In February this year, right before COVID-19 took over all of our travel plans, our team member Sherrie embarked on an 8 day Intrepid trip through Israel & the Palestinian Territories. It was a quick, but in-depth look at a fascinating destination, filled with an interesting history and many iconic sites.
Sherrie has put together her top 5 favourite places she visited along the way – as well as some information for travellers considering a trip to Israel in the future.
Israel & The Palestinian Territories
I wasn’t sure what to expect on this trip, however I went with an open mind and an interest to learn more about the amazing history of a part of the world I had not yet visited. The length of the trip was ideal for myself, as I have young children, and although it was non-stop every day I felt as though I left having seen everything I wanted to. Our Intrepid guide was very knowledgeable and was able to answer all of our questions…and there were plenty of group discussions on many topics. It was the perfect mix of nature, politics, history, religion…plus some great food along the way. One thing to note is that it is not a cheap destination, especially food and drink, so be prepared to spend a little more than you would in other destinations. February is a great time to go as there are less crowds. The weather is cooler in the higher parts of the country such as Jerusalem, however lovely and warmer along the coastline.
It was difficult to narrow down my favourite places along the way – but here they are in no particular order.
I started my journey in Jerusalem, considered one of the holiest places in the world. There is so much to see and do in and around the city. Exploring the walled Old City is fascinating with the growing maze of laneways circling around religious and historic sites. The Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and Church of Sepulchre are among many sites to visit. There are also plenty of sites around the Old City such as Mount of Olives, which provides you with a great view of Jerusalem. Then head south to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem to see the biblical birthplace of Jesus and to learn more about the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.
You can’t go past a UNESCO World Heritage site and Masada does not disappoint. I was there on one of the only 2 days of the year it rains, however it did not dampen our spirits or experience…it made the place even more dramatic. After taking either the cable car up or walking, for those hikers among us, you can spend hours listening to the history of this fortress and palace complex, all whilst admiring the views of the Judean Desert and Dead Sea.
A mystical city known as the birthplace of Kabbalah, Tzfat (or Safed) is full of winding streets only accessible by foot. The blue walls and doors make it hard to put your camera down however you will as the town is full or history, art galleries, old synagogues and local eateries to explore.
Situated on the Mediterranean coast, Caesarea (an ancient port city) has been restored to a beautifully attractive and interesting archaeological site. Visiting the ruins, it is so easy to get transported back in time as you explore the hippodrome, amphitheatre and baths. Head just a bit further down the road and you will stumble across the remains of an ancient aqueduct at the edge of the local beach.
This cosmopolitan city is like no other place in Israel. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it reminded me so much of Rio de Janeiro – beautiful beaches and a vibrant, buzzing city. Jaffa, which is the southern part of Tel Aviv, was my favourite part of the city, given the limited time I had to spend here. Jaffa is filled with art galleries, restaurants, music and laughter…a perfect place to sit with a glass of wine and people watch.
If you are looking for something all encompassing – culture, history, religion, nature, food – a tour of Israel is definitely worth it. I came away with so much and would love to visit again one day.