Explore Egypt, Jordan & Israel
21 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Cairo
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 4pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early in Cairo, perhaps travel along the river by felucca (a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails) or head out to explore the markets. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, the Christian Coptic sector is well worth a visit.
Day 2 Cairo
This morning a private van will transport you to Giza, the home of some of the world’s most iconic sights. Approach the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx by camel, with panoramic views across the dunes. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is amazing. Explore these structures that have stood tall for 4,500 years, and for an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, (although occasionally it may be closed to visitors). The inside thoroughfares of the Pyramids are very small and very warm, so for those suffering from claustrophobia it is not recommended. Please note that you'll be required to walk around the Pyramids complex. It can be very hot in the summer months, so be prepared for little shade and pack appropriate clothing, sun protection, and carry lots of water. Afterwards, make your way to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the museum, and make sure to check out the Mummies Hall (optional) for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. Later in the evening, meet your leader and travel to Giza station, where you will board a sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours). Bedding and air-conditioning are provided.
Notes: Western-style toilets are located in each carriage, but we recommend bringing additional toilet paper. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. An included dinner and breakfast are served on board. You may want to purchase something extra beforehand to supplement your meal, particularly if you're a vegetarian as only a single type of meal is served for dinner, which always includes meat. In rare circumstances you may be paired in your cabin with a group member of the opposite sex, depending on the group configuration. On other occasions, you might be sharing with another traveller of the same sex who may not be part of our group, again determined by the group configuration.
Day 3 Aswan – Nile Felucca
The Nile, Elephantine Island and white-sailed feluccas: welcome to Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city. Its easy-going charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Today is a free day so take the opportunity to see such Aswan sites as the unfinished obelisk or the High Dam. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is top of many visitors’ lists. Highly recommended is the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. The evening sound and light show at Philae Temple is a beautiful experience – well worth the 100 Egyptian pounds. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan's 'corniche', runs alongside one of Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. This evening you’ll experience modern Nubian culture first-hand with a visit to a nearby village. You’ll join a local Nubian family for dinner and get an unforgettable insight into the daily life of the local people. This is a rare and memorable experience, giving you the chance to become fully immersed in the local culture.
Day 4 Aswan
Today perhaps head out of Aswan and visit stunning Abu Simbel this morning. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, carved directly out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Please note this optional activity has a very early start (but it’s totally worth it). You can get there by a 40-minute flight, or by the cheaper option of renting a minivan with a group and leaving very early (flights do not operate daily). The journey by land is 3 hours each way, with an early departure from Aswan between 5am and 6am. Otherwise, you could take a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively, take a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply relax and take in the beauty of the Nile, or do some shopping in the friendly bazaar.
Notes: Flights can be booked online through EgyptAir: http://www.egyptair.com/English Return flights vary throughout the season, depending on the day of the week you fly and how far in advance you book, but expect to pay between US$250-300. Due to the southerly location, it's recommended to book the early flight and visit Abu Simbel at sunrise to avoid the heat.
Day 5 Nile Felucca
Board a felucca and spend a day out on the river, watching rural Egyptian daily life play out on the banks, then spend a night under the stars. Your Nubian sailing crew provides all the meals, which are hearty and delicious. Being a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails, your felucca offers some shade and protection from the elements. However, there is no cabin or enclosed section. Nonetheless, watching the sun setting across the Nile in the evening is a sight you won't forget. This is the absolute highlight of the trip for many.
Notes: Conditions will be basic during your felucca trip. If you are prepared for this, you’re sure to have a memorable adventure. You'll sleep outside on the deck of the felucca on a mattress. While blankets are provided, a sleeping sheet or sleeping bag is recommended. During the colder months (October to March) temperatures can get as low as 5°C at night. Slight alterations may have to be made to the Nile itinerary throughout the year, depending on winds and currents. As the felucca is a sailing craft without any outboard engine, if there's no wind we won't travel very far. Our Felucca does have a shared bathroom facilitiy onboard.
