Explore the complexities, beauty and challenges of ancient and modern life on this gay Israel cultural tour. We will uncover the archaeological beginnings of three great religions, introduce you to a thriving LGBT community, and expose you to the social labyrinths of modern Israel. Consider an optional extension afterward to visit Petra and other landmarks of Jordan.
Home to three of the world's most important religions, and filled with significant historical and religious sites, Israel is unlike anywhere else in the world. Modern Israel is a rich mosaic of ethnic and religious groups, each with long-standing ties to the land. To offer a more in-depth understanding of these communities, our tour not only explores the landscape and history of Israel, but features interactions with representatives of some of Israel's diverse groups.
We start and end our tour in modern Tel Aviv. We will then drive around central and northern Israel to visit the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. We will also explore the most famous sites in and around Jerusalem including: King David's tomb, the room of the Last Supper, the Western Wall and the Arab market. Another day will feature the ancient fortress of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea.
Join us on a journey to this unique land as we explore ancient sites and contemporary life and enjoy the hospitality of this gay-friendly nation during our gay Israel tour.
And for those with more time, our four-night extension to Petra and Amman, Jordan adds another rich chapter to your exploration of the region.
• Start and end the tour in a beachfront hotel in modern Tel Aviv, near the gay beach.
• Celebrate Pride in Tel Aviv (when Pride dates align with our tour).
• Enjoy in-depth tours of archaeological sites.
• Spend two nights in a gay-friendly kibbutz.
• Hike along the lush Sea of Galilee and take a jeep ride to the Golan Heights.
• Tour the Old City of Jerusalem including the most famous religious sites.
• Explore the ancient citadel of Masada, then float in the Dead Sea and enjoy the sights and sounds Israel has to offer.
• Meet a variety of Israelis to learn more about Israeli gay life and to see how the people live and love their land, with discussions about contemporary life in Israel.
• Extend your stay to visit Jordan, including Petra, Wadi Rum (Lawrence of Arabia's desert abode), Amman and the Jordan Valley. See 'Extension' for details.
Day 1 -
Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, our airport VIP staff will escort you through expedited airport formalities. They will then transfer you to our beachside hotel in Tel Aviv.
This evening enjoy a welcome dinner where you can meet your fellow tour members. We will also provide all participants with a list of optional places to visit tonight for anyone with the energy to go out on the town.
Day 2 -
On our first full day in Israel, we'll explore the vibrant coastal city of Tel Aviv together, including the old port of Jaffa and the Bauhaus-inspired new city of Tel Aviv. One memorable sight is Independence Hall on Rothchild Blvd, where David Ben Gurion declared Israel's independence in 1948.
Along the way we will visit Neve Tsedek, the first Jewish neighborhood in the northern area of Jaffa, which today is a cultural and entertainment center. Another stop will be Old Jaffa, now home to many art galleries, but the most important port in ancient times. Through this port the cedars from Lebanon were imported for use in building Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.
Day 3 -
Enjoy a leisurely morning as later today as today is a day to take in the atmosphere as you wish. Head down to the seashore and enjoy the warm spirit of the local gay community. Head to Nachalat Binyamin, an open-air market in the heart of Tel-Aviv.
When our tour dates overlap with the Tel Aviv Pride celebrations in early June, our guide will recommend how best to join in the festivities. Pride usually kicks off with a festival of music and drag shows, followed by one of the largest Pride parades in the world. The day concludes with a party at the Charles Chlore Beach.
Day 4 -
We start our day with a leisurely morning. Then we will drive north along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the well-preserved port city of Caesarea. King Herod dedicated this city to Caesar Augustus more than 2,000 years ago. Among other sites that are still standing are a Roman amphitheater and an aqueduct.
Continuing north, we will visit the busy market of the Druze village of Daliat El Carmel. Next, we will take a panoramic drive through Haifa. A highlight will be the newly renovated Baha’i Temple with its golden dome and Persian gardens.
Day 5 -
We will continue north to the ancient town of Akko, just a few miles south of the Lebanese border. Inside this walled city are fortresses, citadels, churches, and mosques. These all depict the history of the many rulers, like Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and Mamelukes. We will then make our way to the old city of Acre, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
This evening we will enjoy the surprisingly lush green hillsides of the region called Galilee, as we drive through Tiberias, and alongside the Sea of Galilee (actually a large lake). Our home for the next two nights will be in the comfortable, modern guesthouse of a Kibbutz in the thin finger of Israel between Lebanon and Syria.
Days 6 -
During our one full day in the north, we’ll take a jeep ride to the Golan Heights, and visit the Banias, also known by its Roman name of Caesarea Philippi, the major source of water for the Jordan River. We’ll continue across the Golan Heights to visit the ancient synagogue at Katzrin and discuss the strategic value of this controversial region while viewing the Sea of Galilee to the west and Syria to the east.
Enjoy a stop for wine tasting at one of the emerging boutique wineries in the region, before returning to our kibbutz for one more night.
Day 7 -
Today we drive south through the Jordan Valley, from Israel’s northeastern tip toward Jerusalem. Along the way, we will drive by Gilboa, where King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed and where David wrote his famous poetic legacy to his lover. We will also pass Capernaum and the modern Palestinian West Bank city of Jericho.
One of today’s highlights will be a visit to Beit Shean, one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in Israel. It is located at the strategic juncture of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys. Like Jericho, it has been almost continuously inhabited throughout history. It was the capital of the 10 Greek cities called the Decapolis.
We’ll start our exploration of Jerusalem with a panoramic overview from the Mount of Olives, which lies across an ancient valley from the Old City. Once we arrive at our deluxe hotel just outside the city walls, the rest of the evening will be free to start your exploration of this unique city.
