Destination Newsflash: Israel & Jordan FAM
I’ve just returned from hosting a travel agent FAM trip to Israel and Jordan. These two countries make an ideal combination; as neighbors, there is frequent daily air service and the flight itself is just 40 minutes long.
Kensington Tours only accepts eight agents on each FAM trip to keep the experience akin to a private tour and the first thing everyone noticed was the speed with which we exited Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport while others waited in line for hours. The Kensington advantage: being met at the end of the ramp as we departed the plane to be ushered past the queues to an exclusive VIP booth. Our driver was waiting, and with luggage in hand, we were quickly spirited away to our hotel in the city.
Our home for the first two nights was the Hilton Tel Aviv, a property well situated on the beautiful Mediterranean coast. We had access to the VIP floor where we could relax before a panoramic view, cocktails at night, and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast each morning.
Dani, our private Israeli guide, met us the following morning, and together we set off to discover Tel Aviv, a city that is both modern and old at the same time. The ancient port city of Old Jaffa dates back about 4,000 years. The best way to experience this unique site is on foot, and so we did.
The next day, we set off for Jerusalem, just an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. Living in North America, you often forget how small Israel actually is. It seemed as though every location was at most a two-hour drive away! The best vantage point to gain perspective on Jerusalem is atop the Mount of Olives, which overlooks the Old City. From there, we followed the Via Dolorosa, an important pilgrimage route for Christian visitors that is believed to mark the way to the site where Jesus was crucified. The course takes you through narrow souks connecting the Christian and Jewish quarters, ending at the Western Wall. The Wall serves as an open-air synagogue and is considered to be the holiest accessible site where Jews may pray. We learned so much on this day, and the experience underlined for me that Kensington Tours’ guides are the best in the business. Dani holds multiple degrees, and no question or request was too much. One of the many benefits of traveling with a private guide is that you can devote more time to the places that interest you — there is no bus waiting to leave.
Masada and the Dead Sea
From Jerusalem, our journey continued on to the Dead Sea with a stop at Masada, King Herod’s desert mountain palace and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can access the site via a 45-minute walk or five-minute cable-car ride. It’s a fascinating place. After exploring Masada, we continued to Herods Hotel Dead Sea for lunch and a pleasant swim. What fun we had floating in the salty water beneath a clear blue sky! It was here that I experienced one of the funniest moments in all of my years of traveling: the Dead Sea’s saline waters helped me float so well, that I needed help to stand up again. Later, we returned to Jerusalem and our hotel, the comfortable five-star Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, for a good night’s sleep.
Bethlehem to Amman
Our final day in Israel was spent in Bethlehem, the famed birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem is just six miles south of Jerusalem, but a separate guide is required for this visit as the city is in Palestine and Israelis are not permitted to cross the border.
After visiting Bethlehem, we said goodbye to Israel and boarded our flight for Amman, the capital of Jordan. Once again, we were met at the plane and escorted through the border procedures very quickly. Our guide for our duration in Jordan was a local named George who proved to be a supremely knowledgeable and professional guide.
Petra and Jerash
The obvious highlight in Jordan is Petra, the famous hand-carved “Rose City” named one of the New7Wonders of the World. Our accommodations, the Petra Marriott Hotel, boasts one of the best views over the mountains you’ll find in this part of the world, and the sunsets are truly stunning. We spent our day here discovering the ancient and massive rocks, a true highlight for me. I had no idea how enormous Petra’s architecture was — the city includes dams and water channels in addition to the grand buildings carved into massive sandstone cliffs. A two-and-a-half-mile walk takes you to Al-Khazneh (“The Treasury”), and you can opt for a donkey, horse & cart or camel ride instead. From Al-Khazneh, we walked a further two and a half miles (or so it seemed) to lunch. There, some members of our group decided to head back leisurely while others walked or took a donkey up the 900 steps to see the ancient Monastery set high in the cliffs. It was a day I will remember for a long time. While we were all tired, we were awed by what we had witnessed.
Before heading home, we visited the city of Jerash, situated 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Amman and nestled in a valley in the mountains. Jerash is one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside of Italy, and definitely worth a visit in its own right.
Food, glorious food
We did much more than I have mentioned here (including a Jordanian cooking class), and I would be remiss to not mention the food. Oh, the food! Delicious and always fresh, the food of the Middle East will not disappoint even the most particular of palates. There is a wide variety of flavors and dishes, and if you appreciate healthy cuisine, you will love what you find in these two countries.
One thing I must stress is that if you have clients eager to visit these countries, please contact Kensington Tours at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a fully customized quote. We can accommodate three-, four-, and five-star budgets, and our guides in these countries are the best that exist. Kensington designs trips to suit the client, my trip was just one example of what we can do.
Lastly, contact me at email@example.com or 416-419-3747 any time for assistance in learning more about the 90 countries worldwide that Kensington Tours services through custom, privately guided travel.
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