Your tour begins with a beautiful scenic drive from Ashdod into the Judean Hills. As you ascend into these hauntingly stark hills, your coach will be traveling along the same route used for centuries to reach Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is famous for its timeless beauty and was once considered the center of the world. As you navigate your way through this amazing city, you will pass Israel's most notable landmarks, such as the Hebrew University, home to 2005 Nobel Prize winner Professor Emeritus Robert J. Aumann, the Israel Museum, the Shrine of the Book, the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) and the State Supreme High Court. After an interesting overview of the city, you'll proceed toward the Mount of Olives where time will be allowed to take photos from this highly favorable vantage point that provides an unparalleled and breathtaking panorama of the walled Old City. Near the base of the Mount, you will find the picturesque Gardens of Gethsemane, site of an ancient olive oil press yard that is surrounded by 1,000 year-old trees and visit the impressive Church of All Nations.
Following an unforgettable morning, you will be treated to a relaxing lunch at a local hotel before it's time to continue your exploration of this fascinating destination with a walking tour of the historical Old City. Entering via the Jaffa Gate, your walk will take you past the most sacred sites in religious history. As you make your way along a route that flanks the colorful bazaar, you'll observe the Christian Quarter, which rests beside a part of the famous Via Dolorosa, believed by many to be the route Jesus followed as he carried his cross to Calvary. Amongst the sites you will view is the golden-topped Dome of the Rock. With its stunning blue and gold ceramic tiles, this amazing shrine is considered the third holiest site in Islam. You will also view the famous Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world because it is believed to have been closest to where the Holy Ark once stood. A visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is also included. Perched on the hill known as Golgotha, the Church marks the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Rejoining your coach, you'll leave the city behind and make your way through the Judean Hills to the edge of the desert, where the legendary town of Bethlehem is found. Your time here includes a visit to Manger Square and the renowned Church of the Nativity. This extraordinary church is built over a grotto that is believed to be the location of Jesus' birth. Due to time constraints and very long lines to enter the actual grotto, doing so is usually not a possibility. After what will be an undoubtedly memorable visit, you'll re-board your coach and enjoy a leisurely drive back to the ship.