Small Group Travel
The ultimate journey through Israel with Venetia Stanley
We invite you on a fascinating adventure in this complex and diverse country, taking in Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and Tel Aviv, among other captivating places.
For travellers interested in geopolitics, history, religion and food, there can be no more exciting destination than Israel. This tiny country of contrasts is profoundly ancient, vibrantly contemporary and unimaginably diverse. Its complexity derives from its important geographic location in the middle of three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. Its modern-day culture has been formed by layers upon layers of civilisation and to say it is steeped in history is an understatement. You will experience ‘historical vertigo’ here.
Ahead of launching Israel as a tailor-made destination in spring next year, we have meticulously designed this trip for a small group of like-minded individuals. Your host, Destination Expert Venetia Stanley, has perfected every detail, ensuring that your travels here are flawless. It is through our insiders on the ground that we can ensure the top guides, the most exclusive experiences, the best places to stay and private access to both the highlights and the more off-the-beaten-track, undiscovered gems.
The journey will take in Jerusalem, the Judean Desert, Nazareth, the famous Sea of Galilee, Mount Bental, the Golan Heights and buzzing Tel Aviv. It will give you the opportunity to experience Israel’s incredibly varied scenery, ranging from desert and mountainous landscapes to Mediterranean shores and inland lakes, as well as delving deep into the country’s culture, religion and history.
Some of the most memorable experiences include a fascinating private dinner with expert Ron Shatzberg, an authority on security and Israeli Arab relations who is actively involved in Track Two negotiations with the Palestinians. In addition, Yiscar Harani, a leading authority on comparative religion in the Holy Land will be giving an exclusive private lecture. To top it all off, there will be an exhilarating off-road experience in the demilitarised zone along the Syrian border, during which your guide will give you a gripping insight into Israel’s historical and current relations with her neighbours.
All in all, this small group trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a truly extraordinary destination.
"Having been on several group trips with Henrietta I can honestly say that she is not just an excellent leader - friendly, competent and cool, but also a delightful travelling companion with a marvellous sense of humour and genuine enthusiasm for what she does and where she goes. Don’t leave home without her!"
What makes this trip spectacular?
There will be a superb, one-off dinner with this authority on security and Israeli-Arab relations. Ron is a reserve Colonel in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and Senior Advisor at the Economic Cooperation Foundation, a leading Israeli think tank. He is also the external advisor to the International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) on international humanitarian law and laws of armed conflict dissemination in the IDF. Over a feast of delicious local food, you will have a unique opportunity to discuss the geopolitical tensions in which Israel is enmeshed with this erudite and highly respected man.
You will enjoy an exclusive talk by this preeminent authority on comparative religion in the Holy Land, another enthralling experience. Previously a Co-founder and a Project Coordinator for the Association for the Promotion of Inter Religious Education in Israel, Harani was the recipient of the Mount Zion Award 2013 for Reconciliation for her interreligious activities. Needless to say, she is an icon in Israel when it comes to the sanctity of Jerusalem for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
We are giving you the chance to head off the beaten track to view hidden Israeli army bunkers and positions in the demilitarised zone along the Syrian border. On this exhilarating expedition, your brilliant expert guide will provide in-depth analysis of today’s complex situation in Syria and what it means for Israel.
Welcome to Israel
You will be whisked through Ben Gurion International Airport, 45km north-west of Jerusalem, by our VIP airport service, after which your guide and driver will take you to the Mamilla Hotel, your home in Jerusalem. On your first evening, you will go to the Kotel (Western Wall) to enjoy the music and dancing to celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem. After this festive experience, you will be hosted by a local Jewish family for a traditional Shabbat dinner, during which you will learn about the importance of Jerusalem and the holy day of Shabbat for Jews. You will also gain an insight into the various customs while enjoying a delicious and plentiful feast.
We love this incredible hotel, renovated by Italian designer Piero Lissoni. Its chic, modern style is a refreshing, comfortable contrast to the timeworn city of Jerusalem. Everything you need is here, from the elegant winery and the late-night cocktail bar to the fabulous rooftop restaurant, with spectacular city views, and the award-winning Akasha spa. The hotel is just a few minutes from the Old City, so it is ideally located for exploring.
