Holy Land Tours and Travel Guide
Holy Land Attractions & Landmarks Guide
The "Holy Land" is a sacred pilgrimage site for three major world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Located in the modern day Middle Eastern region, hundreds of thousands devout followers and religious history buffs make there way to the ancient sacred land of Jerusalem.
Brief History of the Holy Land
Considered holy by Jews, Christians, and Muslim, the Holy Land spans between the Jordan Rivers and the Mediterranean seas. The territory includes Israel, western Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. This land is known as the Holy Land due to it’s religious significance, including the holiest city of Judaism (Jerusalem), the history with Jesus, and the site of the Isra and Mi’raj event. People from across the globe visit the Holy Land to confirm their beliefs, and to connect with the physical manifestations of their faith.
The Holy Land Regions
The major regions of the Holy Land include Jerusalem, The Palestinian territories and Jordan, which are visited on most tours. Holy Land’s differ depending on the religion. The Jewish Holy Lands include Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Mount Sinai. The Christian Holy Lands include Bethlehem, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, and Tiberias. The Islamic Holy Lands include Jerusalem, Mecca, and the Medina. Most Holy Land tours spend a fair amount of time in Jerusalem, which is understandable with the religious history and power the city has.
Common Holy Land tour routes usually start in Tel Aviv, and end in Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is a modern city that sits on the Mediterranean Sea. Stops along the way include Jaffa, Caeserea, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Galilee, and Masada. Physical activity levels vary depending on the tour – some tours have easy physical requirement, while others have strenuous activity levels.
Physical level requirements are listed on each tour page, so make sure to check into that if you’re looking for an easier travel level. Another travel trip – consider flying into Israel a day before the tour starts. This will help you make the most of your trip, and it will give you an extra day for some downtime and to recover from the long flights/jet lag.
Each stop has great experiences. While in Jaffa, walk the seaside promenade, and visit the Artist Quarter. Celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s church. While you’re in Caeserea, explore the archaeological discoveries, or visit the market in Druge Village. Take a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee, or visit a local winery.
Jerusalem offers the opportunity to follow the Via Dolorosa, or take in the city from the Mount of Olives. Take a stroll through the old city of Jerusalem, filled with cobblestone streets and colorful markets. Tours also offer an option to visit the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea, where you can float in the salty sea, and soak in the therapeutic salt and minerals.
Top Landmarks in the Holy Land
Holy Land tours are filled with incredible landmarks. Some of the most popular ones include:
1. The Basilica of the Annunciation - built above the site of The Virgin Mary’s home, where the Annunciation of the arrival of her soon took place.
2. Jerusalem Old City - Old City is home of numerous religious sites, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the end of the Via Dolorosa path, which is also site where Jesus was crucified), and the Dome of the Rock.
3. Bethlehem - the biblical birthplace of Jesus
4. Via Dolorosa - also known as the ‘Way of Sorrow,’ this is the path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion. The Path is about one-third of a mile long (about 600 meters).
5. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre - The end of the Via Dolorosa path, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried.
6. The Mount of Olives - where Jesus encouraged His disciples after the crucifixion, and is where He spent the night before his arrest. Make a stop at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is said to have accepted his betrayal.
7. Yad Veshem - A memorial site dedicated to the Jewish Victims of the Holocaust.
8. Nazareth - Visit the town where Jesus spent his childhood, which is where you can see the Basilica of the annunciation, listed above.
9. The Dead Sea - offers an opportunity to visit the lowest point on earth, and to soak in the salty sea, filled with minerals. Visit the a factory that features lotions, scrubs and masks made from the minerals.
Note: Do not shave that day or possibly the day before. The high concentrations of salt can make your body aware of all your cuts - It stings! An excursion to the dead sea allows the opportunity to see the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
10. Masada - located in the Judean Desert, ascend by cable car to visit the fortress and excavation of King Herod’s place. The top is seen as a symbol of bravery and self-sacrifice of the Jewish people. This hilltop also offers view of the Dead Sea and the Roman camps.
