We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Which Jerusalem hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Los Gatos...
posts: 32
reviews: 3
last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

My wife has tasked me with the job of planning a trip to Israel for our family (wife, me and 9 year old) during the December/early January break. I wanted to ask the forum to help me, since I am a bit lost.

A quick list of what we want to see includes

- Jerusalem (old city, Yad Vashem, Hebrew Univ.)

- Akko, Caesarea

- Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, Massada

- Eilat

- Golan

- Negev (Machteshim, etc).

- Galilee

- A little time in Tel Aviv to visit the Beith Hatefusot, etc

- would like to do a quick trip to visit Petra in Jordan

I have several questions

a) Are there specific, interesting places to go visit/do in the Negev (caves, unique landscapes)? Which/where? how does one organize a trip there?

b) What is the best way to do this logistically?

I am assuming this will require being based in Jerusalem for a few days (maybe 3 or 4 days?), spending some time around Massada, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea for 2 days, 2-3 days in the North to see the Golan, Galilee, Akko and Caesarea (where?), and 2-3 days to see the Negev and Eilat, and probably 2 more days to go and see Petra. We have two weeks and this just fits in theory.

- Is this reasonable?

- How would one organize an itinerary?

- If we go around X-mas and New year, are there logistic problems that may make this unrealistic?

- How does one

c) How does one visit the Golan heights? Are there specific areas or activities that make for interesting one or half day trips? how does one organize these trips?

d) similar question relative to the Galilee. We dont want to spend time in Tzfat or KfarNaum, Kinneret, etc as we dont think it will be that interesting to our 9 year old, but we believe there is natural beauty in the Galilee that may be interesting to explore?

e) Is it possible to hire a private guide with a car who would take us around, hike and climb with us, drive around and know where/how tro park, etc? Or is it a bad idea in your views and one should actually either drive oneself around or go around by bus (my one issue with going around by bus is whether it is flexible and time efficient given our packed schedule)?

f) How does one organize a trip from Israel to Petra? should we go from Jerusalem or from Eilat to Jordan? Can or should one do it independently?

g) Do you think we are missing something big or very cool (nature and ancient history are the things that excite us)? what is it?

Any opinions or ideas would be very welcome!

Thanks,

Carlos

california
posts: 743
reviews: 3
1. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Experts and others will undoubtedly comment here, but here's my two cents: 2 weeks will make for an excellent introductory visit to Israel, and you will be able to cover many of the sites you've identified as being of interest.

In March/April 2005, my wife and I spent 2 weeks and drove everywhere, beginning with Haifa (2 nights), Tiberias (1 night), Jerusalem (5 nights), Ein Bokek (Dead Sea/Masada-1 night), Eilat (2 nights), Tel Aviv (3 nights)--in that order. It was slightly rushed to take all that in, but the time spent in Eilat was relaxing and in Tel Aviv, other than seeing Yafo (Jaffa) and an Israel-Ireland soccer match, we mainly relaxed and dined out. Afterwards, we determined we would have been willing to sacrifice one of the Jerusalem days, but I know you will hear a hue and cry from others that disagree.

As for the holiday period--everything is open as there are no major Jewish holidays (Hanukah is a festive time, but it's not a major religious holiday, so things do not close down). The weather can be a bit chilly in Jerusalem at that time of year, so bring jackets. In the north and coast, you'll have warm days, cool nights--possibly rain. In Ein Bokek and Eilat, it will be hot during the day but can get cold at night.

In the Galilee, I repeat my mantra of including Beit She'an. This is the most impressive and extensive of archaeological sites in Israel (far better than Caesarea, in my opinion), and is about 20-30 minutes south of Tiberias. Roman era ruins of an entire city plus a hill with Nabatean-era ruins looking down upon it all--a 9 year old will love exploring all the nooks & crannies.

Enough from me, however...others will jump at the chance to give you their opinions!

Have a great trip!

troy mi
posts: 759
reviews: 17
2. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

As long as going to Acco, spend a few hours in Haifa especially seeing the gardens at the Baha'i Temple and also the grottos at Rosh Hanikra - 9 year old will enjoy the caves and you will enjoy the history - Google both to see pics

california
posts: 743
reviews: 3
3. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

I second the motion on Rosh HaNikra--it's beautiful and romantic--but also really "neat" for a kid to walk through the grottoes and to take the cable car!

