Feast on classic dishes in Israel’s legendary local eateries, from shakshouka to a beloved hummus institution in the Old City of Jerusalem. In remarkable Petra, Jordan’s ‘Rose City’, sit down with locals for a hearty serving of mansaf, delicious lamb with fermented, dried yoghurt sauce.. Take a dip in the famously salty Dead Sea. Trip through the legendary Zichron Yachov wine region and stop for a picnic in the vineyards
Discover the classic dishes and delectable delights of Israel and the Palestinian Territories on this Real Food Adventure. Savour shakshuka in Tel Aviv, learn the tricks of tahini from the Samaritans of Nablus, break bread with Druze folk in Buq’ata and sample mouth-watering knafeh. In between these delicious diversions, float on the Dead Sea, drink wine in the Negev desert and see the holy sights of Jerusalem. Jordan has a way of hiding more than ancient tombs and forgotten landscapes. For centuries, this jewel of the Levant has been a magnet for swaying influences and cultures – granting new flavours as these outsiders come and go. Phenomenally, the land itself helps its inhabitants cook and prepare meals. The sweeping deserts of Wadi Rum offer themselves to roast Bedouin feasts underground, the Dead Sea grants its salt as a world-class garnish and the country’s climate has allowed olives to grow and thrive for over 6,000 years. Brimming with charismatic cuisine and rich history, this is an epicurean odyssey to remember.
Welcome to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, a region steeped in spirituality and legend; a rich tapestry of the many cultures, religions and nationalities that call it home, be they Palestinian Muslims & Christians, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Armenian Christians, Ethiopian Copts or Greek Orthodox monks. Your food adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it’ll take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, maybe arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. After this meeting, take a short taxi ride to the Jaffa area and get to know your fellow travellers over dinner at a local institution famous for the North African dish, shakshuka - a delicious concoction of eggs poached in tomatoes and chilli with Mediterranean vegetables. The group can decide to either take a taxi or walk back to the hotel.
Pay a brief visit to Jaffa, then continue through Zichron Yaakov and stop in at one of Israel's finest wineries. Enjoy a wine tasting and perhaps make some purchases to accompany a picnic brunch in the nearby Rothschild Gardens. Continue up to Akko to visit the Old Town and explore the Templar Tunnels built during the Crusades. Reach Haifa by late afternoon. Perhaps catch a glimpse of the Bahai Gardens, containing ornate works of landscaped art. Retire to your hotel afterwards for a well-earned rest. For dinner, perhaps take up the option of a home-cooked meal or join your leader at a charismatic local restaurant.
Drive up to Golan Heights to visit a Druze village called Buq’ata. Historically, the Druze have been an agricultural people, tending olive groves and fruit orchards (mostly apples and cherries). Many families also grow their own vegetables, bake their own bread and live on a largely vegetarian diet. Here you will be greeted by a lovely host family. Be invited in for a cooking demonstration and a delicious Druze lunch. Afterwards, head to Tiberius and take a stroll along the famous Sea of Galilee, Israel's largest freshwater lake. Travel to Nazareth and settle into your hotel for the evening.
After breakfast, visit the Church of the Annunciation and Mary’s Well. Continue on to Jericho and catch a cable car up to the Mount of Temptations and visit the Monastery. Then travel to the Dead Sea, the lowest-altitude place on earth, where you will experience what it's like to float in the world's saltiest body of water. Overnight in Jericho. This slow-paced West Bank town is considered by some to be the longest inhabited city in the world. Tonight dinner will be Maqlubeh, which means upside-down, a rice and vegetable dish which can also include lamb and will be served on the terrace overlooking the pool.
