The land of Israel and Palestine is one of the most fascinating places in the world. From the rich history to the religious importance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, stunning natural beauty, vibrant cities, and incredible food scene there is so much to see, learn and experience. So, how do you figure out what to see and do? Here are my suggestions for a 2 week Israel & Palestine itinerary and a few tips to get your started.
Are Israel and Palestine Safe to Visit?
One of the biggest questions when it comes to this part of the world is, are Israel and Palestine safe to visit? As someone who has been multiple times and lived in Tel Aviv for 3 months, I say yes. That’s not to downplay the existence of the conflict, but this part of the world is not as violent and war-torn as the media would have you think and both Israel and Palestine are safe for tourists. Of course, if tensions are high then certain areas might need to be avoided. But, overall, I don’t think visiting Israel and Palestine is any more dangerous than visiting many cities in the USA.
That being said, there is a high level of security in Israel, especially in Jerusalem. As you go through the West Bank you will also notice the checkpoints. It can be intimidating to see so many armed soldiers but, it’s everyday life here and most of the soldiers are very friendly and often interested in chatting with tourists.
Do I Need to Take a Tour? Or Can I Travel Independently?
This depends on your preferred travel style and the nature of your trip. Many people do visit on a tour, especially individuals going for religious purposes. However, it’s also very easy to visit as an independent traveller. That being said, I do recommend taking day trips with guides in some places. Most notably, you will see below that I suggest taking guided tours of Palestinian cities because I feel like it’s the best way to experience and learn. Especially when it comes to the refugee camps, it’s more respectful to visit with local rather than on your own. However, as a whole, I recommend independent travel whether you are travelling solo, with friends, or with your family.
Best time of Year to go to Israel and Palestine
There are two things to be mindful of when travelling to Israel and Palestine. The first is the time of year in terms of the weather and temperature. After all, this is the Middle East and it gets incredibly hot. I personally love to visit in the fall (I’ve been twice in November and still been able to go to the beaches) or early spring, around March. The summer months can be stifling with heat and humidity and winter can be very rainy and damp.
The second thing to be mindful of when planning your trip to Israel and Palestine is the holidays as things do run differently. Some, like Hanukkah or Purim, are fun for visitors and not much is impacted from a tourist perspective. However, during Passover or the Jewish High Holidays, a lot of things will shut down for a couple of days. So, it’s not necessarily the best time.
Similarly, be aware of when Ramadan occurs for any Palestine visits. Since fasting occurs at this time it can be difficult as a tourist to find open restaurants and places to eat during the day. Also, having travelled through Muslim countries during Ramadan before, the local people tend to (understandably) be a bit more grumpy and abrupt when fasting so, overall, I just recommend planning your visit around this holiday.
Getting Around Israel and Palestine
Public transit throughout Israel isn’t too bad. There is a train system that connects many places very easily. There is also a bus system for the more off-track spots. However, bus journeys can be long. If you plan on using public transit, it’s in your best interest to purchase a RavKav card. This is a pre-loaded card you can use to purchase both bus and train tickets. You can get them at the airport or train stations.
There are also taxis which are cash only (I suggest downloading the Gett Taxi app, this way you can link your credit card) and small minibuses called sheruts that work like shared taxis. These are commonly used on Shabbat (Friday evening-Saturday evening) when public transportation in the country shuts down. Please keep the lack of transportation on Shabbat in mind when planning your 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine.
Palestine does not have the same type of public transport network as Israel. The most reliable way to get around Palestine is by taxi although there are some buses that will take you from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Again, in this itinerary I recommend a guided tour so transportation into Palestine will be taken care of for you, but should you want to visit on your own, transportation will require a bit of advance planning.
Finally, it is possible to rent a car in Israel. It’s an expensive option but does allow for the most freedom. That being said, Israelis can be crazy drivers and traffic can be ridiculous so I recommend sticking to public transit if you are only spending 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine.
2 Week Israel and Palestine Itinerary
I’ve spent a lot of time in this part of the world and still have a lot to see. But, for those looking to spend 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine, I would recommend this itinerary. I’ve created it to include the least amount of travel time but keep in mind that depending on the days you are visiting, you may have to readjust the schedule. A lot shuts down during Shabbat so plan around that as needed. With that in mind, here is my suggested itinerary.
Days 1 & 2: Jerusalem
I recommend starting your 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine in the Holy City, Jerusalem. It’s a short, 26-minute train ride from the airport.
