Tourist Tip #118 / Yes, Israel Has Winter

Despite its reputation as a 'hot spot,' Israel has a cool and wet winter season that can take inexperienced travelers by surprise.

Israel, the land of sun, sand and thirsty camels. A place of beaches and deserts, where the mercury is always rising and your brow is always sweating. Right?

Wrong, dear travelers. If you’re planning a trip to Israel during the winter months, nix those bikinis from your suitcase and throw in a scarf or two. Despite the ubiquitous images of this nation’s palm trees and yellow sand, Israel has a healthy winter season that involves rain, wind and even the occasional snowfall, at least in higher areas.

In Tel Aviv and most of the country's center, winter days are usually gorgeous – cool and sunny, still ideal for outdoor activities but best experienced in pants, light sweaters and often a coat. It almost never snows along the coast but from November to February, heavy rains may fall, with storms sometimes lasting for days on end. Pack a good umbrella or be prepared to purchase one here.

In the Golan Heights, snow falls every winter, an event that is marked by a pilgrimage of every ski enthusiast in the country to Mt. Hermon, which sports Israel's sole ski resort. In Jerusalem and the Upper Galilee, snow flurries are less frequent but those areas also get their white dusting from time to time.

Yet if you had your heart set on baking on a beach during your time here, fret not. Despite Israel’s microscopic size, the climate varies drastically from region to region. Hop a 45-minute flight (or take the bus) to the southern resort city of Eilat, where the Red Sea remains temperate year-round and sunbathers can expect to top up their tans nearly 365 days out of the year.

AP