September 16, 2014

Trek Hound Tips for Things to Do in Haifa, Israel

Haifa, Israel is a picturesque port town in the northern part of the country. Located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, itís home to the University of Haifa, and believe it or not a selection of nature areas. There are a number of things to do in Haifa, including museums, daytrips and al fresco dining. Here are Trek Houndís top tips for enjoying the city.

Visit the Bahai Gardens, the Shrine of the Bab and the Bahai World Center.

Members of the Bahai faith are likely visiting Haifa on a pilgrimage to their world headquarters and the Shrine of the Bab. While those two areas are reserved for actual Bahai practitioners, the Bahai gardens are open for free tours. While you need to book your tour time in advance, the views and photo opportunities are worth the effort.

The Ursula Malbin Sculpture Garden is a great place to stroll and let the kids unwind.

Families in particular will enjoy this public garden full of green space and hands-on bronze sculptures. Itís popular with locals as well, who are looking for a place to let the kids romp and relax. Bring a picnic and enjoy the views of the city and ocean below. The Ursula Malbin Sculpture Garden is quite near the upper entrance to the Bahai gardens, so you can take an hour or so to relax from a busy morning of touring before heading up the street to check out the Shrine of the Bab. Thereís quite a bit of space here, along with paved walking trails. Itís definitely one of Haifaís hidden gems, and worth including on a family, romantic or solo travel itinerary.

Visit the Stella Maris Monastery and Elijahís Cave with a picnic lunch.

Established in the 12th century as a crusader stronghold, this monastery is accessible by cable car from the highway below. Underneath the church and monastery is a grotto believed to be the famed cave of the Biblical prophet Elijah. For a nominal fee, you can tour the church and get a look at its painted ceiling, which is exceptional. The monasteryís adjacent garden is popular with locals for picnicking, and a great place to get your bearings before heading back down into the city.

Mount Carmel National Park is a great place to hike and take a break from urban excursions.

If you really want to get back to nature after spending a few days touring the city, head to Mount Carmel National Park. Youíll be able to experience the natural landscape and ecology of the Mediterranean in a place revered as sacred by a number of world faiths.

Check out the Haifa Museum of Art, among others.

There are several Haifa museums of note. We were in the mood for something modern, and so chose the Haifa Museum of Art as a venue to spend an afternoon. There were several intriguing exhibits, and the building was a pleasant and comfortable one to tour. Of course if Haifa history or Japanese art are your areas of interest, youíll find venues to suit your needs as well.

The Port Inn is an affordable place to stay in Haifa.

In general, we found Israel to more European in price range than Jordan or Egypt. If youíre only staying for a regular-length vacation, thatís fine. But we were traveling in the region for a while, so staying at the Port Inn in Haifa worked for us. Itís clean, the staff is helpful and there are even kitchen facilities. Youíll meet other travelers there, and itís not far at all from the bus station.

Take a day trip to Akko.

Akko is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the country, and a popular additional pilgrimage with practicing members of the Bahai faith. You can tour ancient ruins, stroll the historical streets, grab a fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice and have a wonderful seaside meal of fresh fish. Interestingly, one of the more impressive crusader castles in the entire Middle East is located in Akko. If time permits, stay the night in one of the hotels and make your getaway to Akko a more leisurely one.

While the Bahai gardens are one of the main draws for tourists visiting Haifa, there are many more attractions worth visiting in this city during your tour of the Holy Land. Take some time to visit the nature areas, hit the spa, visit the monastery and enjoy a nice meal at one of the outdoor cafes. Whether youíre touring with family, on your own or with a significant other, youíll find lots to do in the city of Haifa, Israel.

Photo Credits: These pictures of Haifa, Israel were photographed by the Trek Hound team, but are also available through a creative commons agreement through our sister photography site, Pictures of Travel Places.