Spend Christmas Eve in the Holy Land on this full-day tour of sacred Christian sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem from Tel Aviv. See religious sanctuaries such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity with a knowledgeable guide. Admire sweeping vistas of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and circle the Old City walls before walking through the Christian quarter. End your evening in Bethlehem, where you’ll enjoy a spectacular Christmas dinner and view midnight mass from Manger’s Square.
First, head by comfortable coach on a one-hour drive to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, used as a Jewish cemetery for 3,000 years and named for the olive trees that once grew there. From the hilltop ridge, admire the panoramic view of Jerusalem before embarking on a short drive around the Old City walls, which surround what was once the entire city.
Along the way, see Kidron Valley, which houses the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, as well as the beautiful Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus and his disciples assembled before his crucifixion.
Enter the Christian Quarter on foot, situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity's holiest pilgrimage sites since the 4th century. Here, admire the murals, metalwork and iconographic mosaics.
When your walking tour is over, continue a relaxing drive through the New City and see the Israeli parliament (the Knesset), the Israel Museum—housing the world’s largest archeological collection from the Holy Land—and Valley of the Cross. Keep an eye out for the amazing 11th-century monastery built with high, castle-like walls.
As evening descends, stop at the Mount of Evil Counsel on the way to Bethlehem for another vista of the city illuminated below, and take in breathtaking views of many of the sites you visited throughout the day. When you enter Bethlehem at the border crossing into Palestinian territory, switch vehicles for ease of transport.
After your arrival, enjoy light refreshments (included) at a souvenir store showing off its Christmas décor. Then, gather at Manger's Square in central Bethlehem and admire the giant Christmas tree lights as you listen to carols sung by locals and pilgrims.
Look up at the bell towers at the Church of the Nativity, the world’s oldest Christian church, built on the site of Jesus’ birth. You’ll visit the basilica (time permitting), a UNESCO World Heritage Site rebuilt in 565 AD, before the midnight mass begins.
Delight in a festive Christmas dinner in a restaurant located on the stone-paved pedestrian square, and watch the midnight mass on the large outdoor screen (weather conditions permitting) before returning across the border to your hotel in Tel Aviv.