Top Hikes Near Jerusalem

Jerusalem is built on a plateau in the Judean Hills; this ancient city is surrounded by rocky peaks; thick forests and lush valleys. It is incredible to think of all the pilgrims, armies and travelers – Jews, Christians and Muslims that made their way to the City of Gold on foot over thousands of years.With some of the spectacular hikes around Jerusalem, it is possible to experience, in a small way, the awe ancient travelers must have felt when making their way through the rugged hills towards Jerusalem. Today the precious landscape around Jerusalem is persevered in national parks and nature reserves. Here is a selection of just some of the trails you can follow in the Jerusalem area, although there are many more.Ein Karem to Derech HaGefen HikeThis unique and rather off-the-beaten-track hike takes you from Ein Karem, a quant community near Jerusalem to the well-known Derech HaGefen Café. It is a short, easy hike where you can see the Jerusalem suburbs on the horizon most of the time. The bonus of this hike trail is that you can explore the picturesque community of Ein Keram where stone houses are draped with ivy and bougainvillea and the quaint lanes have courtyard cafes and arts and crafts stores. Leave Ein Keram's main street, Rechov Ein Karem where an Israel Trail marker leads down to Madregot Gan Eden (Steps of Paradise). Pass the trail market indicating Derech Sorek and continue down Emek HaTeimanim Street leaving the Israel Trail. Continue on Emek HaTeimanim which becomes a lane and then a dirt path leading into the open countryside. Hike until you see a sign to Derech Hagefen. The last part of the hike is on a road (Derech Hagefen) and passes rural dwellings with charming gardens. End the hike with a meal or drink at the Derech Hagefen Café then retrace your steps back to Ein Keram.Nahal Refa'imHike Trail in Begin ParkMost hikers head to northern Israel when they are looking for winter hikes; but the best winter hike near Jerusalem is to Nahal Refaim which only flows in the winter. This hike is especial good after a few days of rain when the river is at its fullest. The hike trail to the river banks and back again is about 2km altogether with quite a steep climb on the way back. The hike starts in Begin Park, less than a half hour from Jerusalem. Follow the red trail markers through forests and over rocky areas. The trail crosses a road and continues on the Israel Trail taking you down a steep hill. Then cross another road and join the trail marked by green markers. At that point the trail meets the wide, rapidly-flowing river flanked by eucalyptus trees, wild flowers and other vegetation. If you want to extend the hike, then continue following the green markers or you could opt to retrace your steps.Givat HaTurmusim Hike Through Wild FlowersHikers visiting the Holy Land often imagine they will only find desert hikes in Israel but on this stunning hike route just outside Jerusalem you'll be awe-struck by the spectacular show of bright purple-blue "turmusim" or wild lupine flowers. You can see the flower-filled meadows in full bloom in February and March but the rest of the year you will still find yourself surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The brilliantly colored flowers stand out against a backdrop of dark green hills. Givat HaTurmusim (Lupine Hill) can be explored on a 6km circular route or you can simply scale the hill.Shvil HaMayanot Hike TrailOn this 3km hike trail you'll need to double-back and return to the starting point along the same route. The hike starts about 15 minutes from Jerusalem city center close to Ein Hendek on the road between Ein Keram and Moshav Even Sapir and meanders through the western slopes of the Judean Hills. Shvil HaMayanot (Trail of Springs) takes you along a chain of five natural spring pools. You'll also encounter tunnels; woodlands; olive groves and ancient ruins. At some of the springs you can see how ancient inhabitants channeled the spring water into stone-constructed pools; some of which have been restored. The route ends near the Yad Kennedy memorial. It's possible to do this hike year-round but it is best from December to April. If you want to stretch out this hike to make it longer take a detour to Handak Spring which is a tunnel spring carved into the stone and dry in the summer. If you have a flashlight you can walk into the spring tunnel.Sataf Nature TrailSataf is a site where ancient agricultural techniques, specifically terraced farming have been recreated alongside two picturesque springs – Bikura Spring and Sataf Spring. The original agricultural terraces where built 4500 years ago. Sataf is about 14km from Jerusalem and the hike trail can be accessed from the Sataf parking lot. The hike can be done year-round and has various amenities such as a café, toilets and picnic trails. Within the Sataf grounds are two hike trail options – the 1.5km-long Blue Trail that takes a circular route and the 2km-long Green Trail which passes the two springs. There are other longer routes including the 8.5km Red Trail which is considered one of the best in the Jerusalem area.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

Hanukah 2019 Events in Israel

Hanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the 2nd century BC victory of a small group of Jews that rose up against Greek-Syrian oppressors and were victorious. Known as the Maccabean Revolt, after the leaders, the uprising resulted in the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees found only a small jar of pure oil to light the temple's seven-branch candelabrum. Yet the oil miraculously lasted eight days. In memory of this miracle and the rededication of the temple Jews around the world celebrate Hanukah by lighting an additional candle on the candelabra (menorah) each night of the holiday. In many places in Israel, you can see public menorah-lighting ceremonies held at sundown each night of Hanukah. In Israel, you can experience the holiday through many special Hanukah events. Here is a selection of the top 2019 Hanukah events in Israel.Tel Aviv Independence Park – 22.12.2019 (Gan Ha'atzmaut) Menorah-Lighting Event.In Tel Aviv's Independence Park, the first candle of Hanukah will be lit in a special ceremony and there will be live musical performances, activities for kids and food stalls.Tel Aviv International Synagogue – 23.12.2019, 23 Frishman Street, Tel AvivThe TAIS is organizing a rooftop candle lighting tour in the Old City of Jerusalem followed by a performance of favorite tunes from the Fiddler on the Roof at the Hebrew University. The tour includes transport from the Tel Aviv International Synagogue.Bavli Community Center – 23.12.2019, 6 Toledano Street, Tel Aviv, 16:30-18:00The Bavli neighborhood is hosting a Hanukah parade of lights that will travel from the Yarkon Park through Hanna Zemer to the Bavli Community Center where there will be a candle lighting ceremony, live performances and donuts.Tower of David: Hanukah Menorahs and Christmas Trees Tour of the Old City – 24.12.2019, Old City Jerusalem.This is a guided 3-hour tour starting at 8:30 pm. The Tower of David also offers a lantern-lit tour starting at 16:30 on the Citadel walls and ending with Hanukah songs, candle lighting and donuts. At the Tower of David, there will be family activities including "Escape the Tower", a family escape rooms experience lasting 1.5 hours. Participants must be over 9 years old.HanuChristmas 2019 – 24.12.2019, Habima, Tel Aviv, 21:30-23:30After a candle-lighting ceremony in Habima Square join others on eco-friendly bikes or skates and role or ride to the Christmas tree in Jaffa. Riders are encouraged to come in Christmas or Hanukah-themed fancy-dress.Raanana City Lights – 25-26.12.2019, Ahuza Street, Raanana, 10:00-22:00The small city in the Sharon Area will host, for the first time, a festival of lights along the length of the main street. The festival will include light instillations, art created out of lights; movement performances; street performers; live sculptures; illumination workshops; video installations and food stalls.Ashdod Lantern Tour – 25.12.2019, meeting point West Hotel Lobby, Ashdod, 19:00Pre-registration with Ashdod Tourism is necessary for this lamp-light tour of the city. Take a Hanukah tour of Ashdod's streets, Lachish Park along the creek and past various displays of Hanukah menorahs.Wine on the Vine - 27.12.2019, 3 Elazar Ben Azrya Street, Tel Aviv, 09:00-14:30WIZO and Wine on the Vine is collaborating to deliver a special Hanukah wine experience in the Elah Valley. Get transportation to and from Tel Aviv and a themed tour through the Elah Valley including two winery visits and a stop at the Maccabee battle site.Holiday of Holidays – weekends in December, HaifaOn weekends in December, including Hanukah weekends the communities of all faiths in Haifa will be celebrating the Holiday of Holidays with live performances, lectures, markets, street performers, exhibitions, children's activities and tours.Safed Chanukah Candle Tours – 22-30.12.2019, Safed (not on Friday night)Shvil HaLev and Tzfat Kabbalah Center both offer guided evening tours of the Old Jewish Quarter of Safed where you can see Hanukah menorah candles in every window.Hasmonean Village – Year-round, ShilatThe perfect time to visit Hashmonai Village is during Hanukah when there are special events at the site where a typical ancient Jewish village has been recreated. The whole family can enjoy interactive, fun activities like olive picking, making oil lamps from clay, preparing medicinal herbs and feeding farm animals.Sounds of Music in the Desert Festival - 25-28.12.2019, Kibbutz Sde Boker, Upper NegevThis annual festival is in its 22nd year and brings together some of the country's top musical performers representing a wide range of styles. Enjoy original Israeli music as well as a light show, tours, delicious food and other activities.Street Theatre Festival Eilat – 24-26.12.2019, 15:00-19:00 and 27.12.2019, 10:00-14:00 Eilat Museum and Art Gallery PlazaEnjoy free performances by living statues; street artists; musicians; acrobats and circus performers.Hanukklayim – 24-26.12.2019, 17:00-21:00 (IDF Square to the Western Wall) and 18:00-23:00 (IDF Square to Rockefeller Museum), Old City JerusalemTwo routes through the Old City have been created for families during Hanukah. Along the way they can stop at activity stations, see light installations and performance stages. In addition, it is possible to take a menorah tour to homes in the Jewish Quarter; Hanukah candle lighting at the Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai Synagogue (17:00-20:00 on the hour) and enjoy cantorial performances in Zabekiah's Cave (19:30).Lighting up the Night (Maorim et HaLiyla) – 23-30.12.2019, Jerusalem Center, 17:00-22:00Multiple events are being held in Jerusalem's city center to celebrate Hanukah including a large menorah in Cats' Square (Khatulot Square);"Street of Wishes" on Ben Yehuda Street; performances and activities in Herbert Samuel Plaza; street performances; street parties and video art displays on three large city buildings.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

