Tours of Israel:
Guided Groups Are Your Better Choice
If you have never been to Israel before, and you would like to visit for
the first time, I strongly recommend that you take a GUIDED TOUR.
There are many travel agencies that specialize in tours of Israel. You
will usually join in a group of like-minded people based on travel dates, age,
religion, interests, etc. The travel agency will then arrange a tour guide, the
flights, accommodations and the bus to drive the group around.
Click here to jump to the section about my recommended Israeli tour guide.
A group on a guided tour in the Ein Gedi area.
Advantages of a Guided Tour:
- Convenience. You don’t have to worry about hotels, car rental,
driving, finding your way around, etc. All those and many other details and administration problems are taken care of. That leaves with simply enjoying your trip and learning new and interesting facts.
- The tour guide. A
tour guide can make or break your trip. A knowledgeable tour guide can
enrich your trip with hundreds of details in areas such as: the history
of Israel, the culture, interesting stories about a site and personal
experiences. And if he/she is friendly and funny – of course this is
always a plus.
- The group. It is very common for people who
know each other to go as a group for tour of Israel. This can be a
congregation, group of students or any other group you can think of. If
you join with friends, you will usually have a lot of fun together
anyway. Having said that, there are many groups of people who didn’t
know each other before the trip and still had a great time together.
There are even matchmaking groups...
Even if this is not your first time in Israel, you can still greatly enhance your trip with the above benefits.
How Long Should the Tour Be?
I will tell you upfront that in my opinion you should look for a tour
of at least 14 days. The absolute minimum would be 10 days.
tempted to go on any less than that. The reason is that there are a lot
of “must-see” sites in Israel. True, it is a small country and the
distances aren’t so big. Still, if you would like to taste a little bit
of everything without running from one site to the other like a mad dog,
you will need some time.
Here is another reason: if you come
after a long flight – say North America – you are likely to have jet
lag for 2-3 days. Why be jet lagged for half your trip? Take my advice
and go for a tour for longer than 10 days. Preferably 14 days (at least) including the flights
and hotel transfer to and from Israel.
Points to Check Before Booking:
- Experience: Check that both the travel agent and the tour guide
have been in business for some time. This doesn’t mean three centuries,
but you definitely want at least a couple of years of organizing travel
groups and tours of Israel.
- Food: If you only eat kosher food make sure that this is known. While most food in Israel is kosher, there are exceptions.
- Transportation: Make sure the group will be picked up at the airport on arrival. Sounds basic but you will be surprised…
a name: Make sure there is a REAL person at the travel agency (even if
you book online) who is responsible for your group. Take the phone
number of that person, so you can call if you encounter any problem on
- Another point to check with yourself is if you have
healthcare/medical/travel insurance coverage. This is an absolute must
before you travel.
My Recommended Tour Guide
Here is my recommended tour guide for your travel to Israel:
Charlie Elbas and his company, Charlie Guide.
As a tour guide you need the ability to motivate the visitors and to be
aware of tourist sites from different aspects - such as history, culture or
amusing anecdotes. But above all else you need to be a sensitive type with
patience, and with a true love for the job.
Charlie is a man with a lot of love for people and
exceptional communication skills. There is nothing that he loves more than
to show his country to visitors and locals. Charlie has so
much passion and love for what he does, and it truly comes across when you meet him and take a tour with him.
Charlie is fluent in English, Hebrew and Arabic and has almost 30 years experience touring people through Israel. I have personally toured with him through the holy sites in Jerusalem and found that he is very friendly, knowledgeable and fun and gives very personalized service.
Charlie and I at the Western Wall / Kotel.
Charlie creates each tour with a special itinerary to fit exactly what you are looking for. His knowledge of historical and religious sites is amazing and he can create both Jewish and Christian itineraries and accomodates any special requests.
Click here to get in touch with Charlie and start planning your tour of the Holy Land.
Tours of Israel:
Even though Charlie can tailor a tour to your specific requirements, there are general tours of Israel that are most popular:
- General tour of Israel: This can be for 7, 10 or 14 days, depending on which sites you want to see and on what kind of schedule. A typical 10-day tour starts in Tel Aviv (1 or 2 days), then off to Caesarea, Haifa and Akko, Northern Israel and the Galilee, the Dead Sea and Masada, and ending with 2 or 3 days in Jerusalem.
- General Jerusalem Tour: A 1 or 2-day tour consisting of all the major sites in the Holy City.
- Jerusalem Christian Tour: A 1-day tour focusing on Jerusalem's holy sites for Christians, from the churches on the Mount of Olives and the Gethsemane Garden, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Room of the Last Supper and more.
- Jewish Heritage Tour: A 1- or 2-day tour of Jerusalem focusing on some of Judaism's most important historical sites. This usually begins with a view of the Old City from Mount Scopus, followed by a visit through the Old City itself - the Cardo Maximus and Burnt House, the Kotel (or Western Wall) and the Western Wall tunnels, the Jewish Quarter (and 16th century Sephardic synagogues) and a visit to the Davidson Center (Jerusalem Archaeological Park). Some additional sites outside the Old City include Yad Vashem, King David's tomb as well as a trip to the Ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim.
- The Galilee - In the Footsteps of Jesus: A 2-day tour tracing Jesus' life and miracles in Israel, starting in Nazareth, where he grew up, to Tiberius and through to Capernaum, Tabgha and the Church of the Multiplication, as well as a baptism site on the Jordan River.
- Barmitzvah or Batmitzvah in Jerusalem or Masada: This traditional Jewish ceremony can be held at the Kotel (Western Wall) itself. Your tour guide will help you arrange everything needed for this occasion, from booking a time at the Wall, a rabbi, catering, accomodation, etc. In addition to the ceremony itself, your tour guide will usually take you on a tour of Jerusalem and the Old City, focusing on the main sites mentioned above in the Jewish Heritage Tour. An alternative to holding the ceremony at the Kotel is to do so at the breathtaking site of Masada.
- Northern Israel Tour: A 2-day tour consisting of Gan Hanadiv (the beautiful botanical gardens commemorating Baron De Rotshchild), a cruise on the Sea of Galilee, continuing on to the Golan Heights and the Valley of Tears (site of a major battle during the 1973 Yom Kippur War).
- Southern Israel - Negev Desert Experience: Starting in Golda Park and Kibbutz Sde Boker (Ben Gurion's kibbutz), through the Ein Avdat Nature Reserve, a Bedouin camp (and lunch), camel trip and the Avdat Nabatean city.
Testimonials and Feedback
The feedback from his clients over the years has been tremendous. Here are just a few words written about him by tourists:
"You are the best key for discovering your country."
"You made each day an entertaining, educational experience for myself and my family."
"From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem you brought your country to life for us in a fun filled fashion."
"Your understanding of our personal likes, dislikes, preferences etc. made every day fantastic."
Actions speak louder than words, so here are a few shots of Charlie and his tours in action around the country:
Click here to get my Suggested Itineraries for tours of Israel
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