Long famous for its spiritual wealth and cultural diversity, Israel has always been a standout destination. But delve a little deeper and you’ll discover the often overlooked natural beauty surrounding your every step. From Hai Bar Park, known as “Little Switzerland,” to the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, blending archaeological findings in a lush backdrop teeming with animals, to Eilat’s Underwater Observatory showcasing the Red Sea’s unmatched marine life, to a nature trek at Ein Gedi in search of the gazelles, and to floating on the Dead Sea, this journey is like no other. No trip to Israel is complete without visiting its major cities – Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, where you stay at boutique hotels, each giving a unique insight into the culture of this timeless land.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
It can be quite hot in Israel during the summer months – June through August and cool in the winter (January/February.) Generally, best time to visit is March through May and October/November. However, one needs to take into consideration the Jewish and Christian holidays when it is too crowded and very expensive in Israel. The birding migration takes place usually March-May, returning October-November.
Fly overnight to Tel Aviv and transfer to your hotel. En route, visit the Biblical landscape reserve of Neot Kdumim, a unique endeavor to re-create the physical setting of the Bible in all its depth and detail. In the evening you will be treated to dinner and a theater performance at Nalaga’at Center. Next day, start at Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest cities, with a harbor that has been in use since the Bronze Age. Visit the museum and art gallery in the private home of acclaimed artist Ilana Goor, a renovated, beautiful old building in the Artists Quarter. Continue to the old Othman train station and stroll through Neve Zedek, the first neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Enjoy lunch at the Old Port of Tel Aviv and drive through the White City of Tel Aviv, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. SHALOM HOTEL & RELAX. (Meals Aloft, L; B,L)
Drive to the ancient city of Caesarea to see ruins from the Roman, Byzantine and Crusader eras. Next, visit Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael a popular birding site on the lower reaches of the Carmel mountain range. Enjoy lunch in the Tishbi Winery, the first commercial winery on Mount Carmel. Visit the picturesque Ein Hod Artist’s Village, situated on a hillside amid olive groves, with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea and a 12th-century Crusader fortress. BAY CLUB HAIFA. (B,L)
Begin your day at the perfectly manicured Bahai Gardens, an aesthetic memorial to the founders of the Baha’i Faith. Visit Hai Bar National Park, a 1,500-acre sanctuary dedicated to restoring Israel’s wildlife. Then it is off to the Rosh Hanikra grottoes, a cluster of caves that fall off into the ocean, which has produced a unique atmosphere for flora and fauna, particularly loggerhead turtles that use the rocky shores as a mating area and the sandy shores as their nesting area. KIBBUTZ HAGOSHRIM. (B,D)
At Tel Dan Nature Reserve, discover a unique combination of archeology and nature. With rare archeological findings of city life dating back to the Neolithic or Stone Age and lush river greenery along the river, Tel Dan is a feast for the mind and senses. Spend the rest of the day in the 1,000-acre wetland of Hula Valley, only a very small portion of the original swamp of 15,000 acres that in the early 1950’s was drained for agricultural purposes. Today, over 200 species of birds rely on this very important wetland. KIBBUTZ HAGOSHRIM. (B,D)
Visit Capernaum where Jesus served as a rabbi and performed miracles. On to Mount Beatitudes, the site of the Sermon of the Mount. Next, visit Tabgha and the Church of the Multiplication, the traditional site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the third resurrection appearance of Jesus. Take a boat ride on the calm waters of the Sea of Galilee and lunch on the traditional fish of St. Peter. Continue to Nazareth, the site of the Annunciation and boyhood home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Late this evening, arrive in Jerusalem. ARTHUR HOTEL JERUSALEM. (B,L)
Take in the historical significance of this amazing city as you see the various sacred sites. Stunning views await from the Mount of Olives, then visit the areas sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians at the Temple Mount, site of Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. In the Old City, explore new excavations in the City of David; a virtual reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount; and the Western Wall, the only remaining piece of the Second Temple. In the Jewish Quarter, see resplendent ruins and Byzantine vestiges like Nea Church and Cardo Maximus. Enjoy a walk through the exotic Arab Markets of the old city. ARTHUR HOTEL JERUSALEM. (B)
Visit Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Cemetery inside of which Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial is located. See the vibrancy of Machane Yehuda, an outdoor souk to get a taste of the variety of people, produce and goods that are part of Israel today. In the afternoon, duties permitting, enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour led by Dr. Sigalit Dvir, Deputy Director of Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo. ARTHUR HOTEL JERUSALEM. (B,L)
Head to the Dead Sea and visit the surrounding Nature Reserves, lush oases that stand in stark contrast with the desolate slopes of desert and the blue Dead Sea. Climb an ancient serpent-like path or take a cable car to Massada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was here that the zealots made their last stand against the Roman Legion. A drive into the Negev Desert reveals Mtizpe Ramon, the largest natural crater in the world and a place of unparalleled serenity. ISROTEL INN HOTEL IN MTIZPE RAMON. (B,L,D)
Drive to Machtesh Ramon, Israel’s largest national park. Take a safari at Yotvata Hai Bar to see reintroduced animals that lived once in this area. Marvel at the magnificent desert scene at Timna Park before arriving Eilat, a resort town on the shores of the Red Sea. Next day, with binocular in hand, search for the migrating birds, including raptors, waders and passerines, flamingos, cranes and storks. At the Underwater Observatory, see the full spectrum of sea life that lives in the Red Sea. ISROTEL YAM SUF. (B,L,D Daily)
Spend a day at leisure among Eilat’s sunny Red Sea shores. Transfer to the airport late this afternoon for your flights home, via Tel Aviv. (B, Meals Aloft)
Cross from Eilat into Jordan and continue your journey through time as you drive to the ancient metropolis of Petra. Discover soaring temples, elaborate royal tombs, a Roman theater and one of the most elegant remains of antiquity, the Al Khazneh. Continue to the historic Dead Sea and spend two nights at a luxurious resort. Explore Jerash, renowned as the ‘Pompeii of the East’ for its remarkably preserved architectural wonders, and the Crusader Castle at Kerak. On your last day, float in the Sea’s healing waters, indulge in spa treatments or take a trip to Lot’s Cave.
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