Israel is one of the holiest places in the world, and its rich, deep history is reflected in all its landmarks.
I visited Israel in November 2012 and must admit I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It was certainly a different experience, one I had never encountered before. I suppose in that sense, Haifa had me thoroughly intrigued the moment I stepped ashore.
Haifa is one of Israel’s main ports, and one tour offered there is Exclusive Nazareth and Sea of Galilee. I have to say it is one of the best tours available, and I certainly would recommend a guided excursion as opposed to the D.I.Y. approach when visiting Israel.
This full-day tour takes in everything you would expect, including the Basilica of the Annunciation, the town of Cana, Sea of Galilee, and the ruins of Capernaum and Yardenit, where some believe the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist took place. It’s perfect for those who want to learn as they go via a knowledgeable local guide but also offers a decent amount of free time to explore alone. Be sure to dress appropriately because you will visit many religious sites; shoulders and knees must be covered.
Jerusalem is a big cultural attraction, and during the summer months, it can get incredibly busy. I would strongly recommend an organized excursion, should you wish to visit Jerusalem. It is roughly a 2-hour drive from the port of Haifa. Jerusalem was once considered the center of the world, and to this day, the city remains one of the most beautiful in the world.
The Old City is the real focus here, and it’s where history really does come to life. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, can be viewed here, and it is considered the holiest site in the Jewish world. You are free to take pictures, but people do not like to be photographed while praying at the wall. Please check with your guide before taking photos.
If you want to do something a little closer to the port during your time in Haifa, then I would suggest a visit to the Bahá’i Gardens that are just a stone’s throw from the port.
The gardens are absolutely beautiful, and some of the views offered from the top of the terraces are incredible. You really could spend hours here just walking and admiring the beauty of everything that you pass. The gardens include 19 terraces that extend all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel. The golden-domed shrine of the Báb, the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, stands on the central terrace, looking across the bay toward Akko. The gardens are within walking distance of the port, but the walk is only recommended for younger travelers who are more fit. You will find numerous taxis outside the port that will take you for a small fee.
Remember to check the tourist office inside the cruise terminal before leaving the port area. It sometimes offers a complimentary shuttle bus service to various points of interest, including the gardens, but the cruise lines are not always pre-notified. I used the service during my visit and would recommend you use it, too, if it is available.