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Where to Spend a Couple of Days in Israel before our Tour Begins

We are taking a tour of Israel with a church group in April 2020. We'd like to get there two or three days before the tour starts to get acclimated to the time change. I would very much appreciate any recommendations on where to stay -- city or town and possibly hotel/B&B.

We will meet the tour group in Tel Aviv and go immediately to Nazareth. During the tour we will travel to most of the popular biblical sites. Before the tour we'd like to stay someplace where we can walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. It should be easy to get back to Tel Aviv or in Tel Aviv. We generally prefer small towns to big cities, but we also enjoy smaller, historic neighborhoods in large cities. We prefer small hotels and B&Bs to large business hotels.

We enjoy history, scenery, charming towns, walking/hiking, and relaxing meals. We enjoy trying local foods, but we are not foodies and don't spend a lot on foo). We have no interest in nightlife at all. I don't care about doing lots of sightseeing before the tour starts; we just want to settle in. Thank you.

Posted by
14449 posts

April is tricky because of holidays. What date exactly does your tour begin. How much time do you spend in Jerusalem?

Tel Aviv is a lot of things, but charming isn't one of them, and the atmosphere is mostly "big city" except for the beach. On the other hand Jerusalem has tons of things to see and do. It's nearly as close to the airport as Tel Aviv and will take you about 1.5 hours to get to T-A to meet your tour. If the first night of the tour is in Nazareth, you could probably meet your group at the airport - even easier from J'm than going all the way to T-A.

Posted by
5007 posts

Some obvious places to visit prior to Israel are Egypt, Istanbul and Athens, Greece.

However, you appear to want to go to Israel and have a couple of days prior to the tour. We don't know where your tour goes, other than Nazareth. I would presume you will go to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Consider going north to Haifa, Caesarea, or Megiddo.

Posted by
2154 posts

Thanks for replying, Chani. Our tour is from April 14-30. We will just be in Jerusalem for two days. It sounds like Tel Aviv is not what we are looking for, which is what I suspected. Perhaps if we stayed in Jerusalem we could see some of the sights we will miss on the tour. Is there an area of the city that you would recommend? We would prefer to stay in a relatively quiet area, if that is possible. We are fine with walking long distances, as long as it's a safe area.

Posted by
2154 posts

Thanks, Geo. I was thinking about staying in Israel, but looking outside the country is a good idea too. I would consider Greece for sure. I'm guessing it would be easier and more relaxing to stay in Israel, though, so that is probably what I will do. We are going to Caesarea and Megiddo on the tour, but not Haifa, so I will look into that. Thanks for the suggestions.

Posted by
144 posts

We've been to Israel twice. The first time on a tour led by NFTY (the Reform Jewish youth movement) for parents and the 2nd time on our own. While we loved our visits to Israel it is a complex place and I only feel comfortable touring on our in Tel Aviv and via train to Hafia. Note that on Shabbat which is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown almost everything is closed in Jerusalem. If it were me I would stay near the water in Tel Aviv and visit Jaffa and maybe take the train to Hafia if that isn't on your tour. Tel Aviv is a very walkable city. A couple of times a week there is a very nice art market. We went on very good food tours in both Tel Aviv and Haifa which is what we tend to do to get an introduction to a new place.

Posted by
14449 posts

As I suspected might be the case, your timing is really really bad. Passover begins on April 9 (and lasts a week), on Good Friday for Catholics. Sunday, April 12 is Palm Sunday for Orthodox Christians (the majority of Christians in Jerusalem) and Easter Sunday for Catholics. With all three religions celebrating important holidays (in Europe and the Middle East, Holy Week is a much bigger holiday than Christmas), there will be huge crowds in Jerusalem that weekend, especially in the Old City. If you could get a room in Jerusalem at this late date, you would surely be paying premium rates. OTOH, if you can manage to stay a couple days after the tour, I'm sure you'd find much to see and do in Jerusalem.

Schools are closed for the week of Passover, from the 8th, as are many factories and offices. With nearly half the country on vacation, most public places and tourist sights will be pretty crowded and traffic is likely to be slow both in the cities and on the highways.

Given all that, I have to say that you are probably better off spending a couple days in a nearby country. My two recommendations would be Athens or Istanbul. Both have a lot to offer, are in the same time zone as Israel, and are short flights away (Athens, 2 hours, Istanbul less). Look into flying Turkish Air to Israel as a multi-stop itinerary - USA-IST, IST-TLV, TLV-USA (you'll change planes in IST but the flight booking will be TLV-USA). When I've booked that way, the price was the same whether I stayed in Istanbul for a few nights or just changed planes. Turkish is a very good airline - I find it's a little more roomy than other airlines for the longhaul flight, the entertainment system is very good and the service is too. Prices are generally less than other airlines.

Posted by
2154 posts

Thanks, Carol and Chani. Based on this latest information, I will definitely consider staying in Tel Aviv and possible travel to Haifa. I'm also going to look into stopping in Athens or Istanbul if I can do it economically and if I can talk my husband into it. The last being a big IF.

I really appreciate the information on Passover, Chani. I had not thought of that, and it's obviously a big issue. I don't plan to leave here until the Monday or Tuesday after Easter, so I don't have a lot of time before the tour. Unfortunately, we can't hang around after the tour because my husband is running a half marathon on May 3.

Thanks again!

Posted by
14449 posts

I don't plan to leave here until the Monday or Tuesday after Easter, so I don't have a lot of time before the tour.

Hunh? Your tour starts 2 days after Easter according to what you wrote - April 14. If you want 2 nights abroad before the tour, that would be April 12-13. April 12 is Easter Sunday.

Posted by
2154 posts

I’m sorry, Chani. That was a typo. The tour doesn’t start until April 17.

Posted by
14449 posts

In that case, Israel is not such a bad idea. The 15th is the final day of Passover, though schools will be closed on the 16th and probably the 17th as well. You may find reasonable accommodations in Jerusalem for that weekend, even though it is Orthodox Easter. It is interesting to be in the Old City that weekend for the special ceremonies that the Christians observe. Haifa is nice, but if you want to stay in that area, consider Akko (Acre) instead. There is a lot more to see and its especially nice along the Mediterranean shore. You can day trip to Haifa by train and visit Rosh Hanikra as well.

Posted by
26384 posts

The Bahá'í Gardens in Haifa don't close until the Ridvan Festival which in 2020 starts on the 20th of April. Same at the Bahá'í Gardens at Bahji in Acco/Acre.

When visiting please remember the modest clothing restrictions.

Posted by
2154 posts

Thanks again Chani, and thanks, Nigel. After the holidays, I will do some research and take all this feedback into account. It's been very helpful.

Posted by
169 posts

Last summer before our group tour in Israel we spent 2 days in Madrid then flew to Tel Aviv where had an extra day before meeting our group at the airport. The "rest" was good in Tel Aviv. We took a taxi to the Carmel Market then on to Jaffa for lunch and walking around Jaffa. We ate at The Old Man and the Sea. Very good day. Actually walked along the sea back to the hotel, Hilton (points) but lots of other choices. We felt it helped us to adjust to the culture before we started our tour which proved strenuous in June(hot) to us. Tour travel agent arranged transportation back to the airport to meet group. Probably would leave off Madrid but agree with getting to Tel Aviv early. Have fun

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2154 posts

We get points from Hilton too, so that would work for us. Thanks for the suggestion, Richard!