Walk down a 1,000-year-old stone pathway as the sound of the Muslim call to prayer floats overhead and a queue of orthodox Jews in fur hats and Armenian nuns in full black habits pass by: Jerusalem is a must-visit destination for any lover of history, culture and tradition.
Every visitor to the City of Gold is likely to be met by the same scene; one where the smell of exotic spices fills the air, the sight of brightly coloured scarves and the sound of dozens of languages can be seen and heard in places such as the Machane Yehuda Market and the Old City – which you can now visit as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated small-group Israel adventure.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
In this article, we take a deep dive into the reasons why Jerusalem should be next on your travel hit list.
It’s one of the few cities in the Middle East where Jews, Christians and Muslims enjoy religious freedom
For thousands of years, Jerusalem has served as the crossroads of the three major monotheistic religions. In the modern age, it remains one of the only places in the Middle East where Jews, Christians and Muslims enjoy complete freedom to practise their faith without fear of persecution. You can witness this first-hand by visiting the major pilgrimage sites in Jerusalem, including the holiest sites in Judaism and important religious locations in the Muslim and Christian faiths.
As one might expect in a city where cultures have converged for four millennia, Jerusalem has witnessed major civilisation clashes. After King David established Jerusalem as the Jewish kingdom’s capital in about 1,000BCE and his son Solomon built the first Holy Temple there, the Babylonian, Persian and Greek empires conquered and occupied the city at various points, with the Romans officially changing the name of the territory from Judea to Palestine after crushing a Jewish revolt and destroying the Second Temple.
After the Roman Empire fell, Jerusalem was controlled by the Byzantine Empire, conquered by early Islamic caliphates, held by European Crusaders and taken by the Mamluk Sultanate. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire gained control of Jerusalem and held it until World War I, when the British took possession of the city until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
While Israel gained control of the western portion of the city at that point, Jordan occupied the eastern areas, including the Old City, barring Jews from visiting key holy sites. In 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel defeated the Jordanian army and captured the eastern part of the city, including the Temple Mount, which had not been in Jewish hands since the fall of the Second Temple. At that point, Israel opened up access to the holy sites to members of all faiths.
See how adherents of the three main monotheistic faiths share one coveted piece of real estate
To this day, you can experience remnants of all of these cultures throughout the city, including the primary pilgrimage site in Judaism, the Western Wall. This structure forms part of the base of the larger Temple Mount complex, which housed both Jewish temples for about 1,000 years until 70CE. Atop the Temple Mount sits the vast Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which are Muslim holy sites built approximately 1,000 years after the Second Temple was destroyed. The Old City is also home to several of the holiest sites in Christianity, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa and the Stations of the Cross, in addition to monasteries and houses of worship specifically associated with the Armenian church.
Crossing Jerusalem is like taking a stroll around the world in a day
The best way to experience Jerusalem is on foot. Within a few blocks, you can visit traditional Arab neighbourhoods in the eastern portion of the city, cross the street and experience the ultra-orthodox Jewish enclave of Mea Shea’rim and walk a few streets over and enter the Russian Compound, which features the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The ability to interact with a variety of ethnic groups in such a small geographical area gives Jerusalem an international feel that is hard to match.
In addition to the people and holy sites, Jerusalem is also a visually stunning city, with many buildings constructed from a pale local limestone that takes on a golden hue when the sun sets and rises. In areas such as the Old City, almost every facade is covered in Jerusalem stone, with bursts of purple bougainvillea exploding from the cracks in spring and summer. With strict building and zoning regulations in place since the British ruled Mandate Palestine, Jerusalem is pleasantly lacking in tall buildings and modern architecture and the skyline is devoid of skyscrapers.
See what it’s like to live life unplugged for 25 hours
The sheer number of holy sites in Jerusalem creates an atmosphere of spirituality that inspires many visitors to explore their own faith traditions or investigate spiritual practice in general. Not least of all, experiencing Jerusalem on a Saturday provides a rare chance to see what large-scale disconnection from modern technology looks like, with most of the city shutting down for 25 hours in observance of the Jewish sabbath.
With nearly all commercial premises closed for the day, an atmosphere of calm and serenity envelopes the city, but on Saturday night Jerusalem springs into action again, with restaurants and cafes opening and the popular Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall filling with students, street musicians and locals looking for a good time. The contrast between the peace and quiet of the sabbath and the frenetic energy that jolts the city back to life on Saturday night is a microcosm of the extremes that make this city such a compelling place to visit.
See world-class museums featuring art, archaeology and lots more
Jerusalem is home to some of the most precious collections of art and antiquities in the country, as well as the premier art institute, the Israel Museum. This landmark sits in large landscaped grounds and houses a permanent collection that includes everything from antiquities and artefacts from the biblical era, to postmodernist work and exhibitions from up-and-coming artists.
Jerusalem is also home to a number of smaller museums, such as the Museum for Islamic Art, the Jerusalem Theatre’s galleries and the Bible Lands Museum, which has a large collection of archaeological finds from the ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Phoenicians and Persians, among others. There are also speciality museums such as the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Psalms, in addition to a lively gallery scene for contemporary artists.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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