Immerse yourself in the spectacle of Christmas in the place where it all began

Enjoy a Christmas like no other on this festive adventure in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The Holy Land is a thing of legend no matter where you’re from, how old you are or when you visit, but at Christmas this sacred destination lights up with an atmosphere that could only be described as magical. As well as exploring the Christmas markets, spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the place Jesus entered the world in Bethlehem, with Midnight Mass, a candle procession and Christmas dinner with locals. Travel to Nazareth and hike part of the Nativity Trail, one of the most famous journeys of the Bible; visit the spot where steadfast Jews held out on Massada’s rugged outcrop; swim in the Dead Sea; and, finally, immerse yourself in the everyday buzz of Tel Aviv. Rich in history, packed with celebration and steeped in the lore of many faiths, this Israel and Palestinian Territories adventure offers something special for all kinds of travellers.


Start
Tel Aviv, Israel
Finish
Jerusalem, Israel
Country
Israel
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition, Explorer, Festivals and Events
Code
ENSC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 4, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Experience the joys of Christmas in Bethlehem – Christmas dinner with the locals, Midnight Mass in Manger Square, and the musical Shepherd’s Nights Festival

  • Explore the famed religious towns of Jericho, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Hike along the Nativity Trail, retracing part of Mary and Joseph’s legendary trek to Bethlehem and stroll the alleys and lanes of old Jaffa.

  • Head down to the famous Dead Sea for an effortless float in its salty blue waters

  • Contrast the reverent atmosphere of Jerusalem with a very different Israeli city – modern, cosmopolitan, hedonistic Tel Aviv

Is this trip right for you?

  • Christmas Eve in Bethlehem is spectacular, but it can get congested, and some of the scheduled events can change with little notice. Midnight Mass is best witnessed on the screens in Manger Square. If you’re looking to watch from the Church of Nativity, you’ll need to book at least three months in advance.

  • Weather can be cool at this time of the year, so don’t forget to bring a warm jacket, gloves and head covering for the Christmas Eve festivities.

  • This trip requires a moderate level of fitness, as there’s a significant amount of hiking involved. Some of the sites we visit involve walking on rocky and/or steep hillsides, where there is often little or no shade. Comfortable walking shoes and a hat will make it easier to explore the sights.

  • Known as 'baksheesh' in the Middle East, tipping is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry. If you are satisfied with the services, remember to provide a tip. It’s not compulsory, but it’s customary and always appreciated.

  • Israel and The Palestinian Territories are by no means a cheap destination, so it’s important to budget accordingly. Your leader can point you in the right direction for good deals.