Day 6 Luxor
After farewelling your felucca crew, take a private van to the open air museum of Luxor (approximately 3.5 hours). From the spectacular temple complex of Karnak to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is full of wonderfully preserved reminders of the Pharaohs. On the way, there's the option to visit either the unique mirror-image design of the Temple of Kom Ombo, or the beautifully preserved Temple of Edfu, also dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god. Today you’ll visit the Intrepid Foundation's local project ACE (Animal Care in Egypt). It’s a great chance to see the holistic approach the project takes towards animal welfare, and to raising awareness among the locals. You’ll also explore the magnificent Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient Pharoahs' monumental works. One of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, Karnak is a house of the gods built over a period of some 200 years. Your guided tour of this vast temple of impressive pylons, obelisks and chapels will reveal its finest sections, such as the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Great Temple of Amun. The rest of the day will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Day 7 Luxor
Today you’ll hop in a private minivan and discover some the many wonders of ancient Thebes. Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon, two 17 metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank. Carved from granite blocks, they represent the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and were once part of an impressive colonnade. Hop onto donkeys (in the winter months of October to May only) for a ride of a different kind, through local villages and fields of sugar cane (approximately 30 minutes). Continue on to the spectacular royal burial site of the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 richly decorated tombs of pharaohs. With your leader, explore this sprawling and spectacular place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made. Your group leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, their funerary rites, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics.
Join a local family for lunch to try some tasty traditional home cooking.
The rest of your afternoon is free to explore. The Luxor Museum is a great place to visit in your free time. Alternatively, hire a bicycle and venture into the countryside. For a more upscale experience, check out the Winter Palace, a lovely five-star historical building with wonderful views over the Nile – a great place for a refreshing cocktail. Catch an overnight sleeper train from Luxor to Cairo (approximately 10 hours).
Day 8 Amman
Today you will farewell Egypt and take a short flight to Jordan. This flight is currently scheduled for the afternoon to allow for delays from the overnight train.
On arrival you will be met and transferred to your Amman hotel, where your Jordanian Group Leader will be waiting for you. There may also be new group members joining the trip in Jordan.
Welcome to Jordan, cosmopolitan and contemporary, yet steeped in biblical history. Tonight consider a visit to Rainbow Street where you will hear “Welcome to Jordan” from the locals, and maybe pick up a coffee from one of the cafés and partner it with an ara’yes, a toastie filled with spicy mincemeat
Day 9 Wadi Rum
Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia with a journey to the extraordinary desert scenery of Wadi Rum, a rugged moonscape of huge sandstone mountains (approximately 5 hours). A 4-hour jeep safari will take you through some of the most beautiful and sublime desert scenery on the planet, a true highlight of this trip. Wadi Rum is full of weird and beautiful lunar-like rock formations, and traces of ancient civilisations can be seen in the many carved inscriptions found throughout the area, from pictographs to Thamudic, Nabataean and Arabic texts. The most enduring monuments in Wadi Rum are those carved by nature – the natural rock bridges, towering rose-coloured sand dunes and scattered rocky peaks. Tonight you’ll sleep in a simple desert camp, with the choice of sleeping under a camel hair tent or out under the stars. Enjoy a delicious dinner cooked in an earthen oven by your Bedouin hosts. Conditions are basic at the desert camp, but the hospitality of your hosts is legendary and you'll treasure the memory of sleeping beneath the twinkling desert night sky.
Notes: A mattress and blankets are provided. Please be aware that while the desert may be very hot during the day, it will still be cool at night and warm clothes and a sleeping bag are highly recommended when travelling outside of the summer months. Western-style toilet facilities are available, solar panel showers are available.
