming and going all night. The light was also on all night in the toilet so I had to wear my eye mask. Anyhow, once I fell asleep I would sleep for a good couple of hours which was just what I wanted as I was super tired.

Visiting the Banias Nature Reserve

The next morning I went for a walk in the Banias Nature Reserve. The entrance to the reserve is literally in front of the Shear Yashuv campsite which is why I decided to camp up here.

The owner of the campsite actually has the keys to the nature reserve’s gate so when he opened it at 7 I was off to see the Hermon Stream and the abandoned Syrian tank in the river. The water in the river was absolutely beautiful blue and the reed on the river side as well as the trees made it look like something out of a Biblical scene!

The walk from the campsite to the abandoned tank takes about 2.5 hours if you stop every now and then to look at the scenery and take frequent breaks.

Tip: Leave as early as you can because by 10-11AM in the summer the sun will be up high making the heat unbearable.

I had a nice break at the tank which was in the shade by the river and after that I headed back to the car. The walk back took only about an hour because I did not stop as frequently – it was getting too hot and I just wanted to turn the air-conditioner in the car on!

Tank at the Valley of Tears

Tank at the Valley of Tears

Visiting The Valley of Tears

I decided to drive down south from the Banias Nature Reserve and go to the Yehudiya National Park via the Valley of Tears, where the most ferocious battles of the Yom Kippur War took place in 1973.

The valley is in the furthest north of the Golan Heights and you can actually see Syria in the distance. It was a bit surreal to see cows grazing on the green grass in Israel while in the distance everything was charred and black from all the fighting and burning grass!

I simply could not comprehend how some people are busy killing each other all the while on the other side of the border the hard working Israelis are building a nation and harvesting the fruits of their hard labour. As I was standing on the road, looking at Syrian towns ravaged by war, I could hear an Israeli farmer behind my back going about his business at an apple orchard! On my left and right were grazing cows while at the bottom of the hill at the end of the road was the end of the civilised world as I know it. Completely surreal!

The Valley of Tears is in a beautiful setting, surrounded by wonderful hills and valleys filled with apple and olive orchards – an unlikely setting for one of the most brutal battles in Israel’s history.

Abandoned Tanks at the Valley of Tears

There are still remnants of the war here even 44 years after the battle took place: tanks are scattered in the fields and barb wires guard areas still littered with land mines.

I decided to climb into a couple of the tanks left there by the IDF and see what it might have been like fighting in one of them. If you want to see what it is like being inside a tank, watch this video below. Skip to 16:15 for a view of the tanks around here.

The afternoon turned the area a golden colour and being at the southern end of a valley it was very windy. Except for the cows and landmines I was the only person around which made the whole experience slightly spooky but the more enjoyable as I did not need to contend with queues and other tourists.

At the entrance to the valley is a memorial remembering the fallen soldiers. There is also an audio guide in Hebrew and English with a bi-lingual board explaining what took place here nearly half a century ago. I am not sure if the tanks have been positioned to be where they are or if this is the same spot where they were 44 years ago but nonetheless it was exciting to see them for real.

Tip: Drive straight to the abandoned tanks instead of walking from the car park.

A bombed out Mosque

A bombed out Mosque

One of the tanks was on the edge of the hill facing towards Syria – I wanted to see what it is like inside so I locked the car up and climbed in the tank.

Inside an Israeli Tank in The Golan Heights

It was fascinating to see the Hebrew signs inside the tank and the various things left behind by the IDF soldiers. I found petrol cans and a couple of fire extinguishers as well as some other bits that I did not recognise. Some of the handles and switches still worked but it is safe to say I did not fire anything!

I spent the best part of the afternoon wondering around in the hill side between the various tanks and then got in the car and drove off towards the Yehudiya National Park. There is a cheap and good quality campsite here with a shower and other facilities.

Driving to The Yehudiya National Park

On the way there I stopped at a couple of other memorial sites remembering the Yom Kippur War, including a former mosque which was bombed out completely. The mosque’s main tower still stood intact so I decided to climb up to the top to take a panoramic picture of the area.

Tank in the Golan Heights

Tank in the Golan Heights

I am not going to lie, it was pretty scary going up the steps of the ruined building but it gave me a bit of a buzz and excitement. Again, I was completely alone and the road was also very quiet so I just wanted to enjoy the moment.

There was also another spot on the road, about 15 minutes from the mosque which I found very interesting. It is a modern building surrounded by various tanks from the 1970s next to a board listing the names of fallen soldiers.

I decided to drive faster after the memorial to get to the campsite in time to set up camp still in daylight. That was not to happen as I spent too much time at the mosque and looking at the tanks so I arrived only in time to witness a stunning sunset.