Explore the Judean Desert
Your first morning, you will set off early into the Judean Desert to explore one of Israel’s most magnificent places: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Masada, the rugged ruins of a fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. Your guide will bring this mystical place to life for you, recounting heroic tales from Israeli mythology and Roman and Jewish history. Next, you will continue on to Ein Gedi, a wonderful oasis in the desert, which was where David hid from King Saul. Here, you can cool off in natural springwater pools. The water here means that palm trees, bulrushes and other plants thrive here, providing habitat for creatures such as ibexes, hyraxes and numerous bird species. A walk along the Nahale Davide trail is also a wonderful experience.
In the evening, you will enjoy a delicious and exclusive dinner with Ron Shatzberg who is an authority on security and Israeli-Arab relations. He will share his knowledge with you and discuss the country’s geopolitical tensions, disputes around Jerusalem, the future of the West Bank and an independent Palestinian state, and other related topics, depending on your interest.
Get under the skin of Jerusalem’s Old City
Today, you will explore Jerusalem’s Old City. Your accompanying expert will guide you around the many fascinating places here that are sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews, unveiling to history and explaining the significance of this holy city to these religions. These sites include the Kotel (Western Wall of the Second Temple), the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In the evening, you will experience another highlight of the trip. We have invited Yiscar Harani, a leading authority on comparative religion in the holy land, to come to your hotel to speak to you. Yiscar is well known in Israel for her interreligious activities and bursting with knowledge on the sanctity of Jerusalem for Jews, Christians and Muslims past, present and future.
Learn about the Holocaust, taste food + visit The Israel Museum
Today will be both fascinating and harrowing as you will visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s monument to the Holocaust. Set on the west slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, it is an extremely impressive museum, with a history museum, a children’s memorial, a hall of remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, a synagogue and more. It is as powerful as it is moving.
Following this, you will go to the Mahane Yehuda market, which is a bustling and vibrant place with myriad ingredients on sale and a lively contrast to Yad Vashem. Exploring this bazaar is an attack on the senses and a great insight into daily life in Jerusalem. Your culinary expert will reveal many tucked-away spots and hidden gems and explain this market’s significance in Israeli immigrant culture and the blend of culinary trends and influences here. You will taste all sorts of delicious morsels en route, as well as stopping for a scrumptious lunch too.
In the afternoon, your guide will take you to the fantastic Israel Museum. Since its renovation, it has been named one of the world’s best museums. Its highlights are the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known copy of the Bible, and the famous model of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Dinner will be enjoyed at Mahane Yehuda, an institution in Jerusalem. This restaurant is found in the eponymous market and serves incredibly fresh, creative and stunningly presented dishes.
Head north to Nazareth + the Sea of Galilee
Today, it’s time to leave Jerusalem and travel to Nazareth, where you will find the towering and modern Church of the Annunciation. The religious art in this building is truly amazing, sent from all over the world. Nazareth is also home to the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. In addition, this is Israel’s biggest Arab town, and your guide will be happy to discuss the country’s complex demographics with you or introduce you to traditional Arab food.
You will also have the opportunity to learn about kibbutz life. A one-hour exploration of Kibbutz Degania Beth will provide you with insight on the socialist and zionist foundations for the kibbutz and the kibbutzim’s history and present challenges. You will also visit the home of Levi Eshkol, a former Israeli prime minister, where the fascinating kibbutz archives are housed.
Later, you continue on to the Sea of Galilee. It was among the Jewish communities that lived around the lakeshore that Jesus preached, and there are numerous significant Christian and Jewish sites in the area, which your guide will unravel for you. These include the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus supposedly delivered his Sermon on the Mount; Capernaum, where there is an octagonal church constructed around the house of Peter and an ornate 5th-century synagogue; and a boat dating back to the time of Jesus, now on display at Kibbutz Ginosar. You will then check in to your next home from home: Mitzpe Hayamim.
