We fly to Tel Aviv and transfer to the four-star Grand Beach Hotel for one night, with dinner.
Today we visit the ancient city of Caesarea, built by King Herod as capital of Roman Judea to honour Caesar Augustus, thus ensuring he was appointed Governor, a position subsequently held by Pontius Pilate. It was the biggest port in the Eastern Mediterranean, the site of one of Herod’s magnificent palaces and today it has a host of superb remains to explore. Next we have the 12th century, thoroughly amazing Crusader city of Acre: the beautifully vaulted and huge Knights’ Halls are in a state of almost unrivalled preservation and admirably display medieval European military architecture at its magnificent best. Leaving Acre we stop in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and visit the great church of the Annunciation, before driving to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee at the four-star Leonardo Plaza Hotel for one night with dinner. Some tours will stay at the fascinating Kibbutz Lavi in the hills above Tiberias.
This morning we’ll be immersed in some of the most important events in Jesus’ early life. Crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat we arrive at Capernaum where Jesus lived, healed the sick and recruited his first five disciples. Nearby is Tabgha, the site of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Overlooking the whole area is the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. A simple octagonal church has been built, surrounded by beautiful gardens with wonderful views of the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel tonight, with dinner, is the four-star Daniel on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Today you can enjoy one of life’s must-do experiences - ‘bob’ like a cork in the Dead Sea, surrounded by the desert scenery of the lowest point on earth! Your hotel also offers relaxing spa treatments using salt extracts from the mineral-rich waters. Then we have the opportunity to visit the spectacular fortress of Masada - site of one of the ancient Romans’ greatest sieges. We continue to Jerusalem and the four-star Leonardo Hotel or Grand Court Hotel, just next door, for four nights with dinner.
There is such an enormous amount to see, experience and absorb in this most remarkable of cities, it is almost overwhelming. Firstly we visit the Mount of Olives and the world’s oldest continually used cemetery for a panoramic view of the ancient city, punctuated by the startlingly beautiful Dome of the Rock where Muhammed rose to heaven. After touring the Garden of Gethsemane, we enter the remarkable warren of streets and alleyways that make up the Old City. Here, in such amazing proximity, lie some of the holiest places for over half the world’s population! We visit the Western Wall and walk along the Via Dolorosa before we finally come to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. The richness of decoration is astounding and the atmosphere is indescribably moving.
Today we drive to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds' Fields. One of the oldest churches in the Holy Land still in use, it marks the site where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus. For centuries it was one of the most fought over holy places. It was seized and defended by a succession of armies, yet still retains fragments of mosaics and paintings from the 4th and 12th centuries. Back in Jerusalem we visit the Yad Vashem, the humbling Holocaust memorial and the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed.
Today is at leisure. The Tower of David museum built on the remains of another of Herod the Great’s palaces provides a particularly impressive history lesson plus spectacular views over the unchanged cityscape. Then you will just love to explore under your own steam: you can see Roman shops still being used and wander into some of the quieter churches – still spectacular and where a choir’s gentle harmonies resonate throughout the alleyways.
At the appropriate time you transfer to Tel Aviv airport for the flight to the UK after a truly remarkable tour.