Israel and the Palestinian Territories

In July of 2023, I embarked on an incredible nine-day adventure through Israel. My goal was to visit all the holy sites and major cities I talk about in my Global Studies class. Since Israel is quite compact, I decided to use Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as my home bases for day trips. This way, none of the destinations I wanted to see, like Masada, the Dead Sea, Nazareth, Bethlehem, or Jericho, were ever too far away.

Safety was a big concern for me, so I mostly opted for guided tours. Having a local expert by my side not only kept me safe but also ensured I got the most out of each location. And let me tell you, I felt safe throughout my entire trip, even in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories Pages by Map

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Israel Map

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The Dead Sea has always been on my bucket list, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! The moment I touched the water, I knew this was unlike any other swimming experience. The water is insanely salty, so buoyant that you can’t help but effortlessly float on the surface. It literally feels like you’re defying gravity!

Just a heads up, the Dead Sea isn’t exactly refreshing. The air temperature can get scorching hot, and the water itself is more like a giant hot tub. But trust me, that doesn’t make it any less of a must-do experience.

I visited the Dead Sea’s Kalia Beach on a tour. While the tour covered entry costs, those not on a tour should expect to pay $15. The walk to the beach was long, with signs highlighting the shrinking Dead Sea. Forget soft sand – the reality was scorching hot, jagged rocks!

The water itself surprised me – more like a hot tub than refreshing. But the high salt content? Pure floating bliss! Despite the heat, I had a great time at Kalia Beach.

I decided to ditch the bus and explore Tel Aviv by foot, embarking on a walk from the beaches all the way to Jaffa. It was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon! The route stretches for about 3.5 kilometers, and it took me a leisurely hour to complete.

The best part? The entire walk is along sidewalks, so it’s super easy to navigate. Plus, the scenery along the way is amazing. I passed through Sir Charles Clore Park, a sprawling green space with tons of room to relax. There were even picnic areas and workout facilities if you’re feeling energetic. But the real highlight for me were the beaches! Tel Aviv is famous for its beautiful coastline, and this walk offered stunning views of the beach the whole way.

My trip to Tel Aviv included a fantastic walking discovery! I found it surprisingly easy to walk the 3.5 kilometers from the Tel Aviv Beaches all the way to Jaffa’s Old Port. This delightful one-hour stroll hugged the Mediterranean coastline, offering stunning beach views.

The walk started with Tel Aviv’s vibrant beaches before leading me through Sir Charles Clore Park. Reaching Jaffa, I explored the iconic landmarks like the Mahmoudiya Mosque and the Clock Tower. The charming narrow streets of Old Jaffa captivated me, leading me to the Old Port and St. Peter’s Church. The weather was perfect, so instead of a taxi, I retraced my steps back to the hotel near Tel Aviv Beaches, enjoying the beautiful scenery all over again.

I visited Capernaum, also known as the “town of Jesus”! It was pretty amazing to walk the same grounds where Jesus walked and performed miracles. The archaeological site is fascinating – you can see the ruins of a synagogue where Jesus likely taught.

It’s incredible to imagine what this place would have been like in biblical times. There’s an octagonal church built by the Byzantines over the house of St. Peter, which was another interesting stop.

Overall, visiting Capernaum was a humbling experience that deepened my appreciation for the history and religion of the region.

My trip to Israel included a visit to Yardenit, a baptism site on the Jordan River. This site is not the location where John the Baptist baptized Jesus but a location on the Jordan River where visitors can be baptized.

Our guide provided insightful details about the site’s history, and afterward, we had time to wander around. There’s a designated area for baptisms, and the shallow parts of the river were perfect for wading in and cooling off.

While the presence of a gift shop and an entrance fee leaned a bit commercial, the natural beauty of the Jordan River itself can’t be denied.

My tour of Nazareth included a stop at Yardenit, a baptism site on the Jordan River. It’s important to note that while significant, this isn’t the location where Jesus was baptized according to tradition (that site is further south near Jericho).

Despite the historical debate, Yardenit offers visitors a chance to connect with the Jordan River. Multiple access points allow you to touch the water, and for those seeking a baptism experience, white gowns are available for rent or purchase.

During my visit to Israel, I took a day tour to Masada, an ancient fortress perched on a mountaintop. To get to Masada, I chose to take a guided tour.

There are two ways to reach the top of Masada: a cable car or a winding footpath. I opted for the cable car (my legs thanked me later!), and the views from the top were absolutely incredible. You can see the Dead Sea stretching out forever below and the mountains that surround the area.

Masada itself is a fascinating place to wander around. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is steeped in history. The ruins of Herod’s palaces, bathhouses, and synagogues were all really interesting to see, and it was easy to imagine what this place must have been like in its prime.

If you’re looking for a memorable experience in Israel and are interested in history, a day trip to Masada is a must-do!

The scorching July heat in Israel didn’t stop me from exploring the historic Jewish fortress of Masada. This ancient stone marvel sits high above the Dead Sea and boasts a fascinating past.

