Day 1 – Monday. Arrival to Tel Aviv, Nazareth
Arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel. Transfer to Nazareth for dinner, orientation and overnight.
Day 2 – Tuesday. Biblical Sites in the North
Greek Orthodox Pilgrimage to the Holy Land will begin with visits to the sites around the “sea” of Galilee. First visit of the day will be to Magdala, to see recently uncovered synagogue from the time of our Lord, then onto Genosar to see “Jesus’ boat”. From here on to Tabgha to pray at the place of the miraculous Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.
After lunch, we will visit the ruins of Capernaum, the very town that the Gospel writer calls “His own city” (Matt 9:1) to see the remains of Peter’s house and the synagogue where He preached. Adjacent to the ruins that are in custody of the Franciscans, there is a beautiful Church of the 12 Apostles that we plan to visit as well. Our last visit of the day will be to Kursi, the place where the Lord healed the Gadarine demoniacs and where the herd of swine rushed into the sea and drowned. Dinner and overnight in Nazareth.
Day 3 – Wednesday. Pilgrimage to the Town of Nazareth and Mt. Tabor
Our second day in Galilee, we will start in the town of Nazareth, where the good news to the World were announced by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and where Christ spent His young years with His Most-Holy Mother and the righteous Joseph. There are two important churches in town that share the glory and importance of the event. One is an Orthodox Church built over a well with a spring where according to local tradition the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary.
Another shrine is the much larger Catholic foundation that is built over the remains of the house of the carpenter Joseph. Just before lunch, we will ascend to Mt. Tabor, the place of the Lord’s glorious and wondrous Transfiguration.
Political situation permitting, we will stop in Burquin, to pray at the church of “ten lepers” constructed adjacent to the site where poor sickly exiled were bound to live, and at Jacob’s well in the city of Nablus, known in the Bible as Shechem and famous as the site of the conversation of our Lord with the Samaritan woman (John 4). For dinner and overnight we will arrive at Bethlehem.
Day 4 – Thursday. Bethlehem
Today we will start our day with a visit to the Basilica of Nativity in Bethlehem, founded on the spot of the birth of our Savior. From here we will proceed to the Shepherd’s Field, to a Greek monastery that is marking traditional spot of the apparition of Angels that brought good news about the Birth of Messiah to simple, but pious shepherds.
Next stop will be deep in the Judean desert to venerate the most prominent fathers and spiritual leaders of Palestinian Monasticism – St. Sabba the Sanctified and Venerable Theodosios the Cenobiarch. The Lavra of St. Sabba is open for males only, so we have to advise our female pilgrims that they will only be able to observe the monastery from a “bird’s eye view” – from an observation deck in an ancient defense tower nearby. After lunch, we will travel to Hebron, to visit Machpelah, or the cave of the Patriarchs. It is impossible to enter the cave itself, but we could visit an imposing structure built by Herod the Great above the spot of the burial of the Patriarchs. For dinner and overnight we will remain in Bethlehem.
Day 5 – Friday. The Holy City and the Gethsemane Garden
Today we will start in Bethany, one of the sites not too far from Jerusalem that Lord loved to visit because His friends Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus lived there. Here we will visit the Tomb of Lazarus and the Russian Ecclesiastical School for Palestinian girls. From here we will proceed to the Monastery of our Lord’s Ascension on Mt. of Olives.
Our Greek Orthodox Pilgrimage to the Holy Land continues by descending Mount of Olives, to the Valley of Kidron following the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem and His Saving Passion. Our first stop will be at the “Tomb of the Prophets” an interesting underground catacomb like structure, known as one of the earliest places for the Christian worship in the Jerusalem area. Just down the road, there is a site known as “Dominus Flevit” or “Lord wept”.
From here the most beautiful panorama of the Holy City unfolds before your eyes and it is here that our Savior wept over the city and its inhabitants that so terrifyingly rejected their salvation. Convent of St. Mary Magdalene – a Russian Imperial foundation that houses the remains of the martyred grand Duchess Elisabeth. Practically adjacent to the site is the Garden of Gethsemane, the beginning point of Christ’s Passions with splendid Basilica of Agony. We will return to Bethlehem for dinner and overnight.
Day 6 – Saturday. Biblical Sites of the Holy City
Today, Greek Orthodox Pilgrimage is heading to the Holy city to visit the sites associated with our Lord’ passion. Our first stop will be at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a large ecclesiastical complex that among other wondrous things, encompasses some of the most important places of the Christendom: the Golgotha, the stone of anointing and the Tomb of the Lord, place of His Glorious Resurrection.
After our visit to the Church of the Resurrection, we will explore other sites associated with Lord’ Passion: the Judgement gate, the Prison, Lithostrotos, and the sheep’s pool or “Bethesda” – site where our Lord healed the paralytic (John 5). Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Jerusalem (in March tour)/Betlehem (in October tour).
