We’re just back from a wonderful week exploring the religious sites of Israel & Palestine. We visited many, many churches and places of religious importance, and ate some delicious middle eastern food! Have a scroll through the photos below to see what we got up to in Israel & Palestine!
Lets kick things off with a sunrise over Nazareth, of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ fame, and our base for the first three nights.
The first stop on our tour was at the Mount of Precipitation, where the people of Nazareth allegedly tried to push Jesus off the cliff side.
The Mount of Precipitation also offers amazing views over the city of Nazareth. The Annunciation Church can also be seen from here… it’s the large building with the grey dome to the centre and slightly left.
Our next stop was atop Mount Tabor, and the beautiful Church of Transfiguration. Mount Tabor is the mound-shaped ‘mountain’ to the left of the image, 2 pictures up.
After a typical Israeli lunch of hummus, salads, and falafel, we stopped at another viewpoint before heading back into Nazareth itself.
Once back in Nazareth we visited the Annunciation Church, where it is believed the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced she would bear the Son of God, and the Church of St. Joseph, pictured above.
Another day, another sunrise over Nazareth. And yes, there were a number of early starts on this tour!
One of the loveliest moments of the trip; taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was incredibly peaceful, the perfect place for a reflection of what we had seen on the trip so far.
As you can see the water is incredibly calm, because the Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, rather than a sea.
Today we checked-out of our hotel in Nazareth and journeyed to the city of Haifa to visit the stunning and impeccably well-kept Bahai Gardens.
Obligatory group photo!
Wonderful views over the city and port of Haifa, and looking out on to the Mediterranean Sea.
Our next stop was at the coastal archaeological site of Caesarea, which was built by King Herod and named after the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. The city was invaded and ruled by many after Herod’s death, including the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Crusaders and the Ottoman Empire, before bad weather and earthquakes destroyed the city for good in the early 1900’s.
Our next stop was in Jaffa, the oldest area of Tel Aviv. It was an area I wished we had more time in because it was really beautiful…
And where I consumed the best falafel and hummus pitta of the whole trip. To. Die. For.
After waking up for the first time at our new hotel in Bethlehem, we made our way to the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, where the Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, mother of Saint John the Baptist.
Many people choose to light candles in the churches as an accompaniment to their prayers.
In the afternoon, we entered the walled city of Jerusalem.
Where birds hide in crevices in the walls…
And locals sell their goods on street carts.
It was different to anywhere else we had visited; you really felt the local vibe of the people who live in Jerusalem.
Views through alleyways towards the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine in the city.
In fact, the whole city is a maze of arches and alleyways, with street food and locally produced merchandise being sold around every corner.
For lunch, our guide showed us the way to a rooftop restaurant selling the usual offering of chicken shawarma or falafel pittas, and fantastic views over the city.
After a well-deserved break and a couple more photos from the rooftop it was time to make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
They run a pretty tight ship inside this church – everything is done in a very orderly fashion, but it really was stunning. We had to queue for around 35-minutes to enter the empty tomb of Jesus, but it was worth it. No photos allowed inside the tomb I’m afraid, but here is a photo of the inside of the church dome.
The next morning, on our way back into Israel from Palestine, we stopped at ‘the wall’ to take some photos.
This section of the wall is right next to the ‘Walled Off Hotel’, which was designed by English artist Banksy. His work can also be found in other places in Palestine.
Having spent most of our time inside the city walls on the previous day, today we got to view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, home to the Chapel of Ascension and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.
Really amazing views over Jerusalem. Do not miss a trip up the Mount of Olives.
Atop the Mount of Olives, amongst other things, is this huge Jewish cemetery which houses the tombs of hundreds of thousands of Jews, including some famous figures in Jewish history.
According to Jewish tradition, it is from the Mount of Olives that the resurrection of the dead would begin, and hence it seems like a pretty good place to have a cemetery, am I right?
At the bottom of the Mount of Olives stands the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, which is reached by following the stairs down into the crypt. Hanging from the ceiling are hundreds of colourful lanterns.
Our next stop was at the Wailing (or Western) Wall, where thousands of people come everyday to pray. It is considered the holiest place for Jews to pray, and you’ll see many young Jewish boys with their families celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs.
After an hour or so at the rather crowded Wailing Wall, it was back to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born, followed by a well-deserved local beer whilst overlooking the city.
Jerusalem is just 8km from Bethlehem, but the 8m high wall between Israel and Palestine now separates these two important cities.
The sun was beginning to set on our time in Bethlehem, with just one day of sightseeing left ahead of us.
The next morning we began our journey to the Dead Sea, stopping on the way at this point; Sea Level.
The Dead Sea is located 400m below sea level, and is the lowest point on earth. Pretty amazing hey?!
…possibly one of my favourite photos from the trip? It’s a camel, for those not sure.
The last stop on our tour was at Jericho, which is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
As we travelled back into Bethlehem, we were met by hoards of cars with windows down and Palestinian flags flying, celebrating the release of a Palestinian prisoner of war. I think quite aptly driving past this piece of street art by English artist, Banksy.