Itinerary

Your Christmas adventure kicks off at 1 pm today in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv. With its lively cafe culture, relaxed Mediterranean beach scene and renowned nightlife, it's the perfect place to celebrate the start of the festive season. This afternoon we head out to explore Jaffa. This ancient city is said to have existed on the shores of the Mediterranean for over 4000 years, and its port is thought to have been the point at which Jonah departed from in the story of Jonah and the Whale. We visit the Church of St Peters and the old Jaffa Flea Market, and stroll through the little alleyways and streets, many of which are richly decorated for the festive season. Check out artists galleries and studios, boutiques and craft shops, all with Christmas gift ideas. There may even be some local street music to get you in the mood. In the evening, enjoy some dinner with your fellow travellers.
Included Activities
  • Jaffa - Town Visit
  • Tel Aviv - Welcome Dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive in time for today's welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.
It's time to celebrate Christmas in the ultimate location – the birthplace of Jesus himself. After an early  breakfast, we journey 1.5 hours to the Bethlehem and join pilgrims for the annual Christmas scouts' march through the city, their drums and bagpipes resonating through the streets as they guide the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (His Beatitude Fouad Twal) on his journey from Jerusalem to the Church of Nativity. His entry to the city officially marks the Christmas celebrations. In the afternoon, enjoy free time to soak up the atmosphere before this evening's Christmas dinner. Rejoin the crowd in Manger Square later in the evening for that famous Christmas custom – Midnight Mass – which you'll view on the giant screens in the square. If you have pre-booked your tickets, there's the opportunity to attend Mass in the Church of Nativity for a next-level experience.
Included Activities
  • Bethlehem- Midnight Mass
  • Bethlehem- Christmas Parade
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Attending Midnight Mass in the Church of Nativity can not be guaranteed. Tickets can be reserved for you, however this needs to be done three months in advance. Entry is still not guaranteed. If you have not pre-reserved tickets watching on the big screens from the square is just as atmospheric.
Merry Christmas! Ease into the day with some free time. Later in the morning you'll travel the short distance to Battir Village, one of the most beautiful places in the West Bank. Explore The Old Town – Seven Widows Quarter – which gained its name from the seven widows that lived there simultaneously. After a local lunch, take a short hike throughout the fertile valley. In the afternoon, it's off to join in the concerts of the Shepherd’s Nights Festival in the Old City of Beit Sahour, with a Candle March from the Orthodox Shepherds’ Field to Souk el Shaab and then to the Old City of Beit Sahour. As evening approaches, return to Bethlehem.
Included Activities
  • Bethlehem- Shepherds Field Christmas Procession
  • Battir - Guided Village Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Departing early in the morning, drive (approximately 45 minutes) to the ancient crusader port of Akko (aka Acre). Here you’ll visit the vast complex of buildings occupied by the Knights of St John (Knights Hospitaller), excavated to uncover a large hall, a dungeon, a dining room and the crypt of an ancient Gothic church. Also check out the secret tunnel of their rivals, the Knights Templar – an underground passage between their fortresses. Continue to Rosh Hanikra and ride the cable car up the cliff face to see the stunning grottoes there. These incredible caves are located at the farthest point north on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline, on the border of Lebanon, where the sea meets the cliffs.  In the evening, enjoy a local cooking class and included dinner, staying overnight in Nazareth.
Included Activities
  • Rosh Hanikra - Cable Car & Grottoes
  • Akko - Templar's Tunnel visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Retrace part of the epic biblical journey of Mary and Joseph. The route they took from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is known as the Nativity Trail. Hundreds of years before this journey, the patriarch Jacob roamed these lands and the Bedouins had called this land their home. You'll spend the morning exploring a short section of this famous trail, hiking the wild desert hills dotted with olive trees, no doubt picking up some insight into the great mythology that makes these landscapes sacred to so many. Later, travel to the western shores of the Sea of Galilee today and Tiberias – established all the way back in AD 20 – before returning to Nazareth in the evening.
Included Activities
  • Nazareth - Nativity Hike
  • Tiberias - Sea of Galilee visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit the Church of the Annunciation, where Mary received the news of the Immaculate Conception, along with the well where she drew water every day. Travel via the Jordon Valley to Jerusalem. Stop at The Mount of Temptation, which has a gravity-defying monastery clinging to its sheer face, before swinging by Jericho, to visit Hisham’s Palace. The old hunting lodge has one of the most beautiful and elaborately decorated mosaic floors in the world. Continue to the Mount of Olives that looks over Jerusalem’s Old City and visit the Garden of Gethsemane, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus' crucifixion. Arrive in Jerusalem, a city steeped in spirituality and legend; a rich tapestry of the many cultures, religions and nationalities that call it home, be they Palestinian Muslims & Christians, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Armenian Christians, Ethiopian Copts or Greek Orthodox monks. We spend the nights of days 6, 7 and 8 in the Holy City.
Included Activities
  • Nazareth - Church of Annuniciation
  • Jericho - Hisham's Palace
  • Jerusalem - Mount of Olives
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive out to the spectacular clifftop fortress of Masada this morning. Stop en route at the 6th-century cliffside Monastery of St George of Koziba in the desert (Deir El Qelt) and see the massive church built into the mountains. In Masada, take a cable car to the fortress built by King Herod around 35 BC. This UNESCO World Heritage site is immensely important to the Jewish people, a symbol of their exile from the Holy Land and of bravery and self-sacrifice. After that, it's off for a swim in the famous Dead Sea – which is really an extremely salty lake, not a sea (and 'dead' only because of the lack of marine life in it!). Enjoy an effortless float in this buoyant body of water and perhaps snap a photo or two. The nutrient-rich mud here is a fun thing to cover yourself in for a photo.  Head back to Jerusalem for the evening. We recommend checking out Machane Yehuda Market; grab a beer in one of the many laneway bars to watch the market come to life in the evening.
Included Activities
  • Dead Sea - Dead Sea visit
  • Masada - Masada visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Explore the Old City on foot this morning. We will start with the Courtyard of the Dome and the Wailing Wall – the remains of the Temple Mount, which acts as an outdoor synagogue, where written prayers are slid into the cracks between stones. Continue along the Via Dolorosa starting at St Stephen’s Gate, passing the crusader church of St Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Located in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, this pool was mentioned in the Gospel of John and associated with healing. Continue along the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) – the 'way of sorrows' which follows Jesus’ path to crucifixion – and stop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, died, buried, and rose again. Sip tea, sample fresh local bread and then walk through the Christian Quarter up to Jaffa Gate for a lunch break. Enjoy some free time this afternoon to explore the Holy City on your own, then perhaps meet up with your group in the evening for an optional farewell dinner.
Included Activities
  • Jerusalem - Guided tour of Old City
Optional Activities
  • Jerusalem - Old City Ramparts - USD5
  • Jerusalem - Israel Museum - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The Dome of the Rock/Al-Aqsa Mosque is open from 7:30-10:30am Sundays through Thursdays, and again for an hour in the afternoon. In order to beat tourist traffic, our guides usually like to go there first thing in the morning.
The Western Wall area is open everyday. However please note that on Friday evenings and Saturdays, tourists are not allowed to take any photos.
Happy New Year! Your Christmas Adventure finishes after breakfast this morning.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

8 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners

Transport

Minibus

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights)

Included activities

  • Jaffa - Town Visit
  • Tel Aviv - Welcome Dinner
  • Bethlehem- Midnight Mass
  • Bethlehem- Christmas Parade
  • Bethlehem- Shepherds Field Christmas Procession
  • Battir - Guided Village Walk
  • Rosh Hanikra - Cable Car & Grottoes
  • Akko - Templar's Tunnel visit
  • Nazareth - Nativity Hike
  • Tiberias - Sea of Galilee visit
  • Nazareth - Church of Annuniciation
  • Jericho - Hisham's Palace
  • Jerusalem - Mount of Olives
  • Dead Sea - Dead Sea visit
  • Masada - Masada visit
  • Jerusalem - Guided tour of Old City

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This trip starts in Tel Aviv at 1.00pm please ensure your flights are arranged accordingly or advise your booking agent of your arrival time.

2. A Single Supplement is available on this trip. Please ask your booking agent for more information.

3. Following recent safety incidents we recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information on travelling in Israel (particularly within the West Bank) before your departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas of your itinerary. We have links to prominent government travel advisories and regular updates on issues affecting this trip on our Travel Alerts page - www.intrepidtravel.com/au/travel-alerts

4. This trip  requires a minimum of 4 people to depart. Please do not book any non-refundable flights or services before the departure is guaranteed to depart.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.