For such a small country, Israel is very diverse in terms of geography. In the north, you’ll see mountains, some of which are snow-capped, and in the south, you'll find desert landscapes (the Negev and Judean deserts make up more than half of Israel’s total landmass). Add in three seas, central Israel’s Judean Hills, and coastal plains, and you’ll begin to understand how this little country can be incredibly varied in terms of weather.
Israel is considered to have a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and cool and wet winters. The start of the year is the chilliest with average daily temperatures in January settling between 43 and 60 degrees F (6 to 16 degrees C). In the summer, July and August are typically the hottest months with average across-the-country temperatures between 72 and 91 degrees F (22 and 33 degrees C). Depending on where you’re at in the country, along the coast, in the desert, or in the highlands, the weather varies, however. In the desert regions, for example, summer daytime temperatures can reach 115 F (46 C). Due to the high heat in the summer, it’s recommended to visit Israel in the spring or fall, when the weather is warm, but not too hot, and the nights are cool, but not too cold.
Flash Floods and Other Dangers in Israel
There are a few environmental concerns to be aware of when visiting Israel. Sandstorms and high winds are common in the southern desert regions in the spring, droughts happen in the summer months, and earthquakes occur due to the country’s location along the Jordan Rift Valley. Another natural phenomenon that visitors should be careful of are flash floods, which give little to no warning and can be quite dangerous—when visiting the desert regions in Israel, tourists should be very well aware of where the dangerous areas are.
Different Cities in Israel
Israel’s western coastal areas, where the well-visited city of Tel Aviv is located, are characterized by a Mediterranean climate. The winter season is fairly mild and wet, while the summers are hot, humid, and sunny. The average daily temperature in January is 57 F (14 C), while in the summer months of July and August, the average daily temperatures reach 79 F (26 C). From April to June, however, the temperature can increase to 104 F (40 C) due to heat waves blowing in from the Egyptian desert. December through February is when the most rainfall occurs, measuring about 23 inches annually. (June through September, on average, sees zero days of rain.)
Many people make their way to this coastal and hip city by the sea, where restaurants, boutique shopping, cultural sites, and sandy beaches are found, year-round due to the sunshine the city experiences each day. On average, the sun still shines even in December and January, with six hours of sunshine. It’s standard in June through August to experience 12 hours of sunshine each day. Another reason weather brings people to the coast is the swimming. From June through November, the Mediterranean Sea is warm enough for a dip. Many visitors enjoy spending their days at the beach, playing volleyball, running along the paved path, or meeting up with friends and family at one of the many eateries.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and is the Holy Land for people who practice Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This Middle Eastern city is perched on a plateau in the Judean mountains, between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas. From the Mount of Olives, one can see the Temple Mount, including the Dome of the Rock.
Jerusalem is hot and very dry in the summer and wet and mild in the winter. Snow isn’t common, but it does happen—although snow rarely accumulates. The average winter temperature in January, which is the coldest month of the year, is 76 F (24 C). The summer months are often devoid of rain—as in much of the country during this time of year—with an average daily high in July and August of 84 F (29 C). There are usually 9 hours of sunshine during the summer months and clear skies are the norm.
To the east in the Jordan Valley, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, sits Tiberias, where winters are mild, and summers are heated. This city is characterized by a hot Mediterranean climate and a semi-arid climate. Average daily maximum temperatures in July and August are 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), with zero days of rain from June through September.
Winter is the best time to visit Tiberias, a city known as one of four of Israel’s “Holy Cities”, due to the extreme heat of the summer. Visitors come to see the ancient tombs and to enjoy the city’s dining, nightlife, and boardwalk along the Sea of Galilee.
Israel’s southernmost city, Eliat, is located at the northern portion of the Red Sea, next to the Negev Desert. With an arid desert climate, the humidity is low, and days are sunny year-round—on average, this city enjoys 360 days of sunshine per year. In January, the average temperature reaches 70 degrees F (21 degrees C), while in July and August, the average daily temperature is 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). Less than two inches of rain falls in Eliat per year.
Eliat brings visitors from around the world to experience camel tours, art galleries and museums, scuba diving, adventure sports, warm water for swimming, and Bedouin hospitality.
Summer and Warm-Weather Seasons in Israel
If the high temperatures in the summer don’t deter you, visiting this time of year will reward you with fewer tourists and smaller crowds at popular sites. And, if you travel along the coast, you’ll enjoy swimming in warm water at beach destinations. Many festivals, markets, and events happen in the summertime as well so you’ll be able to take advantage of the fun happenings throughout the country.
Spring and fall are, however, the best and most popular times to visit Israel due to the milder weather but keep in mind when there are major holidays. Most businesses close down or have limited hours during these dates—Passover and Rosh Hashana for example, are widely observed in March/April and September/October respectively. Kids are out of school and businesses close during the high holidays and you can expect prices at hotels to be much higher than during the rest of the year.
What to pack: Definitely bring plenty of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself. You may also want to consider bringing along a loose-fitting long-sleeve shirt and pants, in a lightweight fabric, to cover your skin. An umbrella for shade is quite useful as well. In the evening, a light jacket is all that you’d need for an extra layer. Be sure to bring along a scarf as well, which serves many functions. You can wear the scarf to cover your head and shoulders if visiting a religious monument and you can also protect yourself from sand and dust that may blow about. Good footwear is also a must as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking, exploring sites and cities around the country.
Winter Season in Israel
January is the coldest and wettest month in Israel. Winter is considered the off-season so visiting during this season will allow you to experience the country with fewer tourists. The weather will still be relatively warm, however, especially in the desert, so you can take advantage of jeep or camel tours, hiking, and visits to cultural sites. Keep in mind that around Christmas time, there is a peak in the number of tourists, especially in Jerusalem and Nazareth around the Holy sites. Prices for hotels will be more expensive during this time. Hanukkah is the biggest major Jewish holiday, so be aware of when this Jewish festival begins and ends.
What to pack: In the winter season, be sure to pack layers for the wind and chill, especially at night. Rain is also likely, so be prepared with an umbrella and a rain jacket. In Jerusalem and in the inland hills, be sure to have an extra warm layer as well as a scarf for the wind and sand. Comfortable water-resistant shoes are also recommended. In Eilat and the Jordan Valley, you’ll want to have short-sleeved shirts and lightweight clothing for the daytime and a light jacket for the evening. Tel Aviv can experience chilly winds so pack layers.