Day - 1
Location: Cairo - Arrive at Cairo International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day, so you may arrive in Cairo at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city, but an important welcome meeting will be held at 6pm this evening. Please check the hotel reception for details. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can perhaps be symbolised by two imposing landmarks - the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. In free time perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts, where you can see donkey carts and expensive cars, medieval slums and modern shopping malls.
Please note that the Novotel is a dry hotel. However there are a number of great options to grab a drink and a meal in the surrounding Zamalek area.
Day - 2
Location: Cairo – overnight train - This morning after breakfast drive out to Giza, home to perhaps the greatest iconic structures ever created by man - the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is captivating. For an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), although occasionally it may be closed to visitors.
The Egyptian Museum is simply one of the world's great museums, home to a stupendous collection of antiquities and the perfect introduction to your tour, exhibiting many of the region's treasures. You will head there after lunch and your expert guide will take you through Egypt's rich and fascinating dynastic history. You will then have some free time to explore on your own; you may wish to visit the Royal Mummy Room (optional and at extra cost).
Afterwards you will return to your hotel, where there is plenty of time to freshen up before you are transferred to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Luxor.
Accommodation aboard the overnight train is in two-berth cabins which convert to bunk beds. All bedding is provided on board and western-style toilets are located in each carriage. Your bags will be stored in your cabin, where airline-style dinner and breakfast will be served. However it may be worth bringing some additional snacks, especially if you are vegetarian or have dietary requirements. Your tour leader can help you to arrange this. Despite being a tourist class train facilities are basic. Please also keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to.it may be worth bringing some additional snacks, especially if you are vegetarian or have dietary requirements. Your tour leader can help you to arrange this. Despite being a tourist class train facilities are basic.
Day - 3
Location: Luxor - After an early breakfast on board, the train rolls into Luxor. It's a vibrant place with an excellent bazaar, situated close to some of ancient Egypt's most important and extraordinary sights. Travel to Karnak, one of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, built over a period of some 200 years, and some of it dating back to 2,055 BC. Your guided tour of the temple reveals its finest sections.
Later you will be transferred to your Nile cruise boat, which will be your home for the next four nights. You can relax by the pool on the boat or explore the town. For the rest of the afternoon and evening you will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local tea house.
Notes: Audits were carried out on balloon operators within Egypt to confirm the safety of their operations, unfortunately we were not able to ascertain the safety standards of these balloon operators therefore, we are not able to recommend or assist in the booking of any balloon excursions.
Day - 4
Location: Valley of the Kings – Luxor – Nile Cruise - Rise early this morning and head into the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. Explore this sprawling and spectacular place where discoveries are still being made. Tutankhamun's final resting place is also located here, and you'll have free time to visit it. Your guide will explain the funerary rites of the ancient Egyptians and significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics. You will visit three royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre. Your final stop is the Colossi of Memnon – giant statues that were once part of an impressive colonnade. Enjoy lunch upon your return to the boat. There is time to relax on deck or in your cabin before you set sail for Edfu. Generally the journey from Luxor to Edfu is from 1 pm to 11 pm. Departure time may vary, depending on river traffic – please refer to the note regarding cruise schedules in the 'Other Information' section. You will pass through Esna Lock, which can sometimes be a slow process depending on the number of vessels waiting to get through, and continue your journey upstream.
Day - 5
Location: Nile Cruise - Morning finds you moored near Edfu, a beautifully preserved temple dedicated to Horus. Please see the special information below regarding visiting the temple.
Continue travelling upriver, relaxing on the sundeck and taking in the surrounding sights – desert hills forming a backdrop to lush riverbanks, fishermen casting their nets and farmers working their land.
This afternoon we will arrive at Kom Ombo temple (about 45km north of Aswan city) which sits picturesquely ruined on the river's edge and provides an interesting insight into the Greco-Roman period.
The temple was built approx. 181BC and is dedicated to 2 Gods; Horus the protection god and Sobek fertility god linked to the Nile Water . The temple consists of 2 identical northern sections the North and South each dedicated to either god.
In the Sobek section recent discoveries have been made of mummified Crocodiles, which are now displayed in the Crocodile museum attached to the temple - don't miss it!
