This week's deal from Smartours (tel. 800/337-7773; www.smartours.com) takes you to Israel for a comprehensive tour that doesn't skimp on creature comforts or cultural enrichment, and includes most of your meals and nearly all of your transportation. Couples who are interested in a pilgrimage to the holy land can reserve this trip, called Wonders of Israel, by July 31 and save up to $800. Stops on the itinerary include Jerusalem, Galilee, Nazareth, the Dead Sea, Masada and Tel Aviv. The price includes roundtrip airfare form New York-JFK to Tel Aviv and reflects the November 15 and 29 departures, along with select dates in early 2008 -- January 10 and February 7. Earlier departures, October 11 and November 1, are currently sold out, and later departures in 2008, such as February 14 and March 6, are available from $1,599 and $1,699 respectively. The price includes airline fuel surcharge, all transportation and transfers in Israel, accommodations at first-class hotels, 13 meals, an English-speaking tour director and comprehensive sightseeing tours and entry fees. It is also possible to travel solo for an additional $399, or to upgrade to business class by adding $1,495. Departure and airport taxes and fees of $150 are also not included. It is important to book early, as space is limited.
When you arrive at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Tel Aviv, you'll have some time to relax and then join the group for a reception. After a restful evening, the next day takes you on a walking tour of Neve Zedek, an old neighborhood in Tel Aviv, and then to a tour of Old Jaffa and the artists' quarter. On the fourth day, you'll wake up, spend some time in the Carmel Market and then head off to ancient Roman port of Caesarea, Haifa, Nazareth, and then the resort town of Tiberias, which is located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. You'll have the option to go to Golan and Galilee on day five for $69, or take the day on your own. Other activities include a morning boat ride on the Sea, a visit to Capernaum, Tabgha, which is the traditional site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Your hotel in Masada, near the Dead Sea, also has a spa -- naturally, as the minerals in the Dead Sea are said to have therapeutic attributes. Finally, you end up in Jerusalem for the remainder of the trip, departing from this ancient city for the United States
For those who want to see more, there is an option for the Eilat Extension, which adds four days to visit this resort on the Red Sea. The extension gives you a combination of leisure time to enjoy the beach and add an excursion to Petra, Jordan, an extraordinarily preserved archeological site built more than 2000 years ago. That day trip costs about $159 and you will need a visa to visit Jordan, which can be obtained at the border. The Eilat extension tacks on another $399 per person based on double occupancy, $599 for single.
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