This itinerary allows time to enjoy the beauty and variety of Israel’s landscapes. You’ll swim in four seas and have a solid block of time in which to explore Jerusalem, the jewel in the crown.
Tailor the Jerusalem suggestions in this tour to the days when sites are open. The Temple Mount is closed to visitors Friday and Saturday; much of West Jerusalem shuts for Shabbat. There are wonderful concerts, performances, and lectures (many in English); check the Friday editions of The Jerusalem Post or Haaretz for listings.
Day 1: Tel Aviv & Jaffa
Head from Ben-Gurion Airport to a hotel close to the sea. Lots of sunlight will help get you into the rhythm of Israeli time. In the cool of the evening, explore the Old City of Jaffa with its medieval streets, galleries, and eateries overlooking the sea.
Day 2: Tel Aviv
Spend at least a few hours at Tel Aviv’s unique Diaspora Museum. Swim as the sun sinks into the Mediterranean and then head to the Tel Aviv Port, recently recycled into a stylish seaside boardwalk, for an evening of people-watching, dining, shopping, dancing, and drinking.
Day 3: Haifa
Head to Haifa next, but use it as a base for excursions. Consider spending the day touring the countryside, including the walled Arabic port city of Akko, famous for ancient bazaars and mosques. Near Akko, Kibbutz Lohammei HaGetaot, founded by survivors of the Holocaust, combines past tragedy with hope for the future: It contains an important Holocaust Museum, set amid the orchards and fields where the descendants of those few who survived have made their lives.
Day 4: Freewheeling through the Galilee
Move inland across the northern Galilee. Base yourself in the mystic, mountaintop city of Safed or at a kibbutz guesthouse. Visit the ancient ruined synagogue at Bar’am (the best preserved in Israel). Dine at a rustic spot, such as Dag Al HaDan, a trout-farm restaurant set amid streams, where the fish on your plate was still swimming while you were parking your car. The region is also home to numerous wineries, some like Dalton Winery, just north of Safed, have active visitor centers. See our “Easy Day Trips” section.
Day 5: The Sea of Galilee
Circle the shoreline of this mysterious and lovely lake with its New Testament sites at Tabgha, Capernaum, Kursi, and the Mount of Beatitudes, where the Sermon on the Mount was given. The eastern shore south of Ein Gev has quiet, eucalyptus-shaded beaches.
Day 6: More Galilee
While you’re based at the Sea of Galilee, make your way south to Nazareth, famous for the Church of the Annunciation and Nazareth Biblical Village, with its replicas of buildings from the time of Jesus. Next day, check out the ruins of Zippori, a Hellenistic-era metropolis close to the then-tiny Nazareth of Jesus’s childhood.
Day 7: Galilee to the Dead Sea
Travel south through the Jordan Valley to visit the vast archaeological park of Roman-era Bet She'an or the Crusader castle ruins at Belvoir. Or make a short stop at the famous zodiac mosaic floor of the 5th-century Bet Alpha Synagogue at Kibbutz Heftziba.
Day 8: The Dead Sea, Masada & Ein Gedi
Explore the legendary Herodian fortress of Masada, where the last Jewish resisters against Rome chose suicide over surrender; try to sink in the amazing Dead Sea. Indulge in the famous therapeutic mud, mineral, and massage treatments at one of the many Dead Sea spa/hotels or at the Kibbutz Ein Gedi Spa. Or hike the Ein Gedi Reserve, a canyon oasis where David hid from King Saul.
Day 9: Eilat
Snorkel Eilat’s coral reef with its exotic Indian Ocean fish or view the fish at the aquarium or from a glass-bottom boat. Enjoy Eilat’s busy restaurant scene and nightlife. For kids, there are camel rides and the Dolphin Reef, where you can watch wild dolphins leap in the distance.
Day 10: Drive to Jerusalem
En route to Jerusalem (4 hr.), stop at Timna Park’s desert landscapes or look around Kibbutz Lotan’s inventive desert buildings and organic farm—you may want to overnight here to get the feel of a genuine, creative kibbutz. In Jerusalem, drop bags at your hotel, return the rental car, and take an evening walk to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall.
Day 11: The Old City
Get up early and go into the Old City to see the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, with the magnificent Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, is open Sunday to Thursday 9 to 11am and sometimes in the early afternoon (hours vary; it may be open at 8am). It’s a highlight of any journey to Jerusalem and should not be missed. Exit the Old City via the Damascus Gate and take a round-trip taxi to the Mount of Olives, which is best visited in the morning, when the sun will be behind you as you look (and photograph) west to the panorama of the Old and New cities. Afterward, explore the Old City bazaars; the Crusader Church of St. Anne, with its exquisite acoustics; and the Holy Sepulchre Church. See “The Old City” section here.
Day 12: The New City
Go on Egged Bus no. 99’s Jerusalem Highlights tour, which takes you all over the city. Visit the Israel Museum or Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial & Museum (or both). See more West Jerusalem attractions here.
Day 13: More of New Jerusalem
Choose from the Knesset, with its Chagall panels; Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, with its world-famous Chagall stained-glass windows; and a host of small museum gems. Take an excursion to bucolic Ein Kerem, village of John the Baptist, or to Mini Israel, 45 minutes from Jerusalem, where you can see miniatures of almost every place you’ve visited (at twilight, the buildings’ interior lights go on). Make a late afternoon visit to West Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda produce market—colorful and filled with great places for falafel, mixed grill, hummus, and other treats. Walk over to Mea Shearim via Ethiopia Street and explore this 19th-century world of East European Jewry.
Day 14: Your Favorites in Jerusalem
Browse the Old City—it’s endlessly fascinating—or if you haven’t done so, visit (or revisit) Yad Vashem or the Israel Museum. Choose a place with a view or special menu for your farewell dinner, and then finish your shopping before heading off to the airport.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.