Day 10 Wadi Rum
After waking up in the unique surrounds of the Bedouin camp this morning, you will enjoy a trek around the area (approximately 12 to 15 kilometres), with a stop for tea and a lunch break. You might scale one of the large sand dunes for sensational views of the surrounding area. This is the perfect chance to snap some unbelievable pictures. Wadi Rum is a truly beautiful place, where great gouts of rock on a carpet of bright red sand have been eroded into fantastical gnarled shapes. Explore the distinctive rock formations and soak in the vast silence of this lunar-like landscape. Wadi Rum is probably best known for its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18. You’ll get to spend another memorable night in the desert camp with your new Bedouin friends. Meaning ‘Desert Dwellers’ in Arabic, the Bedouins are a semi-nomadic people, and in Jordan up to 40 per cent of the general population is though to have Bedouin ancestry. This might explain the legendary hospitality of the Jordanians – in traditional Bedouin culture, a huge onus is placed on taking in and feeding any visitor, and so you’ll enjoy brilliant hospitality while you’re here in this incredible place.
Notes: Please make sure you have appropriate, sturdy, comfortable footwear for this trek.
Day 11 Petra
This morning you'll leave your desert camp, taking 4WDs to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor's centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women's co-operative that is aimed at supporting traditional local industries. You will then continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra (approximately 2 hours) by private van.
The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was discovered by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss explorer. It was once described as 'a rose-red city half as old as time' in a sonnet by John William Burgon and UNESCO has described it as 'one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage.' In 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage site. So you know you are in for an amazing experience here.
Spend the afternoon of Day 11 on Guided Tour of Petra. Squeeze through a mile-long narrow path, known as the Siq, through huge towers of rock and get your first glimpse of the iconic Treasury – it’s impossible not to imagine the armies and traders who made their way down here in the ancient times. It’s amazing to think that this awesome, intricate building entrance was hand carved out of the rock.
Day 12 Petra
Enjoy a free day of self-discovery as you explore Petra on your own. The site is surprisingly big, and you can explore the old Roman road, temples and several old tombs, as well as the rock-hewn amphitheater. For those with the energy, there's the challenging but highly rewarding walk up the steps to the stunning Monastery (approximately 1 hour).
Day 13 Madaba
Travel the King's Highway to the historic crusader castle of Kerak, which stands on a cliff commandingly overlooking Wadi Karak and the Dead Sea in the distance (approximately 2.5 hours). You’ll have time to explore the evocative ruins and discover the legends of the 12th-century battles between the Crusaders and the Muslim armies led by the Arab hero, Saladin. Pack your swim gear as next you can wash off the dust from exploring with a dip like no other. Drive to the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth (420 metres below sea level). This isn’t actually a sea but a super-salty lake (dead because of the lack of life in it) where the density of the water means you’ll go for a float, not a swim. Spend some time relaxing here and get some classic floating pictures. The mud here is supposed to have healing properties, so why not cover yourself from head to toe for a nutrient-rich natural mineral mud bath. Towels are available for hire. Continue to Mt Nebo, the spot where the prophet Moses is said to have seen the ‘promised land’ and where he’s supposedly buried. Explore this sanctuary and view the remarkable mosaics of the 4th century church. 30 minutes down the road is the historical town of Madaba, famous for its Ottoman-style houses and beautiful Byzantine-era mosaics, including the famous 6th-century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land at St George's Church. Other mosaic masterpieces found within churches and the Archaeological Museum depict a rampant profusion of flora and fauna, as well as scenes from mythology and daily life. Literally hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th to 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba’s churches and homes.
Day 14 Madaba
Today you will leave Madaba for a short drive north (approximately 75 minutes) to Jerash, once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins around. The city thrived due to its position on the route of the spice and incenses trade, and it reached its zenith as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian around AD 130. The ancient walled town that survives today is a remarkable evocation of life 2,000 years ago. It has a striking collection of archways and theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets, and is a beautiful place to spend a day exploring. Discover Hadrian’s arch, the partially restored hippodrome, ornate public fountains, the south amphitheatre, and see the collection of daily artefacts uncovered during excavations. Grand ionic columns encircle the city's centrepiece, the Oval Plaza, a wonderfully atmospheric place to linger after uncovering Jerash's riches.
Return to Madaba in the afternoon via the city Amman where we stop for a stroll around the capital including the ancient Citadel.
After a full day of exploring, maybe gather your travel buddies together and share a celebratory shisha as this Jordan exploration comes to an end.
