Day 1 - Welcome to Tel Aviv
On arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and assisted through baggage claim and arrival formalities, and then escorted to the Drisco Hotel. Established in 1866 and now a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World, our luxury heritage hotel is set in two historic landmarks built by American settlers in the 19th century. Meals D
Day 2 - Along the coast to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee
This morning’s sightseeing begins in Jaffa, one of the oldest areas of Tel Aviv. An important seaport since antiquity, its ancient streets and still lively waterfront offer a palpable sense of the ancient traders who came here – both by sea and camel caravan. Continue along Rothschild Boulevard to explore the distinctive White City of Tel Aviv #WHS#. Founded in 1909 and developed under the British Mandate in Palestine, this outstanding example of innovative, early 20th-century town planning is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site - recognized as a fine architectural ensemble of the European Modern Movement in a new cultural context.
From Tel Aviv, you’ll journey northward along the coast to the ancient city of Caesarea. Built by Herod the Great and once the seat of Roman rule in the region, its excavated highlights include an impressive theater and the aqueduct that brought water to the city in ancient times. Enjoy a tour and tasting at a local winery and learn about ancient Megiddo #WHS# as you continue to Cana to see the Wedding Church where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. In Nazareth, you’ll visit the Basilica of the Annunciation. The current 60-year-old landmark you’ll admire today is the fifth church built on the same site. The first was likely a simple 4th-century alter set in the grotto that was believed to be the site of Mary’s house. Many historians maintain that the first actual Church of the Annunciation was commissioned by Emperor Constantine and completed in 470 AD. Continue to Tiberias and check in to The Setai, our luxury resort on the Sea of Galilee. Meals B+D
Day 3 - Along the shores and across the Sea of Galilee
After breakfast, a guided excursion on the tranquil waters of the Sea of Galilee offers a terrific introduction to this beautiful region - so rich in Biblical history. Back on land, we’ll visit the Yigal Allon Museum to see a remarkably preserved wooden fishing boat. Discovered in 1986, scholars have since dated it to the 1st century CE during the time of Jesus.
Continue to Capernaum where Jesus spent much of his ministry and chose his first disciples. You’ll also see the 2nd-century synagogue where extensive excavations have shed light on ancient life in the area. Continue to Tabgha to admire the fine mosaics at the Church of the Multiplication, the site of Christ’s feeding the 5,000. On Galilee’s northwestern shores, you’ll visit the Mount of Beatitudes. Although there is still discussion among scholars, this spot has long been commemorated by many as the hill where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Continue your touring with the archaeological site at Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Mt. Hermon. Built around a spring, one of the main sources of the Jordan River, this Greco-Roman city was in ancient times associated with the Greek God Pan. Ascend the Golan Heights for sweeping clear-day views that stretch all the way to Syria and then return to our luxury resort on the Sea of Galilee. Meals B+D
Day 4 - Through the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem
Begin another day of enriching exploration at Yardenit, a popular Baptismal site on the Jordan River. Continue to Beit She’an where extensive archaeological excavations that have revealed many ancient landmarks including an impressive Roman amphitheater. This is a rich site where you can learn about Israel’s many layers of civilizations, dating back 5,000 years to an early settlement that later saw successive waves of conquerors including Egyptians, Philistines and Assyrians. Beit She’an was rebuilt as a Hellenistic city about 2,000 years ago before reaching its peak as a 5th-century Roman metropolis with as many as 40,000 inhabitants. Then discover the unusual Zodiac-motif mosaics of Beit Alpha, a Byzantine synagogue, before continuing onward to Jerusalem. Take in the views of the city from atop the Mount of Olives and stroll in the Garden of Gethsemane where ancient, gnarled olive trees still bear fruit and give the Garden a timeless feel. Then check in to the 5-star Inbal Hotel overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Meals B+D
Day 5 - Explore Old Jerusalem #WHS#
A Holy City for three of the world’s great religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – Jerusalem occupies a unique place in humanity. Enter the Old City and stand before the Temple Mount and the Western Wall - the holiest of Jerusalem’s Jewish sites, sacred because it is a surviving remnant of the Herodian retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. In front of the Western Wall is a large plaza that was created in 1967 as an area for prayer. Continue along the winding streets of the Jewish Quarter to visit the historic Hurva Synagogue. Destroyed in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli War, it was recently rebuilt in its original 19th-century style.
Walk along the Via Dolorosa to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, an important pilgrimage site since the 4th century, and then continue through the lively Arab Bazaar. On Mount Zion, you’ll see the traditional Tomb of King David and the Room of the Last Supper. End your sightseeing at the colorful Mahane Yehuda Market; established nearly a century ago, it’s still the largest open air market in Israel. Engage with friendly vendors and mingle with the city’s rich mosaic of residents as our guide shares insight into Israel’s modern food scene and enduring traditions. And with a prepaid Bites Card, you can sample exotic Middle Eastern delicacies and foods from around the world.
This evening, we’ll take you the Tower of David, an ancient citadel near the Jaffa Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City. As darkness envelops the site, a spectacular Sound and Light Show unfolds with breathtaking virtual reality images and sophisticated trompe l’oeil technology to tell the story of Jerusalem. Meals B
Day 6 - Modern Jerusalem and Bethlehem
This morning, you’ll visit Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Founded in 1953 as a principle center for the documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem remains a dynamic and vital place dedicated to safeguarding the memory of the past and imparting its meaning to future generations. Then enjoy an expertly guided tour through the Israel Museum. Established in 1965 as the largest cultural institution in Israel, it’s now ranked as one of the leading art and archaeology museums of the world. Among the highlights in its vast millennia-spanning collection are the Dead Sea Scrolls and a meticulously constructed model of ancient Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period.
Then travel to Bethlehem where we’ve arranged for you to have lunch in the home of a Palestinian Christian family. With a tempting variety of Middle Eastern salads and appetizers and a main course, this congenial lunch is enhanced by lively conversation with your hosts – and a chance to gain genuine insight into their lives. Then visit the Nativity Church, the oldest standing church in the Holy Land. Originally built in the 4th century by St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, the present 6th-century structure was erected by Justinian. Back in Jerusalem, your evening is free to dine and enjoy as you wish. Meals B+L
Day 7 - Excursion to the Dead Sea and Masada #WHS#
After breakfast, you’ll embark on a full day excursion to explore the region of the Dead Sea; at nearly 1,400 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point on Earth. Leaving the city behind you, you’ll see the site of the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Continue to Masada, where you ascend by cable car to visit the hilltop ruins and hear the chilling tale of its brave inhabitants. Overlooking the Judean Desert and Dead Sea, Masada is a natural fortress of rugged beauty. Atop this strategic site, Herod the Great built a palace complex in the classic style of the early Roman Empire. In 73 A.D., it was the site of a violent clash where Jewish patriots made their heroic last stand in the face of an overwhelming Roman army. Today, the fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument are the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day. Your next stop is the Dead Sea! Be sure to bring your swimsuit as you’ll enjoy lunch and time for a swim – or maybe just a relaxing float in the buoyant therapeutic waters. On your return journey to Jerusalem, you’ll stop to see Wadi Qelt and its 5th-century Monastery of St. George, still inhabited by monks and built into the side of a cliff. This evening’s farewell dinner offers a chance to share experiences and insights gained with your fellow travelers. Meals B+L+D
Day 8 - Depart Jerusalem
You’ll be escorted to the airport today for your departure flight. Meals B