Israel has always been an alluring destination. From biblical times to the present day, this slice of the holy land in the Middle East has long attracted visitors. It has also attracted turmoil, as Israel has always been a politically sensitive and controversial country. Nevertheless, its appeal for visitors is enormous and the day-to-day issues facing residents have little effect on those coming to appreciate its astounding historic relics, impressive religious sites and exquisite natural beauty.
Home to the Mount of Olives, the Sea of Galilee and the ancient port of Jaffa, it's hard to go anywhere in Israel without stumbling upon a place of religious significance. But nothing can compare to the holy city of Jerusalem. Sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, this ancient metropolis is claimed by both Israel and Palestine and its status remains one of the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jerusalem's stunning skyline is a complete contrast to the touchy political landscape, with its beautiful bell towers, striking minarets and the golden dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Split into Arabic, Jewish and Christian quarters, this cultural melting pot translates into a sumptuous culinary scene, as well as a feast for the eyes and experiences.
Visually, Tel Aviv seems a world away from Jerusalem. Israel's commercial and political heart is a city of glistening skyscrapers, thronging streets and sandy beaches; of contemporary art galleries, excellent restaurants and hedonistic inhabitants. Quite a contrast, then, to neighbouring Jaffa, a historic port city of sprawling markets, cobbled docks and crumbling city walls. This juxtaposition of old and new is typical in Israel, where ancient cities like Nazareth and Acre exist alongside modern metropolises such as Haifa (home to the Baha'i Gardens) and Eilat (a beach oasis unlike any other).
Israel's landscapes are equally diverse. Mountains, deserts and fertile valleys can all be found in this sliver of the Middle East, while the Dead Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Galilee and Mediterranean coastlines offer everything from unique geological spectacles to seaside holiday resorts.
If you can read beyond the headlines and see past the politics, you will find a beautiful and beguiling nation quite unlike anywhere else on Earth.