Sea, Stones and Stories
Traverse Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the heart of three world religions and five millennia of history, through the food, music, books and art that have shaped these proud lands.
From the cobbled streets of Jerusalem’s Old City to the coffee shops of Tel Aviv, from the markets of Old Jaffa to the holy sites of Hebron, take a journey into the sensory delights of Israel and the Palestinian Territories where stories, food and history greet you at every bend in the road.
Travel in the company of television presenter and former Middle East correspondent Jane Hutcheon, who, inspired by her favourite books, films and food, will lead you through the key historical sites and hidden treasures of the region where sunlight, stone, sand and sea reveal the secrets of the past and the controversies of the present.
Arrive in Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion International Airport) on suggested Cathay Pacific flights from Australia or New Zealand via Hong Kong. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Transfer to the hotel in the Jaffa neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, and enjoy a special welcome dinner with Jane and fellow travellers.
In the morning attend a talk by Jane, followed by a day of sightseeing in Tel Aviv. Amongst the attractions are the Bauhaus neighbourhood, locally known as the ‘White City’, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Ben-Gurion Museum, the historic house museum of Israel’s first Prime Minister.
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Today, spend the morning exploring landmarks in Jaffa, including Adam LeBor’s history City of Oranges, which examines Jaffa from both an Arab and Jewish perspective.
Spend the afternoon at leisure walking through the ancient and narrow passageways of the Old City or visiting Jaffa’s famous flea market.
This morning, check out of the hotel and depart for the ancient port city of Caesarea. Built between 22 and 9 BC by King Herod the Great, excavations today reveal just a glimpse of the 8,000 acres of Caesarea Maritima at the height of its power. The city boasts an amphitheatre bigger than Rome’s Colosseum and one of the largest artificial harbours of its time, and was once the home of Pontius Pilate.
After lunch, continue to Haifa and see the Bahá’í Gardens atop Mount Carmel. Distinctly classical in style, the gardens stretch nearly a kilometre in length with 19 terraces of flowers, water features and statues. Visit the Stellar Maris Monastery located on the slopes of Mount Carmel and the Universal House of Justice, home to the governing council of the Bahá’í faith.
Check into your hotel in the late afternoon, before dinner at the hotel.
Depart Haifa for a morning in Acre, one of the oldest cities in the world with a history of over 4,000 years of continuous settlement.
Discover the City Walls, Knight’s Halls, and Templars’ Tunnel, a 350 metre-long underground passageway connecting the Templar’s main fortress to the city’s port, along with Hammam al-Pasha, an ornamented Turkish Bathhouse in use from 1780 to the 1940s.
After lunch, travel to the Sea of Galilee, the water that Jesus is said to have walked across and calmed a wild storm. The Jordan River flows through the lake from north to south, with thousands of pilgrims travelling every year to be baptised where the waters meet.
Check into the hotel, before dinner in the evening.
Start the morning with a talk by Jane, followed by a visit to the town of Safed, the highest city in Israel. Spend time wandering the narrow cobblestone alleys visiting artist galleries and a medieval synagogue.
In the afternoon discover Capernaum, a fishing village on the north shore of the lake, established around the 1st century BC and inhabited until just before the First Crusade in the 11th century. The ruins of a 5th century church sit atop of the foundations of what purports to be the home of St. Peter. To the west of Capernaum is the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus is said to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount. Remnants of a Byzantine church built in 4AD and used for three centuries thereafter can be seen on the slope.
Check out from the hotel and travel to Jericho, believed to be the oldest continually-inhabited city on earth. The city is home to the world’s oldest fortification wall, and is the site of many biblical stories, including Jesus’ ‘Parable of the Good Samaritan’ and the Old Testament capture of Jericho by the Israelites, with their shouts and trumpets bringing the walls tumbling down.
Continue to Jerusalem, home for the following six nights.
After breakfast, join Jane for a talk before a full day of sightseeing in Jerusalem. Explore the Jewish and Muslim Quarters of the Old City, wander through the recently restored Roman Cardo mainstreet, and tour the Western Wall Tunnels. View the Temple Mount area, the holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and a revered site to Christians.
Following a visit to the bazaar, enjoy a guided tour of the Tower of David Museum, located in the medieval citadel known as the Tower of David, near the Jaffa Gate.
Today, continue your exploration of the Old City, with visits to the Christian and Armenian Quarters. Enjoy panoramic views of the city from the Mount of Olives, and visit the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, a mosaic-covered church built in 1924 by architect Antonio Barluzzi. Walk the Via Dolorosa, held to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion, a winding route from the Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Along the way, discover literature-related sites in Jerusalem, from texts including Ghana Karmi’s In Search of Fatima, chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem, and Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Jerusalem: The Biography.
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast depart for a visit to the fortress of Masada, rising 400 metres above the desert plain. Ascend by a cable car to the ancient synagogue of Masada and explore the ancient fortress. Here was the last stronghold of the Jewish Zealots in the struggle against the Romans. From the top of Masada the outlines of the Roman encampments are still visible below.
Continue to the 2,000 year-old ruins of Qumran, overlooking the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1948.
The afternoon is free to enjoy a swim (or a float rather!) in the Dead Sea.
Today, embark on a full-day tour to Bethlehem and Hebron, both situated in the West Bank section of the Palestinian Territories.
In Bethlehem, enjoy a walking tour of the Old City and its seven historic quarters, laid out in mosaic style around Manger Square. See the traditional architecture of Kawawseh and Najajreh clans and visit the Nativity Church that was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 530 AD.
After lunch, travel to Hebron. See the city through the lens of Kingdom of Olives and Ash, a collection of essays by internationally-celebrated writers that highlight stories of both occupiers and occupied, and visit major Jewish and Islamic sites including the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
This morning, visit the Israel Museum, the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel, holding the widest collection of Holy Land and Biblical archaeology in the world. A particular highlight of the museum is the Shrine of the Book, which is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Biblical manuscripts as well as other rare, Mediæval Biblical writings.
The afternoon is at leisure to explore other sites in Jerusalem, with a suggestion to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, and the adjacent Museum of Holocaust Art.
In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Jane and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
For those returning home today, transfer to Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion International Airport) for suggested Cathay Pacific flights to Australia or New Zealand via Hong Kong. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
9 August 2018
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Israel.
# Important consideration: Please note, if you intend to travel to certain countries (see full list at smarttraveller.gov.au), you will require a new passport as entry will be refused to all travellers with any evidence of visiting Israel, even if there are no Israeli entry/exit stamps in your passport.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally-located hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner); wine with welcome and farewell dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Talks by your tour leader, Jane Hutcheon
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Alcoholic beverages with meals other than welcome and farewell dinners
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, room service, minibar etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Tel Aviv – Royal Beach *****
Haifa – Dan Carmel *****
Sea of Galilee – Ramot Resort Hotel ****
Jerusalem –The David Citadel *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.