I started chatting with the receptionist about being an IDF soldier and also about life in Israel in general. He was a very friendly guy and told me about his brother who decided to become a very orthodox Jew. The guy thought it was a little odd and he did not understand it, especially that he has never had the inclination to do the same.

Setting Up Camp at Yehudiya National Park

Anyhow, we were talking so long that by the time we finished it was past 10PM and I hadn’t even set my tent up! I proceeded to the actual camp ground but to my massive disappointment it was not grass but instead small rocks! I felt pretty gutted and would have rather slept in the car had it not been so small!

The El Al Stream

The El Al Stream

I set the tent up and the guys in the neighbouring tent invited me to have a barbecue with them which I happily accepted as I was starving. I used my beef and turkey sausages and they gave me some onions and tomatoes so it was perfect. It was past 11 by the time I lay down to sleep.

I had a pretty terrible sleep and woke early to leave the next morning. I paid my 16 shekels for the night and said goodbye to the guys next door and put the pedal to the metal.

Visiting the White Waterfall at the El Al Stream

My next destination was the white and black waterfalls named after the colour of the rock on which they fall. I was planning to drop the car off at the black entrance and walk to the white waterfall then back, but it was so hot I decided against having a long day of trekking.

Instead, I drove all the way to the white waterfall’s entrance at Eliad, parked up and then listened to the free audio guide and set off. This area is called the El Al Stream, which flows into the Sea of Galilee. Watch the video underneath the map to see what it was like.

This area is an absolutely outstanding natural beauty and the trail is very well sign-posted so I would recommend a visit to anyone. I will go into more detail in another post but this walk took about four hours return, taking it nice and easy and spending some time in the shade.

Once I got back to the car I ate some crisps and started driving down towards the south. I picked up a couple of kids on their way back to Jerusalem and we started talking about cheap places to eat. Turned out he worked in a cheap café chain where all the drinks and meals were 6 shekels each. Needless to say every time I saw it I ate there – it wasn’t only cheap but also fully kosher so I loved it!

Staying at Kibbutz Alfa

My Tent in Kibbutz Alfa

My Tent in Kibbutz Alfa

I dropped the kids off at one of the junction stores where I also stocked up on food and headed off towards the border with Judea and Samaria. By the time I got to Kibbutz Beit Alfa it was getting darker so I stopped and asked the maintenance guy if I could pitch up my tent somewhere on the grass. He said it was OK but he had to look for a spot. He found a nice place for me in front of a holiday home which was already closed for the season so I put my tent up there.

The grass was so soft and it was in the shade behind the shrubs so nobody bothered me at all. After I had pitched the tent up I went for a walk around the kibbutz and had a drink at the local restaurant. After the drink I headed back to the tent at which point it was already dark – the kids were playing at the basketball court and I had dinner in the tent. By the time I finished the dinner the kids also started to head home so I passed out sleeping.

In the very early morning came a crude awakening for me as water started pouring in at the top of the tent! I thought no way, there was no rain forecast! I looked outside and noticed the sky was clear and the other side of the tent was completely dry! It turned out the automatic sprinkler system turned on and I did not put the waterproof on top of the tent because I did not think there would be any need! I quickly ran out and put a t-shirt on each of the sprinklers that were spraying me then I ran inside the tent to dry myself and the inside of the tent!

It was around 530 then and I obviously could not go back to sleep so instead I decided to go out quickly and have a shower in the sprinkler water! I got my soap out and washed my head, hair and body plus my teeth. The water was actually pretty warm, must have come from a storage system. By the time I finished the sun started to rise and I decided to head out too. I took the tent down and went to fill up the car at the petrol station then headed down to Jerusalem.

Driving Through Judea and Samaria

Road Through Judea

Road Through Judea

I was a bit worried about driving through Judea and Samaria but it turned out to be a completely safe place contrary to what the biased fake news in the western media suggests. I was also concerned about the so called military checkpoints demonised by the western media but driving through them was a wizz – I did not even need to stop!

The drive to the junction of Jerusalem Road took about an hour through some spectacular scenery rarely found anywhere else on earth. Unfortunately Israel is going through a period of draught so most vegetation was pretty scorched out but it still looked stunning!

I was planning on going for a bath in the Dead Sea before arriving in Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, but it was a completely pointless detour. Most of the beaches charge an entrance fee on the north and by the time I found a free beach I drove almost halfway down the coast!

Tip: Scroll down to watch a video about finding two free beaches by the Dead Sea

Anyway, I went back to this spot three more times the following week so it was not a completely futile exercise but still in retrospect I feel I should have gone to Jerusalem straight away. I also spent far too long at the petrol station looking for sun tan lotion and filling up my water bottles, so I think I wasted the best part of the day.

