Discovering Israel: How to use Jerusalem as a Staging Point

By Sarah Mann | Published on 8/17/2023

Jerusalem - mysterious, evocative, ancient, vibrant, spiritual…and the list goes on.  For anyone making a trip to Israel, the holy city of Jerusalem has to be at the top of the list.  Home to three major world religions, an Old City that dates back thousands of years, world-class museums and endless neighborhoods full of winding streets and cobblestones, this is a city that will always leave you wanting more.

It’s not surprising then that many people choose to base themselves in Jerusalem when traveling to Israel, and rather than move around the country, simply travel to other cities and towns for sightseeing, returning when night falls.

How Easy Is It to Make Day Trips in Israel?

Much easier than you’d think actually, since not only is Israel a small country (the size of New Jersey) but it also has excellent infrastructure, including modern highways and cheap, reliable, and efficient public transport.

Discovering IsraelJerusalem during sunrise

This means that you're spoiled for choice when it comes to making a day trip - you can rent a car in Jerusalem, travel around independently using buses and trains, or take an organized day tour in Israel. Whether you feel like being adventurous and hitting the road alone, or you’d prefer an organized mini-tour or day tour with the services of a guide, it’s really up to you.

Using Jerusalem as a staging point is also a good idea because the city really has so much charm and beauty, a day or two can’t do it justice. So stay awhile, settle in, marvel at its history, culture, and vibrancy, and then when you feel like a change, hit the road and head to another part of the country.  

The Israeli capital is well connected, with an ultra-modern train station and Central Bus Station (from which all buses listed below depart.  The train and bus station are next door to each other and can easily be accessed from downtown and the Old City using the Jerusalem light railway.  All public transport begins early and ends close to midnight, save for Shabbat (the Israeli Sabbath (Friday afternoon to Saturday evening), when you’ll have to rent a car to get out of town.

Discovering Israel - Tour busesTour buses are a great way to see Israel from Jerusalem

Here’s our practical guide to a few of the places that need to be on your ‘bucket list’ when in the Holy Land, to make sure you get the most out of your trip:

How far is Tel Aviv from Jerusalem?

Distance: 54 km (33 miles)
Bus Number: 405, 480 or a 45-minute train ride
Why go there? Tel Aviv is known as the ‘Non-Stop City’ within Israel and worldwide, famed for its sandy beaches, foodie scene, Bauhaus architecture, street art, and nightlife.  Whether you want to enjoy the Mediterranean and get a tan, sit in cafes, wander the ancient streets of Jaffa, or party until the sun comes up, this is the city in which to do it.

Discovering Israel- The beachesThe beaches are awesome! visit Tel Aviv from Jerusalem

Tours you can take: If you love vintage and retro items, take a tour of the Jaffa Flea Market in this beautiful port city at the edge of Tel Aviv. Hipsters will enjoy a Street Art Tour of edgy neighbourhoods and anyone hankering after some traditional Middle Eastern food should not miss a journey around the Shuk ha Carmel.

How far is Masada from Jerusalem?

Distance: 54 km (33 miles)
Bus Number: 486
Why go there? This ancient Herodian fortress, set in the wilderness of the Judean desert, is quite magnificent and whether you choose to climb up early and watch the sunrise or take a cable car ride up, the archaeological treasures you’ll find atop won’t disappoint.  Masada is also just a 30-minute drive from the lowest spot on earth - the Dead Sea, famed for its salty waters and if you set off early, you can easily enjoy both in a day. 

Discovering Israel- Masada FortMasada Fort

Tours you can take: The day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea tour we offer is one of our best sellers and if you take it, you’ll soon understand why - two unique attractions in a few hours.   

How far is the Galilee from Jerusalem?

Distance: 118 km (73 miles) drive, 176 km (110 miles) by bus
Bus Number: 962 to Tiberias (the capital of the county).
Why go there? The north of Israel is astonishingly beautiful and the Sea of Galilee is a must-visit on any trip to Israel - you can take a boat trip on the water, visit many of the churches where Jesus ministered, stop for a fish lunch at Ein Gev kibbutz and watch Christian pilgrims being baptized in the Jordan River, at Yardenit. And if you have more than a day, head north to the Golan Heights to enjoy vineyards, fortresses, and some incredible nature reserves.

Discovering Israel- The Sea of GalileeThe Sea of Galilee

Tours you can take: The Caesarea, Acre, and Rosh Hanikra Tour is highly recommended, and so are the Christian Sea of Galilee Tour, and the Golan Heights private tour - for those who like to combine culture, history, and some pristine, wild nature. 

How far is Eilat from Jerusalem?

Distance: 314 km (195 miles)
Bus Number: 444
Why go there? Located on the Red Sea, Eilat is a fantastic place to go for some ‘chillout time’ - whether you want to soak up the sun, learn to dive, swim with dolphins, jet ski, hike in the nearby Timna Park, ride a camel or dance the night away, it’s the ultimate fun party spot in Israel and you’re usually guaranteed bright sunny days.  

Discovering Israel- Water sports in EilatWater sports in Eilat

Tours you can take: Eilat sits on the border with Jordan so why not visit Petra, one of the seven New Wonders of the World? Rise early and go for a 1-day Petra tour from Eilat or stay overnight and combine Petra and Wadi Rum, in a desert experience that you’ll never forget.  

How far is Nazareth from Jerusalem?

Distance: 145 km (90 miles)
Bus Number: 955
Why go there? Nazareth isn’t just the birthplace of Jesus Christ and home to the largest church (the Basilica of the Annunciation) in the Middle East, it’s also the largest Arab-Israeli city in Israel, and home to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It has a bustling open-air bazaar, selling all kinds of traditional produce and - by car - is just a 35-minute drive from the Crusader city of Acco, home to an ancient harbor, a Templar's Tunnel, Knight’s Hall, and Turkish Baths.

Discovering Israel- Inside the Church of Annunciation, NazarethInside the Church of Annunciation

Tours you can take: For anyone interested in history and theology, a day tour of Nazareth and the Galilee is the way to go, giving you the opportunity to see the places where Jesus grew up and then ministered, performed miracles, and recruited his disciples.

How far is Bethlehem from Jerusalem?

Distance: 11 km (7 miles)
Bus Number: 163
Why go there? Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, so a real must-see for Christian pilgrims but also anyone interested in religion and history. It’s a hop, skip, and a jump from Jerusalem although be aware that it is in the West Bank and under the legal control of the Palestinian Authority. If you feel nervous, don’t hesitate to book an organized tour, where everything will be taken care of for you, including the crossover at the checkpoint.

Discovering Israel- The inner yard of the Church of Nativity, BethlehemThe inner yard of the Church of Nativity

Tours you can take: A great idea for a day trip is to combine three places in one, on a tour of Bethlehem, Jericho, and Qasr al Yahud. This way, you can see the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square, stroll around the ancient city of Jericho (where Joshua fought a battle!) then continue onto the Jordan River, where John baptized Jesus.

If you’re interested in booking any of the tours listed here and would like further information first, don’t hesitate to contact us at Bein Harim - we’re here to make sure you find the trip that’s right for you and make your holiday one you will never forget.