Day 7 – Sunday. Divine Liturgy. Dead Sea
Very early in the morning, shortly past midnight, we will arrive to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for midnight office that includes Matins and Divine Liturgy. Service will last till about 3:30am. After the service, we will return to the hotel and will rest till about 9:30am. At that time, we will have breakfast and will continue our visits to the Holy Sites. On our way to Jericho we will stop at the Museum of the “Good Samaritan” built on the spot of the Ottoman inn and the ruins of the Byzantine Monastery. Collection of the museum provides an interesting insight into the history of the Byzantine monks of the Judean desert and the Samaritans.
For lunch, we will stop by the Dead Sea. Those who desire will have an opportunity to float. From there on we will travel to visit the Monastery of St. Gerasimos of Jordan, and the city of Jericho, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the World. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Jerusalem (in March tour)/Betlehem (in October tour).
Day 8 – Monday. Archaeological journey through Jerusalem
Today will be your day at leisure.
For those of you who would like to participate, we are happy to offer an Archaeological journey through Jerusalem that will include visits to the excavations of the City of David, with the dry tunnel, Pool of Siloam, Davidson Archaeological Park that surrounds the Temple mount, Jewish quarter of Jerusalem with the Roman cardo and ancient fortifications of pre-Babylonian Jerusalem, and the National Museum of Israel with an interesting scale model of Jerusalem (as of 1 century AD) and spectacular collection of Antiquities covering all of the Biblical periods. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Jerusalem (in March tour)/Betlehem (in October tour).
Day 9 – Tuesday. Bethany beyond Jordan
This morning after checking out from the hotel, Greek Orthodox Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is heading to cross the border with Jordan.
Our first visit of the day will be to the site that recently was identified as the most probable place of “Bethany beyond Jordan” – the place of our Lord’s baptism, also not far from the hill from where according to tradition St. Prophet Elias ascended to Heaven in a fiery chariot. The area is historically very significant and marked with many Byzantine ruins.
The vicinity of the site is also closely associated with the Venerable Mary of Egypt and her cult is very prominent among local Christians. From Bethany, we will proceed to Mt. Nebo. The law-giver Moses observed the Promised Land from this mountain and this is the closest he ever got to the place where He so much desired to be. For lunch, we will return to Madaba – a little village housing Byzantine Churches with very important mosaics, among them, one depicting the map of the Holy Land. From here we will transfer to the “rose city” of Petra for dinner and overnight.
Day 10 – Wednesday. The “Rose City” of Petra
Petra is the most intriguing Nabatean city carved in rock cliffs. This is a historical monument really “one of its kind anywhere in the world.” We will spend most of the day exploring ancient ruins and temples, fortifications, theater, and other buildings carved into the rock. In the morning, prior to our main visit of the day, we will explore the site of Little Petra, located just some miles away from its more famous neighbor. For dinner and overnight we will remain in Petra.
Day 11 – Thursday. The First Crusader Outpost beyond the Jordan River
This morning we will leave Petra and will be re-tracking our way back to Madaba. Along the way, we will stop to see Shobak Castle which was originally called Krak de Montreal or Mons Regalis, and was the first Crusader outpost beyond the Jordan River.
King Baldwin I of Jerusalem built this mighty castle to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus. It resisted many sieges, but in 1189, it fell to Saladin’s troops. The towers and walls are well preserved and decorated with carved Islamic inscriptions dating back to the 14th century.
From here we will transfer to the deserted Byzantine camp-settlement of Um Rassas, with the remains of an important monastic complex where probably the only surviving column of an ascetic (stylite) still stands. Our last stop of the day will be at Mukawir – site of Herod’s palace, where the sorrowful events of the end days of St. John the Baptist most likely took place. For dinner and overnight we will arrive to Madaba.
Day 12 – Friday. Pompeii of the East
This morning we will travel North to visit the Archaeological Park in Jerash, which is the site of some of the largest and better-preserved ruins of one of the major cities of the historical and Biblical Decapolis. For its state of preservation, this archaeological park has gained the nickname of “Pompeii of the East”. On our way back we will have a drive-through tour of Amman, and will arrive back to Madaba for an early dinner.
Day 13 – Saturday. Departure Homeward
Departure back home.
After breakfast transfer to the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman (Jordan).
2018 Tour Dates:
October 8 – October 20
Land package price:
$ 2,500 USD per person based on double occupancy (based on 26+ participants)
$ 600 USD single supplement (subject to availability)
Land cost includes:
- Accommodation in good Tourist-Class Hotels on half board basis (Buffet Breakfast and Dinner daily)
- Several extra meals (several lunches along the way)
- Deluxe air-conditioned motor coach for the transfers all along the tour, according to the program
- Road and local taxes for the tourist bus
- Tours as per the itinerary above
- Entrance tickets to the museums and donations for the entrance to the churches and monasteries as per itinerary
- Whisper sets (only in Israel)
Price does NOT include:
- Airfare to Tel Aviv and return from Amman (Jordan)
- Personal medical/travel insurance
- Meals other than specified
- Beverages during meals
- Entrance fees other than specified
- Tips for hotel staff, guides and drivers (suggested amount $7 US per person, per day)
- Anything not specifically mentioned in “Price includes”
- The final price may fluctuate due to the actual number of participants or due to significant difference in exchange rate of shekel/Jordanian dinar vs. the US dollar at the time of the final payment.
