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Middle East: Fall or late winter?

I am currently booked on a tour (with Overseas Adventure Travel) that includes a total of 24 days, including five days in Jordan (Amman and Petra), 14 in Israel (Haifa, a kibbutz near the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv) and 5 in Palestine (Jericho and Bethlehem). The tour starts October 20. I was originally booked for last year, and this is my rescheduled itinerary.

I am now thinking of postponing again until February or March, mainly over concerns that some of the destinations will not be ready for tourism this fall. Israel itself seems to be a model of vaccination rollout, but I'm not sure about the rest of the trip.

I have several options:

  1. The exact same itinerary starting in mid-January
  2. A late-January departure that doesn't include the 5 days in Palestine at the end (but does include a day-trip to Bethlehem from Jerusalem)
  3. A March departure that replaces the 5 days in Jordan with 8 days in Ethiopia and replaces the 5 days in Palestine with 5 days in southern Israel (Eilat, and other locations along the Egyptian border). If I do this, I might try adding some days in Jordan on my own at the end, as I'm very interested in seeing Petra.

Of course, the fourth option is to stick with my currently booked trip and hope for the best regarding travel conditions in that region.

Any thoughts? I don't need advice about travel in the waning days of the pandemic; none of us really know what the world will be like this fall or next spring. I'm just interested in the timing (weather and such) and the pluses or minuses of each itinerary. Ethiopia was never on my travel radar, but the description sounds fascinating and very enticing. How easy would it be to visit Petra on my own?

Thanks!

Posted by
3559 posts

When is Ramadan? That will have some impact on activities.

Posted by
1376 posts

Maria F, Ramadan is in April. Shouldn't affect any of the potential itineraries.

Posted by
3559 posts

I was due to be in the Jordan port last April and had arranged with a taxi/drivers to pick me up from the ship, take me to Petra, and we would arrange a pick up time. Easy peasy. TripAdvisor will give you the names of some drivers or I can send the details that were recommended to me. Of course, that didn't happen, but I've have rebooked for Nov 2021, so 'maybe'. They say staying over night to see the night show is worth the effort. There are numerous hotels right there.
Wadi Rum is supposed to be 'magical', particularly for overnight tent visits; so may be worth trying to consider as well.

If the trip finishes in Eilat, though a bit of a hassle, you can get from Eilat to Aqaba Jordan. In fact, I am sure there are some discussions here on how to do that.
Chani may chime in, but it seems that Israel and Jordan are doable on one's own. Ethiopia may be more difficult; so here is an opportunity to see it.

Posted by
4338 posts

The few people that I know that have been to Ethiopia say it’s a great, beautiful country to visit, albeit if you get into rural parts, the accommodation is very “rustic”. I would take this option any day over your other options which are mainstream and easy to cover elsewhere.

Posted by
1376 posts

Thanks to all for your replies.

I have postponed my trip to February/March, starting with 8 nights in Ethiopia and ending in southern Israel. And I discovered that there are several companies doing day trips from Eilat to Petra, so I will plan on adding that at the end of my tour.

I actually feel relieved. I've been anxious about heading over there in October/November, unsure of what to expect. I think there's a much better chance of things returning to some semblance of normal a year from now. At least I hope that will be the case.

Posted by
14210 posts

Maybe it's too late, but here are my thoughts.

  1. mid-January is a bit early because of the likelihood of cold weather and the shorter days. I don't know that there's all that much of interest for 5 days in Palestine. The most interesting places are Bethlehem and Jericho. Bethlehem is easily visited independently from Jerusalem, with or without a guide. Jericho is farther but also accessible by public bus or with a private guide (easier to get to the "best" sight there - Hisham's Palace - with a guide).
  2. not too bad. The weather is simply unpredictable at this time of year. I spent 4 days in the Galilee and Golan Heights last week (hotels just reopened for vaccinated guests), weather was mostly good, just a little rain, lots of sun, not cold, but a couple weeks earlier there was a lot of snow and really cold weather there and in Jerusalem. February/March is spring here - there were lots of wildflowers. Tomorrow's going to be over 80F nd full sun but 2 days later it'll be rainy and 50s. Two years ago I was in Jordan for 5 days at the end of February and the weather was glorious - warm and sunny and tons of wildflowers. I would encourage you to take a tour that includes Jordan. Petra is very interesting but Jerash in the jewel of Jordan and there's more besides that. You must have a guide for Wadi Rum (you need a jeep and someone who knows the desert - there's not much in the way of roads) and you won't want to miss it. You don't need a guide for Petra. You can get a taxi (or probably a bus) at the Eilat/Aqaba border crossing and stay in a hotel in Petra and walk to the sight. If the border's open, it's likely that the Israeli tour operators will have tours going again that include a guided tour of Wadi Rum. Keep an eye on Desert Eco Tours. I used them a number of years ago and I've heard good things about them ever since.
  3. I haven't been the Ethiopia but I'm sure it's very interesting. What are the details of 5 days "Eilat, and other locations along the Egyptian border" - I can't think of 5 days worth of stuff there when the water's too cold for bathing - and it will be icy cold in March/April.

On the whole March weather is warmer and drier than February. One caveat - no one knows what the border crossings will be like - including to Bethlehem, the Sinai (Egypt) and Jordan.

Posted by
1376 posts

Chani, thank you so much for your detailed reply!

We won't actually be staying in Eilat. We'll fly to Eilat from TLV and have half a day there before heading to Neot Semadar kibbutz, where we spend two nights. On the second day we visit Timna Park. On day three we go to Mitzpe Ramon, with a stop on the way at Sde Boker. We stay three nights in Mitzpe Ramon. On day four we visit Makhtesh Ramon, and on day five we visit Erez.

I've discovered several tour companies that offer one-day trips from Eilat to Petra, but I'd love to go on my own if that's easy. Do you recommend staying overnight there? And would a tour of Wadi Rum go from Petra or from Eilat? It would be easier, I think, to get a hotel in Eilat at the end of the tour and do daytrips, rather than bringing my luggage with me. I assume the best way to get home at the end of this is to fly from Eilat back to TLV.

Would you mind if I send you a private message with more questions as the time gets closer?