Day 15 Jerusalem
This morning we farewell Jordan and make the hour journey to the Alenby Bridge Crossing for your onwards journey to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Your Tour Leader will escort you to the crossing and provide you with instructions for the border officials. Once you have cleared the border there will be a representative to escort you to your hotel in Jerusalem.
Welcome to Israel and Jerusalem, a city steeped in spirituality and legend; a rich tapestry of the many cultures, religions and nationalities that call it home, be they Palestinian Muslims & Christians, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Armenian Christians, Ethiopian Copts or Greek Orthodox monks.
Your arrival at the hotel should be just in time for lunch and the rest of your day is free to explore Jerusalem. We recommend checking out the range of tours on offer from Urban Adventures.
There will be a meeting this evening at 6.00pm with your Tour Leader and any fellow travelers, please look for this note in reception.
Day 16 Jerusalem
We will explore the Old City this morning on foot. We will start with the Courtyard of the Dome and the Wailing Wall – the remains of the Temple Mount, which acts as an outdoor synagogue, where written prayers are slid into the cracks between stones. Then continue along the Via Dolorosa starting at St. Stephen’s Gate, passing the crusader church of St. Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Now located in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, this pool was mentioned in the Gospel of John and associated with healing. Continue along the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) – the “way of sorrows” which follows Jesus’ path to crucifixion – and stop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, died, buried, and rose again. Sip tea, sample fresh local bread and then walk through the Christian Quarter up to Jaffa Gate for a lunch break.
That afternoon, get another perspective on modern day life in Jerusalem with a local Israeli guide. Your walking tour of West Jerusalem will see you stroll through Yemin Moshe; a historic neighborhood of old stone buildings built in response to overcrowding within the Old City. Check out the colourful, artistic hub of ‘Hamiffal’ (The Factory ). This abandoned old building was turned into a public art space by a local artists co-operative. While here you'll learn about the artists in residence program. Move on to the Muslim Graveyard, Mamilla Pool, The Burial Caves of Independence Park, and then a quick brief on the city center.
The tour will finish up at Agripas Street, at the entrance of the Machane Yehuda Market. We recommend grabbing a beer in one of the many laneway bars to watch the market come to life in the evening, or go for a wander to check out the amazing graffiti popping up on shop shutters.
Day 17 Jerusalem
Start the day off with a panoramic view of the city. Drive out to the Mount of Olives that looks over Jerusalem’s Old City and visit the Garden of Gethsemane, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus' crucifixion. See the Church of All Nations (also known as the Basilica of the Agony), which holds inside a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest.
Drive the short distance out to Bethlehem and take a Graffiti walking tour along the wall. Graffiti has filled the walls in Bethlehem by many artists over the years, including British Artist; Banksy. Hear the personal stories behind some of the more prominent pieces. The tour takes you past one of the largest refugee camps in the West Bank and previous conflict hot spots. Continue on to Manger square to sample Bethlehem's famous Falafel. Then visit the Church of the Nativity, marking the spot of the stable where Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus.
Head back to Jerusalem and visit Yad Vashem for a sobering and moving visit to Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The facility includes a research facility, art gallery, education department, archive, and numerous moving memorials.
After a fascinating day, retire to your Jerusalem hotel.
Day 18 Jerusalem
This morning drive out to the spectacular cliff-top fortress of Masada. On the way we stop at the 6th century cliff-side Monastery of St. George of Koziba in the desert (Deir El Qelt) and see the massive church built into the mountains. In Masada you will take a cable car to the fortress built by King Herod around 35BC. This UNESCO site is very important to the Jewish people, a symbol of their exile from the Holy Land and of bravery and self-sacrifice. The story goes that here a Jewish sect called the Zealots held out against the Roman army in AD66. Rather than surrender, they either fought to the death or committed suicide, every last man, woman and child. Then, you’d better have brought your swim gear as you can wash of the dust from exploring with a dip like no other. Drive around 30 minutes to the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth (420 metres below sea level). This isn’t actually a sea but a super-salty lake (dead because of the lack of life in it) where the density of the water means you’ll go for a float, not a swim. Spend some time relaxing here and get some classic floating pictures. The mud here is supposed to have healing properties and so why not cover yourself from head to toe for a nutrient-rich natural mineral mud bath. Return to Jerusalem for the evening.