Drive to Nablus, one of the West Bank’s largest cities, most famous for the Arabic sweet knafeh. Start at Mount Jerazim and meet some local Samaritans – a Jewish minority group living in Nablus (the only group to hold Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian passports) to learn about their culture. Visit the tahini factory below the Samaritan Museum and see how the sesame seeds are crushed and made into the finished product. Next, visit the local chapter of the 'Slow Food' network for a cooking class. Accompany the chef to the kasbah to collect your ingredients, then learn to prepare some classic Palestinian dishes. Enjoy your creations over lunch and discover what life is like for women in this small Palestinian town. After lunch, visit a knafeh producer for an insight into the production of this much-loved sweet and, of course, to enjoy a taste. Afterwards, drive to Jerusalem via the famous Mount of Olives, an important pilgrimage site and home of the Garden of Gethsemane. For dinner, why not hunt down a delicious plate of musakhan, a much-loved Jerusalem dish.
Feast on a delicious breakfast of kaek and falafel. Enjoy a full-day tour of Jerusalem, starting with a walking tour of the Way of The Cross (Via Dolorosa) in the Old City. Stop at one of the city's favourite eateries and watch a master prepare mutabbaq (stuffed pancake of Yemeni origin). Continue to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to visit the Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) and then down to the Tomb where he was buried. Walk through the spice market to the Jewish Quarter and witness the Wailing Wall. Finish at Machane Yehuda and lose yourself in the amazing food market. If you buy a Machane Yehuda Bites card here you'll be able to sample a broad selection of market flavours. Alternatively, grab some lunch in one of the neighbouring restaurants. Say goodbye to your leader at the market, and enjoy free time for the rest of the day. Return to the hotel on your own on by foot or taxi.
Jerusalem (Day excursion to the Negev Desert)
After breakfast, head south into the Negev Desert to meet some food producers. Our first stop is a goat cheese farm. Next, be welcomed into the home of a Jewish resident of the Negev. Here we will gain insight into the life and food traditions of an Israeli in the desert. Lunch will be a feast of vegetarian dishes. After lunch, drive up to visit the Tomb of David Ben Gurion – the first prime minister of Israel and one of its founders. Before the drive back to Jerusalem, visit an ancient winery that dates back to the Nabatean era. In recent years, an Israeli couple replanted the winery along with other fruit trees, producing an interesting selection of wines and jams that are only sold in that farm. Arrive back in Jerusalem by evening for a well-deserved rest.
Jerusalem (Day excursion to Bethlehem)
Enjoy breakfast in one of the Old City’s most beloved hummus restaurants. Take a short drive to Battir (recently listed by UNESCO) where villagers continue to practice ancient agricultural methods. The village is surrounded by an impressive Roman-era system of stone-walled terraces and a unique irrigation system fed by seven springs. Next, head to the holy city of Bethlehem. The route passes through a gap in the controversial separation wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. Take a walking tour of this famous city. Opposite Manger Square is the Church of the Nativity, the world's oldest continually operating church, which also marks the birthplace of Jesus. Enjoy a final meal at a local restaurant well-known for its fabulous barbeque. Have a go at mincing your own meat. You'll have two huge cleavers to get the job done the authentic way! Return to Jerusalem for the evening.
Ahlan wa sahlan! Welcome to Amman, capital of Jordan. Amman is known for sharing a mix of both young and old culture. The western side of the city is home to cafes, bars, malls and art galleries while the eastern side is generally less about affluence and more about tradition. This trip puts a focus on the delicious cuisine of Jordan, a gastronomy shaped by centuries of social and political change. As these shifts came and went, multitudes of spices, cooking techniques and ingredients remained in their culture – the most popular of these techniques proving that Jordanians’ love for roasted foods and special sauces is one for the ages. Jordan also has bragging rights as one of the largest producers of olives in the world, so it’s no surprise that olive oil is commonly used in their dishes. Garlic, onions, tomato sauce, lemon and za’atar (a spice blend with sumac, sesame seeds, salt and other spices) are all big-ticket items, and should pop up often on this adventure. Begin at the hotel with a 6pm welcome meeting. Following that, tonight’s taste of Jordanian cuisine starts at the Hashem Restaurant – a place with a bragging rights for being a favourite of royals, diplomats and celebrities travelling through Amman. Dinner will consist of their famous Jordanian stuffed falafel, which is fresh and crunchy on the outside while fluffy on the inside. There’s also the chance to dip bread through smooth creamy hummus and moutabel; similar to hummus but with yoghurt, lemon juice and Arabic salad. After a filling meal, head on to the decades old Habibah Sweets shop for a slice of warm knafeh – delicious buttery cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar syrup.
