Haifa and the northern coast
Extending to the Lebanese border, this region includes Mount Carmel, the Jezreel Valley, Zevulun Valley, and miles of grapevines, caves and jutting sea cliffs. As in Tel Aviv, the sea causes summer humidity and mild winters. About 600,000 people live in this area.
Haifa is Israel's third-largest city. It is the country's main port and the point of arrival and departure for passenger ferries. Built around Haifa Bay and up Mount Carmel, Haifa rises steeply and is green with trees. The city is modern and cosmopolitan: it has a fairly equal mix of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and Baha'is, followers of a relatively new religion. Haifa's attractions include Haifa University and the Technion (Israel's internationally acclaimed scientific academy), the beautiful domed Baha'i Temple and gardens with palm, eucalyptus and cypress trees, and the Carmelite monastery. Other sites worth visiting are the National Maritime Museum, various natural history museums showing the flora and fauna of northern Israel, Elijah's cave, which is a spot revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike, and an unusual looking grain silo, which is Israel's only grain receiving depot. Although quieter than Tel Aviv, Haifa has plenty of entertainment on offer: cinemas, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. There is a lot happening around the university campus, and musical performances take place at the Haifa Auditorium. There are beaches where, during the summer days, you can laze around or take part in a variety of watersports.
There are quite a few interesting places in the area around Haifa. These include the catacombs of Bet She'arim and the Druze villages of Isfiya and Daliyat al-Carmel. The latter hosts a great bazaar. Saturday is the bazaar's busiest day.
Like many cities in Israel, Akko — meaning acre — has an old and a new section. The old city, populated mainly by Arabs, has a long history. It was a Crusader port even before it was built over by the Marmelukes, Bedouins and Turks, and is still surrounded by ancient walls and fortifications. From the top of the walls there are great views of the sea and fishing boats and, below the walls, the city is a maze of narrow stone stairways and corridors, a market and restaurants. The Crusader complex has big halls which are used for the Israel Fringe Theatre Festival, usually held in October, and the Vocalisa Festival, usually held in April. The Akko Marina is a fishing port where you can hire boats and diving equipment. Also worth seeing is the Citadel, once used by the Turks and, later, the British, as a prison, and now housing the Museum of Heroism, a monument to Jewish resistance organisations.
A very small resort with excellent beaches, Nahariya is Israel's northernmost coastal town. The main tourist activities are swimming and (careful) suntanning, but there are also horse-drawn carriage rides, a cinema and a few pubs and restaurants. The most famous sight in this area is Rosh HaNikra, a spectacular labyrinth of caves which have been hollowed out of the white chalk cliffs by crashing waves. A cable car takes you down to the grottos. Akhziv National Park is situated nearby. It offers a beach, a diving centre, guided walks and the impressive Crusader castle of Montfort.