The Best Ways to Spend Christmas 2019 in Israel

Christmas 2019 is just around the corner, and in Israel, the land where the events of Christmas actually took place there is excitement in the air as decorations go up, trees are erected in city centers and churches prepare for special Christmas services. You won't see Christmas celebrated in all Israeli cities but in places where there are Christian communities you can experience the holiday season in the Holy Land, unlike anywhere else in the world. To help you plan your time in Israel as you celebrate Christmas here are some of the most popular and special 2019 Christmas events in Israel.2019 Christmas Events in JerusalemYMCA Christmas Concert: 24.12.2019, 19:30-21:30The traditional Christmas celebrations at the historic YMCA building in Jerusalem include a Christmas Eve concert featuring more than 80 performers. Among those performing will be the Jerusalem Street Orchestra; YMCA Academy Orchestra; the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir and the Jerusalem Youth Choir, with youths from West and East Jerusalem. You can expect to hear all the classic Christmas songs and enjoy a festive atmosphere at this annual event.Santa’s House: Throughout December 2019, 17:00-20:00Each year Santa’s House opens its doors to excited young visitors. Situated on St. Peter’s Street in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, Santa’s House is a non-profit attraction supported by donations with the sole purpose of delighting young visitors. The house belongs to a family whose generations have inhabited the Old City for over 700 years. Santa’s House is decked-out with traditional Christmas decorations and although it may not be the North Pole, families can enjoy the warm, cheerful atmosphere in Santa’s house.Dormition Church Christmas Concert: 2019: 21/12/2019, 11:00Attend a Christmas concert in the beautiful Dormition Church on Mount Zion. This year’s guest performer will be the French classic organist, Maurice Clerc. The concert will include a variety of arrangements on the organ. Enjoy the music of this world-renowned performer in the surroundings of one of Jerusalem’s most exquisite churches.The Dormition Church2019 Christmas Events in JaffaHappy Market: 20/12/2019, 10:00-16:00This lively market takes place at the Art Club at 9 Shach Street. The market stalls will hold hand-made goods such as ceramics, jewelry, glassware, clothing as well as flowers and a range of Christmas items. No Israeli market would be complete without some delicious food stalls and at the Happy Market, you won’t go hungry! Free admission.Jaffa Christmas Parade 2019: 27/12/2019, 17:30This annual parade includes music; decorated parade floats escorted by Santa figures and other holiday-themed participants. The parade will travel along Yefet Street stopping at a number of points along the way including the churches along the route where kids will be treated with sweets, small gifts and other surprises. Free admission.Scouts Christmas Carnival Parade: Friday 06.01.2020, 17:30 (there may be changes)Come join this annual parade presented by more than 550 scouts, members of Jaffa’s Orthodox Scouts Club. The parade will travel from Evn Rashd Street, down the length of Yefet Street to St. George’s Church on Louis Pasteur Street. This traditional carnival includes costumed participants, performances by the scouts’ orchestra ending with a brilliant firework display. Free admission.A Christmas treeScouts Christmas Carnival Parade2019 Christmas Events in Western GalileeChristmas Run in Mi'ilya: Friday, 20.12.2019, 08:00This will the 5th year that this fun run has been held in the beautiful Galilee to celebrate Christmas and the Festival of Lights, Hanukah. Each year this Christian village is decorated with colorful Christmas lights and Christmas trees for the holiday season. The run marks a coming-together of people of different faiths and cultures. People of all faiths, persuasions and communities are invited to join in for a run through the lanes of this magical Galilee village. You’ll have the choice of a 2km, 5km or a competitive 10km run. The run has been created to suit individuals as well as families with kids. There will be prizes for the winners in categories above 5km. A fee will be charged for Participation in the Christmas run.Western Galilee Winter Festival: Thursday-Saturday, 19.12.2019-21.12.2019 (times may vary)The Western Galilee Now Organization holds an annual Winter Festival with events and happenings spread across several villages. There will be an exciting schedule of Christmas-related events. Kfar Pasuta is considered one of the best festival villages where the celebrations include a wide range of activities; musical performances; Christmas carols; family activities and tours through the quaint lanes. Kfar Eilabun is another popular destination during the festival; here there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the village square and an adjacent Christmas market. The Kfar Eilabun celebrations include street performers, a parade and wonderful kid’s shows.Christmas Season in Mi’ilya:Saturday – Monday, 21.12.2019-23.12.2019, 10:00-24:00 - The traditional Christmas market in Mi’ilya has Christmas food stalls, artists’ stalls, Christmas candy stalls and sale of Christmas decorations. The market is also where you can see kid’s shows and towards nightfall musical performances for all the family.Tuesday – Wednesday, 2.12.2019-25.12.2019 10:00-18:00 – One of the most moving events in Mi’ilya during the Christmas season is the church service and choral singing held in the Greek Orthodox Holy Mary Church. Free admission.2019 Christmas Events in HaifaHaifa Holiday of Holidays Festival: Thursday – Sunday, 19.12.2019-28.12.2019, various hours throughout the day.The Holiday of Holiday Festival is one of the largest and most important festive season events held in Israel. 2019 will be the 26th year of this festival that takes place on weekends throughout December in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood and down to the German Colony at the lower end of the Baha'i Garden. The holiday of Holidays celebrates Haifa’s multicultural communities and the principles of mutual respect; cultural tolerance and diversity. The city is decorated with colorful decorations and lights; there is a wide range of special events, musical performances, lectures, parties and markets held throughout Haifa. Many of the festival events have free admission and most of the exhibitions will be open from 10 am to 8 pm.Among the events of the Holiday of Holiday festival 2019:Opening Ceremony, Beit HaGefen Theatre, 19.12.2019, 20:30 – Join locals and dignitaries for a festive opening ceremony where there will be game tables, tours, musical performances, stand-up performances and much more.Christmas Parade, Ein Dor Catholic Church, 21.12.2019, 17:00 – the traditional Christmas parade in Haifa will travel down Ein Dor Street and continues to Allenby Street via the German Colony and back again.Family Happening, Beit HaGefen yard, 26.12.2019, 11:00-15:00 – This fun-filled annual happening for the whole family includes creative workshops; make-up stations; food stalls; circus performances; fun games where everyone can participate and more.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

How to Cover all Christian Sites of the Galilee?