Board your boat again at around 6pm and continue to Aswan, arriving at around 9.30 pm.
Day - 6
Location: Aswan - Explore Aswan today, Egypt's southernmost city. Its easygoing charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Depending on your arrival time, you may visit the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island (alternatively you will visit it tomorrow). It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. Access to the temple is by small motorboats. The rest of your day will be free to wander, and Aswan is a great place for it. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is recommended by many. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan's 'corniche', runs alongside one of Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. Watch the waterfront come alive at dusk, as families are out strolling, socialising and relaxing along the corniche.
Day - 7
Location: Aswan - We depart early this morning to visit the iconic Abu Simbel by plane. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. The rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular afternoon option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively travel to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply relax by the hotel pool or do some shopping in the local bazaar. In the evening you will visit a Nubian village and enjoy the warm hospitality (and cuisine) of these locals. You will also be treated to some Nubian dancing, and may even have the chance to try some moves yourself.
Day - 8
Location: Cairo - After breakfast you will be transferred to Aswan airport for the short flight back to Cairo (approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes) where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Today you will dive into another layer of Egyptian history: medieval Cairo. Head to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo's oldest mosque and the Gayer-Anderson Museum. The 'Khan', sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. It retains a distinctly medieval feel. You will explore the gold market, 'perfume street' and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth (which can be purchased next door in the cloth market). The gorgeous 9th-century Ibn Tulun Mosque is one of the oldest and largest in Egypt, possibly its most beautiful too. Its perfectly proportioned courtyard and distinctive minaret make it a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. Nearby stands the Gayer-Anderson Museum, housed in two fine old villas and vaunting a fascinating collection of Arabic artefacts, furniture and memorabilia. Also dont miss the chance to drink arabic coffee or mint tea from Cairo's oldest cafe, it has a long history and fantastic atmosphere.
This evening you will get to share an authentic Egyptian meal with a local family. Visit a family home, chat with the local family members about life in the Middle East, and learn some of your favourite traditional Egyptian dishes while enjoying a delicious dinner
Day - 9
Location: Amman - This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Amman. On arrival you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel in Amman. Now, welcome to Jordan, cosmopolitan and contemporary, yet steeped in biblical history. Amman has served as the modern and ancient capital of Jordan and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a 1994 excavation uncovering homes and towers believed to have been built during the Stone Age (circa 7000 BC). As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. Maybe head to the Old Town’s Roman Amphitheatre, find fine culture at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, look down on the city from the hilltop Temple of Hercules, or begin your trip with a relax in a Turkish bath house. Soak up the atmosphere as you sip mint tea in a cafe.Meet your new leader and group tonight at a welcome meeting at 6pmAs this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers
Day - 10
Location: Wadi Rum - After breakfast you will be drive from Amman to Wadi Rum (appx 4.5hour drive).
After lunch in the small village of Rum and a browse around the excellent and informative visitor's centre, jump into rickety old but safe and reliable jeeps operated by the Bedouin Community and join our Bedouin friends as we journey into the Rum. You will visit several of Wadi Rum's distinctive rock formations and soak in the vast silence and spectacular desert landscapes. Wadi Rum is a truly beautiful place with towering sandstone mountains.
Later ride camels to your traditional Bedouin tent situated deep within Wadi Rum. The Bedouins live in scattered camps throughout the area. You will enjoy an evening with them at one of their camps, which is set in an amazing location.
Wadi Rum is probably best known for its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18. Much of David Lean's movie on his exploits, 'Lawrence of Arabia', was actually filmed in Wadi Rum.
Day - 11
Location: Wadi Rum - Petra - After waking up in the unique surrounds of the Bedouin camp this morning, you will enjoy a walk around the area (the length of the walk will depend on how energetic you are feeling) before scaling one of the large dunes to enjoy sensational views of the surrounding area. Keen photographers will be delighted.
You will then take 4WDs from your camp back to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor's centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women's co-operative that is aimed at supporting traditional local industries.
You will then continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra (approximately 2.5 hours). On arrival there is time in the afternoon to check out the town that has grown up around the site, and to just relax… ready for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow.
