JO4 Jordan & Israel

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Jerash, huge Roman site; Two full days at ancient 'Rose Red City' of Petra; Spectacular Wadi Rum; Vibrant Tel Aviv; Historic Nazareth; Jewish, Roman, Islamic, Byzantine sites; Jerusalem: Old City tour

Full Itinerary


Day 1 Arrive in Amman
Arrival in Amman, Jordan.

Amman, the modern and ancient capital of Jordan, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, where the city's modern buildings blend with the remnants of ancient civilizations.

Overnight in Amman.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Amman: Jerash & Amman City Tour
This morning we leave Amman by bus for a tour of the extensive Roman site of Jerash. In the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, Jerash was a wealthy city and is today considered one of the most important and best preserved of all Roman sites. We visit the famous elliptical forum, the beautiful amphitheatre with its superb natural acoustics, and the site of the huge Temple of Artemis.

This afternoon we tour Amman, visiting the Roman Amphitheatre, Archaeological Museum, and the ruins of the Temple of Hercules.

Overnight in Amman.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Amman - Madaba - Mt Nebo - Shobak - Petra
This morning we travel to Madaba, a small town famous for its magnificent mosaic floors. A unique mosaic covers the floor of St. George's church and consists of a huge map of the Holy Land as it appeared in the 6th century AD.

Driving to the edge of the Jordan Valley we reach Mount Nebo from where Moses and the Children of Israel first saw the Promised Land. On a clear day you can look down to see the Dead Sea and the River Jordan. On the other side of the valley is the city of Jerusalem. Here we see a huge mosaic of hunting scenes covers the floor of a ruined Byzantine church.

We leave Mt Nebo and travel south via the King's Highway. Along this route, castles and towns were positioned a one day's travel distance apart. En route we see Kerak Castle, a 12th century Crusader fortress (photo stop only). Later we visit Shobak Castle, built by the Crusaders in 1115 and sacked by Moslem forces under Saladin in 1189. We finish our full day at Petra.

Overnight in Petra.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Petra: Site Tour
Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom from the fourth century BC to the 2nd century AD. From the 12th century until its rediscovery in 1812, Petra was lost to the world -- a closely guarded secret of the local tribes. Today the 'rose red city half as old as time' is probably the most impressive archaeological site in the Middle East, rivaling the temples and pyramids of Egypt in grandeur.

This morning, on our way into the hidden valley of Petra, we will see the Obelisk Tomb and the irrigation system that carried water from a dam throughout the desert city. Access to the monuments of Petra is through a narrow gorge in the towering rocks called the 'Siq'. As we emerge from the 'Siq' you stand in awe in front of the 'Treasury' (El Kazneh), a graceful structure carved from the living rock. After pausing to admire the elegant columns and carvings we carry on into the valley where elaborate tombs are carved into the multi-coloured walls. Everywhere the sandstone swirls and twists in shades of red, orange, yellow, pink and white. Next we will see the Roman amphitheatre, carved directly out of the mountain, with space for over 3,000 spectators.

Further on in the main valley of Petra, are the Royal Tombs including the Palace Tomb and the Silk Tomb. We visit the temple of the Nabataeans' main god, Dushara, and we also see the 'Temple of the Winged Lion'. Our formal guided tour of the site terminates with a visit to the Petra Nabataean Museum.

At this point, you may explore further on your own, or return to our hotel to relax and / or shop. You may also take a strenuous walk up a narrow pass to see the magnificent 'Monastery' building, El Deir. The views of Petra and the surrounding area are expansive. The walk is steep, mostly on steps carved into the rock, and will take APPROXIMATELY one hour up (30 minutes down).

NOTE: Access to Petra is by means of footpath only. The main sites occur near ground that is level and well-worn, though the overall site is huge. Our pace is leisurely with frequent breaks; however, to fully experience Petra you must be prepared for a considerable amount of walking and little shade.

Overnight at Petra.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Petra: El Beidha & Leisure Time
This morning we take a tour by bus to the nearby Nabatean site of 'el Beidha' (known as 'Little Petra'). We will also see a settlement dating from the Neolithic period, some 8,500 years ago. This is one of the oldest sights in the Middle East; it shows evidence of habitation by a "Pre-Pottery" population who were herders experimenting with agriculture. We return to our hotel by bus.

This afternoon, you can either relax or re-enter the breathtaking main site of Petra. You can join your Tour Leader on a steep walk to the 'High Place', which (some believe) was the site of human sacrifice to the Nabataean gods. From here it is possible to see the tomb of the Jewish prophet, Aaron. This site offers the best views of the entire site of Petra, but should be attempted only by the fit!

