Israel's Timeless Beauty

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Israel's Timeless Beauty
Israel’s landscape lends itself to romance. Desert constellations, boutique hotels, and hilltop villas answer many couples’ calls for unique romantic getaways.
By Sivan Askayo, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Elan Fleisher/age fotostock
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    Float over Earth’s Lowest Point
    At 1,300 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea—in Hebrew, Yam HaMelach, or Sea of Salt—is the lowest surface point on Earth. Furthermore, the extraordinary salt content of the water buoys swimmers to the surface, allowing bathers to read a newspaper or book while floating. At local spas and health centers you can benefit from proximity to the Dead Sea by booking a mud bath or salt-based treatment. Ein Gedi Dead Sea Hotel and Isrotel Dead Sea Resort & Spa cater especially to couples. After emerging from your treatment refreshed, enjoy the sunset as night descends over the surrounding mountains.
    Photo by Elan Fleisher/age fotostock
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    Beachside Sunsets
    A beach sunset is a universally romantic experience, and along Israel’s miles of diverse coastline there are myriad spots to enjoy the scene. In busy Tel Aviv, grab a drink and a table at an outdoor restaurant and watch the nightlife rise as the sun goes down; many places shine lights on the beach to encourage diners to stroll in the sand. Alternatively, watch the show from the ancient ports of Acre and Jaffa, where the ending of yet another day has a somehow poignant feeling. On the beaches of Caesarea, contemplate history as the sun illuminates Roman ruins; or visit the southern coastal city of Eilat to see the sunset cast a glow over the desert mountains and the Red Sea.
    Photo by Evgenia Gorbulsky/age fotostock
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    A Million-Star Sleep
    Why settle for four or five stars when you can book a “million-star experience” at an Israeli desert hotel? Head to a guesthouse in the Negev desert, claim a hammock or a spot in the pool, and wait for night to fall before searching out the constellations overhead. Adventurous couples can snuggle up in a desert campground for an even more secluded experience under the stars. Beresheet Resort, part of the Isrotel chain's "exclusive" collection, is perched on the edge of the Ramon Crater. The next morning, tour the Negev’s craters, the ancient city of Shivta, and King Solomon’s Pillars in Timna Valley before settling down for another spectacular night of stars. Remember to pack warm clothes, as nights in the desert are chilly.
    Photo by Duby Tal/age fotostock
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    Moonlit Walks and Intimate Eats in Jaffa
    The port city of Jaffa, adjacent to Tel Aviv, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it is also undoubtedly romantic. Brick houses, cobblestone streets, and winding alleys contribute to a feel of mystery and mythology. Hidden corners and courtyards come to life on moonlit walks around the city, best concluded with dinner at a local restaurant. Some of these tiny, family-owned properties consist of only three tables overlooking the sea from the top of private stairs, while others make their home easily accessible alongside the glittering lights of the marina in the renewed Jaffa port.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    The Beautiful Symmetry of the Baha'i Gardens
    Natural beauty has been coaxed into thoughtful, spiritual design at the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, a UNESCO World Heritage site that inspires sighs of appreciation from all who visit. The extensive gardens, with their compelling geometric designs, form nineteen terraces up the side of Mount Carmel, culminating with the glittering golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the tomb of the Baha’i prophet. From the top, behold a breathtaking panorama of Haifa Bay and the Mediterranean Sea. The gardens are accessible to the public—dress appropriately and join couples walking in contemplation along the gardens’ hedgerows, footpaths, and lawns.
    Photo by Megan Eileen McDonough
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    Jerusalem by Night
    Jerusalem, powerful and venerable by day, is transformed at night. The Tower of David and the walls of the Old City are illuminated, adding to the city’s already mythical aura. To fully appreciate the holy city under the stars, begin with wine and dinner at one of the restaurants in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood, which affords remarkable views of the Old City. Follow with a guided tour of the Royal Quarter, where it’s possible to attend a retelling of the City of David through a sound and light show called "Night Spectacular" that’s broadcast across the courtyard of the Citadel.
    Photo by Jeremy Woodhouse/age fotostock
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    Tel Aviv's White City
    The stark white Bauhaus architecture gives the White City neighborhood of Tel Aviv its name. Walking the tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard allows you to meditate on this UNESCO World Heritage site's innovative urban planning while enjoying the modern architecture. Keep an eye out for the Pagoda House, a private home built in 1924 and a fine example of an architectural style known as Eclecticism. Admire the art deco and modern design from a seat at one of the boulevard’s many cafés and chess tables. At night the bright buildings are illuminated, and the historical atmosphere is brought into the present as laughter and chatter from high-end restaurants spills out onto the boulevard.
    Photo by Sivan Askayo
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    Masada’s Melancholy Beauty
    The archaeological site of Masada towers nearly 1,000 feet above the Judean Desert on the shores of the Dead Sea. It commands the landscape in part because of its physical drama, but also due to its tragic role in history: Following a Roman siege in 73 A.D., nearly one thousand Jews took their lives here rather than capitulate to their enemy. Visitors who trek to the top are rewarded by the chance to walk among the vestiges of an ancient civilization, to confront the emotional power of Masada, and to take in one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets as night descends upon the desert and the mountains beyond.
    Photo by Reynold Mainse/age fotostock
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    The Green Hills of Galilee
    With its sloping green hills, warm climate, hospitable villages, and rich agricultural tradition, the Galilee region draws inevitable comparisons to Tuscany. Weekends here are quiet, contemplative, and romantic. Guesthouses, or tzimer, populate the villages of Galilee; many are luxurious, equipped with pools and spas, and offer sumptuous breakfasts. History enthusiasts may want to walk the cobblestone streets of Rosh Pina and spend a weekend in one of its 19th century homes, while nature lovers may opt for the village of Amirim, where guesthouses promote a healthy lifestyle and serve up hearty dishes of vegetarian food.
    Photo by Duby Tal/age fotostock
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    Rooftop Romance
    There’s plenty to recommend Tel Aviv’s boutique hotel Brown TLV, including its clubby lobby, creative furnishings, and its setting inside a renovated bank. But the highlight is the rooftop lounge, equipped with a hot tub and a stunning view of Tel Aviv. The rooftop at the Shalom Hotel & Relax, also in Tel Aviv, is more of a hideaway than a place to people-watch; book an evening spa treatment and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop vantage point. And for an academic, thoughtful viewpoint, climb the stairs at Tel Aviv University in Yitzhak Rabin Center for a contemplative look over the city.
    Photo by Yadid Levy/age fotostock