Rehovot
posts: 32
4. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Hi Carlos,

Starting with

Item f - you can fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat and go to Petra in one day and return to Tel Aviv on the last flight out of Eilat. But Eilat will be fun for your 9 year old - snorkeling to see corals and fish, boating - so I would include 3 days of Eilat plus one day in Petra.

E. Yes, a private guide can take you around, climb, hike, and show you the best parts.

D. Yes, the Galilee has places to explore. Meet different cultures in the Galilee - Druze, Circassians. Go on a jeep trip.

C. Golan Hts are accessible to anyone. Mt Hermon has a cable car and skiing. There are good hikes, artist galleries, wineries...

Hope this helps -

Judy

Lexington, Kentucky
posts: 81
reviews: 7
5. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Others with more experience will give you good advice, but I think your 9 year-old might like the 2000 year-old boat that was discovered near Capernaum. All my info is packed away in my checked luggage, but it's easy to find.

Many of the historical sites in Israel are also great family parks. Caesarea was fun because kids were rolling down the grassy hills and scampering all over the stones. Masada was like that, too.

Also, there was one place ... near Mt. Carmel, I think? ... that had caves you could walk into--far into the main cave where it was pitch dark. There was a kind of campy film they projected on the wall of the cave, but we were the only ones there the day we went, and it was thrillingly scary to be walking around in the dark, then have the film start unexpectedly!

Decks is a fabulous (and kind of expensive) restaurant in Tiberias, with a kind of party boat docked next to it, that goes out at night around the Sea of Galilee. We didn't go, but while we ate, a bunch of teenagers went out on the boat and (very obviously) had a great time.

An outgoing (not timid!) kid would enjoy Jerusalem's Old City and all the shops and people.

I just focused on things a 9 year-old might like, because otherwise, I'd be writing a book here ...

Cheers,

Jan

Los Angeles...
posts: 64
reviews: 7
6. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Hi "ckn24" -

I did a "last minute" trip, only 5 hours after getting my plane ticket. I found Robert Ullian's "Frommer's Israel" to be invaluable. It's really very thorough. I'm sure you'll find most if not all of the answers to your questions in there. There is detailed information on all the areas you asked about, which will help you with your itinerary.

I've just returned from my month-long trip, and wrote a trip report called "Long Trip Report: Israel, Petra, Mt. Sinai" -- my focus was logistics throughout the country, and you may find reading it helpful.

I hope you love it as much as I did.

Cheers,

:) gosologal

israel
Destination Expert
for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
posts: 12,943
reviews: 37
7. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Some more highlights:

1. Beit She'an is very impressive, but huge. Spend there an hour and see the main sights near the entrance. The kid will get tired and bored. It is amazing. Caesarea - see the area with the port and what is near it without going thru the gate to the mosaics and hypodrom. It is a long walk and not very interesting. Go out and drive to the Amphitheater. You get a map from the booth where you buy tickets.

2. Akko - the port, walk on the walls, the Temlar tunnel, the Shuk (market) and the Khan. 2 hours.

3. The grottoes in Rosh Hanika - great for all ages, mainly kids.

4. Petra - see Eco Desert tours comapny with good reviews from other traveleres on the forum.

5. Beith Hatefusot - I would skip it, unless you have a special interest. Go to the Palmach museum, Jaffa and the Port. The Port is great for dining. There was a long thread on restaurants by Labbat.

6. Dead Sea and Massada can be a day trip from Jerusalem, maybe a tour. You don't drive, buses are comfortable and you have only 2 weeks.

7. Israel is a small place but you will miss many cool places. Stick to the most important to you (and "must sees") on your first trip.

california
posts: 743
reviews: 3
8. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

Re: Caesarea - you can combine beach-going with this visit. There is a public beach by the old Roman Aqueduct (an impressive structure). There is ample free parking there.

Arizona
posts: 1,582
reviews: 18
9. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

I pretty much agree with Shoshi.

c) How does one visit the Golan heights? Are there specific areas or activities that make for interesting one or half day trips? how does one organize these trips?

I think you would do best here to have a driver-guide, to make it efficient. that way if the weather is funky, a knowledgable guide may have alternatives in mind. You should probably include Gamla, a crown jewel of Israel, although that time of year...? I love the BenTal lookout, partly for the stunning views, but the 9-year-old might enjoy clambering through the preserved military bunker. It'll be COLD. Consider also a jeep ride along the Golan and into the Hulah Valley. There are some neat Druze villages way to the north up on the way to Mt. Hermon, I think. I can suggest Dov Friedman as one guide to consider, and someone here really praised Joe Yudin for the Golan part of the trip.

d) similar question relative to the Galilee. We dont want to spend time in Tzfat or KfarNaum, Kinneret, etc as we dont think it will be that interesting to our 9 year old, but we believe there is natural beauty in the Galilee that may be interesting to explore?

