One of the reasons we've not yet travelled to this corner of the world, and Israel in particular, is due to all the political upheaval and the rather complicated issues being hashed out there. I didn't want to go and unintentionally exacerbate the tensions, even in a small way. Fortunately, a friend of ours from OU (Branson - the same one we visited in California) has been there on a Post-Doc assignment for the past two years. Having someone who's been living there and has a better feel for some of the nuances of the overall situation will be a big bonus for us - it's also always more fun to explore a new place with friends!
When we were originally discussing the trip with Branson, I asked him "What's the one big thing you've been wanting to do and haven't yet?" Without much pause, he responded "Petra", which has long been a place on our bucket list too. Turns out, by far the easiest way to go from Israel into Jordan it seems is by the Eilat-Aquaba crossing. Then Stephen piped up that he would be keen to see the Negev Desert, which is in between Eilat and pretty much anywhere else. So we've built our trip around that. Our itinerary currently looks like this:
- Day 1 - direct flight from London, landing around 3pm, Branson meets us at the airport, we pick up the car & drive to Eilat (~5 hours) check into hotel & crash
- Day 2 - early, cross into Jordan and taxi to Wadi Mousa (nearest town to Petra). Drop bags at hotel & spend the rest of the day at Petra.
- Day 3 - hike to the High Place for sunrise and then spend the rest of the day wandering Petra. At sunset, head back to Eilat.
- Day 4 - depending on weather, we'll either spend the day splashing about in the Red Sea (with any luck snorkelling around some of the coral reefs or maybe swimming with dolphins) or if it's too cold, we'll walk along the beach (wiggling my toes in the Red Sea in lieu of aforementioned splashing) and then drive out to Mitspe Ramon.
- Day 5 - Hiking around Mitspe Ramon, taking in some of the nearby crater.
- Day 6 - morning, TBD (Negev Nature Centre? Some of the Spice Route cities?; in the afternoon, drive to our lodging near the Dead Sea & do some preliminary exploration
- Day 7 - sunrise hike arriving at Masada and the rest of the day exploring the site & surrounding area.
- Day 8 - if the weather permits, splashing about the Dead Sea; if not or in the afternoon if so, then another hike (Qumran Caves? Ein Gedi Nature Reserve? Nachal David Stream?) and/or (if I can talk the boys into it) maybe a few hours in a spa.
- Day 9 - drive to Haifa (where Branson is based usually) & sightseeing in Haifa (Bahai Gardens!)
- Day 10 - continue exploring Haifa and maybe take in a winery? Possible evening in Tel-Aviv? (will probably decide this on the fly)
- Day 11 - early AM to Tel Aviv (if not already there), turn in the rental car and fly back to London
It's also shaping up to be a very active/outdoors-y holiday, which we haven't had for quite some time, and are really looking forward to it. The sunrise hikes might just kill me, but I trust the boys will let me sleep in on a few other days to compensate.
The guidebooks (both heavily tabbed & scribbled in) we're taking with us are:
DK Eyewitness for Jerusalem, Israel, Petra & Sinai
Petra: A Traveller's Guide
The weather so far is looking pretty good 20 C / 70 F for most places during the day, which is just about perfect. Nights will be colder, of course, so lots of layers included in our packing list.