Day 19 Nazareth
Travel to the western shores of the Sea of Galilee today and Tiberias – established all the way back in AD20. Swing by Hisham’s Palace in Jericho on the way. The old hunting lodge has one of the most beautiful and elaborately decorated mosaic floors in the world.
Continue on via the Jordan Valley and visit the ancient fishing village of Capernaum – see the ruins of this old town, the site of two ancient synagogues and a church said to have been the home of Saint Peter. You’ll pass by Tabgha – this is where the Bible says Jesus performed the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, one of the only miracles that’s in all the gospels. Then head up to Safad (Tsfat), one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities. The city, at over 900 metres above sea level, is Israel’s highest city and is known as the centre of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. It’s a beautiful setting, surrounded by pine forest, and has become a haven for both artists and those seeking spiritual enlightenment. You’ll continue on to Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, for the evening.
Here we have the unique opportunity stay in a simple but beautiful convent established by nuns who arrived from France in the mid 19th century.
Day 20 Nazareth
Leave early this morning and drive to the ancient crusader port of Acre (Akko in Hebrew) approximately 45 minutes. Here you’ll visit the vast complex of buildings occupied by the Knights of St John (Knights Hospitaller), excavated to uncover rooms including a large hall, a dungeon, a dining room and the crypt of an ancient Gothic church. You will also see the secret tunnel of their rivals, the Knights Templar – an underground passage between their fortresses.
Continue on to Rosh Hanikra where we take a cable car up the cliff face to view the spectacular grottoes. These incredible caves are located at the farthest point north on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline, on the border of Lebanon where the sea meets the cliffs.
On the way back to Nazareth make a stop at the Church of the Annunciation. This is the site of where Mary received the news of the Immaculate Conception, along with the well where she drew water every day. You will overnight in Nazareth.
Day 21 Tel Aviv
After breakfast, journey to Tel Aviv via the coast and Caesarea (approximately 1 hour), which served as the capital of Israel during the Roman and Byzantine eras. This was once a great port town built by King Herod around 25BC, complete with a theatre, amphitheatre, hippodrome, palace, Roman temple and an extensive network of aqueducts, along with an artificial harbour. The city was eventually abandoned and lost under the desert sands, but thanks to archaeological excavations since the 1950s, its splendour is on show once again.
Continue through Haifa (approximately 20 minutes) where you’ll see the lush and immaculate Bahaii Gardens on Mount Carmel Mountains (a memorial and shrine to the Bahai faith) and look out across the Mediterranean Sea.
Drop by the ancient port city of Jaffa (approximately 1 hour) before arriving in Tel Aviv, where this trip ends on arrival at around 4pm.
Please ensure that you allow plenty of time for delays/traffic if you plan on catching a flight on this day.
Tel Aviv is a modern cosmopolitan city, a true 'city that doesn’t stop'. With its lively cafe culture, relaxed Mediterranean beach scene, and renowned nightlife, Tel Aviv is a great place to continue your stay. We can help you book accommodation here (subject to availability). Perhaps gather together you fellow travellers and take advantage of the excellent food and nightlife with a final celebratory dinner or drink as this Israel and Palestine adventure comes to an end.
All This Included
Egypt, Jordan, Israel & Palestine are ancient lands that conjure images of river valleys, powerful Pharaohs, pilgrims and cities carved from stone. Dive headfirst into Cairo, sail up the Nile on a felucca, party in Tel Aviv, take a jeep safari across Wadi Rum and experience more World Heritage Sites than you can shake a stick at: Battir; Petra; the Old Cities of Cairo, Acre and Jerusalem; the Church of the Nativity… it goes on – and so will you as you trek, swim, explore, photograph and taste your way across the best of the Middle East. This adventure will leave you with a greater appreciation for life here and a hands-on experience of some of the most significant religious and human history in this part of the world.
Hotel (15 nights)
Desert camp (2 nights)
Felucca (1 night)
Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)
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