Christian sites in Israel are found mainly in Jerusalem and the Galilee where Jesus grew up and where he spent his ministry traveling from village to village preaching the word of God. The Christian sites of the Galilee should not be missed! They have great Biblical significance and are surrounded by the Galilee's stunning scenery. A good way to plan a trip to the Galilee that covers all Christian sites is to spend at least two days in the region. If your time is limited then spend a day touring just the Christian highlights along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret in Hebrew). Your trip to the Galilee will probably start with a drive up Israel's Mediterranean coast past attractions like Caesarea and Haifa. Turning inland you'll travel through the Valley of Armageddon, where the prophesized Final Battle is predicted to take place during the End of Times. From here you have a view of Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration.Christian Sites around the Sea of GalileeTraveling over rolling green hills and past lush farmlands you'll look down on the Sea of Galilee nestled in an idyllic valley. Starting at the southern end of the sea move up the western shore past the city of Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water (John 6:19-21) and where he calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-26). Stop in Magdala, once a small fishing village and home to Mary Magdalene. Travel a little further along the shore to Ginosar, a modern-day kibbutz in the shadow of Mount Arbel. The kibbutz is home to the Yigal Allon Museum which holds the Jesus Boat. During the 1986 drought, the Sea of Galilee's water level dropped dramatically revealing the remains of this 1st-century fishing boat buried in the bed of the lake. The fishing boat would have been the same kind of fishing vessel used by the disciples. The Bible tells us how Jesus crosses the water, landing in Ginosar where the people touched the fringe of His cloak and were cured of their ills.One of the most delightful Christian sites along the shore of the Galilee is Tabgha, site of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. Originally a 4th-century chapel was built here to mark the site of the miracle. A Byzantine Nile-themed floor mosaic has been preserved in the church along with a large rock where Jesus may have stood as he performed the miracle. Nearby is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter; the traditional site of Christ's 4th appearance after his resurrection (John 21:1-24) and where he conferred primacy on Simon Peter giving him leadership over the church. Another incredible Christian site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is the Mt. of Beatitudes crowned by a unique church, designed by Antonio Barluzzi in the 1930s to mark the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Also visit Capernaum, once the hometown of Peter, Andrew, John, and James. Here Jesus based himself during his ministry; exorcised demons and healed the slave of a Roman centurion. The main Christian sites in Capernaum today are the excavated Byzantine village; remains of a 1st-century synagogue and an octagonal church built around the remains of what is believed to have been Saint Peter's home.If you'd like to venture to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, at the foot of the Golan Heights you can stop at Kursi, site of the miracle of the swine (Luke 8:26-39). Here you can see the ruins of a large Byzantine monastery and church and see the remains of a 5th-century church mosaic floor. If you are with a tour you will probably also venture up into the Golan Heights to visit places like the Shalom Observatory; former Syrian fortifications and Katzrin where there is an excavated and reconstructed Talmudic-era (4th-8th century) village. The easiest way to see these Christian sites is to take a one or two day tour like the Sea of Galilee, Cana, Magdala & Mt. of Beatitudes Tour. At the southernmost point of the sea where the River Jordan flows out of the Kinneret is the baptismal site Yardenit. Tours stop at Yardenit where it is possible to be baptized in the Jordan as Jesus was. Also visit Kfar Cana, famed as the site where Jesus attended a wedding and changed water into wine. The 19th century Wedding Church commemorates this miracle and encompasses the remains of Byzantine mosaics from an earlier 5th-6th-century church. The church holds two ancient stone jars similar to those used to hold wine during the Biblical-era.Nazareth and other Christian Sites in the GalileeOne of the top Christian sites in the Galilee is Nazareth; the Bible tells us how Mary and Joseph originated here and how Jesus spent his childhood with his family in Nazareth. It was here that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and revealed the news of her future divine pregnancy and the son that would be born. The Church of Annunciation in Nazareth marks the traditional site of this Biblical event and was built over the grotto, believed to have been Mary's home. The Church of the Annunciation is a two-story basilica built in 1969 with a modern design. The church has a high cupola shaped like an up-turned lily representing Mary's purity. One of the most outstanding features of the church is the collection of representations of the Virgin Mary created in a variety of traditions from around the world.St. Joseph's Church stands not far from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Built in 1914 St. Joseph's Church is on the same site as the remains of a Crusader church. Beneath the church is a 1st-century grotto system believed to be the former home of the Holy Family and Joseph's carpentry workshop. Visitors can descend into the grottoes and see the original grotto-home. Imagine walking into Mary and Joseph's house; seeing where young Jesus would have played and where Joseph would have worked in his carpentry. While in Nazareth stop at Mary's Well and the nearby Saint Gabriel Church of the Annunciation where the Greek Orthodox tradition believes the annunciation took place. Just outside Nazareth, you can see Mount Precipice (Mount Kedumim or Mount of the Leap) where Jesus was chased out of the city and made a miraculous leap, disappearing from the ridge.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

How to Choose a Private Tour Guide in Israel

It is important to choose a private tour guide in Israel carefully to make sure you get the most out of your trip. Not all tour guides are created equally! There are many fly-by-nights, self-appointed “guides” that could charge exorbitant fees and ruin your holiday. Your time is valuable and on a trip to Israel, you’ll want to make the most of it. Private guides are generally more expensive than group tours but they are worth every shekel. With a private tour guide you’ll get one-on-one service; a trip tailor-made for you and luxury air-conditioned transportation. Having a private guide means you can make a personal connection with the guide and talk freely, asking any questions you may have without 30 other tourists in the group! Here are a few tips about how to find the best possible private tour guide for your trip to the Holy Land.What Makes a Good Private Tour Guide in Israel?There are some qualities in a private tour guide that you can’t know in advance. Although by choosing a private guide from a reputable tour company and by discussing the trip ahead of time you can get a feel for your guide’s character. An ideal private tour guide should be punctual; organized; have enough energy to get you through the day; have a sense of humor and patience. The best private tour guides are local and have extensive knowledge of the country. Unlike guides on group tours, Israel private tours should be flexible so that you can stay longer at a place if you want to or skip a site if you see something more interesting along the way. A good private tour guide knows when to give you room to look around by your selves (for example in a market, on a beach, while enjoying lunch or at a religious site). You want a private tour guide that respects your space. Some tour guides never stop talking while others don’t say enough. A good tour guide knows just how much information to give you at each site and when to be quiet and let you soak up the atmosphere.Choose a Professional Private Guide from a Reputable CompanyProfessional tour guides in Israel are trained and issued a tour guide license by the Ministry of Tourism. Israeli tour guides undergo lengthy training, they have to pass an exam and if they intend to guide children or drive a tour vehicle there are additional courses. With a reputable tour company, their credentials should appear prominently on their website. Israel has several well-established tour companies that employ only certified guides and supervise the guides to make sure they keep a high standard of work. A private tour guide from a reputable company will have a whole support team to provide him with all the transportation, marketing, up-dates about attraction, customer service, an accounting department and more. Your private tour guide will be able to concentrate on giving you the best possible tour without having to worry about accounting, marketing and logistics which are taken care of by the tour company office. Using a reputable tour company will put your mind at rest as you will always have someone to contact if things go wrong.Choose a Private Tour Guide Who Speaks Your LanguageIsrael is a land of immigrants; when the state was established Jews came from across the globe to settle here. The multi-cultural society means that you will have no problem finding a tour guide that speaks your language. Whether your native tongue is Russian, French, Spanish, English or even Mandarin there are private tour guides in Israel to serve you. If you are English speakers, then make sure your guide speaks a good level of English and will not have to um and ah looking for the right words when explaining things. Having a private guide that speaks good English will make all the difference to your trip. Your guide should also have a good command of Hebrew in order to talk to the locals.Choose a Private Guide That Suits YouYour private guide’s job is to show you the things that interest you as well as a few gems that only a local would know about. Before arriving in Israel you should discuss your preferences with your guide and settle on a basic itinerary. Most private guides that work with larger companies already have recommended itineraries that they can offer you in order to make planning your trip easier. You can discuss the suggested itinerary and adjust it according to your travel style and interests. If you prefer to travel at an easy going pace and stay longer at each site, then let your guide know in advance. If you are one of those travelers that likes to move fast and see as much as possible the guide should be aware of that too. Tell your private guide your specific interests – do you want to see Christian landmarks; natural wonders; Jewish heritage sites; sites from modern history or perhaps a little of everything. Have a good discussion with your private guide and tailor-make your trip before the day of the tour. This will save time and make your tour day run more smoothly.Choose a Private Tour Guide That Will Give You Something ExtraSo when you’ve found a private tour guide that meets all the above criteria there should still be something extra, something special that makes your guide stand-out. Hopefully, your chosen guide will be friendly and excited about showing you his country. Some of the best tour guides will share a few private anecdotes and insights into life in Israel. The benefits of a private tour guide in Israel don’t end when the tour comes to an end as your guide can recommend the best restaurants; local experiences and other sites in Israel that you might want to visit. Hopefully, your time in Israel will be magical and you’ll leave with good memories having been introduced to the Holy Land by an excellent private tour guide.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

