We had our bookings for stay in Netanya, which is around 30 kms to the North of Tel Aviv. Netanya - Gift of God is a very popular tourist destination. Situated on the coast of Mediterranean Sea, Netanya offers all the buzz you need. The evenings get super refreshing at Inter Active Atzmaut Square. People walking, skateboarding, music - it has everything what you need to revitalize your soul.
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80 Kms from Netanya
Aside from a dip in the Dead Sea, the main attraction in this area is Masada, site of a mass suicide by the Zealots in AD73 to avoid capture by the Romans and, today, a symbol of national pride. Diligent research revealed that the best time to see Masada was an early morning climb to the summit to watch the sunrise. The next morning I prepared for my climb up the "Snake Path" trail. We made it to the top in about 45 minutes and were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. The Judean Desert spread out below and the Dead Sea sparkling turquoise in the distance. Truly, utterly amazing. Biblical, some might say. After exploring the ruins at the top for about an hour, I started the climb back down which was much easier going now that the sun was up.
59 Kms from Netanya
So finally our trip was coming to a near end when we made our last stop over at Nazareth. Reaching after a two-hour long journey from Jerusalem, our adventures in Israel and Jordan would have been incomplete without the visit to Nazareth. Starting at the Basilica of the Annunciation, where we offered our prayers at the holy place of Jesus' birth, we then toured around the largest church in the Middle East. While we marveled at the architectural excellence of the dome of the Basilica from the Roman Catholic reigns, even the relics from the Byzantine and Crusader era left us awe-struck. This was followed by a short walk of pilgrimage, where we took a few steps towards exploring the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, along with St. Joseph's Church, Mary's Well and the Ancient Bath House amongst other religious structures.However, as we moved beyond the realms of Christianity in the city, we we amazed at the diversity of cultural activities that we saw at Diwan El Lajun, which was a multi-cultural center for the Stage Arts.And finally our trip came to an end with a sumptuous Jewish feast amongst the kind locals of Nazareth Village.
109 Kms from Netanya
Amman is the capital city of Jordan and as per some old biblical dictionary it means a city perched atop 7 Hills. As I drove from the airport to my hostel in downtown, this fact became apparent as I came across several viewpoints which offered a panoramic view of the entire city. My stay was booked at The Boutique Hostel (nothing Boutique about it though) in downtown Amman. It was a small house managed by a helpful but shrewd Palestinian owner. The itinerary for the day was to visit the Roman Theater and the Citadel. Both nestled inside the city limits. I got my directions from the hostel manager and decided to walk (walking is the best way to explore any city).The entire downtown Amman is filled with shops that sell everything, from classy leather jackets and boots to the boring electronics to the much hyped dead sea cosmetics. People are warm and friendly. Infact, I was approached by many of them as they instantly recognized the traveler with a camera and the fact that he also looked Indian. Questions pertaining to Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai, Delhi were asked and offers made to buy discounted products from their shops. I only asked further directions to the Roman Theater.Unfortunately, the Roman Theater was closed due to severe flooding that had taken place due to torrential rains (something that is least expected in a desert) and I also came to know that the next place I planned to visit was supposed to be closed for the day in the next 15 minutes. I immediately rushed to my next destination, not wanting to miss out and have nothing to speak about my first day as a solo traveler. Upon my arrival at the Citadel, several tour guides offered an extra hour of sight-seeing beyond the closing time so that I could see the entire place, for an extra 20 JD. Well, it was totally worth it. The majestic sun was calling it a day, the city was turning into a burning red rose and I was on top of one of the 7 hills of Amman surrounded by history and roman architecture.I walked back to my hostel (atleast 4-5 kms) and upon my return, I got to meet my room mates – an Indian, a friendly Taiwenese man and an aloof Japenese teenager. Pranav had arrived two days back in Amman and was still to explore the many tourist destinations of Jordan. Being Indians, we bonded quickly and even faster we made plans about the places to visit for the next day. Pranav and me had booked a tour guide who would pick up from our hostel and take us through the King’s Highway to visit the Moses Burial Ground, the Dead Sea, Panorama and the Ma’in Hot Springs. King’s Highway is the one of the oldest trade routes in the middle east, offering scenic spots of the entire country side of Jordan and connecting all the major tourist spots. Its runs like a snake carved through mountains and has no speed limits. Going up and down the hills, it offers some great sights for photography.
228 Kms from Netanya
From Aqaba, we again set off on an amazing jeep tour into the Wadi Rum desert. And as we reached Petra, we knew it was the perfect place for a history-lover like me. As a young boy, I often imitated the adventures of Indiana Jones and now I was breathing amongst the walls that had once stood for the Last Crusade! So without further adieu, we delved our curious and excited foot steps into the carved pink sandstone and soon made our grand entrance, through the winding canyon of Siq, finally to the legendary Al Khazneh (The Treasury). Walking past the stone-resurrected tombs and narrow gorges amidst the rocks that have withheld a metamorphosis with the passage of time. And finally we got lucky for our first glimpse!Marked in every corner by its history of Bedouin culture, yet it reeks of the once effluent Pharaoh's lavish interests. So as we headed out, content with ourselves of the historical essence our trip had brought on, we realised it was just impossible to stay in Petra for just a day. To get the feel of the ruins that shaped history, we decided we'll stay on and explore more. So in the coming days came the Roman Theater and the Royal Tombs and the magnificent show that we are glad we didn't miss- Petra by Night. And with the visit to the Mountain of Aaron, our trip came to an end.