The Most Important Vacation of Your Life: What to See in Israel's Religious Cities

Noam Chen, Israel Ministry of Tourism

This story originally appeared in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Latina magazine.

Every year, more than three million people come to Israel to see the sacred shrines and cities written about in the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur'an. For some, it’s about being closer to God. For others, it's about understanding faiths different from their own. Whatever the trip’s purpose, anyone who’s been will tell you that their experience was illuminating, profound, and unlike any vacation they have taken before or since. Here are the places to visit when you go.


One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, Acre is an ideal starting point for travelers seeking spiritual connection. Situated in Northern Israel at the edge of Haifa Bay, it's a diverse city with a population composed of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Baha'is. 

photo credit: Itamar Grinberg, Israel Ministry of Tourism

A must-see is Al Jazzar Mosque (below), whose vivid green dome and minaret are the crown jewels of the Acre skyline. Inside, stunning mosaics and skylights cast rainbow reflections on meticulously painted ceilings and walls. The mosque broadcasts Azaan, the Muslim call to prayer, four to five times daily, and its song-like invitation can be heard throughout the Old City's narrow, stone-paved alleys.

photo credit: Amanda Cargill

Also not to be missed is The Templars Tunnel, a semi-barreled cave cut into rock 1,100 feet underground. Built in the 12th century by order of the Pope, its aim was to protect pilgrims visiting the holy land against potential invaders.

To stay, check in to the Efendi Boutique Hotel (below). Made up of two ancient houses equipped with modern amenities, its painstakingly restored ceilings and frescos, original 500 year-old hammam, and rooftop with stunning views of the Eastern Mediterranean, are works of art in their own right. To eat, head to Uri Buri. A deceptively simple seafood spot beloved by locals and foodies in-the-know, it is, for now at least, Israel’s best kept restaurant secret.

photo credit: Asaf Pinchuk

Click to page 2 for more sites on our must-see list >>>

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About this author

Amanda Cargill, Food Content Director

Amanda Cargill is the Food Content Director at Latina Media Ventures, where she oversees food- and spirits-related features in Latina Magazine and on and She has traveled extensively in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Her work and travel have cultivated her palate and fostered a love of food and the stories it tells. She is also a former professional dancer who writes arts and entertainment reviews for domestic and international publications. Amanda received her BA in Sociology from UCLA.

Follow her on Twitter at @amandasi and on Instagram at @amandasi1

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