Arriving in Jerusalem, the Capital City of Israel

By the time I arrived in Jerusalem it was well past 2 pm. I parked up near the museum district where parking is free and left the car there for the following two days. I quickly booked myself the cheapest bed in a youth hostel in the old town and headed to the Western Wall.

View Over The Sea of Galielee

View Over The Sea of Galielee

The Western Wall was amazing and it was just amazing to see how it this structure has survived the storms of history. As I was walking towards the wall one of the Chabad guys asked me if I wanted to put on the teffilin which I did. It was a strange experience as the guy kept asking me questions about my ancestry to find out if I am “eligible” to put it on! I thought it was none of his business so I just gave him the answers he expected and he helped me put the teffilin on after which I proceeded to the wall.

I had to be quick because it was close to sunset and the prayer with the teffilin has to be done before. I was a bit annoyed with myself having wasted all that time driving up and down highway 90 – anyway, hopefully next year in Jerusalem again!

Visiting the Western Wall Museum in Jerusalem

The western wall is home to various chambers and prayer rooms which I checked out then I was getting ready to leave when I discovered there is an actual museum under the wall. As I found out the tour was just about to leave so I quickly got myself a ticket and had a fascinating walk around the base of the wall which is at least four storeys below the current “ground” level.

Most of the structure is in fact invisible and so the Israeli government is carrying out huge excavations to uncover what there is underneath Jerusalem. Another interesting site is David’s City with the water tunnels but I had no time to look at those unfortunately as I arrived late on Thursday and most things are closed on Friday and Saturday.

Tip:  Plan to arrive on a Monday to have plenty of time to discover the sights of Jerusalem

On Friday morning I met Uri Ehrenfeld, another veteran from the Yom Kippur War. We went to the Jerusalem 101 Radio Station where he told me about his experience during the war and what he has done since.

Visiting the Museum District and the Knesset

The Western Wall

The Western Wall

After the radio program I spent the rest of the day at the Museum District visiting the National Museum and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I also walked past the Knesset, which is the Israeli “parliament”. In front of the Knesset is the Rose Garden and down the hill is another park called Sacher Park.

Luckily I had a press pass because otherwise it would have been a bit hefty to get into all the museums. I would have liked to visit the Knesset inside too but it was already closed by the time I got there. I made my way back to the old town to lie down a bit.

On the way to the Old Town I stopped at the new market to get some food and look around for a new tallit. I had lunch at an Israeli sandwich store which is styled like the Subway and after that I went back to the hostel to have a snooze.

Shabbat at the Western Wall

I woke up to the sirens notifying everyone of the arrival of Shabbat so I quickly made my way to the Western Wall for another prayer. I had never seen anything like that before: the amount of worshippers at the wall was unbelievable.

Not far from the wall there is a Chabad center and they offer free Shabbat meals so I went there for dinner. The dinner was quite simple but I was on my own and did not want to spend money on Shabbat so it worked perfectly for me. The dinner includes the challah, a drink, soup, main course and then a desert – I was completely full afterwards.

Driving to The Free Beaches of the Dead Sea

The next morning I got up nice and early and headed out of Jerusalem as I felt like I was wasting my time there with nothing open and the weather getting hotter. So I walked back to the car and drove out of town towards the Dead Sea looking for another free spot to bath.

Tip: leave early to beat the heat and traffic – even on Saturday there are a lot of people driving!

It took me about an hour and a half to reach the junction with Highway 90 and then another hour to arrive at the checkpoint after which I located the free bathing spot.

With all the stops and everything else going on it was almost 1 pm by the time I got to the Dead Sea, where I spent about an hour and a half playing around floating on the water. It was absolutely fascinating to lie on top of the water and it is quite hard to describe the feeling. Touching the water was like washing hands in oily water as it was so dense from all the salt. I got unlucky and some of it went in my mouth and it tasted awful!

Tip: wear a pair of goggles – don’t risk the water going in your eyes!

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

I was lying in the water for a fair amount of time but I did not want to get completely roasted in the desert heat so I headed back to the comfort of the air-conditioned car. I could not make up my mind where to sleep for the night but I did not feel like driving all the way to Eilat that day.

I started looking for places halfway between where I was and Eilat but everything was super expensive as it was the weekend and also still the school holidays so I opted for a cheap camping site with an air conditioned tent.