Overnight at Petra.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Petra - Wadi Rum - Aqaba
Leaving Petra we stop briefly at 'the Spring of Moses', supposed to have magical properties. We then have an excursion into Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia conducted many of his campaigns during the First World War. While at Wadi Rum we take four wheel drive vehicles out into the desert where the sand is red and the rocks look like gigantic multi-layered chocolate cakes melting in the setting sun. We may be invited into a goat-hair tent to share a glass of tea with some Bedouin tribesmen -- the nomadic herdsmen of the desert who made up Lawrence's army. Running along the floor of the valley is the Hejaz Railway that Lawrence blew up repeatedly. Today we include a traditional Bedouin lunch at Wadi Rum in lieu of dinner.

We overnight at Jordan's only port, Aqaba, located on the Red Sea. Though we acknowledge that Aqaba is of limited interest, it is the best place for us to conveniently overnight in the vicinity of Wadi Rum. Plus it's our only chance to see the Red Sea!

Overnight in Aqaba.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch

Day 7 Aqaba - Dead Sea
Today we travel along the Dead Sea Highway to the Dead Sea. En route we make a stop at Lot's Cave & Museum. Located 1,329 feet below sea level, the aptly-named Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth features important archaeological finds recovered from the Ghor es-Safi region of Jordan (ancient Zoar/Zoora), including artifacts from Lot's cave.

King David, King Herod, Jesus, and John the Baptist were closely linked with the Dead Sea and its surroundings. During the Egyptian conquest it is said that Queen Cleopatra obtained exclusive rights to build cosmetic and pharmaceutical factories in the area. Later the Nabataeans discovered the value of bitumen extracted from the Dead Sea used by the Egyptians. Our hotel is located on the shores of the sea where you will have the chance to swim and experience your amazing buoyancy in the ultra-salty waters.

Overnight at the Dead Sea.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Dead Sea, Jordan - Tel Aviv, Israel
Today we travel overland across the border to Israel. En route we will stop at the stop at the site of Jesus Christ's baptism by John the Baptist.

We cross the border into Israel and travel to Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city and biggest commercial center. It is a busy metropolis that inspires its visitors with a unique energetic atmosphere. Tel Aviv presents a lively combination of entertainment venues, shopping malls, exotic markets, and golden beaches. It is also the country's greatest cultural center, home of a variety of museums, galleries, theatres and concert halls.

Overnight in Tel Aviv.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Tel Aviv & Jaffa
Today we have a tour of vibrant Tel Aviv, a modern city with a unique mix of European and Middle Eastern influences. We see the Independence Hall and the colourful Carmel Market before visiting the Museum of the Diaspora, a multi-media depiction of the history of the Jewish people.

This afternoon we will visit the Old Port City of Jaffa (Yaffo), an ancient and beautiful city located in the south of Tel-Aviv. Jaffa claims over 4,000 years of history and is the place where the prophet Jonas was swallowed by the whale, and the Rock of Andromeda can be seen jutting from the water. The Turks, Napoleon and the British also established their rule of the region through control of this city. We have a walking tour of the old city of Jaffa, a major attraction with winding alleys full of cafes, restaurants and art galleries. You will have free time for independent exploration. Jaffa is a mixed city with Jews, Christians and Muslims living together in harmony.

Return to Tel Aviv.

Overnight in Tel Aviv.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Tel Aviv - Caesarea - Akko - Haifa
Travelling north along the scenic Mediterranean coast road, we will cross Netanya and visit the impressive ruins of Caesarea, once Roman capital of the Holy Land. Caesarea, whose construction began in 22 BC was dedicated by Herod to his patron Augustus Caesar. When it was completed 12 years later, only Jerusalem outshone it in its grandeur. The Roman theatre here once seated 3,600 people. By the main gate to the theatre is proof that Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea during the time of Jesus, actually lived in this area. At various times in its history, this beautiful coastal town has been a Roman Capital, a port and a major conquest for the Crusaders.

We continue through this historic and dramatic landscape to Haifa via Megiddo, named in the Book of Revelations as the place of Armageddon, the place where the forces of good and evil will meet in the final battle for mankind. Of particular interest are the outlines of 5,000 year old early Bronze Age temples.

After visiting Acre (Akko), with its underground Crusader city and the crypt of St John, we arrive at the beautiful city of Haifa.

Overnight in Haifa.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Haifa - Nazareth - Tiberias
We begin our day with a visit to the summit of Mount Carmel with its breathtakingly panoramic view of the town, the bay, and a considerable part of western Galilee. Later we will tour the Persian Gardens and the Bahai Shrine.

