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Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Houston, Texas
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Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Dear Israel Gurus,

Please comment on my itinerary and suggest budget (less $80-100/night accommodations).

Me and my wife are planning 12days/11night trip to Israel in late December. Here are the plans/thoughts so far:

FRI morning: arrive TLV, Transfer to hotel in Jerusalem

-How? Sherut? Bus _taxi?

Next 3.5 days/4 nights Jerusalem.

Getting a car for a week a night before departure.

TUE morning: check out and head to Dead Sea

TUE: Hike in Ein Gedi, deep in Dead Sea, hike/cable car to Masada.

Now two options:

(A)Night in Dead Sea region (where? Any chance for budget stay?)

(B) Drive to Eilat at night

Next day depending on the options:

(A) Some more natural attractions in the region/desert

(B) Snorkel/explore eilat (too cold?)

Drive to Mizpe Ramon, spend a night there (where?)

THU: Hike in the Crater? (Any well-marked trail to recommend?)

Drive North towards Caessaria.

Spend a nigh in ???

FRI: Caessaria (till what time the ruins are open open on Friday? How much time needed ½ day enough?)

Fri afternoon ->Haifa, night in Haifa (where?).

SATexplore Haifa/Acco (anything really crucial we won’t see on shabatt?)

Sat night – drive to Tiberia

SUN morning Tiberia, drive back south to Rehovot

Mon/Tue Tel Aviv (return car on Monday and use public transport)

Tue late evening back to US.

Israel
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1. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Staying in Israel on a budget of $80-100 per night budget during high season will be quite difficult. The Christian hostels which offer budget accomodations in many places are within that range if you can find a room (assuming you are coming this year). The other option are the Youth Hostel's (see web site: http://www.iyha.org.il/eng/). Their web site lists all of the hostels in the country and allows you to make on-line reservations. The only one that I know of that is not recommended is in Haifa, all others are on a high standard -- clean, private shower/toilets, Israeli breakfast included in the price.

Take a sherut from the airport, most economical. Plan your visit in Jerusalem so that you will see the sites important to you in a logical order, using public transporation and/or taxis to get around. Saturday is the perfect time for visiting important Christian sites.

Tuesday you can stay either in Ein Gedi guest house or the youth hostel or at the Masada youth hostel which is brand new and very nice. Keep in mind that your day will end at 4:00 and that at Masada there is nothing there but the desert -- so you can rest. I would dip in the Dead Sea on Wednesday and then drive to Eilat, starting out in daylight. This desert road is very boring, especially during the night.

In/around Eilat visit Timna and it's copper mines, a hike in the Red Canyon, Black Canyon, visit the underwater observatory, snorkel (the water in the Red Sea is a constant 22 degrees, it's hard to tell now what the air temperature will be).

Mitzpe Ramon also has a youth hostel, field school, hotel and guest house (all with the name Ramon). All have nice accomodations. There is a very nice hike in the Saharonim riverbed which takes about 2 hours and December is the perfect time to hike there. There are many small areas that are off the main highway which should not be missed, such as the Carpentry Shop, Ammonite (fossil) wall and dykes.

I would drive north on the second day and stay somewhere on the way as Caesarea is about a 4 hour drive from Mitzpeh Ramon and accomodations in that area can be quite expensive. You could stay in Tel Aviv or one of the Kibbutz hotels such as Shefayim just outside Tel Aviv. The National Parks close at 3 on Friday and half a day is more than enough. From there drive to Haifa, which is not too far and stay in one of the hotels.

Saturday is a great day to visit Akko. The visitors center is open starting at 8:30 a.m. and includes a recorded guided tour to enhance your visiting experience. I recommend purchasing a combination ticket including Rosh Hanikra, which is only 20 minutes away and well worth the visit.

Stay that night in Tiberias and in the morning drive south to see Beit Shean and then on to Rehovot.

Chana

Israel

Israel
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2. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

According to their website, the Ceasaria Park closes at three on Fridays. That means you should get there around 2PM at the latest to see the indoor displays. However, if you just want to see the ruins and don't mind missing on the interactive displays and the movies, you can arrive whenever you like and walk right in. Once the "National Park" hours are over, you get in for free (there are restaurants inside, so they want people to be able to enter even when the official NP hours are over).

If you'd like to stay near Ceasaria for the night, you can try Beit Grushka -

www.zimmer.co.il/galil_lang.asp…

This is where our visitors stay (wish we could have them at our place, but no room :( ) and so far everyone was happy. I see they only mention weekly rates on their site, but they were happy to host people for a night as well, so you can try contacting them and see what they say. The town of Binyamina is 10-15 minutes away from Ceasaria and on your way to Haifa (shouldn't take you more than 40 minutes tops to get to where you want in Haifa on Sat morning).

Hope this helps :) Looks like you have a busy itinerary there. Keep in mind this is December, so who knows, it may even rain. Before hiking in the Makhtesh, ask the folks in the visitors center about any flood warnings, just to stay on the safe side.

Houston, Texas
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3. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Great suggestions so far! Thanks a lot!

We set most of the accommodations so far:

first 3 nights Jerusalem Panorama, next night Ein Gedi hostel, then (still deciding whether eilat is worth a drive), then yiha Mizpe Ramon, then somewhere in tel-aviv area, then haifa, tiberia and two nights in Tel Aviv.