Madaba - Petra
Keep an eye out this morning for people stuffing their faces with hot sesame bread sandwiches – most of these will be pouring out of the Salaheddin bakery, today’s breakfast joint and a favourite among locals. Walk in, choose a hot, fresh loaf and fill it with baked eggs, cheese, spices or anything else you want from the counter. After filling up on arguably the best bread in town, board a bus and head through Madaba before reaching the Dead Sea (approximately 45 minutes drive). This body of water is famously salty – 9.6 times saltier than the ocean as a matter of fact. As a result, it’s believed to have healing properties that can be tested first hand during an optional swim. After drying off, prepare for a traditional picnic lunch, mezze style. Mezze consists of setting up a series of small appetisers with a group of friends, then scooping them up with bread. Think of it like a much better version of sharing dips and bread/crackers with friends. Kibbeh (fried meat with wheat), manakish (flatbread with za’tar and olive oil), spinach bread and cheeses are all served, followed by a cup of shaneeneh (an aged goat milk yoghurt drink) and a serving of hareeseh (a sweet, syrupy pudding) for desert. Once everyone’s filled up from lunch, the adventure continues to Petra for dinner (approximately 3 hours drive). Learn from a local family how to prepare mansaf, delicious lamb with fermented, dried yoghurt sauce. After a hearty meal and a few shared stories from the family, arrive at La Maison Hotel sitting near the ancient ruins of Petra.
Today we explore ancient Petra, known as one of the new ‘seven wonders of the world’. This archaeological city sits within 80 m high cliff walls – the iconic treasury, carved into the face of one of these cliffs is definitely the highlight of this visit. The site is expansive and to explore it all requires quite a bit of walking and a basic level of fitness will enhance your experience. With a free afternoon to proceed at your own pace there’s ample time to see the museum, the roman amphitheatre, the palace and other places – just head to the visitor centre for a map and a few suggestions as to where to go. Once the day is done, head back to your hotel for a free evening.
We rise early as today’s breakfast will be shared with a local shepherd as you bask in awe of the beautiful dry countryside.
By this stage of the adventure, it should be apparent that a Jordanian breakfast is fairly varied but sticks to a few staples; breads and garnishes being two of the favourites. A typical breakfast can consist of hummus, falafel, salad, pickles and khubz (a pita style bread), although dipping flatbread into olive oil then za’atar is also fairly common. A mezze style breakfast under this towering scenery will be the perfect setting to chat with the shepherd and learn about the life and culture of a Petran local.
Then head on to Wadi Rum (approximately 3 hours drive), a place often referred to as ‘The Valley of the Moon’. Enjoy a true ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ moment while exploring the sparse red sand dunes, steep craggy mountains and the legendary ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ rock formation on a four hour jeep ride through the region. Afterwards, head back to a Wadi Rum campsite for a traditional Bedouin barbecue, known as ‘zarb’.
Zarb is one of the staples of Bedouin culture, capturing a long running tradition of cooking food underground in earth ovens. Bedouin locals will prepare dinner by digging a large hole in the ground and stoking a coal fire underneath it. Then, meat is prepared with water, lemon juice, pepper and salt before adding a variety of vegetables. A multi-layered barbecue rack used to cook everything with the meat at the top and the veggies at the bottom. Once it’s cooked, enjoy this hearty meal.
Tonight we overnight in a permanent tented camp with shared bathroom facilities. Please be aware that while the desert may be very hot during the day, it will still be cool at night and warm clothes and a sleeping bag is highly recommended when travelling outside of the summer months.