We travel onwards to Nazareth where we visit the largest Basilica in the Middle East -- the Church of Annunciation. According to one of the ancient traditions, it was here that the archangel Gabriel foretold the coming of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. The interior of the present church has a most beautiful design, incorporating fragments of much older buildings.

We continue to Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Yam Kinerett).

Overnight in Tiberias.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Tiberias - Capernaum - Tabgha - Tiberias
At the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee we visit Capernaum, one of the most important Jewish and Christian sites of the Roman and Byzantine period and home of some of the Disciples. Jesus is believed to have moved here from Nazareth because it was the home of his first converts, Peter and Andrew.

Continuing, we arrive at Tabgha where Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We visit the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. The mosaic floor is incredible, featuring ancient Egyptian motifs.

We then board our boat for a delightful cruise across the emerald Sea of Galilee to ancient Tiberias, a relaxed seaside resort located in the cradle of Christianity. We have an opportunity to visit Kibutz Ein Gev.

Overnight in Tiberias.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Tiberias - the Dead Sea
Today we journey through the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea stopping at Beit Shean and Beit Alpha on the way. Once we check in at the hotel (after 2 pm), you can use the hotel spa and beach where you will have the chance to bathe in the mineral-enriched mud or have a float on the Dead Sea.

Overnight at the Dead Sea.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Dead Sea - Masada - Wadi David - Jerusalem
This morning we travel south to visit Masada.

This great flat-topped mountain and natural fortress was once held by a small band of Jewish zealots for three years despite the force of Roman armies. On this site 1,000 people committed mass suicide rather than be enslaved. Flavirus Josephus said, "Who decided a long time ago, brave soldiers that we are, not to be slaves of the Romans or of any person other than God; for he alone is the true and just master of men."

From Masada we travel northward to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. After a short walk we reach Wadi David (David's Spring), a waterfall hidden in an oasis of luxuriant green vegetation that hangs clustered in a canyon wall.

We continue our journey toward Jerusalem. On the northwest shore of the Dead Sea we encounter the settlement of Qumran. In 1947 it was here that two shepherd boys made one of the most significant discovery in religious history, the Dead Sea Scrolls (written texts of the Old Testament) hidden in the caves. The people who wrote them are believed to have been the Essenes who lived here until AD 68.

Later in the day we arrive in Jerusalem, the City of David.

Overnight in Jerusalem.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Jerusalem - Bethlehem* - Jerusalem
Today we will see the Old City from the vantage point of the Mount of Olives.

We enter the old city and visit the Christian sites. Following the last steps of Christ along Via Dolorosa, we approach Calvary and the most sacred site in Christendom, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Most Christians venerate this site as the location of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

We stop at Mount Zion to see St Peter in Galicantu and the Upper room.

From Jerusalem we continue to Bethlehem.* We visit the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus. Built like a citadel over the cave where it is believed Jesus was born, the original 4th century church commissioned by Constantine was altered in AD 530 by Emperor Justinian. It was later captured by the Crusaders and then came under the jurisdiction of Saladin and then the Mamluks.

*NOTE: Due to security concerns / procedures that change frequently, Bethlehem exists in our programme on a provisional and tentative basis only. In the event that a visit to the West Bank is not appropriate by departure time, we may remain in Jerusalem and expand our sightseeing there with a visit to the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea scrolls and a model of the second temple.

Overnight in Jerusalem.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 16 Jerusalem: City Tour
Old and new merge seamlessly in Jerusalem. You may hear the Muslim call to prayer competing with the clanging of bells from Christian churches and the prayers of Jews praying before the Western Wall. Everywhere you turn you'll see reminders of the three religions -- Islam, Judaism and Christianity -- that have shaped this part of the world.

We have a morning visit to the Temple Mount, one of the glories of Islamic Jerusalem, where you will view the Dome of the Rock. We then enter through the Jewish Quarter to witness the Herodian Mansions, a lavish palace in antiquity and built formerly of white marble, followed by a visit to the most important site in Judaism, the Western Wall.

Our tour also takes us by way of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, to the President's House, and the Yad Vashem Memorial and Holocaust Museum for a visit and tour.

Overnight in Jerusalem.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 17 Departure
Our tour ends in Jerusalem this morning.

Land & Air customers will be transferred to Ben Gurion International (the airport serving Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - TLV). We can arrange airport departure transfers for Land Only passengers for an extra cost (payable locally).

BON VOYAGE!!
Meal plan: breakfast