This will be your base for the next few days so I recommend choosing a central hotel that is close to The Old City or Shuk Machaneh Yehuda. If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay try Abraham Hostel which has both private rooms and shared dorms. If you aren’t as budget conscious, there are some beautiful central properties such as:
Jerusalem is quite a large city and there is a lot to see and do which means you will have a busy couple of days. The Old City is the highlight for many. I highly recommend taking a tour with a guide as there is so much history and so much to see inside these walls. There’s no shortage of tours and guides available for Jerusalem. If you are looking for recommendations and something different consider this Dual Narrative Tour which allows you to experience the city and history through the eyes of an Israeli Jew and Palestinian. It’s fascinating.
You can also walk around and explore on your own. Make sure to see:
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
- Al Aqsa Mosque (best visited on a tour as you can only go at certain times. Make sure to dress appropriately)
- The Western Wall
- The Arabic Market (My favourite shop is Sinjalawi!)
- Via Dolorosa
I also recommend spending some time exploring the Machaneh Yehuda Shuk which is the marketplace. From craft beer to spices and teas, knafeh and hummus, there are so many great spots to eat here. PS: Foodies should read my picks for where to eat in Jerusalem.
Finally, I recommend spending a couple of hours to going to Yad Vashem, which is the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre.
For more ideas on what to see and do in Jerusalem check out my blog post.
Day 3: Nablus Day Trip
Today I recommend exploring the Palestinian city of Nablus. I highly suggest taking this tour with Green Olive Tours, which is who I used and highly recommend.
Nablus is one of the largest Palestinian cities and has tons of history, both biblical and political. It’s home to the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank as well as an incredible Old City with winding streets full of friendly vendors. Nablus is also famous for knafeh, a cheese dessert commonly eaten in the Middle East, so make sure to try some before you leave!
Day 4: Bethlehem Day Trip
No Israel and Palestine itinerary is complete without a visit to Bethlehem! Bethlehem is a Palestinian city just a few minutes outside of Jerusalem. It’s most famous for being the biblical birthplace of Jesus and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. You can easily visit Bethlehem on your own but having been twice, I again recommend a tour because there is a lot to see and do.
The type of tour you take will depend on what you want to see and do. If you are interested in politics, then Green Olive Tours offers a great Bethlehem full-day trip.
If you are more interested in the history and visiting inside the Church of the Nativity then consider this Bethlehem half day tour.
Other things to see in and around Bethlehem include:
- The Walled Off Hotel (the Banksy Hotel, be sure to visit the museum inside)
- The street art/graffiti on the wall
- Mar Saba Monastery
Day 6: The Dead Sea Day Trip
After a busy few days exploring, today is a good day to relax and visit one of the most unique places in the world: The Dead Sea! This is a saltwater lake located between Jordan and the West Bank. It’s the lowest point on earth and the water here is so salty that you can’t actually swim, just float!
You can visit by bus from Jerusalem if you like, or take a day tour. Some day tours also include a visit to Masada and Ein Gedi National Park, in which case you have less time at the actual Dead Sea itself. It depends on how you want to spend your day. Consider these day trip options:
Dead sea tips: Don’t shave the day of, don’t get in the water if you have any cuts or open wounds, and don’t dunk your head and get the water in your eyes and hair.
Day 7: Gaza Border Tour Day Trip
In the last few years, a couple of tour companies have started offering Gaza border tours. The Gaza strip is closed off completely to tourism. The blockade is enforced by Israel and Egypt and borders are heavily militarized. It’s a highly political area and a tour here allows some insight into the history, why it’s blockaded, and life not only for the Palestinians living in Gaza but also the Israelis who live in the border cities which are frequently hit by the rockets. This is a long, and heavy tour but very eye-opening.
I took this Gaza border tour with Green Olive Tours.
Days 9 & 10: Mitzpe Ramon
Time to leave Jerusalem and head out to the desert! Mitzpe Ramon is about 3 hours from Jerusalem by bus but it’s an easy enough route and definitely worth seeing this part of the country.
The crater here is the highlight, think of it as Israel’s version of the Grand Canyon. Another spot I loved visiting was the Alpaca farm. If you are lucky, you’ll also get clear skies and be able to do some star viewing as well.
I suggest spending 2 nights here so you have one full day to explore. There are a few accommodation options including hostels and hotels. But if you are up to splurge check out Beresheet which is set on the cliff edge for a unique luxury experience.
Days 11 & 12: Tel Aviv
In the morning, head to Tel Aviv. The journey is about 3 hours by bus so I suggest leaving early enough to enjoy most of your day in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is one of my favourite cities in the world. I will admit that I see it more as a living city rather than a tourist city, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do.