I think the whole Hulah Valley area is gorgeous, but others may have ideas for a 9-year-old. I like the Belvoir ruins a great deal, and a kid can pretty much run around the well-preserved ruins of a huge Crusader Fortress.

e) Is it possible to hire a private guide with a car who would take us around, hike and climb with us, drive around and know where/how tro park, etc? Or is it a bad idea in your views and one should actually either drive oneself around or go around by bus (my one issue with going around by bus is whether it is flexible and time efficient given our packed schedule)?

No Bus!! Either rent a car with GPS, and let us help plan the itinerary, or if you can afford it, I suggest you get a guide for some parts of the trip -- Jeff Able, the above-mentioned Dov and Joe, Moti Dagan -- there are many highly recommended in this forum. You don't need for Tel Aviv, or probably most of Jerusalem, but the north and maybe the Negev especially a guide is helpful the first time.

Palmach museum in Tel Aviv I think a 9-yr-old will enjoy, and you will, too. Maybe the underground bullet-making factory (Ayalon something?? don't have my notes here) near the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

I think the Beit Guvrin area is excellent for adults and kids, and this is a place a guide is also quite helpful since there are many related sites scattered in the area. You can do some archeological digs there, too. And then maybe the old jeep trail into Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Israel
Destination Expert
for Jerusalem
posts: 2,690
reviews: 36
10. Re: last minute trip to Israel - please help me plan

A few suggestions:

1) Definitely rent a car (unless you choose to hire a guide with a car) - otherwise you will spend a lot of time waiting for, and on, buses. You can do a very efficient Dead Sea - Masada - Negev - Eilat trip with a car but it is very inconvenient with public transport. As you will read from others on the site, it's worth taking a guide in some areas (the North, the Negev, the Golan are examples) but in other places you won't need it.

I just re-read your message and saw your interest in the Negev. You really should take a guide for this part of the trip. It is practically impossible to find the best places to hike without knowing the area. A good guide will find cool places for you, and will also know of good places you can visit in between hiking (I once went to an antelope farm, for example...) See below for recommendation of a great guide who knows the desert well.

2) 3 days (can't remember who said it) is a long time to spend in Eilat unless you will be spending time climbing (if so, check that the hikes are OK for your 9 year old as some are quite physically demanding) or particularly want to sit in a beach resort. Also, aside from Ein Gedi, Masada and a dip in the water (which can get cold in the winter) there's not that much to do at the Dead Sea. Do bear in mind that the weather can be variable at the time you're visiting - even in Eilat, it will be warm, but not necessarily hot.

3) Consider starting the trip with a visit to Mini Israel (in Latrun, between TA and Jerusalem), which is a very popular tourist attraction - never been but have heard positive things about it: http://www.minisrael.co.il/home_en.html. This would be a good way to help your 9 year old get an idea about where he is and what he will be seeing...

4) Go to Makhtesh Ramon - the big crater under Mitzpe Ramon - and hike there. You will need a car to get to the hiking spot. There is a circular hike that is really good for families - when I hiked there there were lots of school groups (including children smaller than 9) and families. There are cool rock formations. I can't remember the colour coding of the hike (Israeli hikes are marked by colour coded route markers) but you can ask in a "LaMetayel" hiking equipment store and they can probably point it out on a map.

5) For a night in the Arava, there is a great place on a moshav, which I think would make a cool place for a family to stay - like a bedouin tent but not roughing it too much:

www.weekend.co.il/FreeSites.aspx…

You stay in cabins which surround a big Bedouin-style tent. There is also a huge jacuzzi... I seem to remember that Boaz Oz who runs the place is also a fantastic tour guide in the area. I was there with a group a couple of years ago and we did some amazing hiking. Boaz's contact details are on the site. He also took us out on a late-night walk in the dark to see the stars. This would be a really fun - and different - overnight place.

6) The Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem is a great place to go with kids. There are also a lot of kid-oriented activities in the Israel Museum, assuming that that part of the museum is open when you visit.

hope this helps. So glad to see someone wanting to take in lots of nature! For me, this is the no.1 best thing to see in Israel.

Avigail