Day 8 -
Our appreciation of the historic Old City of Jerusalem will include visiting elements of all four quarters: the Jewish, Arab, Christian, and Armenian sections. Our Jerusalem touring will include Mount Zion, with King David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper.
We will visit the Western Wall, the Southern Excavations, the Broad Wall, and the Cardo, a 2000-year-old shopping street. After lunch on your own, we head on to the Christian Quarter for a walk on a portion of the Via Dolorosa. We will also see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is jointly maintained by six Christian denominations.
No visit to the old city of Jerusalem would be complete without a visit to the Arab market to test your negotiating skills with the local merchants. As you make your way towards the Jaffa Gate, walk by the Citadel of David. Don’t forget to pay your respects at the two almost forgotten tombs on your right – those of the architects of the Old City Walls. They were killed by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538 since they were the only people who knew all of the “secrets of the wall.”
Day 9 -
Today we will head outside Jerusalem’s city walls to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust Victims.
On a lighter note, we will enjoy a walking lunch at the Machane Yehuda marketplace. A local expert will help us see the mosaic of contemporary Jerusalem. The food in the market represents the people who have emigrated to Israel from every corner of the world. The graffiti on the walls shows what they are thinking about.
During our tour, we will learn more about the latest walls to surround Jerusalem, Israel’s controversial Security Barrier. We will gain insights as to why some Israeli’s credit this wall for a significant reduction in violence against Israeli Jews, and why the Wall is viewed by others as a deep insult against Israel’s Palestinian community.
Day 10 -
We depart Jerusalem with one last look at the Old City from Mount Scopus, home of Hebrew University.
Then we head east to begin our exploration of the Judean Desert and the biblical mountains of Moab along the Dead Sea. We will stop at Masada, where we will ascend to the top via a cable car. This mountaintop fortress is best known for the long siege of a small band of martyrs who were trapped there by Roman soldiers. However, it was originally built by King Herod, and still retains colorful elements of his royal rooms.
After touring Masada, we slow down our busy touring schedule with lunch at a hotel overlooking the Dead Sea. We will pause for an enjoyable “swim/float” in the world-famous rejuvenating waters of the Dead Sea. The water is so salty that it is easier to float than to try to swim! The Dead Sea is over 1000 feet below sea level, so its distance from the sun and the ambiance of the air make it almost impossible to get a sunburn.
Time permitting, we will take a short hike in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve in the hills overlooking the Dead Sea. We will then return to our Jerusalem hotel.
Day 11 -
Today you will have options for what you would like to visit. Decide between more religious or historical sites. There is even the option to visit the internationally renowned Israel Museum.
Tonight we will enjoy our Farewell Dinner.
Day 12 -
Today is a day at leisure to relax, recuperate and enjoy a sunny day before your flight home, or the start of some extra days in Israel. (The transfer to Ben Gurion International Airport is included in the tour fee if you depart on the last tour day or arrange an extended stay with us).
Or you can join us for a rewarding extension to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, including Amman and the memorable archaeological site at Petra. In 2007 Petra was selected in a worldwide Internet vote as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, so join us to see why!
Day 12 -
For travelers who continue to Jordan, we will transfer this morning to Ben Gurion airport’s domestic terminal for a short flight to Eilat. Upon arrival, we will make a short drive to the border. After Israeli and Jordanian formalities, we will meet our Jordanian guide on the Aqaba, Jordan side, then begin exploring.
On our drive we will stop at Jordan’s Red Sea port town of Aqaba for lunch at their finest seaside hotel. We will then continue our drive north to Wadi Rum, the desert headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia. Next, we will embark on a 2-hour 4×4 ride into the desert. High dunes and sandstone and granite cliffs surround this large valley. Lawrence of Arabia used this base for his operations during the 1917-1918 Arab Revolt.
We will finish the day with a camel trek through the desert and check in to our glamping spot with some leisure time before dinner.
Day 13 -
The next morning, following an early breakfast, an extraordinary day awaits us as we approach the ancient Nabatean capital of Petra. From the site’s main entrance, we’ll walk into the chasm (called a siq in Arabic) that ripped through the rock in a prehistoric quake.
Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the siq. We will explore the Treasury, the Monastery, the 3000-seat first-century theater, and other sites. Marvel at the rose-red stone and how the colors change as the day progresses.
After lunch, you can explore more of Petra on your own or relax and enjoy the amenities of our unique lodging just outside the entrance to Petra.
Day 14 -
From Petra, we head north on the 5000-year-old King’s Highway to Madaba, the city of mosaics. We will visit the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, known for its sixth-century Byzantine mosaic map of the Middle East.
After lunch, we will enjoy the view from Mount Nebo from which Moses is said to have viewed the Promised Land.
We will finish our day’s touring with a short overview tour of Amman, a city that was already a thriving metropolis during Roman times. City highlights include the Citadel, the Roman Theater, and the King Abdullah Mosque.
Our dinner will be at Amman’s most “human-friendly establishment”, Books at Cafe. Weather permitting, we will dine on the terrace overlooking the twinkling lights of the hills of Amman.
Day 15 -
This morning we will enjoy a tour of Jerash, the spectacular Graeco-Roman city. We will visit Amman, including the Roman amphitheater, marketplace.
We recommend scheduling flights from Amman, but we can also provide a transfer to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport upon request.
For anyone who added hotel nights back in Tel Aviv, we will transfer you to your Tel Aviv hotel, then to Ben Gurion Airport for your flights home. Please let us know if you would like us to reserve extra hotel nights for you.
For anyone with the time, this excursion into Jordan will provide a rich addition to your experiences within Israel.