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Bethlehem: Day Trips and Tours from Tel Aviv

One of the most significant and sacred spots in the Christian faith, Bethlehem attracts faithful servants of God, and fascinated tourists by the bucketload each year.

Filled with ancient religious sites, bustling streets and enchanting limestone buildings, this Palestinian town is not to be missed.

On a day trip to Bethlehem from Tel Aviv, visitors can step on the exact spot where Mary Magdalene reportedly delivered Christ into the world. Alternatively, witness the holy site where she was visited by the Angel Gabriel and informed of her true purpose.

Here's all you need to know about Bethlehem, one of the most exciting day trips from Tel Aviv.

How to get to Bethlehem from Tel Aviv?

Bethlehem is a town located in the Central West Bank of Palestine, just 10 kilometers away from the major city of Jerusalem. It is approximately 110 kilometers from Israel’s capital — Tel Aviv.

From Tel Aviv to Bethlehem by car

In order to reach the birthplace of Jesus by car, you’ll travel north out of the city, following Route 6 all the way. The journey to Bethlehem is stress-free and takes around 1.5 hours.

From Tel Aviv to Bethlehem by public transport

Alternatively, make the jaunt to Bethlehem using public transport. You can take a direct bus from Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv to the town, via Line 490. The route takes approximately 45 minutes and a ticket costs less than US$5 per person.

Guided tour to Bethlehem from Tel Aviv

Another option is to participate in a guided excursion to Bethlehem. These tours generally last between 10 and 12 hours, leaving the city in the early hours of the morning. Many include a convenient hotel pickup and drop-off service.

If this is not the case for your selected trip, you’ll meet your guide at an easy-to-reach destination in Tel Aviv instead. These starting locations are always pre-determined and can be viewed ahead of time in order to make any necessary arrangements.

What is the typical itinerary?

The itinerary of each Bethlehem day tour varies depending on the additional sights you’ll be exploring. After meeting your tour guide and boarding your vehicle for the day, you’ll travel out of the city, and toward your first location.

For many, this will be the holy city of Jerusalem. Here, you may traverse either the Mount of Olives or Mount Scopus to gain a bird’s eye view of the city.

You'll then journey down into the Old City for a walking tour of its highlights before continuing on to Bethlehem.

Other Bethlehem day trips begin at the ancient city of Jericho. Here, you'll see the original sites behind famous Bible stories and hear about the miracles that happened in the time of Jesus.

Once you arrive in Bethlehem, you'll generally step inside the Church of the Nativity, before exploring other sites related to Christ.

These include the Chapel of Saint Catherine and Manger Square. From here, many excursions draw to a close and make the drive back to Tel Aviv.

However, it's also possible to participate in a 7-day cross-country tour, where you'll hop between numerous landmarks, all of which are significant for different reasons. These include the Sea of Galilee and the town of Nazareth.

What kinds of tours are available to go to Bethlehem?

There are plenty of options when it comes to selecting your Bethlehem day trip. Whether you want to explore the sites associated with Christ or discover the country’s natural phenomena, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.

Guided tour to Bethlehem plus Jerusalem from Tel Aviv

A popular way to see the most renowned historic monuments of Israel, both Biblical and otherwise, is by traveling to the cities of Bethlehem, and Jerusalem.

You’ll begin your Bethlehem day tour by traveling to Mount Scopus, overlooking the holy city of Jerusalem.

While this vantage point offers a peek at the skyline of the modern city, you’ll also be able to see some of the more ancient monuments from afar.

See the spot where Jesus prayed before his crucifixion at the Garden of Gethsemane before participating in a walking tour of the different sections of Jerusalem.

Learn about the different cultures that exist harmoniously in the Armenian, Jewish, Islamic and Christian Quarters. As you travel through this multi-faceted city, you’ll admire several of its landmarks, including the Western Wall.

Before leaving Jerusalem to continue your tour, you’ll tread on the sorrowful ground where Jesus is thought to have been crucified.

Upon arrival in Bethlehem, you’ll see the legendary birthplace of Christ, as well as Manger Square and the Chapel of Saint Catherine, both of which have ties with the Christian faith.

Day trip to Bethlehem plus Jericho and Qasr al-Yahud from Tel Aviv

Another option is to see how humankind lived during the Holocene Epoch by journeying to the city of Jericho on your Bethlehem day trip.

Traveling through the dusty deserts of Israel, you’ll reach the oldest city in the world — Jericho. Here, you’ll learn about the famous miracle from the Bible that caused the walls surrounding the city to fall without any brute force.

In the Jordan Valley, you can witness devout Christians being baptized at the same spot as Jesus by his friend and mission preacher — John the Baptist.

See more sights associated with the Bible and witness the ruins of the early city, which was founded over 9,000 years ago. View the towering Mount Temptation and the monastery carved out of its cliffs before continuing on to Bethlehem.

Here, you can step upon the exact spot of Christ’s alleged birth inside the Church of the Nativity, and visit the Shepherds’ Field — where it's thought that the shepherds from the Bible saw the Star of Bethlehem.

