Bound for desert sands and a delectably aromatic breeze, we begin our ancient and holy journey. Readying ourselves for tomorrow’s arrival, imagine the intoxicating cities that eagerly await discovery.
As our feet touch down on Middle Eastern lands, we’re whisked away to the Lost City. Once home to some 30,000 people, the golden sands of Petra were left without footprints for more than 600 years. It wasn’t until 1812 that a chance meeting with Swiss explorer Jean Louis Burckhardt reintroduced Petra to the world. Cherish two nights at the luxurious Movenpick Resort Petra, where the magnificent metropolis lies just moments away. This evening, a Welcome Dinner gives us the opportunity to meet our fellow travellers.
As if created by a bolt of lightning, the Siq’s dramatic walls provoke anticipation and summon an intrepid spirit. Mere footsteps away, the Treasury, Petra’s most famous facade, awaits. Gaze upon elegant remains of antiquity, and cast your mind back to the days when hustle and bustle was the norm.
Further within these ancient walls, see the Street of Facades, Royal Tombs, Pharaoh’s Castle and the incredible Monastery. Sitting atop 800 steps, the climb to Petra’s largest rock-cut structure is not for the faint hearted, but is undoubtedly worth the effort. Its name may perplex because it was built in the third century BC as a tomb and was later used as a temple. Crosses etched into the internal walls reveal that the Byzantines used it as a church in later years.
Whether explored by horseback or foot, this spectacular carved city will soak into your memory.
On a fascinating Jeep expedition, see incredible carvings of human figures holding bows and arrows and an array of Nabatean rock inscriptions. Working up an appetite not only for discovery, we enjoy lunch at a desert camp.
The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar in the Jordan Valley awaits for a two-night stay. Set on the banks of the Dead Sea, we’re afforded private access to the hallowed waters.
Before we find ourselves astounded with an array of options for dinner, choose a Your World experience.
Like a fine red wine, our next destination is complex, full of character and aged to perfection. Eyes on pilgrim lands and ancient treasures, we make tracks along the King Hussein Bridge to Israel.
We are introduced to the capital with a visit to the City of David, where one of the site’s chief archaeologists exclusively details to us the story of Jerusalem. We enjoy five nights at the iconic King David Hotel – a lodging nearly 100 years old and crafted from beautiful pink quartz.
Our day begins with a visit to Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount. With a tumultuous history, the area remains controversial to this day and is carved between Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths. Jews have claimed the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall – a title bestowed on it by foreign observers when they heard the despairing sounds of Jewish prayer. Returning to our hotel, we stop at Mt Zion and the room of the Last Supper.
Stepping lightly on hallowed ground where gnarled branches bear bitter fruits, we visit the Garden of Gethsemane near the foot of the Mount of Olives, known as a place where Jesus frequented with his disciples. Later this morning, enter the walled Old City of Jerusalem before travelling along the Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of Sorrows. Upon arrival we visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Garden Tomb.
Presented with a biblical menu at Eucalyptus restaurant, we savour traditional Israeli flavours with a twist, specially prepared by world-class local chefs. Walking off the banquet, we make our way to a sound and light show that spectacularly demonstrates the history of Jerusalem.
After a free morning, we travel to the Great Rift Valley – a trench so monumental astronauts say it is one of the most significant physical details on the planet. Later, we ride a cable car to the desert fortress of Masada. As dusk falls on another day, we enjoy dinner with a perfect view overlooking the Dead Sea. Raise a glass (why not two?) to the shimmering lights of Jordan.
Today we prepare for a sobering reminder of Israel’s more recent past with visits to the main museum, the Avenue of the Righteous and the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem. Taking a step further back in time at the Israel Museum, we discover a range of archaeological finds including the enigmatic Dead Sea Scrolls. After lunch, we venture to Bethlehem.
Become immersed in the history and spirituality as we explore the sites of Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, as well as the monasteries of the Shepherds’ Fields.
Conquered by Egyptians, claimed by Romans and captured by Arabs – Beth Shean has quite a story. Together we walk the path of pharaohs, kings and caliphs, uncovering the remnants of this ancient city. Later, Israel’s Middle Eastern charm is on display in its largest Arab city, Nazareth. While here, perhaps take the opportunity to submerge yourself in the Jordan River at Yardenit, where it is believed that Jesus was baptised.
St Peter’s fish, caught fresh from the Sea of Galilee, tantalises our palates this afternoon at an exquisite lunch affair. Continue directly to the source as we sail upon the famous sea before ascending the Galilee Mountains en route to Rosh Pina where we stay at the Mizpe Hayamim.
A panorama of history is unveiled today on our ascent to Israel’s mountainous region. Take in vistas of Tabgha, Capernau and the Mount of Beatitudes, where it is said that Jesus delivered his most famous teachings, the Sermon on the Mount.
As we approach the plateau of the Golan Heights, its magnificence is swiftly revealed. Born from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, it has since become an essential source of desert water, and today provides a third of Israel’s supply.
Journeying east and the woodlands of Banias Nature Reserve are soon before us. Winding along picturesque pathways, we discover falls, springs and ancient ruins, before climbing the volcanic cone of Mt Bental for breathtaking views.
