Israel and Palestine
There are few places on earth that can boast such a rich and varied archaeological heritage as Israel and Palestine. Over the millennia, this ancient land has felt the tread of conquerors and settlers: Canaanites, Israelites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans and Imperial Britons, all of whom have left their signature.
Discover the archaeology of that most holy of cities, Jerusalem, the tragedy of Masada, and visit one of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho.
- Walk the streets of one of the world’s oldest cities - Jericho, founded over 10,000 years ago and occupied ever since
- An abundance of iconic ancient sites - from the spectacular, but tragic, fortress at Masada to the coastal Crusader town of Akko (Acre)
- Three days in Jerusalem - including special access to excavations and museums, and dinner with leading local archaeologists
- Historic Churches
- Great Cities
- Cultural Excursion
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
We fly to Tel Aviv and transfer to our hotel on the shores of Lake Tiberias, otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee. In this gorgeous location we relax after our flight, and recharge our batteries, preparing ourselves for the adventures to come...
We spend our first morning in Israel exploring the Belvoir Crusader Fortress, one of the best preserved Crusader Fortresses in Israel. This site was a bastion of the Knights Hospitallers until it was eventually besieged and captured by Saladin’s forces in 1189.
On to the Roman and Byzantine city of Beth She’an, thought to have been occupied since the 6th to the 5th millennia BC. The city flourished under the Pax Romana, and continues to thrive thanks to its location as a junction between the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys. We pay a visit to the 6th-century synagogue of Beth Alpha, which was discovered in the 1920s and features colourful wall panels depicting scenes such as the Binding of Isaac, and a beautiful Greco-Roman zodiac.
After lunch, we delve into Jezreel Valley, a fertile “land of milk and honey”. Here we explore the ancient city of Tel Megiddo, better known as Armageddon. Its location, on a narrow pass along a vital trade route, led to Tel Meggido being of great strategic importance in the ancient world, and the site of many significant battles. Recent excavations have unearthed no less than 26 layers of ruins.
We begin the day at the archaeological site of Tel Dan, the most northerly Israelite city, where a remarkable Bronze Age mud-brick gateway still stands in place, surrounded by verdant countryside. We continue to Tel Hazor, once the largest fortified city in the country. Its surviving ramparts are considered to be the foremost examples of their type in the region.
After pausing for lunch we pay a visit to Nimrod Castle, built by the son of Saladin to protect Damascus from the armies of the Sixth Crusade.
Lastly, but by no means least, we view the “Jesus Boat” in the grounds of Hotel Nof Ginnosar. This recovered fishing boat dates from the 1st century AD, and is the type of vessel Jesus and his disciples may have used. A highly significant find.
This morning we drive to Tzipori, a fortified city perched on a mound in the Netofah Valley. Thanks to extensive excavations in the area we are able to view an ancient synagogue, Jewish homes lining a cobbled street, a Roman villa, and a number of intricate 5th-century mosaics, depicting images such as the famous “Mona Lisa of Galilee”.
In the afternoon we continue to Akko, or Acre, on the sunny shores of Haifa Bay. Akko features in Egyptian, Biblical, Greek and Persian mythology, and is the holiest city of the Baha’i faith. We discover striking Ottoman aqueducts, Medieval churches, and city walls established by Crusaders.
Today we explore the national park and Roman harbour city of Caesarea Maritima, constructed by Herod the Great. The city was described by 1st-century historian Josephus as: “adorned with the most magnificent palaces”. Among the many remnants here now are a well-preserved theatre, a double aqueduct, and a limestone block on which the name of “Pontius Pilatus” is inscribed.
We spend the afternoon at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the largest museum in the country. It is here that we encounter the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Biblical and extra-Biblical manuscripts known to man, which were discovered in caves on the west bank of the River Jordan in the late 1940s. A thrilling glimpse into Israel’s holy past.
We spend a full day in Jerusalem in the company of a leading Israeli archaeologist – a unique opportunity that takes us right to the heart of this city and its fascinating stories.
Together we visit the Medieval Lions’ Gate, a part of the old city walls. It is believed that its name does not derive from the big cats on its crest – these are, in fact, leopards – but the dream of King Selim I, in which his promise to build a city wall spared him from being torn apart by lions.
Following this we stop at Bethesda Pool in the city’s Muslim quarter, which fits the description of a pool in the Gospel of John, and is widely considered an ancient place of healing. We continue along the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Sorrow”, thought to be the final route taken by Jesus on his way to the crucifixion.
After lunch we visit the Tower of David Museum. Located in the chambers of a citadel, and offering panoramic views across the city, this museum charts the history of Jerusalem over the millennia, from carved Canaanite tablets to rare archival images of British rule.
We drive to Jericho this morning, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, and visit the Herodian Winter Palace complex. Dating from the Second Temple period of 516 BC to 70 AD, here we find evidence of luxury on a grand scale, with traces of swimming pools, bathhouses, orchards and gardens – and three palace buildings of increasing magnificence.
We continue by cable car to the Monastery of the Mount of Temptation, said to have been built on the spot at which Satan tempted Jesus during his 40-day fast. Prepare for incredible views across the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley.
In the afternoon we explore the remains of the settlement of Tel es-Sultan, site of Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations, where the world’s oldest city wall still stands, alongside the Tower of Jericho.
Our day draws to a close at Hisham’s Palace, a significant early Islamic construction, where we find the famous “Tree of Life” mosaic in the audience room of the bathhouse.
Our exploration of Jerusalem continues today, beginning with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site of the Christian faith. It is believed that housed within this church is the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, as well as his empty tomb, now encased within an 18th-century shrine.
From here we walk to the ruins of the City of David in the Arab neighbourhood of Wadi Hilweh, a site of Canaanite and Iron Age remains, commonly identified as the urban centre of old Jerusalem. Here we view Warren’s Shaft – thought to have once supplied the city with water – and Siloam Pool, a rock-cut pool fed by Gihon Spring which has been in use since around 700 BC.
This afternoon we visit Bethlehem and the Herodium, a well-excavated hill on which we find a tomb said to be that of King Herod, as well as the remains of a palace, bathhouse, theatre and synagogue.
After a hearty breakfast we travel to the archaeological site of Tel Lachish, a huge Near East city with commanding views over the hills and coastal plains. Tel Lachish features in the Book of Joshua and the ground here has yielded scores of LMLK seals, ancient Hebrew seals dating from the reign of King Hezekiah.
We continue to the walled city of Tel Beer Sheba, where we enjoy a picnic lunch amid the ruins of the national park. The most important discovery here was a horned animal altar, the first unearthed in Israel.
We stop at the mysterious prehistoric site of Tel Arad, with its altars and standing stones, before continuing to the glittering Dead Sea where, if we have time, we may “swim” atop the hyper-salty waves.
Our last day of the trip begins with an ascent to Masada, a rugged Herodian fortress high up on the isolated cliffs of the Judaean Desert. According to ancient sources, the defenders of this fortress committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans in AD 73. This incredible site is one of Israel’s foremost attractions, and achieved World Heritage status in 2001.
We continue to En Gedi National Park, with its beautiful oasis – the biggest in Israel – and diverse plant and animal species. Keep your eyes peeled for the elegant Nubian Ibex.
We round off our day with a visit to the remote desert caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, before returning to Jerusalem for a convivial farewell dinner.
We transfer to Tel Aviv for our flight home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included (wine not included)
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
4 nights in a hotel just outside Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, with a private beach and swimming pool
5 nights in a large 5* hotel with views to the old city walls of Jerusalem
1 night at a Dead Sea spa hotel
For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.