Day tour to Bethlehem plus Jerusalem and the Dead Sea from Tel Aviv

Waste no time visiting Israel's highlights in this day trip to Bethlehem that travels to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Starting the day early, you'll board your bus to travel to Jerusalem — home of the Western Wall and the Church of the Sepulchre.

Tour colorful markets and religious monuments as you wander through the Old City, before hitting the road, and continuing to Bethlehem. Step inside the Church of the Nativity and become part of the history of earth's most famous religious story.

Then, travel to the Dead Sea, where high salt levels enable visitors to float on the surface of this land-locked lake.

7-Day tour to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Galilee from Tel Aviv

You may need more time to truly immerse yourself in the fascinating architecture, history and archaeological finds of Israel. If this is the case, opt for a 7-day tour to Bethlehem and several of the nation's other destinations.

You’ll spend two days exploring the best of Jerusalem, including the Israel Museum, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center and the Garden of Gethsemane.

On your first day in the Holy City, you’ll also travel the short distance to Bethlehem in order to witness the birthplace of Christ.

Gaze upon the ruins of Bet She'an National Park and explore the town of Nazareth — known for its Church of the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary Magdalene.

Continue on this multi-day tour to discover the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus delivered many of his ministries.

Step into romantic vineyards, visit sites depicted in the Bible and see the traces of life left by the ancient Roman civilization. On the last day of this excursion, you can choose to roam the city of Tel Aviv at your leisure.

Alternatively, opt to extend your adventure by traveling to the Dead Sea and the Masada Palace complex.

How much does a day trip to Bethlehem from Tel Aviv cost?

A day tour to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea costs approximately US$110 per person.

If you wish to scratch the Dead Sea off your itinerary and just see Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, you can do so for US$120 each. You can expect these tours to include round-trip transportation, a knowledgeable guide and all entry fees to attractions.

You’ll pay around US$140 per person for a Bethlehem day tour that includes Jericho and Qasr al-Yahud in its itinerary.

The price for a 7-day trip across Israel starts at US$1,490 per person, depending on the type of accommodation you prefer. You can choose between a 3, 4 or 5-star hotel for this excursion.

This price includes all breakfasts and dinners, as well as a professional guide to educate you on each landmark.

What will you see and do?

Church of the Nativity

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is an iconic symbol of Christian faith and devotion. Believed to be built over the birthplace of Christ, the church was constructed in the 4th century.

It was destroyed and rebuilt during the 5th century, and has stood the test of time since then. The site was originally transformed from a grotto into a worship place for Adonis — the lover of Aphrodite — by emperor Hadrian in 135.

The UNESCO-listed holy site is the oldest in the Holy Land — which includes Jerusalem, Nazareth and Jericho. Visitors who step into this church will find a silver star on the floor, marking the spot believed to be where Mother Mary birthed the baby Jesus.

Manger Square

Stepping outside of the Church of the Nativity, you’ll find yourself in Manger Square. This central spot in the city celebrates the birthplace of Christ and is a popular attraction for visitors.

The central location of Bethlehem’s Christmas celebrations, the square is home to a colossal Christmas tree during the month of December.

Locals journey here to sing carols before the midnight mass service on Christmas Eve. Surrounding the square are several buildings of interest, including Bethlehem’s only mosque — the Mosque of Omar — and the Palestinian Peace Center.

Chapel of Saint Catherine

The current Chapel of Saint Catherine is a 6th-century structure, built upon an earlier 4th-century church, which fell to ruin.

It is listed by UNESCO as part of the birthplace of Jesus, however, its main association with Christ is from a much later date. It was here that Jesus appeared before the young Saint Catherine and envisioned her martyrdom.

True enough, the teenage visionary was beheaded at the tender age of 18 and is now venerated in this chapel.

The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes Saint Catherine as the patron saint of young girls, students, philosophers and craftsmen working with wheels. She is celebrated every November with a feast.

When is the best time to visit Bethlehem?

Undoubtedly, the best time to plan a day trip to Bethlehem is in the lead-up to Christmas. At this time, the streets are decked in tinsel and fairy lights, and charming market stalls line the town.

You'll also be swept up in the magic of Bethlehem's parade and the town's many religious services.

Alternatively, opt to visit Bethlehem in the spring or fall months, when temperatures are pleasant. During these months, you'll find fewer tourists in the town, making it easier for you to explore each landmark up close.

Are there any tours to Bethlehem from other cities in Israel?

Yes, there are tours departing from other cities in Israel:

Travel tips

  • If your Bethlehem day trip travels to the Dead Sea, ensure you pack a swimsuit and spare towel.
  • Remember to dress modestly to be respectful of local customs in Bethlehem. Keep your shoulders and knees covered, and if you are a woman, you should carry a headscarf with you.
  • Many of Israel’s residents are Jewish and as such, practice the Shabbat every week. From sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday, many businesses close for a period of rest.