Built by King Herod the Great, Masada served as one of his palaces. But its most significant role came during the First Jewish-Roman War. Facing a Roman siege in 74 AD, a group of Jewish rebels chose a defiant end over capture. The story of the 960 Sicari rebels and their mass suicide is a powerful one.

Today, Masada stands as a symbol of Jewish resilience. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place where Israeli soldiers take their oath of service. The powerful motto “Masada Shall Not Fall Again!” echoes the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.

Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was a must-see on my Israeli adventure. After escaping a traffic jam on the way, there I was, walking the very paths Jesus himself might have walked a boy.

A highlight was the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Christians believe the Angel Gabriel visited Mary. The grotto beneath the basilica marks the exact location where this event took place.

Just steps away from the Basilica of the Annunciation is the Church of St. Joseph, believed to be Jesus’ childhood home. Another historic landmark brimming with religious significance. Exploring Nazareth was a truly enriching experience, deepening my understanding of the region’s rich history and faith.

My trip to Israel included a fascinating tour of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. For a little over $100, the tour is packed with all the important sights.

We started with the Basilica of the Annunciation, a beautiful church built right above the Grotto of the Annunciation. This location is supposedly the very spot where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would have Jesus.

Right next door was the Church of St. Joseph. This church sits on top of the Grotto of St. Joseph, traditionally considered the home of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The tour guide even pointed out the spot where Joseph’s workshop might have been!

Nazareth was a great starting point, and the tour continued to other biblical locations like the Church of the Multiplication and Capernaum. It was a fantastic way to explore the history and religion of the region.


In a whirlwind day trip, I visited Jerusalem’s holy sites, a place that holds deep significance for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I saw the Dome of the Rock, Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Tower of David. While it’s possible to navigate on my own, I would recommend hiring a guide to get the most out of the experience. The Old City of Jersualem can get crowded, so be prepared for long wait times and be sure to dress modestly when visiting the religious sites.

During my trip to Israel, I visited Jerusalem’s holy sites into a single day! With limited time, I booked a guided tour to make the most of it. Our guide started us off with a breathtaking view of the Old City from Mt. Scopus. After soaking it in, we hopped on a bus to the Jaffa Gate and entered the Old City. We walked by the Tower of David and through the Jewish Quarter, eventually reaching the Western Wall. It was a powerful moment to leave a prayer there.

The tour continued through the Muslim Quarter, where we paused at some Stations of the Cross. Finally, we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. After this, we looped back to the Jaffa Gate with some free time before heading to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.

Even if you don’t hire a guide, this itinerary lets you hit the main sights yourself. Entrance is free, and you can explore at your own pace!

Palestinian Territories

Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, had been on my bucket list for ages. While I found conflicting information about safety online before my trip, I ultimately decided to go for it, and I’m so glad I did! The Palestinian people were incredibly welcoming throughout my visit.

One of the best things I did was book a tour with a local guide. Their knowledge of the area truly made the experience much more special. We visited the Shepherd’s Fields, where according to tradition, shepherds were told of Jesus’ birth by angels. We also explored the Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest churches in the world, built on the very spot where Jesus is believed to have been born. It was an incredible experience!

In the heart of the Holy Land, I embarked on a tour to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Located in the West Bank, we started the journey from Jerusalem. My exploration focused on three key sites: the Shepherds’ Fields, the Church of the Nativity, and the Milk Grotto Church.

The Shepherds’ Fields held a special significance, marking the spot where angels announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds. Next, we ventured to the Church of the Nativity, the revered site of Jesus’ birth. Here, entering through the humble “Door of Humility” added a symbolic touch to the experience. Our final stop was the Milk Grotto Church, where Christian tradition tells the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus seeking refuge, with a drop of Mary’s milk turning the floor white. It was a truly enriching journey through history and faith.

Standing on the very banks of the Jordan River, I felt a sense of awe wash over me. This was the place where Jesus Christ himself is believed to have been baptized, marking the beginning of his ministry. The Baptism Site, located in the West Bank near the Israeli border, held a powerful energy.

While the specifics of the location are debated, there’s no doubt about the historical and religious significance of this spot. It was a truly unforgettable experience.

Following the biblical clue in John 1:28, “Bethany beyond the Jordan,” archaeologists pinpointed the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ near the eastern border of Jericho by the Jordan River. 

This sacred spot, now in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, welcomes visitors (except Israeli citizens due to Israeli law) for a truly immersive experience. The journey from Jerusalem takes just over an hour, culminating in the chance to wade in the very waters where Jesus is believed to have been baptized.

Jericho’s ancient history unfolded before me on a whirlwind day trip. First, I stood beneath the shade of the famed sycamore tree, a potential descendant of the one Zacchaeus climbed for a glimpse of Jesus (according to tradition). Next, I ascended Mount of Temptation via cable car (or perhaps climbed the path like Jesus himself during his 40-day fast), taking in the breathtaking panorama of the Judean Desert below.

Wandering the labyrinthine alleyways of the Old City, I soaked in the vibrant atmosphere and remnants of past civilizations. A refreshing stop at a Elisha Spring Fountain provided a welcome respite from the desert heat, a chance to mingle with friendly locals and sample some Jericho dates, a local delicacy. It was a day rich in history, culture, and natural beauty.