Tel Aviv is a logical place to base yourself in Israel, at least for a long weekend or a few days. Tel Aviv offers endless restaurant options, beaches, and nightlife here unlike anywhere else in the country. It’s not ideal for every place you want to see in Israel, but it’s a great place to base yourself for these incredible day trips!
The Best Day Trips from Tel Aviv
Old City Jaffa
Okay this one’s easy. It’s literally adjacent to downtown Tel Aviv. You can spend as little or as much time here as you want, depending on your timeframe in Israel. Tel Aviv is very modern and sleek, but Jaffa is the original. It was the main port city in Biblical times, and the place where Jonah fled out to sea while avoiding God’s plan to send him to Nineveh in the Book of Jonah. There may be a whale fountain here to commemorate the event.
But there’s far more here these days than just the old port. Any walking tour will take you past Roman, Ottoman, and Palestinian history. Not into a guided tour? Let yourself get lost (but not too lost—it’s small) in the alleyways of the Old City. The charming shops and restaurants welcome visitors with open arms, and the Ilana Goor Art Museum will appeal to art lovers from around the world.
About 45 minutes north of Tel Aviv is Caesarea, a Roman port city dating to around 30 B.C. The main draw here is Caesarea National Park. The harbor built by King Herod and the historic amphitheater have been restored, and the most adventurous travelers can even dive in to literally swim through the ruins of the old port city in the Caesarea Underwater Archaeological Museum!
For those who prefer adventures on land, head to the picturesque Aqueduct Beach. It’s one of the best beaches in Israel due to its aqueduct ruins and more local vibe. You can see sections of the aqueduct along its ancient route, but one of the best-preserved stretches is on this beach.
Caesarea and Haifa can easily be combined into one day trip.
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city, after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It’s also the world headquarters for the Baha’i faith. The iconic, 19-level Baha’i Gardens are recognizable, along with the golden dome, and you can take a guided tour to learn more about the site and the Baha’i faith. Just across Haifa Bay is a historic city called Acre (or Akko) and it a worthwhile stop if you’re already in Haifa.
Haifa itself is over 3,000 years old. It was built on the side of Mount Carmel, which is an important site in several Bible passages. One of the most notable mentions is in 1 Kings 18, when Elijah confronted and defeated the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah. You can take a cable car up the mountain to visit the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, and from there, take a trail to the Cave of Elijah, where he once lived.
Haifa and Caesarea can easily be combined into one day trip.
Valley of Elah
This could easily be a half-day trip, or can be combined with a day trip to Jerusalem if you like. The Valley of Elah is the site where the epic (and short) battle between David and Goliath took place in 1 Samuel 17. Stop at Tel Azeka to take in the view of the battlefield below. If you’re feeling active and have the time, take the trail down into the Valley for a closer look. Take the 1.4-mile Tel Azeka Loop Trail.
The Valley of Elah can easily be combined with a day trip to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem truly deserves more than just a day, but if one day is all you have, you can really cover some ground! Join a walking tour to cover the most ground as efficiently as possible, and also so that you’ll know what you’re looking at and how it all fits together. Be sure to go up to the Mount of Olives (by cab if you need to save time) and take in the view of Jerusalem while you’re there.
When making your Jerusalem plans, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Remember that almost everything closes for Shabbat from Friday afternoon through Saturday, and non-Muslims are not allowed to visit the Temple Mount on Fridays. It’s best to plan your visit from Sunday-Thursday if possible.
A day trip to Jerusalem can easily be combined with a stop at the Valley of Elah.
Sites Not Recommended as Day Trips from Tel Aviv
Basing yourself in Tel Aviv is the perfect way to take advantage of all this modern city has to offer, as well as all the day trips listed above. I do not, however, recommend planning to only stay in Tel Aviv if you want to see the rest of Israel.
You’ll be spending a disproportionate amount of time in the car or a bus if you do try to see everything while staying solely in Tel Aviv. If you want to visit the Dead Sea, any place in the Negev Desert, or any sites in the Galilee region, it’s best to plan on staying in Jerusalem, or Jerusalem and Galilee, to make the most of your time without feeling rushed.