One of the biggest draws of Tel Aviv is the beaches that line the coastline. Even if it is not swimming weather it’s a great place to hang out or enjoy a walk down the tayelet (boardwalk). Tel Aviv is incredibly walkable but they do have a good bus system as well if you need to use it. Personally, I prefer the south end of the city, from Shuk Ha Carmel (the market) down to Jaffa, which is the ancient Port.
Shuk Ha Carmel is a must. It’s very busy but it’s a lot of fun to walk through and browse everything from fruit shakes to spices to sunglasses and t-shirts.
Jaffa is very mixed with lots of Israeli and Arabic businesses. The Jaffa Flea Market is always fun to browse and the Old Town is a beautiful spot to take photos.
I also really love the neighbourhoods of Florentin (famous for street art and Shuk Levinsky, which is the spice market) and Neve Tzedek which is a beautiful upscale neighbourhood with lots of boutiques and European-style restaurants.
The food and drink scene in Tel Aviv is fantastic. So, check out my Tel Aviv Food guide for my top picks on where to eat as well as some other tips and suggestions.
Looking for a place to stay in Tel Aviv? Try:
- Abraham Hostel for a budget option
- The David Kepinski Tel Aviv for beachfront
- Trieste Neve Tzedek for a unique boutique Suite
- The Jaffa for top end luxury
Day 13: Akko Day Trip
While in Tel Aviv I also highly recommend a day trip to Akko, which can easily be done by train. Akko is a walled city in Northern Israel. It’s a mixed city full of history and today is known to be a place of co-existence where Jews and Arabs live and work together. As a whole, Akko is more Jewish than Arabic but the Old Town is mostly Arabic.
Old Town Akko is small but there’s quite a bit to see and do. Definitely enough to keep you busy for a full day. However, I highly recommend you plan a bit in advance so you can make lunch or dinner reservations at Uri Buri, one of the most famous restaurants in Israel. I did the tasting menu and it was one of the best meals of my life, so please don’t miss it!
Read more about Akko and my recommendations on what to see and do here.
If you would prefer to do a group day trip rather than go on your own, you can do this trip to Akko which also include a stop at Caesarea and Haifa.
Day 14: Tel Aviv-depart
Today is your last day in this 2-week Israel and Palestine itinerary. Depending on the time of your flight you might have some time to explore more of Tel Aviv, do some last-minute souvenir shopping, or spend some time at the beach. When the time comes, you can easily take the train to the airport from any of Tel Aviv’s train stations or take a bus or taxi. If you want to take a taxi, I recommend booking a Hadar Taxi in advance. This is an airport taxi with a flat rate that will be cheaper than Gett Taxi.
If You Have More Time
Israel and Palestine are relatively small in terms of land size, but they both offer a surprising number of things to see. Two weeks in Israel and Palestine will allow you to see a lot, but not everything. If you do have more time, here are a few places I recommend adding to your Israel and Palestine itinerary.
- Eilat: Israel’s Red Sea resort city. Great for scuba diving, beaches, and hiking. Check out my guide to Eilat for more information.
- Hebron: This is a divided city and incredibly interesting. If you can, take a dual narrative tour where you experience part of the city with a Jewish guide and the other part with a Palestinian guide.
- Nazareth: Known as the Arab capital of Israel. Plenty of historical religious sites, a beautiful old town, and tons of incredible food. I highly recommend exploring Nazareth with Aziz Banna Culinary Tours.
- Galilee Region: This is further north, a place of religious importance but also a lot of natural beauty.
Final Tips for 2 Weeks in Israel and Palestine
One important thing to note as your 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine comes to an end is that Israeli airport security is intense. You will get questioned. You may require extra screening. Your bags will likely be searched (carryon and checked luggage). This sounds scary but it is normal. Every time I leave the county I get pulled aside and questioned. Twice I’ve been taken away for further questioning, once included doing full body scans (fully clothed). Security in Israel is incredibly strict but I have always been treated kindly and respectfully in these situations. Note that you are most likely to be questioned if you are a solo traveller or have passport stamps from Arabic countries. Since airport security can be a lengthy process, it is highly recommended to give yourself the full 3 hours at the airport before your departing flight.
Israel and Palestine are both very complicated places and people tend to have a lot of opinions when visiting this part of the world. If you do decide to travel here, I strongly suggest keeping an open mind and taking the time to learn and speak to individuals on both sides. No visit to Israel is complete without a visit to Palestine, and vice versa.
I absolutely love this part of the world and I hope that you enjoy your time here as much as I always do.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Israel & Palestine
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.