Israel is so packed full of historical, religious and natural sites that there’s no way to see it all in just a day or two. Fortunately, Israel is also very small.
This means you can get a great taste for the country in a short amount of time. Whether you want to visit Jerusalem, experience the Dead Sea, walk in the footsteps of Jesus in the Galilee or get a taste of northern Israel.
You can’t dock in Israel and not come to Jerusalem. Located just over an hour away from Ashdod, enjoy a whirlwind tour of one of the holiest cities in the world.
Take in the view from the Mount of Olives, explore the Garden of Gethsemane, walk the hallowed Via Dolorosa and experience the splendor of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Visit the Jewish Quarter, leave a note in the Wailing Wall and explore the modern shuk located in the ancient streets of the Muslim Quarter. See some of the sites of modern Jerusalem before taking some time for contemplation and reflection at YadVashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum.
If you want the chance to float at the lowest point in the world, take a day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. You’ll see learn plenty about Israel on your two-hour journey down to the Judean Desert.
The tour proper starts at Masada. As well as being one of King Herod’s (many) impressive residences, Masada was also the site of the last stand of a group of Jewish rebels who were besieged by the Roman army before committing mass suicide in 73 CE. Don’t worry about climbing the mountain; you’ll ascend in comfort via cable car and have a tour that explains the multi-faceted history of this isolated fortress. Back down at ground level, the tour continues to Qumran, the site where the famed Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Following lunch, it’s time to kick back, relax and enjoy the healing waters of the Dead Sea before returning to port.
Leave the modern port of Ashdod behind and head back in time to another port: Caesarea, the ancient port city built by Herod the Great. Explore the Roman Theatre, the Hippodrome and the remains of the Aqudeuct that once supplied water to the city. The next stop is the mixed Arab-Jewish 4000years old city of Jaffa, one of the world’s most ancient port cities. After a visit to the Ottoman-era St. Peter’s Church, built on the site where Saint Peter raised Tabitha from the dead, and lunch at a local restaurant, head over to neighboring Tel Aviv.
Explore the cosmopolitan "white city", famed for its Bauhaus architecture and bohemian atmosphere, before heading back to Ashdod.
Prepare for an incredible day exploring key sites in the life of Jesus with a tour of the Galilee.
Start at the Church of Annunciation and the underground Grotto in Nazareth, Mary’s childhood home. Then head over to the Church of St. Joseph, the traditional location of Joseph’s carpentry workshop. At the Sea of Galilee, visit the Mount of Beatitudes before heading over to Capernaum, where Jesus spent most of his adult life and began his preaching. After an optional lunch at the Sea of Galilee (we recommend the fish), visit Tabgha, where Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes.
End the day with a visit to the source of the Jordan River, where you will have the opportunity to be baptized in a day to always remember.
Just a short drive from Haifa lies the city of Acre (Akko), a mixed Arab-Jewish city that was once a major Crusader stronghold. Visit the Knights Hall before heading back to the old port through the local market.. Stop in at Acre Prison where Jews of the underground movement were imprisoned during the British Mandate. Leaving Acre behind, drive to Tzfat (Safed). Visit the World Kabbalah Center and walk around the city seeing its many synagogues and art galleries and just taking in the spiritual vibe of this ancient city.
Following lunch, return to Haifa finalize your day tour and enjoy the incredible man-made beauty of the Baha’i Gardens and Temples before returning to your ship.
There are four main options to choose from when it comes to touring in Israel:
You will find many different group tours offered on your cruise ship and on the Internet.Most of the "regular group tours" are based on big busses of up to 50 people per group.This can make what should be an incredible highlight itno a stressful visit.This is escpecially true of trips to the Old City of Jerusalem or also Acres and Jaffo, which have many narrow paths and can be very crowded.
If you are looking for something more intimate so-called small groups - with a maximum of 18 people are a good option.They allow you to visit the sites in a more personal way.With a smaller group the tour guide is more accesible for individual questions.In addition the price is similiar to the "big bus" tour or only slightly more expensive.
Private Guided Shore Excursions - can be booked in several languages from 1-11 people in a so-called "Eshkol van".Some Israeli Tour Guides have a special license to drive these cars.A private tour is a great way to build an individual itinerary and travel in your own pace.The price is dependent on your specific itinerary and is usually between 650-950 USD per day tour.They do not normally include lunch and entrance fees.
"On your own" - feel free to discover Israel on your own.Simply take a taxi or transfer to the next city (e.g: Haifa, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv), stroll the streets, taste the local food and visit a museum.It is not complicated and Israel is much safer that you might believe from the news !
** Please always check with your tour supplier / tour guide if the entrance fees are included in the price, or need to be paid in addition to the quoted price.Meals are not normally included in the price of the tour.
Words: Danielle Max