Israel - Palestine railway tour: 10 day train and road journey


From $2960 per person 
includes accommodation, daily tours, transportation, expert guides, entry fees, and two meals a day

Tuesday 1 September - Thursday 10 September, 2020

  • Explore historic railway sites in Israel-Palestine
  • Expert guides and meeting local people
  • Tours with the Middle East's only cooperative tour company committed to peace
  • Visit important cultural, historic and religious sites to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Samaritans and Baha'i
  • Ride the Middle East's first ever railway line 
  • Stay in a kibbutz and with a Palestinian family
  • Float in the Dead Sea
  • Ancient Roman ruins
  • Visit a Palestinian refugee camp
  • Uncover abandoned railways, tunnels, stations, rolling stock and more
  • Optional 3-day Jordan extension
Modern high speed rail near Jerusalem
Ever since the Middle East's first railway opened here under the Ottomans, the railway has been played an important role in all the major developments of this land.

We have created this absolutely unique 10-day tour which combines the world famous sites the region has to offer with fascinating train history and contemporary railway developments.

You will be able to ride much of the modern Israel Railways network, as well as explore many of the forgotten train sites dotted around this land from the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate.

You will also be able to float in the Dead Sea, visit the traditional sites of Christ's birth and death, and engage with local people from all different walks of life. Green Olive is the industry leader and one of the only tour operators able to seamlessly bring you to both Israeli and Palestinian areas. We are a unique collective committed to human rights and democratic values, and believe in the power of rail to bring people together.

Day 1 - Tuesday 1 September - arrival at Ben Gurion Airport

From the airport, take the fast, modern, train 15 minutes into central Tel Aviv. Your hotel is directly above the railway station so the whole journey can be made seamlessly without the need for taxis or buses. That evening meet the tour participants and your group leader Alex who will give you a briefing on the days to come.

Overnight at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv.

Day 2 - Wednesday 2 September - walking tour of Jaffa and Tel Aviv

After breakfast, you'll be brought to the Clock Tower, the central square of historic Jaffa. On a guided walking tour of the area you'll see the world's oldest port, mosques, churches and markets, as well as learn about the thousands of years of conquest by dozens of armies, the Zionist dream, and the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe). These important stories have all shaped the story of Jaffa, and indeed Tel Aviv.

Lunch today will be inside the restored Jaffa Railway Station. Trains no longer run to the station but it was from here that the first steam line in the Middle East began operating in 1892. You can trace its path through the neighbourhood of Neve Tsedek where a new metro is being built, and into the heart of modern Tel Aviv. You will walk Rothschild Boulevard, see where Israeli Independence was declared and admire the UNESCO-World Heritage listed Bauhaus architecture.

After a break for an afternoon drink we will continue walking up to the Sarona Market, once the site of a thriving German Christian colony, and now an upscale commercial centre. From here it is just a few minutes back walk to the hotel.

Overnight at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv.

Day 3 - Thursday 3 September - train to Haifa, railway museum, Baha'i Gardens

Time to hit the rails! You will board the train for the scenic ride along the Mediterranean Coast to the port city of Haifa. Your hotel here is also close to the train station, where you will drop your bags before visiting the nearby Israeli Railway Museum. A guided tour here will be provided by the Museum Director, Mister Chen Melling.

A short walk through the Haifa old town brings you to the Carmelite, the only underground transit system in the country. We will ride up 274 m to the top where the views are incredible. A tour of the Baha'i Gardens (15.00), one of the holiest sites for this young world religion, and views of the shrine of the Bab are a real highlight of the city.

Overnight tonight in the Maris Hotel.

Day 4 - Friday 4 September - ferry to Acre, Rosh Hanikra rail tunnel, Sea of Galilee

Today you can enjoy a relaxed morning. Our bus will collect our bags, but we will take the ferry from the nearby port (departure 11.00) across the bay to the former Crusader capital of Acre. Now known as Akko or Aka, this medieval walled city is beautiful and packed full of history. You'll enjoy a walking tour of the old town including the Templar Tunnel, which connected the port to the main Crusader Fortress and was only rediscovered in 1994.

After a seafood lunch, we will be picked up for the short journey to the north-westernmost tip of the country at Rosh Hanikra. Here is where the railway once passed a tunnel, demolished in the 1948 war and closed ever since, for the journey into Lebanon to Beirut. Nowadays we can ride a cable car down to the beautiful underwater caves (closes 16.00).

You'll spend the night in a hotel on a kibbutz, a collective farm typical of early Zionist settlement, right on the Sea of Galilee.

Overnight at the Nof Ginosar Kibbutz Hotel.

Day 5 - Saturday 5 September - Hejaz Railway, Nazareth and into the West Bank

The missionary work of Jesus began in this region. You will sleep on the shores of the water upon which he is said to have walked, and this morning you can visit the little church at Tabgha, where tradition holds the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 happened. We will also visit the restored railway station at Semach, an important station on the Valley Branch of the famous Hejaz Railway, which was planned to link Istanbul and Mecca. A branch line ran from Haifa into what is now Jordan and Syria, and there are several places where you will see remains of this important part of rail history.
 
We will head to Nazareth for lunch, the largest Arab town in the Galilee, and home to the impressive Basilica of the Annunciation.
You will then enter the West Bank for the first time and spend the night in the Sebastiya guest house, in the midst of vast Ancient Greek, Roman and Crusader ruins. Tradition holds this to be the place where the head of John the Baptist was buried.

Overnight at the Sebastiya Guest House.

