Haifa (tours to Galilee), Israel cruises

Likened to Naples or San Francisco, Haifa sits on the pine-scented hillsides of a sweeping bay. Perhaps the most charming city in Northern Israel, its beaches, museums and galleries delight visitors.

The Baha’i Shrine and Gardens of Haifa can leave you reeling, with statues of eagles and peacocks presiding over manicured lawns that rise in tiers to reveal views of the gold-domed shrine and beyond.

As the third largest city in Israel, and also one of its prettiest, Haifa has plenty to offer, including picturesque gardens, architecture from the Ottoman and Bauhaus periods, and a lively town centre. Hilly Haifa is also Israel’s largest port, and the sea plays an important role in day-to- day life here. On your Haifa cruise, you will find attractive beaches giving way to a unique mix of neighbourhoods, cultures and six faiths living peacefully side by side.

Perhaps the most iconic of all Haifa’s sights are the Bahá’í Gardens on the dramatic, sheer inclines of Mount Carmel. You will find 19 immaculately manicured terraces containing flower beds, fountains, pools and sculptures, and the views out over Haifa Bay alone are worth the visit. It takes over 100 gardeners to maintain the site, and the hard work definitely pays off – the gardens are a place of beauty, peace and serenity. It is no surprise then that they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Nearby, you will also find the Gan Ha’em gardens, which are quiet, shady and family-friendly – the perfect place to take a rest and relax. If you are lucky, you might even catch a concert at the amphitheatre on a lazy summer’s evening.

Haifa plays host to many religious wonders, too. Visit the Stella Maris Monastery to find out more about the Carmelite order. Established in the late 12th century, it refers to a time when crusader-era pilgrims chose a life of solitude on the slopes of Mount Carmel. The sea views from the monastery are second to none, and the beautifully painted interior of the church also makes for spectacular viewing. When you visit, be sure to wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders.

The port area of Haifa, Israel’s main maritime gateway, is the liveliest and most bustling area of the city, and is also where you will find the most shops, restaurants, bars and galleries. Indulge in some traditional Israeli fare, pick up some souvenirs, or relax with a drink and watch the world go by. When you want to take a break, head down to Dado Beach – a luxurious stretch of sand lined with coffee shops and restaurants – to cool off.

Haifa is also located near many other iconic Israeli sites, making it a great base for exploring the Dead Sea, the Crusader city of Akko and the ancient city of Jerusalem nearby.

Haifa - a city of culture

In addition to all of its outdoor delights, Haifa is also a cultural centre of Israel. Here you will find a great number of museums and galleries, including the Hecht Museum – one of the most fascinating in Israel. It contains, among many other things, the Ma’agan Mikhael Ship – a well-preserved merchant ship from approximately 400 BC. Then you could think about a visit to the MadaTech, an interactive and engaging science museum. Finally, do not miss the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, which details the Zionist Movement and their attempt to infiltrate Jewish refugees from Europe into Palestine between 1934 and 1948.