Regions to Visit in Israel

A Small Land's Varied Geography

Israel, Dead Sea, Ein Bokek, Salt deposit at shore
••• Israel, Dead Sea, Ein Bokek, Salt deposit at shore. Neil Farrin / Getty Images

A Mediterranean country, Israel is, strictly speaking, located in southwest Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts of Syria and Arabia. According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, the country's geographical borders are the Mediterranean to the west, the Jordan Valley Rift to the east, the mountains of Lebanon to the north with Eilat Bay marking the country's southern tip.

The country's tourism authorities divide Israel into three main regions lengthwise: the coastal plain, the mountain region, and the Jordan Valley Rift. There is also the triangular wedge of the Negev Desert in the south (with Eilat at the southernmost point).

Coastal Plain

The country's western coastal plain stretches from Rosh Ha-Nikra in the north to the edge of the Sinai Peninsula in the south. This plain is only 2.5-4 miles wide in the north and expands as it moves southward to about 31 miles. The level coastal strip is Israel's most densely populated region. Outside urban areas such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, the coastal plain features fertile soil, with several water sources.

The plain is divided from north to south into the Galilee Plain, the Acre (Akko) Plain, the Carmel Plain, the Sharon Plain, the Mediterranean Coastal Plain, and the Southern Coastal Plain. East of the coastal plain are the lowlands – moderate hills that create a transitional region between the coast and the mountains.

The Jerusalem corridor, used by road and railway, runs from the coastal plain through the central Judean hills, ending where Jerusalem itself stands.

Mountain Region

Israel's mountainous region stretches from Lebanon in the north to Eilat Bay in the south, between the coastal plain and the Jordan Valley Rift. The highest peaks are the Galilee's Mt. Meron at 3,962 feet above sea level, Samaria's Mt. Ba’al Hatsor at 3,333 feet and the Negev's Mt. Ramon at 3,402 feet above sea level.

Most of the less densely populated mountainous region is stone or rocky ground. The climate in the northern mountainous regions is Mediterranean and rainy, while the southern sections are a desert. The key stretches of the mountainous region are the Galilee in the north, the Carmel, the hills of Samaria, the Judean hills (Judea and Samaria are sub-regions of the Israel-occupied West Bank) and the Negev highlands.

The contiguity of the mountainous region is interrupted at two points by major valleys – the Yizre'el (​Jezre'el) Valley which separates the Galilee mountains from the hills of Samaria, and the Be'er Sheva-Arad Rift separating the Judean hills from the Negev highlands. The eastern slopes of the Samarian hills and Judean hills are the Samarian and Judean deserts.

Jordan Valley Rift

This rift extends the entire length of Israel from the northern town of Metula to the Red Sea in the south. The rift was caused by seismic activity and is part of the Afro-Syrian rift which extends from the Syrian-Turkish border to the Zambezi River in Africa. Israel's largest river, the Jordan, flows through the Jordan Valley and includes Israel's two lakes: the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the largest body of fresh water in Israel, and the salt water Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

The Jordan Valley is divided from north to south into the Hula Valley, the Kinneret Valley, the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea Valley and the Arava.

Golan Heights

The hilly Golan region is east of the Jordan River. The Israeli Golan Heights (claimed by Syria) are the end of a large basalt plain, mostly located in Syria. North of the Golan Heights is Mt. Hermon, Israel's highest peak at 7,315 feet above sea level.