The Best Way to Combine Israel and Jordan in One Trip

Israel and Jordan share a border and the two are friendly neighbors with many ties. Both countries are home to incredible historic and cultural sites worth seeing. When the two are so close it seems a pity not to combine Israel and Jordan in a single trip. Even if you only have time to visit Jordan's top attractions, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra which is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Luckily there are many tour options that combine Israel and Jordan no matter how long you plan to spend in the region. For tour packages that include places in Jordan like Jerash, Madaba, and Amman the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing near Jerusalem is often used. Other tours enter Jordan from the Arava Border Crossing in Eilat which is the closest crossing to Petra.Package Tours that Combine Israel and JordanIf your time is limited then a package tour might be the best option to seeing Israel and Jordan on one trip as all the logistics are taken care of for you. Some Petra tours from Israelsplit the days evenly covering top destinations in Israel as well as several highlights in Jordan. For example, you can see Israel and Jordan in one tour package over 12 days starting in Israel and spending 8 days in the Holy Land and 4 days in Jordan. Tour places like Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea. Then travel to Jordan and visit Jerash, the capital Amman, Madaba famed for its Byzantine mosaics, Mount Nebo and the spectacular ancient city of Petra. There are shorter package trips where you spend just one day visiting Petra in Jordan and the rest of your time in Israel. To make this quick trip to Petra possible shorter package trips may include a flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat and from there it is just 2 hours across the border to Petra. With longer package tours the journey can be made by entering Jordan by bus via the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing.Petra Tours from Tel AvivIf you're based in central Israel, you don't have to miss out on a trip to Petra. You can travel to Petra from Tel Aviv with a 1-4 day tour. The shortest of these tours start with an early morning flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat where you are met at the Ramon Airport and taken across the Arava Border Crossing to Petra. At the end of an exhilarating day, the tour ends with a return flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv. There are similar tours that give you an extra day to enjoy Eilat and others that last 3-4 days and include more destinations in Jordan and overnight stays in Amman and Petra. These 1-4 day tours from Tel Aviv are perfect for combining with a longer stay in Israel.Petra Tours from EilatThe Israel-Jordan border crossing closest to Petra is in Eilat, a beach resort city on the edge of the Red Sea. There are a number of tours to Petra from Eilat; some include an overnight stay in Eilat while others include an overnight stay in the Jordanian town of Wadi Musa, the gateway to the Petra Archeological Park. You can take a 1-day tour from Eilat to Petra or opt for a 2-day tour that gives you a guided tour of Petra and a day to explore the ancient city by yourself. One of the most exciting tours to Petra from Eilat is the two-day tour that gives you a tour day in Petra and a day in Wadi Rum, a Jordanian desert wilderness with striking rock formations. On one of these tours, you can take a desert jeep safari through Wadi Rum and even a short panoramic tour of Aqaba, Jordan's Red Sea port city.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

