While you may picture Israel as only desert, there are actually four climate zones in this tiny country that vary considerably, dependent on topography and altitude. From lush greenery to beachfront coastline, the reality far exceeds the sparse sand piles shown on the news in the conflict areas. In winter, the mountainous regions are cold and windy with the occasional snowfall, even in Jerusalem. The coastal cities of Haifa, Tel Aviv and Eilat enjoy Mediterranean weather, with summers long and hot and winters cool and wet. In the southern Negev Desert region, the Jordan River Valley and Arava, summers are extremely hot with no rain and winters are mild with occasional rainfall.

Rain anywhere in Israel between May and September is regarded as a rare occurrence. Around 70 percent of rainfall occurs between November and March, and varies year by year. Violent rainstorms causing flooding are common, and the precipitation falls as snow in the highlands. January is the coldest month across the country, with average readings between 41°F and 50°F and August is hottest, with temperatures varying according to location between 64°F and a steamy 100°F. For visitors who can’t cope with soaring highs, the shoulder seasons are comfortable.

Best Time to Visit Israel

Travelers to Israel should remember the spring and fall Jewish holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Succut, are all national vacation times for Israelis. Room rates rise dramatically, flights are full and accommodation is often scarce. Otherwise, spring and fall are the best times to be here weather-wise, especially if outdoor activities are part of the agenda. Summer is high tourist season in the resort areas, with higher room rates, as well as soaring temperatures and crowded attractions, entertainment venues and restaurants. Christmas sees huge influxes of visitors to Jerusalem and the famous Holy Land sites, as does Easter, with room rates again on the up and accommodation scarce. For those not arriving for major religious festivals or at high summer, bargains can be found in the off-season periods.