11. The Sea of Galilee - take a boat ride to see where Our Lord preached. Nearby is the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes, built to commemorate the miraculous feeding of five thousand.
12. Western Wall - The most religious site in the world for Jewish people, thousands of people visit the wall annually to recipe prayers. The wall is the western support wall of the Temple Mountain.
Must Try Food in the Holy Land
One of the best parts of travel is all the delicious food we get to try! Here are some of the must-try foods while you’re visiting the Holy Land. You’re sure to find any of these in cafes throughout your tour, or in one of the numerous street markets.
1. Hummus Masabacha/Kawarma - Often paired with warm pita bread, make sure to check our hummus masabacha (chickpeas, paprika, and lemon-spiked tahini) or hummus kawarma – hummus with lamb mine, onions, and parsley).
2. Falafal - Made with either fava beans or chickpeas (or both!), falafel is often served with the mentioned above hummus, pita bread, salad, and pickled.
3. Tahini - one of Israel’s key ingredients in their food.
4. Kanafeh - A cheese pastry soaked in a sweet, sugary syrup.
5. Baba Ganoush - Aubergine, also known as eggplant, is an extremely common dish served in Israel. Aubergine is often paired with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, or whatever other flavors you want to mix in.
6. Shakshuka - a combination of peppers, tomatoes, coriander, with eggs cooked in.
7. Lechem bread - one of the common breads served with every meal in Israel.
8. Not technically food but worth a mention: fresh-squeezed juice. You’ll find these stands in the open markets of Israel. If you’re there in the fall, pomegranate juice is a popular option!
9. Schnitzel - While this is a popular food option worldwide, there’s a bit of a twist in Israel. The schnitzel is actually a fried chicken breast! This is often served on a sandwich or with fries.
Holy Land Travel Photography Tips
Before you set off on your trip, take some time to get to know your camera. Do test photo shoots, read the manual, google your camera for trips. When traveling, you can’t always be at the right place at the right time, but knowing the settings and what you camera can do can help you get the best shot in the moment. Luckily, smart phones do a great job of judging the lighting and have great photo-editing options within the phone itself.
If snapping incredible photos that leave your friends asking for copies is one of your goals, try googling your destinations. The internet is full of photography tips for numerous cities, and you can learn what time of day you should photograph whatever it is you’re trying to take a snap of, such as the Basilica of the Annunciation, to get the best light.
Once you arrive in Israel, take a peek at the postcard rack, or images for sale, to get ideas of new perspectives/angles you want to shoot at. One of the best photography tips for any sort of travel is to wake up early and arrive to whatever area you’re photographing, so you can try to beat the crowds and get that picture perfect shot. Another perk of heading out early or staying out late, is you won’t have to deal with the glaring sun reflection.
One more trip – make sure you follow the rules and guidelines of camera use. Some places forbid the use of cameras inside, so if you see a sign that says no photos allowed, respect the sign and do not take photos. When you stop to take a photo, be aware of your surroundings.
What to Wear When Traveling in the Holy Land
As the weather varies, what you should wear depends on the time of year you are going. Bring layers if traveling in winter – a light-weight rain coat, a hat and gloves will be useful during this time. This is the rainy season in Israel. Summers are hot, ranging from high 80s and 90s (F) in the city, and soaring over 100 degrees in the desert and The Dead Sea. The sun is strong, so bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the rays.
Regardless of when you visit, some religious sights require being covered. Make sure to bring clothing that covers your shoulders (a short-sleeve shirt should suffice) and bottoms that cover your knees. If you do forget, some religious sights offer shawls and coverings you can wear. Comfortable shoes are a must.
Israel streets are uneven and you will often find cobblestone. If you’re visiting the Dead Sea, a pair of shoes you can wear in the water may be beneficial. The ground can be rough, and while you’re unlikely to spend much time in the water, the salt water can eat away at your shoes.