The Most Recommended Restaurants in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is packed with excellent restaurants; whatever your taste and whatever your style you’ll find a restaurant in Tel Aviv that puts a smile on your face. To get you started here is a list of some of the city’s favorite eateries.The Best Restaurants on Rothschild BoulevardVongLocation: 15 RothschildBlvd,Tel AvivThis is one of the few places in the city where you can find good Vietnamese food. At Vong they use fresh ingredients and add the essential Asian flavors to their dishes. Portion sizes are generous and the prices are fair.Rothschild 12Location: 12 RothschildBlvd, Tel AvivAt this trendy eatery, you might have to wait for a table. Diners can choose from indoor seating or outdoor seating in the shaded patio where there is a bar and small stage. If you want to meet locals then take a seat at one of the communal tables.Milgo & MilbarLocation: 142 Rothschild Blvd,Tel AvivThis “in” establishment is where the cool guys hang-out. They serve up Mediterranean dishes and quality seafood prepared by young and innovative chefs. The restaurant is located in a Bauhaus building just across from the National Theatre, Habima.Tel Aviv Restaurants with the Best ViewsBlue SkyLocation: Carlton Hotel, 15 Eliezer Peri Street, Tel AvivEnjoy delicious Kosher Asian dishes prepared by celebrity chef, Meir Adoni as you look out across the Tel Aviv waterfront. Dishes are always innovative and created with attention to detail while the views are stunning night or day.Manta RayLocation: 703 Kaufman Street, Tel AvivYou can watch the sunset while you enjoy the seafood, Mediterranean dishes and local cuisine at Manta Ray. This restaurant is a regular on lists of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv. In addition to the seafood, Manta-Ray serves up meat and chicken dishes as well as Mezzes which have become one of the most sort after dining treats in the city.Kitchen MarketLocation: 12 Hanger Street, Tel AvivLocated on the upper floor of the Farmers’ Market at Tel Aviv’s trendy port this restaurant offers views of the sea and the seafront. So for people watching or a tranquil sea view this is the place. The kitchen sources its ingredients from the farmers’ market below and dishes are contemporary fusion creations.The Best Bakeries in Tel AvivLehamimLehamim (breads) has several branches in Tel Aviv as well as a few in New York. This is a kosher bakery offering a wide range of breads, cakes, sandwiches, cookies, pies and pastries. At their branches at 103 Hashmonaim and at 125 Ibn Gvirol you can sit while you enjoy their huge Israeli breakfast and other treats.BakerySimply named this French-style bakery has 5 branches in Tel Aviv. Attention is paid to detail with the Bakery’s muffins, cakes, pastries, cookies, croissants, breads and babkas. The Bakery supplies baked goods to a number of the city’s top restaurants.Bread Story Location: 88 Dizengoff Street, Tel AvivThis café-bakery has an extensive menu of baked goods and offers daily specials. It is always buzzing with customers who come to see what the bread-of-the-day is. They offer gluten-free options and are known for their complex flavors.The Best Meat Restaurants in Tel AvivM25 Meat MarketLocation: 30 HaCarmel Street, Tel AvivJust off of Carmel Market is a meat market where you’ll find this popular meat restaurant. This place uses the freshest, best-quality cuts bought straight from the surrounding meat venders and the menu changes daily but is always prepared to perfection.Bar OchelLocation: 38 HaCarmel Street, Tel AvivBar Ochel (Food Bar) is another gem hidden among the hustle and bustle of Carmel Market. Try Bar Ochel’s juicy kebabs or their succulent steaks. There are also vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free options as well as fish dishes. You can opt to sit outside where you can see the market life passing you by.HatraklinLocation: 4 Heihal HaTalmud Street, Tel AvivThis is a French-style bistro lounge housed in a restored mansion. Try their grilled meats and delicious steaks. On Wednesdays and Saturdays you can watch a movie while you eat a dish inspired by the film.The Best Asian Restaurants in Tel AvivCa-Phe HanoiLocation: 3 Malkhei Yisrael Street, Tel AvivIndulge in delicious Vietnamese food at this stylish eatery. The restaurant is part of a French-owned restaurant and dishes are inspirational. Try the chicken with ginger and lemongrass that has been soaking in spices for seven hours or the steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves.TyoLocation: 7 Montefiore Street, Tel AvivTyo is a Japanese lounge-bar that tops the Trip Advisor list of best Asian restaurants in Tel Aviv. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful Tel Aviv building and offers a diverse menu with exotic flavors. The ingredients are super-fresh and top quality.Thai HouseLocation: 8 Bograshov Street, Tel AvivAt Thai House you are guaranteed top quality Thai food that makes you think you are in Thailand for an authentic meal beneath a thatched roof. There is an extensive menu that includes vegan and vegetarian options. Typical Asian dishes and Thai street food are created and portions are large so come hungry.The Best Italian Restaurants in Tel AvivRusticoLocation: Sarona Market, Tel AvivRustico has three branches in Tel Aviv all serving typical Italian pizza, pasta, meatballs, pies and other comfort foods. The Italian flavors are authentic and the cuisine and attention to customers will make you think you are in Italy!Nonno Angelo PizzaLocation: 147 Ben Yehuda Street, Tel AvivThis Italian pizza joint is run by two brothers who are continuing their family trade of Neapolitan-style pizza making. You can choose to take your pizza home or sit in the simple interior where the smell of freshly oven-baked pizza will keep your mouth watering.ShineLocation: 38 Shlomo HaMelekh Street, Tel AvivLocals flock to this award-winning establishment for the pizza, Bolognese, pasta, calamari, Gnocchi and tiramisu. They offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The atmosphere is warm and the smell of brick oven baked pizza fills the space.The Best Kosher Restaurants in Tel AvivLuminaLocation: Carlton Hotel, Tel AvivAt the helm of this kosher fine dining restaurant is Chef Meir Adoni. Lumina serves up traditional Jewish food with a modern and innovative twist. Adoni has taken well-loved favorites from various Jewish culinary traditions and given them his unique touch.The Chinese WallLocation: 26 Mikvah Yisrael Street, Tel AvivFinding good Chinese food in Israel is difficult but The Chinese Wall offers not only excellent Asian cuisine but a rare kosher option. The Chinese Wall’s menu includes hand-made noodles; wontons; dim sum, potsticker and more.West SideLocation: Royal Beach Hotel, 19 Hayarkon Street, Tel AvivThis is the place for kosher haute cuisine. West Side offers a seasonal menu of Asian and meat dishes including goose confit and some of the best cuts of meat in the city. The décor is reminiscent of hip New York eateries with a spacious and contemporary design.The Best Tel Aviv Street Food RestaurantsFalafel HakosemLocation: 1 Shlomo HaMelech Street, Tel AvivTrip Advisor rates Falafel Hakosem as the top Tel Aviv fast-food restaurant and it is also listed in numerous “best” lists of Tel Aviv street food. Here they serve classic Israeli street foods including shawarma, hummus, salads, herb-filled omelettes, chicken livers, chicken breast, schnitzel and the best falafel in town.Frishman SabichLocation: 42 Frishman Street, Tel Aviv“Sabich” is a traditional Iraqi Jewish pita sandwich stuffed with fried aubergine (eggplant), hard-boiled egg, potato, herbs, spices, salad and tachini or hummus. Sabich is one of the “must-try” street foods of Tel Aviv. Be adventurous and try some “amba” a mango based spicy relish that adds a totally different flavor to the meal.MiznonLocation: 23 Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel AvivThere are several branches of Miznon in the Tel Aviv area but the most central is on Ibn Gvirol Street. serves gourmet Israeli fast food created by one of Israel’s top celebrity chefs, Eyal Shani. Here classic pita bread can be filled with less conventional ingredients all of the highest quality. This is Israeli street food at a fine dining level.The Best Tel Aviv Vegan RestaurantsAlegriaLocation: 165 Ibn Gvirol Street, Tel AvivAlegria offers an innovative menu of tasty, healthy dishes created by Chef Motti Nagar. The smoked vegan “cheeses” are particularly good and can be bought to go home. Try the fermented cashew labane or vegan feta or Gouda.NunuchkaLocation: 30 Lilenblum Street, Tel AvivNunuchka is a Tel Aviv vegan restaurant that gets its inspiration from Georgian cuisine. Originally Nunuchka served traditional meat-based Georgian food but when the chef, Nana Shrier became vegan in 2014 the restaurant followed suit. Now Nunuchka’s pastries are stuffed with mushrooms rather than meat and bean cutlets are on the menu instead of beef. You can choose to sit indoors or in the large garden or on the patio or gallery. At night Nunuchka turns into a lively bar with an incredible atmosphere.AnastasiaLocation: 54 Frishman Street, Tel AvivThis Tel Aviv vegan café offers delicious meals and take-home treats. Anastasia was recently voted Tel Aviv’s Best Vegan Restaurant. Everything at Anastasia has been given close attention to detail – from the spacious indoor and outdoor seating; the tasteful décor and knowledgeable staff to the extensive, complex menu. There is also a small shop where you can find hard-to-get vegan products.
By Petal Mashraki
6 min

Jerusalem for Three Religions

Jerusalem is held sacred by the three major monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Each of these religions has sacred, traditional and ancestral sites within Jerusalem. In ancient times Jerusalem was believed to be the center of the world. Packed tightly together in the Old City of Jerusalem is the holiest religious sites of the three religions and one of the sites, Temple Mount is sacred to all three. Visitors to Israel can take tours to Jerusalem that focus specifically on the Christian, Jewish or Islamic sites or alternatively there are day tours of Jerusalem that cover the city in general.So why is Jerusalem a sacred city for Christians, Muslims and Jews?Jerusalem as a Sacred Christian CityAll of the New Testament takes place in the Land of Israel and Jerusalem specifically is associated with major events in the life of Jesus. For hundreds of years Jerusalem has attracted Christians from different denominations and many beautiful historic churches and monasteries have been built. Among the most important Christian sites in Jerusalem, there is the Mount of Olives where churches mark various events in Jesus’ life including the site where he taught the Lord’s Prayer marked by the Church of the Pater Noster and the place where he looked out across Jerusalem and wept, marked by the Dominus Flevit Church. At the foot of the mount is the Church of All Nations alongside the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and was arrested on the eve of his crucifixion. In the Old City of Jerusalem is the Via Dolorosa, a route through the narrow lanes where Jesus walked on his way to Calvary and his crucifixion. At the end of the Via Dolorosa is the holiest site in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This massive 4th-century church holds many chapels and shrines as well as the final Stations of the Cross, Calvary (Golgotha) and Jesus’ Tomb. Other sites that make Jerusalem a holy city for Christians are the Room of the Last Supper and the Church of Ascension where Jesus ascended to heaven.Jerusalem as a Sacred Jewish CityJerusalem is the spiritual and ancestral heart of Judaism and has been since the 10th century BC. The city features prominently in the Old Testament which names Jerusalem as the holy city. Jerusalem is mentioned a total of 669 times in the Old Testament and Zion (another name for the city) is mentioned 154 times. The Jewish Torah tells how the First Temple was built on Temple Mount in the 10th century BC and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC. Then the Second Temple was built in its place in the 6th century BC only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. Evidence of this and other events and locations mentioned in the Torah have been uncovered in excavations in Jerusalem. As such Jerusalem has special significance in Jewish law and traditions. For example, Jews around the world pray facing Jerusalem. Today only the Western Wall remains from the Temple structure and is considered the holiest Jewish site in the world. Other Jewish landmarks in the city include King David’s Tomb; the City of David (the excavated original Biblical city); the Hurva Synagogue and Mt. Zion. Jewish teachings hold that the Messiah will come when the Temple is rebuilt.Jerusalem as a Sacred Islamic CityIslamic tradition holds Jerusalem (Al Quds) as sacred together with Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is believed to be “the farthest mosque” visited in 621AD by Prophet Muhammad and recorded as the nocturnal journey in the Koran. Although Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran by name its association with the nocturnal journey earned its great significance. Many of the hadith (holy Islamic writings) mention Jerusalem by name. Jerusalem was the Qibla or direction Muslims faced in prayer until 625 when it was changed to Mecca. Prophet Muhammad also made Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque a pilgrimage destination. The most important Islamic sites in Jerusalem are on Temple Mount (the Noble Sanctuary or Haram Ash Sharif) and include the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, a sacred shrine believed to be where Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Islamic association with Jerusalem is also history. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was responsible for constructing the present Old City walls and Jerusalem had Muslim rulers during several historic periods.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

