Challenge your perspective in Jerusalem: walk the ‘Way of the Cross’, meet a local Rabbi and dine with a Palestinian family.. Learn the stories behind some of the most challenging and poignant works of graffiti that decorate the barrier wall in Bethlehem during a walking tour.. Access the glowing blue grottoes of Rosh Hanikra by cable car, then enjoy views over the Mediterranean Coast of Western Galilee.. Go underground to explore the excavated dungeon, crypt and halls that were used by the Knights of St John over 700 years ago in Acre.
Get a kaleidoscopic perspective on Israel and the Palestinian Territories on this eight-day tour. Entrenched in the ancient but emphatically modern in outlook, nominally Jewish but with oodles of Muslim and Christian influence, this region is endlessly fascinating and rewarding to travel in. Stroll the Old City’s ramparts in Jerusalem, visit Jesus’ biblical birthplace in Bethlehem and see Masada’s rugged outcrop. Break bread with Palestinians and Israelis, walk the graffitied separation wall in Bethlehem, go for a float in the Dead Sea and form your own impressions of this captivating part of the world.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
Welcome to Jerusalem, a city steeped in spirituality and legend that is called home by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Armenian Christians, Ethiopian Copts and Greek Orthodox monks, among others. If you arrive with some time to spare before your tour, perhaps drop by the Israel Museum and browse its superb collection of art and history.
Your adventure kicks off at 6 pm today, when you meet your leader in the hotel lobby for an introduction to your tour and to your fellow travellers. Later, perhaps venture out for a local meal or head to the hotel's rooftop restaurant and relax for the evening before a big day of sightseeing tomorrow.
Explore the Old City this morning on foot. Start with the Courtyard of the Dome and the Western Wall, then continue to St Stephen’s Gate, passing the crusader church of St Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Continue along the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) and stop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected. Perhaps stop and recharge and sip on sweek tea or sample fresh local bread and then walk through the Christian Quarter up to Jaffa Gate. In the afternoon use your free time to explore more of the city.
This evening meet up with your leader and enjoy a home-cooked meal of chicken maqloubeh (an upside-down layered dish) with a Palestinian family. With a full belly, enjoy a traditional oud performance from a local musician.
Start the day off with a panoramic view of the city. Drive out to the Mount of Olives that looks over Jerusalem’s Old City and visit the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is said to have prayed the night before his crucifixion. See the Church of All Nations (also known as the Basilica of the Agony), then drive the short distance out to Bethlehem and take a graffiti walking tour along the barrier wall. Graffiti by many artists has graced the wall over the years, including famous ones like Banksy. Continue to Manger Square and consider refuelling with some of Bethlehem’s famous falafel. Visit the Church of the Nativity, marking the spot of the stable where Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus, then head back to Jerusalem. Visit the holocaust museum Yad Vashem – your leader may not be licensed to guide in the museum or may not be comfortable doing so; if this is the case then an audio guide will be provided. Later, meet a local rabbi for a lively and informative discussion about the Israel–Palestine conflict, Jewish tradition and peace processes.
This morning drive out to the cliff-top fortress of Masada. On the way your leader will make a few stops; each leader has their favourite photo spots and stories to tell so we leave it up to them to share what they love. Arrive in Masada and take a cable car to the fortress built by King Herod around 35 BC. This UNESCO site is very important to the Jewish people as a symbol of their exile from the Holy Land and of bravery and self-sacrifice. Spend some time visiting the site, then drive around 30 minutes to the shores of the Dead Sea, where the dense and super-salty water means you’ll go for a float, not a swim. Spend some time relaxing here and soaking in the mud, which is supposed to have healing properties.
Tonight you’ll stay at an eco-lodge, where the accommodation is part of an NGO, originally a refugee camp and now a community initiative that aims to protect the ecology of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River Valley. On arrival your host will speak about the environmental situation in the valley, and the work they are doing in waste management and water conservation. If there's time after your included dinner, take an optional sunset hike – a 2-hour walk to a farm to enjoy some light refreshments and some local conversation.
Travel to the western shores of the Sea of Galilee and historic Tiberias, established all the way back in AD20. Visit the ancient fishing village of Capernaum. See the site of two ancient synagogues and a church said to have been the home of St Peter. Stop by Tabgha, where the Bible says Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, then head up to Safed (Tsfat), one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities, which is over 900 metres above sea level. Continue to Nazareth to take a stroll through the Old City and visit the Church of the Annunciation, where Mary is said to have received the news of the Immaculate Conception. Hit the road again and arrive in Haifa for the evening.
This morning travel to Rosh Hanikra (1 hour's drive) where white cliffs meet the blue sea. This little beauty of natural geography is tucked away on the border with Lebanon and is usually a highlight for everyone. Take the cable car up the cliff to view the spectacular grottoes. Continue to the ancient crusader port of Acre (Akko in Hebrew), where you’ll visit the vast complex of buildings occupied by the Knights of St John (Knights Hospitaller), excavated to uncover rooms including a large hall, a dungeon, a dining room and the crypt of an ancient Gothic church. Perhaps a good place to have lunch and relax before returning to Haifa. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time. You may want to visit the Baha’i Gardens, where the elaborate terraces and a golden shrine sit overlooking the city. There are some great produce markets and excellent restaurants nearby, just ask your leader for recommendations.
After breakfast, journey to Tel Aviv via the coast and tour the ancient port of Caesarea (approximately 1 hour), which served as the capital of Israel during the Roman and Byzantine eras. Built in 25 BC, the city was eventually abandoned and lost under the desert sands. Thanks to archaeological excavations since, its splendour is on show once again. Continue along the coast to Tel Aviv. Take a stroll through the Old City of Jaffa, then drop your luggage at tonight’s accommodation. Head out on an orientation walk with your leader, taking in Rabin Square. Finish up your walk at the promenade, the perfect place to find a restaurant for dinner this evening, or enjoy a farewell drink at your hotel with your leader and fellow travellers and try the local boutique beer.
This trip comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time after you check out.
Getting to the airport is very simple and easy by public transport with buses nearby taking you to the train station and connecting to the airport. Private transfers are available to pre-book with Intrepid.