Things to Know Before You Go
So, you have decided you want to make a trip to visit the Holy Land. You’re curious about what all these trips entail? What the weather will be like? What are the must see destinations?
What are the countries of the Holy Land?
countries that are in the Holy Land are Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories. Most Holy Land tours run somewhere between one week and two, depending on the route. If you’re going for a week long visit, most trips start and end in Tel Aviv, a modern city on the beautiful Mediterranean, or in the historic city of Jerusalem.
Common stops on the tour include The Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jaffa, and Masada. When people think of visiting the Holy Land, they think of visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation, built on top of the Virgin Mary’s home where the announcement of the birth of her son took place. People dream of a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, or floating in the salty Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.
Spend a morning strolling through the historic city of Jerusalem, filled with cobblestone streets, complete with a visit to the Western Wall, and an afternoon following Via Dolorosa, following the path Jesus took on his way to his crucifixion. Depending on the Holy Land tour you select, there are some with easy/light physical activity, as well as some with more strenuous activities.
What is the weather like in the Holy Land?
The weather will depend on what time of year you go. While it’s always a good time to visit the Holy Land, winters are rainy and can start off chilly, but by afternoon, you could be able to go out without a jacket. In January, the weather in Jerusalem averages around 54 degrees F. Tel Aviv is a bit warmer, with a January average of 64 degrees, and about ten days of rain. Similar weather is likely if you visit the Dead Sea, with winter averages of low 70s.
Summers are peak travel season, filled with hot and dry days. Averages in Jerusalem from June-September range from highs in the mid 80s, with lows in the high 60s. Jerusalem averages 0 days of rain during this period. You will have similar weather in Tel Aviv, but nights are a bit warmer, averaging low-mid 70s.
As most tours visit the Dead Sea, it’s important to point out that summers are extremely hot. Averages are in the upper 90’s, and often times exceed 100 degrees F. Many people still make the trip with this heat, but it’s necessary to come prepared with proper protection from the deep sun, including hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Spring and Fall are good times to visit as well, getting between season weather. While you will still average mid 80’s to low 90s in the Fall (September-November) if you visit the Dead Sea, Spring is a nice time to visit, with March and April averages in the high 70’s-low 80’s. Tel Aviv averages mid 70s in the Spring, and mid-70’s to mid-80s in the Fall. Both periods average between 2-5 days of rain during Spring and Fall months. Expect similar rain fall in Jerusalem, but a bit cooler weather, with averages in the 60’s-70s in Spring and Fall.
Is it safe to visit the Holy Land?
Yes, it is Safe to visit the Holy Land. Over 3.6 million people visited the Holy Land in 2017! Booking group tours is a great way to ease your mind, knowing that you are in good hands with professional tour guides who know the ins and outs of the city. Tour guides can provide insider tips that you may not find on your own! As with any travel, take precautions such as not flashing your money around, and not wearing expensive jewelry.
It never hurts to learn a few phrases in the local language before you take off. Some common Hebrew phrases include:
Hello/Good-bye (literally, “peace”) shalom
Good morning! yom tov / boker tov
Good evening! → erev tov
Good night! → laíla tov
Good bye/See you again!l → ehitra’ot
Yes → ken
No/not → lo
Please/you're welcome →bevakasha
Thank you → toda
How much does it cost? → kama zeh oleh
Where is the restroom? →eifo ha-sherutim
Do you speak English? → atah medaber anglit (Males)/at medaberet anglit (Females)
Other crucial information for visiting the Holy Land
Israel uses the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), and bills come in 200, 100, 50, and 20 shekels. Coins come in shekels of 1, 2, 5, and 10, and 50 and 10 agurot (also known as our cents). One shekel is equal to 100 agurot.
The most important tip is to remember that international travel can differ from what you are accustomed to. This isn’t anything to worry about; that’s why we travel. Travel opens up the opportunity to open our mind- learn new perspectives, new cultures, try new food. Israel heavily focuses on political and spiritual opinions, which may be an unknown territory for those who have not spent time in the area. Use this travel as a learning experience.
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