Israel Cruise Excursions - All you need to know

Tourists arriving in Israel’s port cities of Haifa or Ashdod can take a short ship-to-shore excursion to many of the top attractions. Israel is a small country and most of the important destinations are close enough to Haifa or Ashdod to be included in a day tour. Israel cruise excursions include pick-up from the port, a fully-guided day of sightseeing and drop-off at your cruise ship in time for your cruise departure. Most shore excursions are private tours which means there is a recommended suggested itinerary but you can alter it to your liking. If there are places you are more interested in you can stay longer and if there are places you would rather not visit you can swap them for places that interest you more. The cruise excursions include air-conditioned transportation and the tour price is determined by the distance covered; guide language; length of tour (usually 10 hours); size of vehicle and the day of the week.Israel Cruise Excursion Options from Haifa PortCruise Excursion to Nazareth and the GalileeAlthough Ashdod is a little too far south to get all the way to the north and back in time for your cruise departure Haifa is well located for a day trip to the north. From Haifa port this ship-to-shore excursion travels north to one of the most beautiful areas of the country. The Galilee has rolling hills with a patchwork of farmlands; forests; olive groves; vineyards and small villages and towns. Stop in Nazareth to tour the Church of Ascension and the Church of Saint Joseph built above grottos that may have been the Holy Family’s home and Joseph’s carpentry workshop. Then continue to Tiberias on the edge of the Sea of Galilee and visit Biblical landmarks around the lake like Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes.Haifa Port Cruise Excursion to Haifa and AcreSeeing as you are docking in Haifa why not do some sightseeing here. Visit the magnificent Baha’i Gardens planted on 18 terraces that cascade down Mount Carmel. You can also learn about the unique Baha’i religion. At the foot of Mount Carmel see the restored German Templar Quarter. As you travel north stop in Acre, an ancient city built of stone. Descend beneath the Old City of Acre to an underground Crusader city and learn about the many conquerors that have passed through Acre leaving their mark. Your guide will take you on a walk through the bazaar and show you the Turkish baths and Turkish Citadel used years later by the British to hold Jewish prisoners. If you have time travel to the northernmost point of Israel’s coast and walk through the pristine sea caves of Rosh HaNikra.Israel Cruise Excursion Options from Ashdod Port or Haifa PortJerusalem and Dead Sea/BethlehemTake a tour of the Holy Land’s top destination – Jerusalem. Get an overview of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives where there are many churches marking Biblical sites and at the foot of the mount is the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane. Take a walk through the Old City where you can visit the Western Wall; the Old City bazaar; ancient synagogues; walk the Via Dolorosa and spend time in the stunning Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As this is a private tour you can pick and choose the sites in the Old City that interest you. Perhaps even include a visit to Mount Zion to see King David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper. You could also visit the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum or the archaeological site of the City of David established 3,000 years ago. As an option, you could spend half your day in Jerusalem and the other half visiting Bethlehem to see where Jesus was born or the Dead Sea, a natural wonder at the lowest point on Earth where the water is ten times saltier than the ocean.Masada and Dead Sea Ship-to-Shore ExcursionTravel from your cruise ship south to Masada, a massive “mesa” a flat-topped mount with steep rocky sides. Masada rises out of the flat desert landscape and served King Herod who wanted a safe retreat. Visitors can take a cable car to Masada’s summit and tour the remains of Herod’s large fortress-palace complex which includes storerooms, guardrooms, palaces, Roman baths and more. From the top of Masada, there are brilliant views across the desert all the way to the Dead Sea which is where you can spend the rest of the day. The tour takes you to one of the Dead Sea beaches where you can indulge in the sun, sea and fresh air which have been found to have therapeutic beauty and health benefits. Get a classic photo floating in the salty water where it is impossible to sink! As a private cruise excursion, you can choose how much time to spend on the beach and whether to include other stops like Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found or the desert oasis of Ein Gedi.Caesarea and Tel AvivAfter being met by your personal guide at Haifa or Ashdod port travel to Caesarea to the excavated site of a powerful Roman port city built by King Herod. Here you can walk among the remains of storehouses, temples, palaces and Roman baths. See the amphitheater that is still used to this day and the hippodrome where chariots once rode alongside the sea. Also, see the Crusader walls and structures build hundreds of years later. From the old to the new the tour takes you to Israel’s modern metropolis of Tel Aviv. See the long stretch of beach flanked by a wide promenade; discover the up-market Rothschild Boulevard; experience the hustle and bustle of Carmel Market and wander through the quaint historic neighborhood of Neve Tsedek. Other sites to include on your private tour of Tel Aviv are Dizengoff Street; Yitzchak Rabin Square and the marvelous Jaffa Port.See all our recommended Israel Shore Excursions
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

What is the Best Way to Get from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv?

Lucky for visitors to Israel the international Ben Gurion Airport is relatively close to Tel Aviv and there are multiple transportation options to take you from the airport right into the city center. Take into account that public transport in Israel is limited (and in some cases non-existent) on Shabbat (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).Private transfers from Tel Aviv AirportIf you want to avoid high taxi prices and the pitfalls of public transportation then your best option is a private transfer from Ben Gurion. Private transfers from Tel Aviv airport are definitely the most convenient and fastest way to travel. You can book a private transfer from Tel Aviv airport online. A driver will be waiting for you at Ben Gurion where he will be holding a sign bearing your name as you enter the airport arrivals hall. Once you have met your driver he will help you with your luggage to the waiting car and take you straight to the doorstep of your Tel Aviv hotel.The advantages of private transfers from Tel Aviv airport are that you don’t have to go looking for a taxi; you don’t have to wait in a queue; private transfers operate on all days of the week including Shabbat; the price is prepaid so no haggling or need for cash in hand; no need for multiple transfers (from train to taxi or bus to bus) and you have the peace of mind knowing that your arrival transport is arranged and will go smoothly. Private transfers from Tel Aviv airport can also be arranged to other destinations in Israel including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Herzliya.Train from Ben Gurion to Tel AvivThe Ben Gurion train station is immediately outside Ben Gurion’s Terminal 3 lower level and you can buy your train ticket from a machine or ticket booth alongside the platform. Taking a train from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv is, in theory, a low-cost and fast option. However, the Tel Aviv train stations are not centrally located and you will have to take a bus or taxi from the station to your hotel. Israeli trains do not operate on Shabbat (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) but are otherwise operational 24/7. From 6 am to 11 pm there are two trains an hour from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv’s four stations and from 11 pm to 6 am there is one train an hour which stops only at Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Station. The journey takes about 20 minutes but adds to that travel time from the station to your hotel.Bus from Ben Gurion to Tel AvivEgged Bus Company operates buses from Ben Gurion Airport and although they are an economical option most travelers will not enjoy navigating the Israeli bus system as they step off the plane! Egged line #5 operates between Ben Gurion’s three terminals and Airport City (a commercial development 5km from Ben Gurion) from there you will need to take a connecting bus into Tel Aviv. Other bus companies operate similar services. Regular buses do not enter the airport area and have limited or no routes from Friday afternoon to Saturday sundown and on national holidays.Taxi from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel AvivTaxis operate 24/7 from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv and other destinations. The price of a taxi varies according to the time of day (it is more expensive at night and on Shabbat). You will also pay more depending on the number of passengers and the number of pieces of luggage. Although there are measures in place to monitor taxi drivers and the fees they charge it is not unheard of for Israeli taxi drivers to overcharge travelers from Ben Gurion. Follow the signs from the arrivals hall to the taxi queue where you can wait your turn for a taxi. Be sure to ask the price before getting into the taxi.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