- An $800.00 US per person deposit is required when you sign up for the trip. The deposit is non-refundable, unless is cancelled by the organizers due to lack of participation or other valid and unforeseen circumstances.
- Although airfare is not included in this program, we are able to suggest economy class round trip airfares. Please note the airfare suggested is subject to change without prior notice and is not guaranteed until such time as the ticket has actually been issued.
- A similar program can be custom tailored for individuals based on sightseeing program by private car.
- We can accommodate pre/post tour arrangements in conjunction with this departure.
- Please note that, the level of accommodations and services may be different from the expectations of similarly rated hotels in Western Europe or North America.
Rules on the road:
- It is strongly suggested for a traveler to obtain insurance covering medical needs and coverage regarding personal property;
- be aware that all medical needs will be sole responsibility of the traveler;
- act in a manner consistent with the surrounding environment;
- make arrangement to have sufficient funds to cover personal needs and unexpected happenings.
- The places that we will be visiting may not have the same amenities that one may be accustomed to. Medical facilities in some areas are limited. Because of the difference in language and customs, it is expected that the traveler will follow the directions of the Tour Director at all times.
- The Director reserves the right to restrict a person’s participation in the group’s activities, including exclusion from the group, when, in the opinion of the Director, such action is appropriate.
Passport and Visa:
- A valid passport is needed to travel to the Middle East. The passport must be issued at least three months prior to the departure and must be valid until your return.
- Canadian and US citizens do not need a visa to travel to Israel.
- A group Visa to Jordan is obtained at the border (free of charge).
- In Israel, you should be careful around any conservative religious quarters of Muslims and Jews alike.
- Petty street crime such as pick pocketing does exist, especially in large cities and in and around “tourist traps”. Don’t keep all your cash in one place, and carry important documents (like your passport) with you in a hidden pocket or secure bag. You don’t want to be in a foreign land without money or travel documents.
- Expensive jewelry and fancy clothes are best left at home.
- Israel and Jordan have very good health systems and drugs are widely available at many pharmacies. Most of the clerks at the pharmacies speak fluent English. However, we still would recommend you to bring whatever medications that you think you may need, and especially prescription drugs – everything in original packages.
- Please check with your doctor if you need any vaccinations when traveling to that part of the world.
- Please bring anti-allergen remedies if you have a history of pollen allergy.
- During the tour make sure to drink lots of liquids (pure water is the best choice) and don’t take your chances with heat and sun.
- In Israel, it is safe to drink tap water, unless noted otherwise. In Jordan and some parts of Israel it is advisable to use only bottle water for drinking and brushing of teeth.
Church and services:
- We are going to visit a lot of churches and cathedrals. While the dress code is generally loose, we want to encourage all to show moderation and respect. People in shorts and open shouldered outfits most likely won’t be allowed in most monasteries and churches.
- The pattern of our days may be changed to fit the services in. Services are open to all who want to attend, but are not mandatory.
- Those Orthodox travelers who would like to receive Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy should attend Confession before the pilgrimage as opportunities to hear your confession during the pilgrimage by clergy members of the group may be limited.
- Many of the stores in Israel and Jordan accept credit cards (mostly Visa or MasterCard, no Discover or American Express). However, if you plan to shop at the markets or at the souvenir stands you will need cash.
- Dollars and Euros are very widely accepted. However, if you feel that you need local currency, the easiest way to obtain it is to use the ATM machine.
- For ATMs use your debit card because you won’t be charged any interest on cash withdrawals. On your credit card purchase or with your debit card cash withdrawal you get the best exchange rate, that of the day.
- It is a good idea to let your bank or credit company (the one that you’ll be using a card) know that you are traveling overseas. Without such a notice, some companies may “freeze” your account in an attempt to prevent foreign card fraud.
- Whenever you shop, especially at the markets and in the Arab stores, make sure to bargain. As a rule, you can reduce the price by about 30-50% and often you can make even a much better deal. Be persistent and pay no attention to emotion – that’s part of the culture and the way of conducting trade business.
- Although you will see a lot of tourists wearing shorts and sleeveless t-shirts, in parts of Israel and Jordan such outfits may be considered offensive. Light, but longer pants and dresses are appreciated and buy more respect.
- Open sandals will be very uncomfortable on the uneven terrain of the Archeological sites and may be considered provocative in a non-tourist settings of the West Bank and parts of Jordan (This recommendation applies to both – men and women).
Be sure to bring:
- An alarm clock;
- alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wet wipes;
- memory cards/film and extra batteries for your camera (at the tourist places they are widely available but significantly more expensive);
- comfortable shoes for a lot of walking (do not start the trip with new shoes).
- Electric outlet adapter is necessary if you plan to use any electric gadgets from the US.
- Hat or a head cover, sun protection lotion and a bottle of water (can be purchased along the way) are absolutely “must have” things on this trip.