This charming country abode is nestled just outside of Rosh Pinna and has a rustic yet comfortable country-house feel. The property boasts its own organic gardens and was an early player in the 'farm to table' movement. It offers comfortable lounge areas and an indoor pool for relaxation, as well as lovely gardens for taking a stroll. It is well located for touring the north of Israel, including the lower Galilee and the Golan Heights.
Enjoy the scenery, archaeological remains + wine of the north
This morning, you will visit the Banias Waterfall. Water from the base of Mount Hermon flows through a stunning gorge for 3.5km until it reaches this spectacular cascade. It is a lovely walk along an easy path to reach this beautiful place, and you will be able to explore the archaeological ruins of the city of Caesarea Philippi en route, which was built by Herod’s son Philip. There are some Crusader remains here too as well as a very ancient pagan temple dedicated to Pan. This place is also significant in the Bible.
Next, you will enjoy some wine tasting and lunch at one of Israel’s best wineries, before continuing on to the Golan Heights and Mount Bental, from where you can admire stunning views as far as Syria. Sadly, this is an area that has been repeatedly battered by conflict throughout history. In this fascinating place, you will have an exclusive opportunity to set off on an exhilarating experience: a two-hour jeep ride through an agricultural kibbutz and then off-rode into the demilitarised zone along the Syrian border to see Israeli army bunkers. Your very experienced guide will enlighten you on Israel’s relations with its neighbours. Following this adrenaline-pumping adventure, you will return to your hotel for some well-earned R&R and a relaxing dinner.
Discover the Old City of Acre, the seaside town of Caesarea + have lunch in a Druze home
This morning, you will explore the Old City of Acre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with spectacular Crusader remains. This is a very interesting place and your guide will tell you Crusader tales and reveal other treasures, such as the second most holy mosque in Israel, the bustling Arab market here and the recently refurbished Underground Prisoners Museum. Following this, you will enjoy a very special experience being hosted by a Druze family in their home. You will feast on a delicious and authentic lunch while learning about the Druze people and Israeli society.
In the afternoon, you will head to the coast to explore the impressive port town of Caesarea, built by King Herod the Great. In the Roman times, this was a place with magnificent temples and gladiator tournaments. Later, it became a busy Byzantine town, then a Crusader conquest and it is even a significant place for Christians. Your accompanying expert will recount the stories of this fascinating place and bring it to life, before you continue to Tel Aviv.
One of our favourite hotels in Tel Aviv, the Norman is a beautifully finished property housed in two buildings, one Bauhaus and the other eclectic in style. An oasis of nostalgic colonial design and old-fashioned hospitality, the hotel is a perfect fit within the Small Luxury Hotels of the World portfolio. Indeed, it feels rather like staying in a private club. The Norman has three restaurants: Alena, dishing up ‘European-inspired favourites with Mediterranean and Galilean flourishes’, Dinings, a stylish rooftop Japanese restaurant, and The Library Bar, serving tasty snacks throughout the day. The cherry on the top of the cake is the 20m infinity pool on the roof of the building – much needed during Tel Aviv’s hot summers.
Explore Tel Aviv
Today, you will explore Tel Aviv, a striking mix of old and new, starting in the ancient Jaffa neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest ports on earth, overflowing with biblical, Roman, Egyptian and Napoleonic history. Following a few hours’ exploring Jaffa, you will continue on to Neve Tzedek, the city’s oldest and most charming neighbourhood. Your guide will tell you all about the first modern Hebrew city’s beginnings and how it has developed throughout time. Israeli food is both delicious and diverse due to its immigrant society, and you will taste some of its best street food in the vibrant Carmel Market at lunchtime.
In the afternoon, you will wander the streets of central Tel Aviv, including stop-offs at the Rothschild Boulevard and Independence Hall, where David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the modern State of Israel. The architecture here is particularly interesting, ranging from contemporary to Bauhaus. Next, you will have the opportunity to spend some time sipping coffee and chatting with a fascinating and engaging woman in her home. This exclusive visit will give you an insider’s perspective on Arab-Israeli culture and their way of life, the social history of the neighbourhood, the role of women and the pros and cons of being an Arab in a mainly Jewish society. The day will close with a very special farewell dinner at an excellent local restaurant, a wonderful end to an extraordinary trip.
