A trip to Israel is a trip of a lifetime. People literally wait all their lives to visit Israel and the Holy Land, and when they finally make it happen, they understandably want to do it right! You want to avoid the heat of summer, but you might not think about the possibility of avoiding the cold in winter. And then there are Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays to contend with. So when should you actually visit Israel and finally fulfill your lifelong dream of seeing the Holy Land?
The Ideal Times to Visit Israel
To help you sort through all these factors, here is everything you need to know about finding the right time to visit Israel and the Holy Land.
The Best Time is the Time You Have
This is really the most important thing to keep in mind. If your choice is to go to Israel at a less-than-perfect time of year, or to not go to Israel at all, definitely go to Israel! The best time to go is the time you have available, whenever that may be. Don’t wait for the “perfect” time when the time you have is a good time for you.
Nice Weather: Mid-Spring or Mid-Fall
If you’re particularly sensitive to temperature, or if you want to avoid Israel’s limited rainfall or extreme dryness, plan to travel in spring or fall. The winter rains in February and March make much of Israel’s landscape green and beautiful by the time April and May roll around, and temperatures are mild at this time as well. Or if you don’t mind terrain that’s a little more brown, October and November have the benefit of cooler temperatures after the summer heat.
Lower Crowds: Off Season
For those looking to avoid crowds above all else, consider visiting in the winter months, from January-March. This is the low season for Israel and the Holy Land in general. It can be quite chilly in these months, and there is a higher likelihood of rain. Average temperatures fall to the 40s Fahrenheit overnight, but can rise into the 50s or low 60s in the day time. Bring a light jacket and avoid the high season.
Less than Ideal Times to Visit Israel
As previously mentioned, the time you have available is the best time to visit Israel. If you can avoid these key events, however, you can more easily avoid crowds, weather issues, and other inconveniences.
The Summer Months
The heat alone is enough to put this on the no-go list for many! Summer temperatures can soar into the triple digits (Fahrenheit) in much of Israel. Aside from the discomfort and occasional dangers of extreme heat, some hiking trails and outdoor sites can close due to temperature. If those are important to you, try not to visit in the summer.
The Month of Ramadan
The Muslim population in Israel and the Palestinian Territories celebrates Ramadan for a full month, but the dates change by 11 days (earlier) each year, making it difficult for non-Muslim visitors to track its exact dates when making their travel plans. Additionally, Muslims fast during the day throughout Ramadan, which means that some Muslim-owned restaurants may be closed, making it challenging to find places to eat breakfast or lunch in some Muslim-majority areas.
The bigger issues for visitors, however, is that non-Muslims are not allowed to visit the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock during the 10 days prior to Eid, at the end of Ramadan (nor on Friday of every week, since this is the Muslim holy day, or the Muslim version of Sunday, if you will). If you want to make sure you can visit the Temple Mount during your trip, you will want to plan to avoid travel during this time. A quick Google search will tell you when Ramadan falls each year, so always check if you’re unsure when Ramadan will fall during your year of travel.
Over Jewish Holidays
Israel observes all Jewish holidays, which is probably not a surprise! What may surprise you is that many businesses and even public transportation can completely shut down, and Jewish people in the tourism industry do not work during the most important holidays. The Jewish calendar is different from the traditional calendar, so dates for these holidays change annually.
If possible, avoid travel that falls on Yom Kippur, Chanukkah, Purim, Rosh Hashana, Passover, and Israeli Independence Day, although it can also be really neat to see the display of patriotism and national pride over this last holiday. Or if you cannot avoid these periods in your travels, at least try to plan so that you don’t absolutely need to get somewhere across the country on one of these days. Instead, just chill for a day or two wherever you are along your journey and enjoy seeing how Israelis celebrate these Jewish holidays.
Additionally, Shabbat (the Sabbath) begins every Friday at sundown and lasts until sundown on Saturday each week. You will likely be in Israel on a Shabbat, but don’t worry! You will still be able to do some touring and dine out as you like.
Around Christian Holidays, Unless…
It seems like the dream to be in Bethlehem on Christmas Day, or in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday. If that will make your trip the most meaningful to you, plan early—hotels are at their most expensive and sell out quickly for these dates, as these are definitely the most crowded times to visit these sites.
It’s also worth noting that security is on high alert during the holidays mentioned above for all three religions, which many visitors find to be uncomfortable. There is no need to worry about this; it’s just something to know for your own situational awareness.
Again, the best time to visit Israel and the Holy Land is the time you have, so just go, enjoy, and have the best time visiting Israel while enjoying all of the unique features, quirks, nuances, and surprises that this bucket-list country has to offer.