Camping Near Ein Gedi

As I was in the desert there was obsiously no grass anywhere and the camp site I found near Ein Gedi only had a patch of concrete to offer so I upgraded to a shared tent with a mattress and an air conditioner. It was 120 shekels for the night which was twice my budget but it was well worth it: the heat was just unbearable in the afternoon and there was basically nothing else to do! The place is called Khan Ein Gedi and they have a Facebook Page to enquire.

The Kahn Ein Gedi National Park

The Kahn Ein Gedi National Park

What I did was sit in the shade with the fan directed towards me and enjoyed the heat and sunshine outside the tent. I tried to read but I was so exhausted and hot that I just did not feel like doing anything at all. Instead, I was sitting there enjoying the breeze from the fan and just doing nothing! After a couple of hours of sitting there I decided to check out the nearby kibbutz which I heard had a nice botanical garden and a swimming pool.

The Ein Gedi Botanical Garden

Unfortunately the security guard did not want to let me in unless I paid the garden fee and I did not want to pay again as I had already spent quite a lot by then. I was hoping to enjoy the swimming pool a little but unfortunately only kibbutz residents are allowed to use it so I tracked back to the hostel to enjoy the breeze from the fan. Otherwise there was literally nothing to do! I was counting the minutes as they dragged on, hoping it would be sunset soon and that I would be able to begin my ascent to the Masada the next morning.

Climbing up to Masada

I set off to the Masada around 4 am so I could witness the sunrise on top of the mountain. I drove to the car park then paid my fee and ran ahead of everyone else – I wanted to beat all the tourists that were also planning on climbing up.

Tip: Arrive early as possible – the complex opens at 5AM.

Get your ticket and then make your way up to the top without waiting for anyone else. It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the top on a steep trail which was made even more difficult as unfortunately I left my bottle of water at the ticket office! I couldn’t believe how stupid I was! It was already sweltering heat at 5AM and I was sweating like crazy and I had no water!

Tip: Take plenty of water for the hike!

The Dead Sea in Israel

The Dead Sea in Israel

Anyhow, fortunately I arrived up at the top and they had a tap there which made the experience far more bearable. The sun rose at around 6 am that morning when I witnessed some amazing colours and hues on the sky and some tiny birds flying around.

Driving to Ein Bokek – Free Dead Sea Beach 2

Ein Bokek is about a 15 minute drive from the Masada complex. The beach is absolutely stunning here and the best is that it is free except for the parking. Considering that most beaches charge at least 65-75 shekels paying a few shekels here for parking is a bargain.

Ein Bokek is basically a beach resort with a lot of box hotels but it shouldn’t really put you off. In fact, it is far better than my previous spot where I had to be sitting on the dirty beach staring at some homeless guy’s naked ass. There are free showers to take advantage of and also plenty of shops and restaurants. The car park is right on the beach, so you can leave all your stuff in the boot, have a quick shower and then go float!

Tip: be very very very careful not to get the water in your eyes as it will be super sore!

Driving to Eilat

The drive from Ein Bokek to Eilat takes about two-three hours, depending on traffic and how fast you drive. The Dead Sea Works, a major fertilizer plant will dominate the views on the left of the road, but the right will provide an endless vista of the barren Negev Desert.

The Beach at Ein Bokek

The Beach at Ein Bokek

Most of the towns and villages are off Highway 90, so for me it was pretty much a straight drive down with no stops along the way. The only time I stopped was around 2 pm to get some petrol and food for myself at one of the service stations at the junction with Highway 13.

Arriving in Eilat by the Red Sea

I booked a room at Almog Eilat Backpacker’s Inn for the night for $28. The hostel reception was only open until 530 so I had to make a dash for it but luckily I arrived at 3 pm so I thought I had plenty of time to go down to the beach. Problem is, as I was coming out I stepped on a sea urchin and the pain was just agonising! The worst is that you cannot do anything about it – just need to wait until it dissolves in your body.

Tip: wear a pair of beach shoes wherever you go in Eilat and never step on the sea urchins!

I decided to stay on the beach for the second night so I pitched up my tent at the free camp site. It is basically a spot for hippies on their “gap year” touring Israel on a low cost holiday.

I had a great time there chatting to the guys and the whole experience really gave me an idea to just pack up my life and go discover the world again while I still can.

Visiting Timna Park – The World’s Oldest Copper Mine

Timna Park

Timna Park

After three days in Eilat I drove to Timna Park, the world’s most ancient copper mine. It was here where the Egyptians made their copper for weapons and jewellery. The Timna Park Complex is absolutely breathtaking and is simply huge! It is easy to spend an entire day here but unfortunately I got there slightly late in the day, about mid-morning and the heat was almost unbearable by then. So in the end I only spent about 5-6 hours there but it was well worth it. It is also possible to cycle around the place and there is also a cinema at the complex so you will be pretty busy all day.

