While Jerusalem serves as the spiritual center for world's largest three religions - Christianity, Islam and Judaism - it is the multi-cultural city of Haifa that serves as the international headquarters for those of the Baha'i Faith.
Originating in mid-19th century Persia, the Baha'i faith emphasizes the unity of all religions and humankind, and has an estimated five to six million followers.
While the religion recognizes many of the major prophets and messengers of other world religions, the most recent, according to Bahai's, is Baha'u'llah (1817-92), who was exiled by Turkish authorities to Haifa's neighboring city, Acre (Akko), where he wrote the religion's doctrines.
The religion's historical ties to the holy land have remained strong, and today the Baha'i world center is located in Haifa and Acco, serving as the spiritual and administrative hub for the faith.
Sites associated with Baha'u'llah's exile have not only been restored and preserved, but homage has been paid to the religion's founders through an extraordinary shrine and elaborate garden built around the site, completed in 2001.
The gardens were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2008.
One of the most breathtaking sites in all of Israel, the Baha'i Shrine and Gardens is an essential stop on any visit to Haifa.
Located on the edge of the city center, the site's immaculate green gardens and striking gold-domed shrine define the Haifa cityscape and serve as one of the city's primary attractions.
In addition to the over half a million visitors to the site each year, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit and volunteer in the gardens each year.
The ornate gold-domed Shrine of the Bab is the second holiest in the Baha'i faith, said to serve as the resting place for the Prophet Herald. Immaculate gardens surround the shrine and cascade up and down the northern slope of Mount Carmel, forming an elegant staircase of nineteen garden terraces.
Whether viewing the gardens from above or below, up close or at a distance – the intricate arrangements of flowers and plants, unique geometric designs, and absolute precision of the gardens are extraordinary from any angle.
A visit from the garden's many terraces allows for panoramic views of the whole city of Haifa, looking out to the Mediterranean Sea, Acco to the North, and the Galilee Hills.