Leaving the past in the past, ancient worlds make way for a modern metropolis. With Tel Aviv in our sights, we deviate to the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Coast. Here, a cable car ride takes us past the beautiful grottos and caves within the sheer white cliff face of Rosh Hanikra.
As sunlight dissolves into the sea, our journey continues along the coast to the ancient city of Akko and the Bahai Gardens in Haifa. Perfectly groomed flowerbeds and hedges pepper our gravel path. Perhaps make your way the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb. Lunch is served at Daliat El Carmel before a tour of ancient Caesarea, the Roman capital of Israel.
Later, an Israeli archaeologist shares insight into the Holy Land before we admire the Latin American art of the Ralli Museum and then arrive in Tel Aviv. Tonight we enjoy an authentic sampling dinner at Market Kitchen before retiring for the evening at the Hilton Tel Aviv.
Bathed in Mediterranean sunshine, hummus-infused aromas linger in the air, and Bauhaus-era buildings paint the city ivory. Tel Aviv is a vibrant metropolis that is quick to charm.
Today we explore Israel’s second-largest city with a visit to Independence Hall and the Palmach Museum to uncover the nation’s intriguing history. Under the careful eye of head chef Jonathan Roshfeld, Herbert Samuel serves a sensory feast this evening. We dine on regional fusion dishes that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
With a new morning comes a new country and of course, new adventures. We bid farewell to Israel and fly to an island split in two – imbued as it is with Greek and Turkish influences. Touching down in Larnaca, we transfer to Cyprus’ lively city of Limassol and the independently owned Four Seasons Hotel. Over the coming five nights, this residence will serve as the perfect base for discovery.
This morning we are at liberty to explore the island’s capital of Nicosia before travelling further north.
Divided since Turkish forces invaded the north in 1974, a green line still exists as a border between the north and south. We consider ourselves lucky to cross over to the harbour town of Kyrenia en route to the beautiful 12th-century Bellapais Abbey. Nestled at the foot of the Besparmak mountains, this monastic masterpiece will charm you with Italian frescos and coastline views.
Awake this morning for a leisurely stroll along the palm-lined promenade of Larnaca to the Byzantine Church of St Lazarus. Of course, if you would rather remain nestled in bed with a steaming mug of tea, you’re more than welcome to do so.
Today’s exploits take us to the seaside town of Famagusta. Here, we learn about the 12th-century Kingdom of Salamis while wandering amid crumbling colonnades, marble baths and elaborate mosaics in what remains of Cyprus’ most important pre-Christian city. Heading back to our hotel, we pass by the heavily guarded Ghost City of Varosha. Abandoned by man and reclaimed by nature, Varosha stands as an eerie reminder of Cyprus’ past.
Our daily discovery begins in Paphos, believed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite. The Roman mosaics found within the city’s House of Dionysus are truly remarkable – depictions of panther-drawn chariots and eagles carrying the weight of the moon decorate our vision.
Travelling onwards to the St Neophytos Monastery and Tomb of the Kings, distinguished cultural masterpieces await. We also touch on Paphos’ harbour area, dotted with tiny freckles of fishing boats, before returning to Limassol this evening.
Nurturing a sense of discovery, we delve into the intricacies of Limassol during our final full day. Explore the old market and medieval castle where, according to history, Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre before crowning her the Queen of England in 1191. We continue to the ancient site of Kourion and visit the theatre and House of Eustolious, with the opportunity to walk to clifftop view ruins if the mood should strike you.
At the Omodhos village, as rich in culture and history as it is in views, we visit the Monastery of the Holy Cross where, over the centuries, eclectic trinkets have made their way for safekeeping. Among these treasures, the skull of Apostle Philip and the remains of 26 saints are said to reside.
After weeks of immersion into some of the world’s most enchanting cultures, you deserve a quiet moment of reflection to yourself. Bathe in the sunshine of Limassol on one of the city’s many beautiful beaches or enjoy the morning among the fine amenities of our hotel. Later, we will transfer to Larnaca International Airport for our flight back to Australia via Dubai.
We arrive home today with new world insights, knowledge and experiences rarely had by others.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and even sightseeing trips - including those by helicopter or horseback. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
Moments away from the entrance of Petra, the Movenpick Resort Petra offers elegant Middle Eastern style through its use of natural stone and handcrafted wood. Lay your head down as night falls, knowing that just in the distance, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World awaits.
The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea welcomes you to the lowest place on earth. Each room is but a stone’s throw away from the vast salty waters of the Dead Sea. And with private access from the hotel, you can take a dip in the buoyant waters away from the crowds.
Looking out to the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee, the Mizpe Hayamim offers a tranquil escape. Surrounded by forests and majestic gardens, as well as an organic farm, orchards and flowing streams, it’s an ideal place to sit amid the pristine nature and absorb the serenity.
Fares are per person, twin share in Australian dollars and include Emirates flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request. All regional flights are in Economy Class with strict luggage restrictions.
Land Only guests join in Petra on Day 2 and depart Limassol on Day 20.
Solo availability at the above price is limited.
Trip notes: This journey is reserved for a group of just 24 guests.