Day 6 - Sunday 6 September - Nablus and the Samaritans
After a quick look at the impressive ruins of Sebastiya, you will drive the short distance to the bustling Palestinian city of Nablus to enjoy a walk through the old city with its beautiful labyrinth of buildings mostly dating back to the Ottoman period. The friendly atmosphere in the suq is always very lively and there are local treats such as knafeh to be tried. You'll also see the crumbling remains of the former railway station here.

Overlooking Nablus is Mount Gerizim, the holy mountain of the Samaritans. They are an ancient people who have survived despite the odds against them and continue to practice an ancient version of the Jewish religion. You will meet Samaritan people and be shown around their holy sites and museum.

On the drive back to the coast you'll pass settlements, the West Bank barrier and checkpoints, with plenty of opportunity to discuss the political situation, before arriving back at the hotel in Tel Aviv for a free evening.

Overnight at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv.

Day 7 - Monday 7 September - Masada, the Dead Sea and desert train ride

Today we are back on the rails, for the journey into the Negev Desert. We will ride (dep 07.39) to the end of the line, to the town of Dimona, the southern-most station of the Israeli rail network and learn about the ambitious plan to extend the line all the way to Eilat and the Red Sea.

Here we will be picked up by bus (09.44) for the drive to Masada. This desert fortress, built by King Herod, perches in an unlikely way on top of a towering rock with epic views of the Dead Sea below. You can ride the cable car or walk the Snake Path to reach the top.

Then you will visit the lowest natural point on Earth - the Dead Sea, where the highly salty water is good for the skin and allows you to float. A truly unique sensation not to be missed!

On our way back we stop at Beersheva, where you will visit the restored railway station with its original Turkish 45151 class steam locomotive. The return to the hotel in Tel Aviv will be made by train (dep 17.41), passing within a few kilometres of the Gaza Strip and using much of the old line which once connected Palestine to the Egyptian Sinai, the Suez Canal and Cairo.

Overnight at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv.

Day 8 - Tuesday 8 September - oldest rail line, Jerusalem old city

The most beautiful rail journey in the country is the historic line which once connected Jaffa and Jerusalem. Although it doesn't run into the city centre of either city any more, today you'll be lucky enough to step out of your hotel and onto the train for the slow, scenic climb through the Jerusalem hills, just as people have for nearly 120 years (dep 08.51).

When you arrive (10.32), you'll have the option to ride the final 3km of the railway by bike, to the former central railway station, now a restored with leisure facilities and restaurants.

This afternoon you will enjoy a walking tour of the old city. Visiting all four quarters with an expert guide will highlight the symbolic importance of this area to billions of people around the world. You will also see the most important religious sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.

Dinner tonight will be at the restored First Station railway building. Overnight in the historic YMCA 3 Arches Hotel.

Day 9 - Wednesday 9 September - Mount of Olives, Battir and Bethlehem

This morning we will drive up to the Mount of Olives for the best views of the old city. A short drive away we will cross the checkpoint and visit Battir, a Palestinian village famous for its use of terraces to manage water and recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. There are also great views of the railway and although for 20 years the village was in Jordan, and now it is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, no barrier separates it from the railway which has continued to run peacefully ever since.

We will enjoy lunch here at the Women's Centre with lovely leafy green views. In the afternoon, we will visit Bethlehem. Here you can see the Church of the Nativity, built around the traditional site of the Manger where Christ was born. You will also visit the Aida Refugee Camp, meeting with some of the community leaders and hearing about the work they do. Green Olive supports their work with a donation for the visit.

On one side of the camp is Israel's West Bank barrier, and you will walk a section covered in graffiti by artists including Banksy. The world famous British artist also built the nearby Walled Off Hotel, where you can enjoy a drink amidst his provocative art works.

This evening you will meet the family who will host us for evening dinner and the night. A great opportunity to discuss all the things you've learnt with people who live the occupation every day.

Day 10 - Thursday 10 September - Free time in Jerusalem and departure

All good things must come to an end. Today we will bring you back into Jerusalem, where depending on your flights, you can either take the new, high speed train to the airport, or enjoy some more time on the ground. Today there will be an optional Hebron - Ramallah tour, which visits two more fascinating West Bank cities. Others may like to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum, or revisit some of the holy sites for a day of prayer and reflection.

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Image result for petraThere is also the chance to extend the trip by 3 more days into Jordan. If you take this option, today you will visit the baptismal site of Christ in the Jordan River before crossing the Allenby Bridge into the Kingdom of Jordan. You'll then visit Mt Nebo, where many believe Moses to be buried, and see the stunning mosaics at Madaba. You'll then drive south to Wadi Musa for your overnight stay.

The following morning you will visit one of the jewels of the ancient world - Petra. Walking through the canyon and seeing the Treasury building appearing from behind the rock is an unforgettable experience. There are various hikes to the many buildings dotted around the complex. The afternoon finishes with a drive to Wadi Rum, a part of the desert like no other with red sands and bizarre rock formations. You can sleep in a Bedouin tent and see remains of the Hejaz railway, made famous by T.E. Lawrence and the film Lawrence of Arabia.

On today's trip north you can stop for a visit at the Crusader castle of Kerak, before arriving in Jordan's capital, Amman. On a city tour here you will be see the ruined Roman Citadel, the Blue Mosque, and the railway station. Built as a key stop on the Hejaz Railway, frequent trains linked it with Damascus and was operational until the Syrian War disrupted the service.


Any questions? Contact us for more information.


Itinerary subject to change