Tip: Arrive in Timna Park for the opening time of 8AM and plan an entire day to discover the various hikes and mine shafts.

From Timna Park I made my way to Mitzpe Ramon for the next two days. It is a relatively short drive – only took an hour and a half and I timed it so I would arrive mid-afternoon. That left me enough time to check in at the Green Backpackers and walk around town before seeing the sunset over the valley.

Two Days in Mitzpe Ramon

Mitzpe Ramon is a relatively new town bang in the middle of the Negev Desert. It has various petrol stations, restaurants and shops plus many desert tour operators start their excursions from here so it is an ideal base to discover the area.

I booked two nights at the Green Backpackers and decided to settle into the desert life for a couple of days. I was exhausted after the tour of Israel so far and I felt like I just needed a little break. The hostel was ideally located: it took me about five minutes to walk to the main observation area at the edge of the cliff.

Driving in Timna Park

Driving in Timna Park

Driving to Sde Boker

After Mitzpe Ramon I decided to visit Sde Boker where Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister used to live. The drive from Mitzpe Ramon to Sde Boker takes about half an hour. I picked up a couple of IDF soldiers on the way which was quite a funny experience. As I was getting ready to leave the hostel I saw two guys running after the bus but the bastard driver didn’t stop for them.

So I told them to get in to catch the bus. We were chasing the bus for about 20 minutes but luckily it had to stop to drop a couple of passengers off at which point I overtook them and dropped my passengers off at the following stop where they could get on and continue on to Tel Aviv. As a further coincidence, the exchange happened exactly at Sde Boker, where I was heading anyway!

Ben Gurion’s Desert Home

The Ben Gurion Desert Home Museum only opens at 10 am and closes at 2 pm so I didn’t stick around until then as I wanted to arrive in Jerusalem that day to visit the Yad Vashem Institute.

I wanted to also visit the Ashalim Plot B solar power station on the way to Jerusalem so instead of wasting time at Sde Boker I put the pedal to the metal and headed off to Ashalim.

The Ashalim Solar Power Plant

Sunrise at Masada

Sunrise at Masada

I used to write about renewable energy as a freelance journalist and I was fascinated by the scale and ingenuity of this project! As I drove closer to the complex the main focal tower stood out like a sore thumb and made me feel like I was part of some sort of science fiction movie. There was a sea of mirrors surrounding the tower, all pointing to the top of it. Unfortunately it was not yet complete and the security guard wouldn’t let me in so I took a few shots from outside and went over to the other side of Ashalim where they are building another solar power plant!

Driving To Jerusalem via Hebron

The driver from Sde Boker to Jerusalem takes just under 2.5 hours via Hebron and Bethlehem. I decided to go this route even though Google Maps doesn’t give a route option for this for their own political reasons.

The drive through southern Judea is absolutely spectacular with rolling hills, pine forest and stunning valleys along the way. Of course, there are reminders of where you are on every corner: there are CCTV cameras almost everywhere and IDF soldiers guard every roundabout. I didn’t feel threatened at all and I stopped to talk to a couple of soldiers to ask about the situation and whether it was safe to drive that way and they said yes.

What struck me was the big red signs at the entrance of Hebron:

The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, a danger to your lives and is against Israeli law.

Hebron Road Sign

Hebron Road Sign

Needless to say I didn’t see any such signs restricting the movement of Arabs entering Israeli cities during my two week journey so the double standards of the Arabs really struck me as odd. Anyhow, I arrived in Jerusalem at around 12 pm on Friday and unfortunately the Herzl Museum was already closed but the Yad Vashem Institute remained opened for a few more hours.

The Yad Vashem Institute

It was pretty horrifying to see the exhibition especially that the 51 people from my village in Hungary were also deported to their deaths in 1944. For that evening I booked a night at the Hostelling International Youth Hostel at Agron Street but it was a terrible place so I would recommend against it.

In the evening I visited the Western Wall and the Chabad House again to have dinner for the second time after which I walked around the deserted old town of Jerusalem. Finally, around 10 pm I crashed into my bed and had a good night sleep.

On Saturday morning I walked around Jerusalem one more time then at lunchtime I headed back to my car which I parked up again at the Parliament. The drive to Tel Aviv took just over an hour and I parked up at Reading Car Park again.

I spent my last night in Israel at the Renaissance by Marriott on the waterfront. I booked the night using my points and the hotel was on the beach so I basically spent the afternoon sunbathing and swimming. The next morning I got myself some breakfast, went down to the swimming pool and afterwards I headed out to the airport to return the car and catch my flight back to London.

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