Highlights of the Holy Land: Jerusalem & Bethlehem

Some of the most revered sites of Biblical times are featured on this long and fulfilling day, a journey that takes you in the steps of Jesus and illuminates events of the ancient world that still resonate today. Discover the Church of All Nations and the adjacent Garden of Gethsemane; the Old City of Jerusalem and its storied Via Dolorosa and Wailing Wall; and Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and David.

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    Approximately 10 1/2 hours
NEW for 2016- This Crystal Adventures excursion MUST be pre-reserved.

En route to Jerusalem, stop to enjoy views from atop the Mount of Olives and continue to the Church of All Nations, also called the Basilica of Agony. Located at the foot of the Mount of Olives next to the Garden of Gethsemane, the church was built between 1919 and 1924 using funds from 12 countries. Structural highlights include a domed roof, thick pillars and intricate floor mosaics, all of which give the building a Byzantine flair.

The Garden of Gethsemane, famous as the place where Jesus prayed with his disciples the night before he was crucified, hosts a natural grotto where it is believed the disciples slept while Jesus prayed, and where Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested. Remaining largely unchanged, the grotto serves as a small chapel, with a depiction of Jesus Praying Among the Apostles over the main altar and paintings over the side altars illustrating the Assumption of the Virgin and the Kiss of Judas. Of course, the garden is also known for its old olive trees. In fact, “Gethsemane” means “oil press” in Greek. While none of the present-day trees were standing during the time of Christ, they are nonetheless ancient.

Following your visit to the Basilica and gardens, transfer by motor coach to the

Jaffa Gate, where you will enter the Old City of Jerusalem and begin your guided walk. Stroll past the bazaar and along part of the Via Dolorosa, believed to be the route Jesus followed as he carried the cross to Calvary. You will visit the Holy Sepulcher at Golgotha and view the golden Dome of the Rock as you stroll through the Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter and Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall, formerly called the Wailing Wall.

Take a moment to contemplate the wall, considered the holiest site in the Jewish world, and exit the city through the Dung Gate, returning by foot to your motor coach, which awaits to take you to a nearby hotel for lunch.

Refreshed, travel to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and David and where David was crowned King of Israel. Your Bethlehem experience includes a visit to one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the World, the Church of Nativity. The complex is comprised of two churches and a grotto beneath, where Jesus is said to have been born. Appreciate the facades and interior spaces of the main basilica, built in the Roman style, and the adjoining Church of St. Catherine, characterized by Gothic revival architecture. Should time permit, you will descend into the grotto, called the Grotto of the Nativity, to ponder the very places where Jesus was born, marked by a 14-pointed silver star set into the marble floor, with an altar above.

Also encounter Manger Square, the large, pedestrian-only courtyard in front of the Church of the Nativity. Every year, large crowds gather on Christmas Eve to celebrate and sing Christmas carols in anticipation of midnight mass at the Basilica.

Celebrating your own discovery of Bethlehem’s historic sights, make a stop at a souvenir shopping destination for a chance to acquire a memento of your visit.

From here, rejoin your motor coach and venture through Jerusalem City, enjoying an overview that includes the government and parliament compound as you make your way to your Crystal ship.

Important Notes: Guests must be a minimum of 8 years of age in order to participate. As this excursion involves a substantial amount of walking over sometimes uneven and steep surfaces, along with extensive stairclimbing, it is not recommended for guests with walking difficulties. It is recommended that guests dress in casual clothing and wear flat, comfortable shoes. Guests should dress conservatively, with knees and shoulders covered. Crowding can be expected, especially at the Church of Nativity. This excursion will operate in all weather conditions. The order of sights visited may vary. As this excursion crosses the border into Bethlehem, guests must carry their passports. This Crystal Adventures excursion MUST be pre-reserved.