5 Ways to see Petra from Tel Aviv

If you want to make the most of your trip to Israel then one of the great options is to include a side trip from Tel Aviv to Petra, Jordan. This UNESCO site and “World Wonder” is close enough to visit on a day trip from Tel Aviv. There are a number of ways to reach Petra, Jordan from Tel Aviv.One Day Petra Tour from Tel AvivThere are one day tours to Petra from Tel Aviv that include a flight from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport to the new Ramon Airport near Eilat. Some tours from Tel Aviv to Petra do not include the half-hour flight which can be purchased separately. You are picked up from the Eilat Ramon Airport and the tour continues across the Arava border into Jordan and on to Petra. After touring Petra you are returned across the border to Israel’s Ramon Airport to take a flight back to Tel Aviv. This is the best option if you don’t have a lot of time but still want to see Petra. Petra Tour and Eilat from Tel AvivIf you have a little more time to spare then instead of taking a one day tour to Petra you could take a tour that includes time in Eilat. You fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat as with a one day tour but instead of continuing straight to Petra you get a day of leisure in Eilat and overnight accommodation in an Eilat hotel. The trip to Petra starts the following day when you are taken from your Eilat hotel across the Arava border and to Petra. At the end of a full-day tour to Petra, you return to Eilat’s Ramon Airport for your flight to Tel Aviv. This is an excellent option if you haven’t included Eilat in your itinerary and want to see this stunning Red Sea resort city as well as Petra.Multi-day Tours to Jordan from Tel AvivFor those who have even more time in Israel, you could take a longer tour to Jordan and see more of the country in addition to Petra. There is a range of Israel tours that include either a combination of sites in Israel and Jordan or just several days in Jordan. On an extended tour to Jordan from Tel Aviv, you would see places like Amman, Jerash, Madaba, Mount Nebo and of course Petra. Some of the multi-day tours from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Jordan cross into Jordan via the Sheikh Hussein border crossing rather than the Arava crossing. All of the tours to Petra and Jordan include assistance at the border crossing, air-conditioned transportation, a tour guide and on multi-day tours accommodation is included. The tours leave on most days of the week and are conducted in several languages.Petra from Tel Aviv by Bus TourThe cheapest Tel Aviv to Petra tour option is by bus. Petra tours from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by bus offer pick-up in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; a drive past the Dead Sea, through the Aravah Valley and across the Aravah border from Eilat to Jordan. From there you continue to Petra for your sightseeing before making the return journey by bus to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The down-side of this option is a very early morning start and a long bus trip as compared to the other Petra tours from Tel Aviv that include a short flight. However, for those on a budget, it is an ideal alternative.Independent Travel from Tel Aviv to PetraIt is possible to travel from Tel Aviv to Petra independently. First, you will need to get yourself to the Arava border in Eilat. You can do this by taking a bus or flight to Eilat and from there a taxi to the border crossing. Remember to organize your Jordanian visa before traveling. If you are traveling without a tour group you cannot get a visa at the border. On arrival at the border, you will need to present your passport and visa. Once you have crossed into Jordan you will find taxis and self-proclaimed tour guides waiting on the Jordanian side ready to take you to Petra.The cost of traveling to Petra from Tel Aviv independently will include getting to Eilat from Tel Aviv; getting from Eilat to the Arava border; your visa fee(102-177ILS); exit tax from Israel (about 100ILS); transportation to Petra; entrance fee to the Petra Archeological Park(50JD-90JD); transportation back to the Jordan/Israel border; an exit tax from Jordan (about 10JD); transportation from the border to the Eilat bus station or airport and the price of your flight or bus back to Tel Aviv. If traveling from Tel Aviv to Petra independently we strongly recommend you visit your local Jordanian Embassy beforehand to find out about visa requirements.See our list ofPetra Tours from Tel Aviv
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

Explore Israel in 7 Days

Israel is a small country that is packed with attractions and points of interest but with careful planning it is possible to see Israel in 7 Days. You can cover the highlights of Israel either by traveling independently or by joining an organized tour. If you choose to travel independently the best way to see as much as possible is to rent a car. This way you can reach the more remote locations without having to rely on slow or irregular public transport. However if you would rather sit back and relax then join a 7-days Israel tour that takes care of all logistics, accommodation, guide services and all other aspects of your sightseeing. Here is a brief summary of the essential sites to see during a week in Israel. These are also the places you would visit on an organized one week Israel tour.7-Day Israel Tour ItineraryOn an organized week-long tour of Israel you have free time in Tel Aviv at the beginning of the tour and in Jerusalem at the end of the tour. If you are planning your time in Israel independently it is a good idea to also give yourself free time in these stunning cities. In Tel Aviv you can enjoy the beaches, museums, markets and great shopping. In Jerusalem there is the dynamic new city and the magical Old City.Travel north through the Galilee and visit Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home and site of the annunciation. Continue to the Sea of Galilee and stop in Capernaum, where Jesus based himself during his ministry; Tiberias and at churches on the water’s edge. Here you can see the Mount of Beatitudes and take a boat excursion out onto the beautiful inland sea. Tour the coastal cities of Caesarea where you can tour the remains of an ancient Roman port city; Acre, site of an underground Crusader city and Haifa, home to the Baha’i Gardens that cascade down 18 terraces on Mt. Carmel. Also travel to the northernmost point of the coast and walk through the Rosh HaNikra sea caves.7-day Israel tour packages take you to the Golan Heights, a range of mountains covered with lush forests, farmlands and vineyards. Here you can visit ancient remains of a Jewish Talmudic-era village and synagogue in Katzrin; the remains of Syrian fortifications and bunkers as well as the Shalom Observatory where you can look down on the Sea of Galilee. No week in Israel would be complete without time in Jerusalem. On a tour (or independently) visit the Mount of Olives for Christian sites or Mt. Scopus for a panoramic view of the city. Take a walk through the Old City stopping at the Western Wall, the most sacred Jewish site in the world; walk the Via Dolorosa, retracing Jesus’ footsteps on his way to Calvary and spend time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which encompasses Jesus’ tomb and Calvary. There are many interesting excavation sites in and around the Old City as well as ancient churches and synagogues. Some tours include a visit to King David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper on Mt. Zion while others take you to Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum.Spend a day traveling south to Masada, an incredible mesa, with a plateau summit. You can take a cable car to the summit and tour a fortress complex built on the mount almost 2,000 years ago. Not far from Masada is the Dead Sea, one of Israel’s top attractions and the lowest point on the planet. Here you can relax on the shore of the sea; enjoy the natural health and beauty benefits of the mineral-rich water and even indulge in spa treatments at Dead Sea hotels. Masada and the Dead Sea are not easy to reach by public transport and the drive through the desert can be daunting; for this reason, many travelers prefer to take a guided day tour or package tour that includes a visit to the Dead Sea and Masada.Other 7-Day Israel Tour OptionsIf you are visiting Israel specifically to see Christian Biblical landmarks or Jewish heritage sites you can plan your week in the Holy Land to focus on those destinations. There are also organized 7-day Israel tours that are tailor-made for Christians or Jewish travelers. Israel package tours for Christians include highlights like Jerusalem; Bethlehem; Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Many include an opportunity to get baptized in the River Jordan. Jewish package tours in Israel visit sites in Jerusalem and across the country. Most week-long tours of Israel include must-see places like the Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