Day - 12
Location: Petra - Petra is justifiably on most people’s list of ‘must-visit’ places. It is the jewel of Jordan, the lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings hidden behind ornate facades carved directly into the rock. Dating back to the 6th century BC, the site was lost to Western minds until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer. The iconic Petra view – the Treasury's glorious facade, glimpsed from the narrow cleft known as the Siq – is arguably the single most striking sight of the entire region. The first taste of this exquisite craftsmanship among such stark scenery is a moment that manages to be both eagerly anticipated and also an almost surreal surprise. The Siq leads through the rock and is sometimes only a few metres wide, with walls soaring up to 180 metres on either side, and it is impossible not to imagine the armies and traders who made their way down here in the ancient times. Petra's greatest surprise, however, is its size. With your guide you will explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several old tombs. You will also climb up to the second beautiful façade of the Monastery, from where you will have a magnificent view of the entire site. This is a memorable day exploring a truly extraordinary destination, a highlight of your trip. There is a cafeteria on the site, where you can enjoy a light lunch. The rest of the day will be at your leisure – perhaps take the chance to witness Petra by night. Seeing the Treasury plaza lit up by flickering candle light while Bedouin music plays is a magical experience.
Day - 13
Location: Petra - Dead Sea - After a very early start for those in the group who wish to visit Petra a second time, we drive to the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak, which was originally built to protect the eastern flank of the Latin Kingdom and its trade routes to the sea before it fell to Saladin in 1189. You will stroll through the site and continue to the ancient village at Dana, where local artisans sell attractive silver jewelry and charms. Late in the afternoon arrive at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, where we spend the evening. Named for the dearth of life in its waters, this lake is so intensely salty that the density of the water makes swimming and getting underneath the surface very difficult.
Day - 14
Location: Dead Sea - Madaba - Amman - After a relaxing morning spent at the Dead Sea; perhaps use the facilities of the hotel or of course no visit is complete without taking a dip like no other – the warm, highly saline waters make swimming difficult but bobbing on the water's surface is a unique pleasure. After lunch, we depart the Dead Sea for Mount Nebo, considered to be where Moses saw the Promised Landed before he died, the modest Church here with foundations dating back to 4thcentury houses some of the best mosaics in Jordan. Continue to Madaba “The City of Mosaics” and a stop at St Georges Church best known for its Byzantine mosaic depicting a map of the Holy Land. We spend the evening of day six in Amman.
Day - 15
Location: Amman - Today you will leave Amman for a short drive north (approximately 1 hour) to Jerash, once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best ruins Greco-Roman ruins around. Reaching its zenith as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian, it has a striking collection of archways and theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets, and is a beautiful place to spend a morning exploring. Grand ionic columns encircle the city's centrepiece, the Oval Plaza, a wonderfully atmospheric place to linger after exploring Jerash's riches. Afterwards you will return to Amman for the evening (approximately 1 hour). Maybe spend your final night at one of the many bars and restaurants in West Amman, or ask your leader about the traditional cafes dotted around the city where locals spend their evenings.
Day - 16
Location: Jerusalem - This morning you will cross the border between Jordan and Israel. Once you have completed your border formalities you will be transferred to your hotel in Jerusalem. Tonight you will meet your new leader and the rest of the group at a welcome meeting. After your welcome meeting take a short walk to a local restaurant in the old city serving a traditional meal of musakkhan (roasted chicken with onions, sumac, and olive oil on whole wheat flat bread) with yoghurt salad.
Day - 17
Location: Jerusalem - Meet your leader for a morning walk to St Stephen’s Gate (also known as Lion’s Gate) to enter the Old City, and visit the crusader church of St Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Now located in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, this pool was mentioned in the Gospel of John and is associated with healing. Walk along the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) – the 'way of sorrows' which follows Jesus’ path to crucifixion – and stop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried before rising again. Walk along the ‘Cardo’ in the recently restored Jewish Quarter, which was a road that ran the entire length of the city in Byzantine times. Visit the Wailing Wall – the remains of the Temple Mount, which acts as an outdoor synagogue, where written prayers are slid into the cracks between stones. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to wander around the city at your leisure.