Today, you will be transferred to the airport in style, from where you will fly home.
Keen to stay longer?
If you would like to spend a few more days in Israel, we suggest two nights at the phenomenal Six Senses Shaharut, opening later this year. Set in the southern Negev Desert in the Arava Valley, this wilderness retreat has awe-inspiring views. Blending cleverly with its surroundings, it has been beautifully designed and the 58 suites and villas are created from, and inspired by, local materials, pigments and plants. You can explore the area on camels or in jeeps, camp in the desert or go hiking; but otherwise, there is a fabulous Six Senses Spa, including a sauna, hammams and steam rooms, making this a wonderful place to just relax for a few days.
Venetia is one of our Asia, the Middle East + Australasia Destination Experts. She has travelled extensively in the Middle East and knows it well. She is calm, fun and brilliant at ‘reading’ a group to ensure they are happy at all times. She last travelled to Israel in February 2020 in order to really get under its skin, meet with our friends on the ground and design this incredible itinerary – packed with enthralling history and culture as well as delicious food, and boasting phenomenal guiding and awe-inspiring, one-off experiences.
THE BENEFITS OF SMALL GROUP TRAVEL
Our hand-picked specialists, guides and leaders ensure unrivalled insider access that you wouldn't normally be able to achieve unless you were travelling as a group, allowing guests to experience the destination in a very special way.
Small group travel gives you an amazing opportunity to spend time with true experts in their field. Each trip is accompanied by an owner – either Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell or Henrietta Loyd – as well as top specialists, guides and leaders.
Our small trips often form the beginning of life-long friendships. Much of the journey is spent as a group, but there is plenty of time to relax and enjoy your own space too. Henrietta and Christopher are brilliant at reading their guests and being proactive and reactive to the flow of the trip.
- From £7,195 (US$9,641) per person sharing
- Single supplement (per person): £1,960 (US$2,626)
- Extension price per person: £2,120 ($2,841) / Single supplement: £1,015 (US$1,360) per person
- Accommodation and breakfast, lunch and dinner, as specified, for eight nights with the group
- Specialist guiding and private access, as specified, with the group
- All road transfers in an air-conditioned vehicle
- Tips to cover all involved in Israel
- Return international flights
- Travel insurance
- Optional extension to Six Senses Shaharut
- PCR tests
Our small group trips are in some of the most ecologically and culturally sensitive parts of the world. With that in mind, This itinerary includes an inbuilt donation to a local initiative.
The price of all of our small group trips includes domestic flights but excludes international flights. We suggest flights for our clients that work well with the itinerary and are happy to book and manage these flights. However, guests can also book their own international flights if they would prefer.
We have a fantastic VIP service in place to help you navigate the airport and make your journey as smooth and easy as possible. We can collect you from your home, take you to the airport and escort you through check-in and immigration to avoid any queues, straight through to the airport lounge before boarding your flight. The same service can be put in place on your return journey.
We understand that one of the most important factors to our clients is flexibility in order to give you as much assurance as possible when booking your next trip. We are on hand to discuss with you the latest updates on flexibility on any one of our small group trips.
We have excellent relationships with a handful of insurance companies who provide various forms of cover. Each one offers a different policy with varying terms and conditions, so we strongly recommend getting a series of quotes and discussing your personal requirements in detail with them in order to find the best one for you.
Booking and travelling with an accredited tour operator is more important than ever. cazenove+loyd is a bonded tour operator and is ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Our ATOL number is 3208. This means that the UK government guarantees all funds paid out to a bonded operator and is bound to pay in full if the bond holder is unable to deliver as contracted. This gives our clients peace of mind and full financial protection. Please see our booking conditions for further information.
We have put the relevant measures in place on every one of our small group trips, so that we are ready to welcome you safely. Sanitation and hygiene in our vehicles and the properties in which we will be staying are extensive, with cleaning protocols rigidly followed as well as other necessary safety requirements.