The Amazing Landscapes of the Judean Desert

The Judean Desert lies in between the Judean Mountains and the Dead Sea in Southeastern Israel and is sometimes referred to as the Judean Wilderness. The desert is about 85km long and 25km wide stretching from just below Jerusalem at about 1,000m above sea level past the Dead Sea at about 421m below sea level. The desert holds a wealth of incredible natural wonders; diverse, dramatic landscapes, a rich history and ancient landmarks. The Judean Desert landscape has dry river beds (wadis); canyons; rocky mountains and barren plains as well as many waterfalls and streams that create stunning green oasis. Much of the Judean Desert is in the Palestinian territories of Judea and along the western shore of the Dead Sea.Judean Desert Jeep SafarisAs driving off-road into the desert by yourself is not advisable the best way to discover the Judean Desert is to take a desert jeep safari. You can join a Judean Desert Jeep Tour from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem so that you don’t even have to find your own way to the desert. The tour starts when you are picked-up in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and drive south descending below sea level to the Dead Sea region. At this point, you change to an off-road vehicle and enter the desert. The safari takes you by jeep across rocky hills, through dry river beds (wadis) and stops at various points of interest like the Murbaat Caves and Cliffs of Dragot. Jeep safari tours into the Judean Desert are led by experts who can tell you all about the desert flora and fauna. Tours return to the Dead Sea where you can cool off before making the return journey to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.Hiking, Sports and Activities in the Judean DesertThe Judean Desert is a popular destination for hiking, extreme sports and bird watching. All these activities should only be undertaken with a guide. Popular activities in the Judean Desert include snapping, climbing, off-road jeeping and bird watching. The weather has a huge impact on visitors to the Judean Desert – both the extreme heat of summer and flash floods in the winter.Highlights of the Judean DesertSt. George’s Monastery – This beautiful Greek Orthodox monastery in Wadi Qelt clings to vertical cliffs and is reached by a pedestrian bridge across the valley. Originally built in the Byzantine era and rebuilt in the 12th century the site is associated with Elijah and other Biblical protagonists.Wadi Qelt – Kelt Oasis or Nahal Prat lies between Jericho and Mitzpe Yeriho. Here you can see unique flora and fauna, the stunning St. George’s Monastery and the ancient Wadi Qelt Synagogue.Qumran – Qumran lies on the shore of the Dead Sea and is the closest community to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. Visitors can see the caves and also the excavation site of ancient remains dating back to the Hellenistic Period (134-104BC) when a community of Essenes Jews lived here isolated from the rest of society and devoted themselves to Biblical study.Caves of Murbaat – These historic caves have interesting square entrances and once held ancient treasures left by Jews who hid here during the Bar Kochva Revolt against the Romans in 132AD. Today the caves are still of interest but the findings are now on display in the Israel Museum.Cliffs of Dragot – Situated on the northern shore of the Dead Sea Metsuke Dragot or the Dragot Cliffs offer a breathtaking view across Murabat Wadi and the Dead Sea. An eco-friendly community is located on the cliffs and offers accommodation and hospitality for visitors.Ein Gedi – Ein Gedi is a kibbutz (with a hotel) as well as a natural desert oasis on the edge of the Dead Sea. Here you can follow paths to picturesque waterfalls and alongside streams flanked by lush vegetation.Arad – Arad is a modern city lying between the Negev and Judean Deserts. Arad attractions include a market and Tel Arad, an archaeological site where ancient Arad once stood.Jericho – A Biblical city considered to be one of the oldest in the world.Tours to Jericho stop at Biblical sites like Zacchaeus sycamore tree and at the archeological site of ancient Jericho.Ma’ale Adumim – This quiet Israeli West Bank city is home to hidden lush natural springs and the ruins of the Byzantine Monastery of Martyrius.Masada – This massive mesa, or rock outcrop has a flat plateau summit where you can tour the remains of Herod’s ancient fortress. There is a cable car that takes visitors to the top and the ruins are well preserved. There is also a visitor’s center and food court at the base of Masada. As this is a hard location to reach many travelers opt to take an organized tour to Masada that includes a stop at the Dead Sea.The Dead Sea – The number one attraction in the region is the sea at the lowest point on Earth. There are beaches along the shore of the hyper-saline Dead Sea (some free and others with an entrance fee) where you can soak up the sun and float in the mineral-rich water which has proven health and beauty benefits.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

How to Travel Israel on a Budget

Budget travel in Israel is possible with careful planning. You can avoid the tourist traps and instead enjoy your Israel vacation without worrying too much about going over budget. The major cities have plenty to see without paying entrance fees; cheap-eats are in abundance and even day-tour prices are reasonable.Travel to Israel Off-SeasonAs with all travel destinations, it is cheaper to travel off-season. For Israel, this means avoiding the national holidays and the July-August summer high season. During any of the holiday periods and in summer prices of airfares and hotels are higher. Don’t worry about traveling in the shoulder or low-season as Israel has good weather throughout most of the year and attractions stay open year-round (except some that close on national holidays and Saturdays). Another way to get low-cost flights to Israel is to check-out flights to the new Ramon Airport near Eilat.Budget Accommodation in IsraelLow-cost accommodation in Israel includes couchsurfing which is popular in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There are plenty of hostel options but even the hostels are a bit pricey in Israel. Luckily many of the hostels are centrally located and of a high standard. You can find hostels along Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Street opposite the beach or in Jerusalem’s stunning Old City or historic YMCA. Try to book accommodation that comes with a free breakfast or alternatively with access to a kitchen. This will cut down on your food expenses.Budget Transportation in IsraelIsrael has an extensive bus system that is reasonably priced. You can reach most parts of the country, even the smallest communities on the Israeli bus system for just a few shekels. For example, the cheapest way to travel from central Israel to Eilat is by bus. The next cheapest transportation option is a sherut taxi or a shared taxi. Sherut taxis are mini-buses that run along popular routes or take you directly to your address. The only draw-back is that the sherut will stop for all passengers thus making it a long journey. There are sheruts between the major cities and inner-city routes in large cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa that follow a set route. Although not as extensive as the bus system Israel’s train system is also useful for reaching some locations and is budget-friendly. You will also find that many of Israel’s cities are walkable.Eating on a Budget in IsraelIsrael has some of the healthiest street food in the world – and plenty of it! You can’t go far on any street in Israel before coming across a falafel stall, hummus shop or shawarma restaurant. You can indulge yourself with the delicious street food options and still keep to your budget. Also make use of Israel’s wonderful markets like Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Here you can buy fresh produce and other ingredients to make your own meals.Israel Daily ToursOne way to save money and time is to take the occasional daily tour to locations that are harder to reach by public transport. Of course, there is the added advantage that you will have a tour guide telling you all about the various landmarks and arranging all the transportation logistics. For example, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea are both locations that are more difficult to reach than places like Tel Aviv and so why not rely on a local tour company to do all the hard work. There are Israel daily tours specially designed for budget travelers.Free Attractions in IsraelAlthough Israeli museums are relatively expensive you can enjoy many of Israel’s top attractions simply by walking the streets. Wander through the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and discover the quaint churches and Biblical landmarks like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. You can enjoy many free attractions in Israel including the beaches, markets, religious landmarks and natural wonders like the Sea of Galilee.And more hot budget tips for travel in Israel….If you’ll be in Israel for an extended period buy a local SIM card. Ask in one of the many phone stores or even at the airport on arrival. Alternatively, you could make use of the extensive free WiFi options in Israel. Almost every café, restaurant, hotel or store will have WiFi.If you’re shopping in an Israeli market be sure to haggle over the price.Alcohol is expensive in Israel so you could do what many Israelis do and get your alcohol in the local supermarket instead of in a pub or nightclub.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min