Hi friends! This is Alex and today I’m going to tell you about top things to see in Israel. I made a one – day trip there from Antalya, Turkey. This is a good opportunity for those, who would like to combine two trips in one.
Here you can check out my previous post, where this journey has begun.
In my hotel, where I stayed in Turkey, were offered many excursions to a local sights, near and far, and a day trip to Israel as well. I always wanted to visit this great country, and thus I decided to pick this tour. It costed me 400$.
The trip started very early in the morning – about 3.30 am because the way from my Hotel in Avsallar to the international airport in Antalya takes about 2 hours. We arrived at 5.30 and the flight was scheduled at 7am. The flight itself is pretty short – only 1,5 hours.
The plane was crowded and it seems that these one day – trips to Israel are very trendy. A tourist guide with the bus was waiting for our group at the airport in Tel – Aviv. We spent almost one hour at the airport going through passport and security control, which is very strong in Ben Gurion airport.
We didn’t stop in the capital of Israel, which I found a bit disappointing, and headed to Jerusalem to visit the famous Holy places. The weather in May was already very hot, in that day it was almost +40 C and our tourist guide gave each of us a bottle of water and said it is necessary in Israel.
Our first destination was Jerusalem. The trip from Ben Gurion airport took less than one hour as far as I remember. We spent in Jerusalem almost 5 hours visiting all the famous attractions.
The city of Jerusalem has three parts: Old Town, West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. The Old city has ancient stone walls around it and you can access the most remarkable attractions such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
and the Wailing Wall through seven different gateways.
Here are the names of these gateways – Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate, the New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lion’s Gate, and Dung Gate. And the Old City is also divided into four areas – the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.
Our first destination in Jerusalem was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is situated in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. This is the holiest place for all Christians and it was obvious because we were waiting in line to get inside about 2 hours. It was just a normal day, not a religious feast.
The Church was built and consecrated in 335 by the Emperor Constantine, then it was destroyed twice and rebuilt in 12 centuries in roman style. The tomb of Jesus is the church main attraction. The main rights of ownership of the church belong to the Greek Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate, the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Franciscan Order.
After visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher we went to the Wailing Wall or the Western Wall, which is visited by millions of pilgrims, Jewish and non – Jewish to pray and write their wishes on a small pieces of paper for God to answer. They put them between the crack of the stone. It was difficult to find a spot for my paper.
The last place we visited in Jerusalem was the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, where some trees are older than 1000 years. In this Garden Jesus prayed before his crucifixion and walked through the olive trees. There is a Church of All Nations on the mount and it is a part of excursion as well.
The next point of our destination was the ancient city Bethlehem, which is situated in Palestine and we had to cross the border to get there. By the border control they didn’t check our passports, which was surprising for me. The destination between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is 8 km, and if you travel alone, you can take a bus or taxi to get there.
Bethlehem is the ancient city with almost 3800 years of history and considered a holy city for three world religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism. According to the local law, the mayor of the city must be Christian. Jesus was born here in one of the caves, and in the 4th century the Church of Nativity was built near this cave.
After our arrival to Bethlehem we went to one of the local hotels and had a nice lunch. It was a nice experience to try the local cuisine. After spending 30 minutes on lunch we headed to one of the most important churches for all Christians – the Church of Nativity, which attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
If you make a longer trip to Israel and would like to dedicate more time for Bethlehem, you can visit other attractions such as the Church of St. Catherine and Franciscan Monastery, the Solomon’s pool, the Rachel’s tomb, the Old Bethlehem Museum, and the Palestinian Heritage Center.
After the impressive excursion to Bethlehem we went to the Jordan River – the area called Qasr al Yahud, which is considered the most likely place, where Jesus was baptized. In the middle of the river there is a border between Israel and Jordan, and you can observe the military on both sides.
Now a symbolic rite of baptism available for pilgrims and tourists from both Jordanian and Israeli side. Although, until recently this place was not widely available for a mass visit, and this ceremony was performed on Israeli side only a couple of times in a year.
It wasn’t very convenient there to change clothes and everything was very quickly. We went down the wooden steps to the river and plunged three times. You need to buy a long white shirt for this ceremony, and we bought it from our guide on the bus. The water was muddy, salt and warm.
There is a believe that this white shirts can not be washed after the ceremony, but should be dried and stored at home. They will have a healing power and should be worn during illnesses or other difficult times.
The Dead Sea
Then we headed to the last point of our trip in Israel – to the Dead Sea. This is the saltiest lake in the world approximately 450 meters below the sea level and the lowest area on Earth. The uniqueness of the Dead Sea is in the high concentration of minerals dissolved in water, therefore there are many wellness complexes and health centers on the shores of the sea.
The entrance to this complex costs 25$, but for us it was already included in the price of the tour. The tour guide warned that the first approach to the sea shouldn’t be longer than 10-15 minutes because the water of the Dead sea is, first of all, medicine, and you need to be careful with medicine.
The Dead sea is such a delight for those who can’t swim! For me the feeling of the water was very strange – it reminded me rather fatty chicken broth, than water. We had about 30 minutes in total to swim, and then it was offered to visit the shop with the cosmetics made of the Dead Sea minerals.
Our trip ended up in the restaurant situated near the complex, where we had a nice dinner, and then we went back to the Ben Gurion Airport.
I was very happy about my trip to Israel, of course, it was one day only but next time I’m going to spend at least a week here. Among the top travel destinations in Israel besides the Holy attractions are the resorts of Eilat and of the Dead Sea. I made some research about it and found out some interesting places to stay.
Israel is not a cheap country, so I was looking for good budget options combining an affordable price and a good travelers reviews. In Eilat, I found the City Apartments on Booking with the rating 7,9 out of 10 for about 50-70$ per night. According the traveler’s reviews the apartments are good equipped, clean, with many cafes and beach nearby.
If you would like to stay near the Dead Sea, there are many opportunities – for those who likes luxury all- inclusive hotels, be ready to pay about 300$ per night. For a budget travelers I found the Neve Zohar Dead Sea Apartments on Booking for 67$ for a single room. According the travelers reviews it has the great location, friendly staff, 15 minutes to the Dead sea. But if you have no car, it might be a problem to access the shops.
Written by Alex