A few more practical questions:

Do I need a car to see something in Jerusalem/ around it. Or should I rent it in the very evening before heading to Ein Gedi?

Is driving through the west bank to dead sea ok with rental companies?

What does eldan charge for Hwy 6 driving? Any way to avoid it going from mizpe ramon towards tel-aviv?

Any short stops/detours to consider while driving? Thanks for mentioning Beit Shean - probably worth a stop.

Is is going to be too cold around kinnereth for hiking?

Tel-Aviv
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4. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

You don't need a car in Jerusalem. It's actually a liability because of the construction, traffic and lack of parking.

Highway 6 - ask Eldan ! (also search this forum for information).

You can drive from Mitzpe Ramon towards Tel-Aviv on Highways 40 and 4 but I see that you will probably reach Tel-Aviv around the evening rush-hour. In that case you may prefer paying the cost to avoid the heavy traffic on your way to Caesarea.

Israel
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5. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Lots to do and see in the Galilee - not sure how much time you'll have for detours though?

IMO, Israeli National Parks are always a good choice. They're not huge like American ones, and usually you can visit one in 1-3 hours. You can also get a free annual pass, which may be worth it if you're planning on visiting more than 5-6 parks during your stay.

Here's a list of the ones up in the Karmel and Galilee regions -

http://www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/general2/company_search_tree.php?mc=388~Card12

I wouldn't rent a car especially for Jerusalem. Unless you have a GPS, it can be a bit difficult to navigate anyway. Taxis will probably be cheaper and easier. I have heard from tourists visiting us that cab drivers from the Old City have tried very hard (and successfully with our guests) to sell them a "guided tour" of Bethlehem in their cab. They weren't too impressed with the product though - so keep that in mind.

If you have a car for the rest of the trip, you could use it in Jerusalem too. We always visit with our car, it's not that bad. It's a big city with its congestion during rush hour, and yes, some construction here and there, but manageable, IMO. Plenty of parking next to the museums and places in the Western side. In the Old City, make sure you map out your parking lots in advance and just park and walk from there.

Israel
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6. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

One more thing. The chances of the Kinneret area being too cold for hiking are pretty slim. It's usually fairly warm there, even during winter time. In fact, plan on light clothing, teeshirts etc.

If the current weather continues, you won't even need umbrellas for your visit... a very sunny and warm winter so far. I can't believe Hannuka is around the corner and I still haven't changed the kids wardrobes to winter clothes.

Israel
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7. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Sorry Israeli_mom - I disagree very strongly about having a car in Jerusalem. It is a headache to be avoided if at all possible. Driving is confusing at best, the traffic patterns change all the time, the construction for the light rail and other projects only makes it worse.

There is parking at Yad VaShem and the Israel Museum - that's it. It is hard to find legal overnight parking, if you do, then you have to rush to move your car in the morning, parking is expensive and hard to find - and essentially non-existent near the Old City except for the Mamila and Karta lots. Yes, there are plenty of places to park - but that's only if you know where they are and are willing to take a bus from where you found parking - ok for the locals, not worth the time for tourists.

The idea of a discount multi-use ticket for national parks is great - however, there is another option instead of the annual pass. They offer a 14 day pass which gives you admission to any 6 parks you want for 90 NIS, one pass per person - a real money-saver. See: http://www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/general2/data_card.php?Cat=~~~800557905~Card14~&ru=&SiteName=parks&Clt=&Bur=532958149

If you are renting a car to pick up the evening before you go to Ein Gedi - make sure you check the hours of the rental office - they are usually not open late.

It is perfectly safe to drive to the Dead Sea and is fine with the rental companies.

You can avoid the toll portion of Highway 6 on the way back from Mitzpe Ramon and still save almost an hour of driving if you take Hwy 6 north from its southernmost point. Stay on 6 till the Soreq Interchange. That portion is not a toll road. Get off Hwy 6 at that point and then head for Hwy 4 to Tel Aviv and north. That will not solve the rush hour question that mbgg mentioned - and with that consideration it may still be worth your while to take 6 all the way through up north.

Israel
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8. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

One more note about driving in Jerusalem - I know the city extremely well, know where to find parking, etc. and I still avoid driving to Jerusalem and in the city if I can avoid it. I was just there today and took the bus into the city, where I needed to be and then out of the city.

In the case of Jerusalem it makes sense to leave the driving to Egged.

Israel
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9. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

Oreet, I do see your point, but I think it's a matter of personal choice. I don't find Jerusalem to be much more difficult to drive in than Tel Aviv. Personally, I much prefer to be driving than wait for the Egged buses.

I think driving in Israel in general is a bit more difficult on average than driving in the US or Europe (my experience in Europe being limited to the UK). That said, I know many Israelis who panic at the thought of driving in LA or London. I've done both, and while it was challenging in some aspects, I actually enjoyed it.

Israel
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10. Re: Please help me refine my 12 day trip

It's true it's a matter of personal preference, but a tourist has so little time here - it would be a shame to waste any of it dealing with dead end streets, no left turns, etc. and finding parking.

I know people who will or won't drive in one of the two cities, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I'll drive in both, though I really dislike driving in Tel Aviv. Just to put this in perspective - rush hour in midtown Manhattan doesn't scare me - I just don't want to hassle with Jerusalem driving.

And, as I said, for a tourist - it's just a shame to waste the time on this when they could take the bus or a taxi for not a lot of money and avoid the headache.