Day - 18
Location: Jerusalem - Bound for Masada, drive via the biblical town of Ma'aleh Adumim and the Inn of the Good Samaritan in the Judean Desert. The Inn of the Good Samaritan is a museum located near the site of the inn mentioned in the New Testament's parable of the Good Samaritan, and it displays mosaics and artefacts discovered throughout Israel. In Masada you will take a cable car to discover the spectacular cliff-top fortress of Masada, built by King Herod around 35BC. This UNESCO site is very important to the Jewish people, a symbol of their exile from the Holy Land and of bravery and self sacrifice. Afterwards, drive to an archaeological site on the West Bank, about a mile from the north shore of the Dead Sea. Major discoveries have been made here in Qumran, not the least of which is the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here you will also have a chance to float in the extremely salty and buoyant Dead Sea. Continue up the shore to the town of Jericho. Discover this slow-paced town in the West Bank, where people have lived for 11,000 years. On a drive around the city see the Mount of Temptations (where Jesus was tempted by the devil) and a Sycamore Tree mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke. Return to Jerusalem for your final night.
Day - 19
Location: Bethlehem - In the morning, drive out to visit the Garden of Gethsemane, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus' crucifixion. See the Church of All Nations (also known as the Basilica of the Agony), which holds inside a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. Continue to Yad Vashem for a sobering and moving visit to Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Our local leaders are not permitted to guide in this museum, so you will have a tour with a local guide which will take approximately 2–3 hours.
Even the non-religious have no doubt heard of Bethlehem, even if it’s just through Christmas Nativity plays. Visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, marking the spot of the stable where Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus, and the Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour just a couple of kilometres east of the city. This area has been identified as the scene where angels visited the lowly shepherds and informed them of Jesus’ birth. The Roman Catholics and the Greek Orthodox each have their own Shepherds’ Field. The Roman Catholic site features a Franciscan Chapel designed to resemble the shepherds’ tent, while the Greek Orthodox site features a 5th-century church built over a cave.
Day - 20
Location: Nazareth - Travel to Tiberias and take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee (weather permitting), and afterwards visit Tabgha. This is where the Bible says Jesus performed the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, one of the only miracles that’s in all the gospels. Here you can see the church and its ancient mosaics that were built to mark the spot of the miracle. A short way up the lakeshore is Capernaum; see the ruins of this old fishing town, the site of two ancient synagogues and a church said to have been the home of Saint Peter. Here you will have the traditional St Peter’s Fish lunch. The name 'St Peter's Fish' comes from a story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth. Also visit the Church of the Annunciation, where Mary received the news of the Immaculate Conception, along with the well where she drew water every day. Continue to Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, where you’ll have the evening at your leisure.
Day - 21
Location: Tel Aviv - Today as you make your way to Tel Aviv, stop at the former crusader port and capital of Acre. Here you’ll visit the vast complex of buildings occupied by the Knights of St John (Knights Hospitaller), excavated to uncover rooms such as a large hall, a dungeon, a dining room and the crypt of an ancient Gothic church. You will also see the secret tunnel of their rivals, the Knights Templar – an underground passage between their fortresses. Continue through Haifa where you’ll view the Bahai Gardens on Mount Carmel Mountains (a memorial and shrine to the Bahai faith) and look out across the Mediterranean Sea. Stop for a farewell lunch with your leader and driver at a Druze restaurant, then visit Caesarea, which served as the capital of Israel during the Roman and Byzantine eras. This was once a great port town built by King Herod around 25BC, complete with a theatre, amphitheatre, hippodrome, palace, Roman temple and an extensive network of aqueducts, along with an artificial harbour. The city was eventually abandoned and lost under the desert sands, but thanks to archaeological excavations since the 1950s, its splendour is on show once again. Arrive in Tel Aviv for the night where your leader will bid you farewell.
Day - 22
Location: Tel Aviv - Your journey through Israel & the Palestinian Territories comes to an end today after breakfast and you are free to leave at any time. If you are interested in seeing more of the area, why not join one of our tours that continues through to Jordan, or spend more time to explore the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv.