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Last Minute Trip to Israel


We are looking for advice on a last-minute trip to Israel. We are a couple in our mid 30s, not terribly religious, but interested in Jewish history, art, day hikes, museums, wandering, running (any advice for good 10-15km runs welcome), good food. We have both been to Israel before, but it has been over 10 years.

I have sketched out the following itinerary based on my own research and are looking for advice and feedback before making any reservations. The only reservation we have is for the flight.

We are leaving on a Friday after a long week. So the first day would be great to have as a day or relaxation and rest with some wandering in Tel Aviv (we are open to other ideas).

Arrive TLV from JFK 12/17 @5pm
Depart TLV for JFK 12/31 @12:45am (so need to be to airport night of 12/30)

12/17 Relax in Tel Aviv
12/18 Relax in Tel Aviv
12/19 Jerusalem
12/20 Jerusalem
12/21 Jerusalem
12/22 get rental car AM, drive to Dead Sea, stay in Ein Bokek
12/23 Hike Snake Path up Masada, spend night in Jerusalem
12/24 Jericho to Galilee
12/25 Galilee,night in Tiberias
12/26 Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Bahia’s, wineries, night in Hula Valey
12/27 Tzfat, horseback riding Bat Ya’ar, night in Hula Valley
12/28 Rosh Hanikra, Akko, night in Haifa
12/29 Haifa, Baha’i shrine, Zichron Ya’akov, return rental car, night in Tel aviv
12/30 Last day, head to airport in PM
12/31 flight back to JFK

Thanks for your help!!!

Posted by
290 posts

I visited Israel in 2013 and loved it. Here are a couple ideas:

  1. You begin your trip in Tel Aviv. One thought is to end your visit in Tel Aviv instead. It would be your vacation from your vacation. The beaches and beach-front eateries are great for relaxing, drinking and eating.

Whether you start or end in Tel Aviv, I did a couple fun things in Tel Aviv. The Diaspora Museum on the campus of the University of Tel Aviv is worth seeing. The Carmel market in central Tel Aviv is also worth a visit.

Of course, it's fun to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. The water is bath warm -- quite a shock for someone like me used to to the ice cold of Lake Michigan.

Also, the Tel Aviv restaurant scene is pretty good with plenty of options in a walkable city.

  1. Jerusalem. It's one of the most fascinating cities I have visited, and I've been to 23 countries. Maybe you know most of this, but the Western Wall is a must see. Wandering the Old City for a day is worth it. Be ready to haggle with the merchants in the markets if you intend to buy something. Try to visit each of the four areas: the Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Muslim quarters.

Yad Vashem is a must-see site. It's explanations of the Holocaust are incredibly well done. The Hall of Names is very moving.

It was very moving to see Oskar Schindler's grave in the Latin Cemetery.

The Israel Museum is excellent. It has a superb exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are other great exhibits.

  1. While in the Dead Sea area, you should swim in the sea. The Dead Sea is composed of 50% salt, and it supports everyone. It was the most fascinating thing for me to be completely supported by water. The town of Ein Gedi has a resort where you can use the beach, get a mud bath, get a massage, swim in a pool and have a meal.

You like day hikes: The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is excellent for hiking.

Maybe spend an extra night in the Dead Sea area?

It's excellent you will visit the Masada. You plan to hike the snake path. I strongly recommend that you get there early in the morning. The heat is overwhelming as early as 9 a.m.

  1. You'll be in Galilee and you like hiking. There is a trail called the Jesus Trail: Don't take the name too seriously. The trail was founded by two hiking enthusiasts, a Jewish Israeli entrepreneur and a Christian American hiking specialist. It's some 60 miles. It goes by great historical sites. Every synagogue, church and mosque is listed.


Posted by
1161 posts

After you hike up to Masada, I question why you would drive back to Jerusalem rather than spending another night near the Dead Sea. Jerusalem driving is crazy; seems like you are retracing your steps. From the Dead Sea, it's a much easier drive up highway 90 to Jericho than from Jerusalem. Also: have you looked at staying at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz hotel? Beautiful site, wonderful desert botanical gardens surrounding it. Whether you stay there or elsewhere in Ein Bokek, I strongly recommend hiking up the Ein Gedi nature preserve while you are in the Dead Sea area. There are wonderful trails and waterfalls along a lush valley cut through the desert by a stream originating from springs in the mountains above. Magical! Also: I haven't hiked the snake path up to Masada but all three of my kids did so when they were teens. They all started before sunlight and were all told to take at least 2 liters of water. You may not need so much but the guides were super cautious with the teens. You can refill your water bottles at the top.

Posted by
30253 posts

I've noticed that you are arriving on Shabbat. Are you aware of the changes when it is Shabbat?

Posted by
961 posts

December 30 and 31- your departure date-also are during Shabbat. You may need to pre-book a taxi for the airport as public transit is curtailed from sundown on Fridays through sundown on Saturdays.

Posted by
42 posts

During your stay in Jerusalem, you might also consider visiting Bethlehem (I’d suggest hiring a guide once you get there), seeing the Chagall stained glass windows, and visiting the Temple Mount (I believe you need reservations).