The 10 Best Day Trips from Jerusalem

Everyone should visit Jerusalem at least once in their life. Few cities can rival it for beauty, history and religious & cultural diversity; it’s the world in a microcosm.

That said, it’s well worth tearing yourself away from Jerusalem’s golden domes and incense-perfused churches to explore some great destinations that are easily visited within a few hours’ drive of the city.

But which are the best day trips from Jerusalem?

To help you narrow down your options, here is my pick of fantastic day excursions from Jerusalem. During the course of multiple visits to Israel, I have visited all of these places. No second-hand knowledge here!

With one exception, all of these places can be visited independently, even if you are travelling alone. However, if you prefer, guided day tours are also available.

I will share practical tips to make it easy for you to take these day trips from Jerusalem, including how to get there and how to make the most of your time there. And at the end of this article, you will find my recommendations on where to stay in Jerusalem, solo travel tips and suggested reading material.

Read, bookmark, share; but most of all be inspired to plan your day trip from Jerusalem.

golden dome of dome of the rock in jerusalem

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Best Day Trips from Jerusalem Along the Mediterranean Coast

The first set of Jerusalem day trip destinations – Tel Aviv/Jaffa, Caesaria, Haifa and Akko (Acre) – are located on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Tel Aviv and Jaffa warrant a day to themselves.

For the remaining three destinations, it is possible to visit two of these as one day trip under your own steam. However, because of the distances involved, and the need to change buses in Haifa, this will make it a long excursion from Jerusalem.

For this reason, I don’t recommend visiting more than one of these destinations in one day independently.

If you are short on time and want to visit more than one of these destinations from Jerusalem, I recommend joining an organised day trip instead. 

CAESAREA, HAIFA & AKKO DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

This comprehensive 10-12 hour day tour from Jerusalem starts at Caesarea before continuing to Haifa and the ancient port of Acre. It also includes the limestone grottoes at Rosh Hanikra.

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Tel Aviv / Jaffa

For two day trips from Jerusalem for the price of one

narrow street and shop signs in jaffa israel
Jaffa, an easy day trip from Jerusalem

For one of the easiest day trips from Jerusalem, head north-west to the vibrant beachside city of Tel Aviv and the ancient port of Jaffa (Yafo).

While Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays

The two cities are as different as chalk and cheese.

Home to more 1930s Bauhaus architecture than any city on earth, Tel Aviv is Israel’s centre for business, hedonism and nightlife.

The city’s 14 km of velveteen sand is lined with cafes, sun loungers and umbrellas flapping in the sea breeze and is the setting for countless games of beach volleyball. Sleek steel skyscrapers punctuate its skyline.

Just a stone’s throw from Tel Aviv’s gleaming boulevards lies the ancient port city of Jaffa, one of my favourite places in Israel. Jaffa’s shaded cobbled lanes, lined with cool cafes, restaurants and art galleries, are perfect for wandering

GOOD TO KNOW!

Tel Aviv’s beachfront is blessed with walking and cycling paths. To get the lay of the land, take the 4 km walk between Tel Svivi Marina to the old port of Jaffa.

Neve Tzedek was the first Jewish neighbourhood to be built outside the ancient port of Jaffa. In recent years, the district has attracted legions of artists and writers.

VISITING TEL AVIV / JAFFA AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

Getting to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem is super easy.

A direct bus (#480) operates between Jerusalem’s Central Station and Tel Aviv-Savidor Center (Arlozrov Terminal). Alternatively, take bus #405 which runs between Jerusalem Central Bus Station and Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.

The bus journey will take approximately one hour.

There is also a direct train service between Jerusalem HaHagana station and Tel Aviv. The journey time is an hour or less. 

Caesarea

To visit a magnificent Roman site

The ruined city of Caesarea, the Roman capital of Judea and the largest port in Roman Palestine, is one of Israel’s finest archaeological sites.

Its extensive remains include a Roman theatreByzantine mosaics, aqueducts, a Crusader city and a 2,000-year-old port.

Because of its relative inaccessibility, this is one day trip from Jerusalem where having your own car is worthwhile (if you can brave Israeli drivers!). Alternatively, take an organised day trip from Jerusalem.

VISITING CAESAREA AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

To get to Caesarea, take the #480 bus from Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the Or Akiva Interchange. From the interchange, it’s around a 20-minute walk towards the coast to Caesarea.

Haifa

To visit one of the world’s most progressive centres of spirituality

Ba'Hai Gardens and Shrine in Haifa
Bahá’i Gardens and Shrine in Haifa

Lovely Haifa is worthy of an overnight stay at least (on my last trip to Israel, I used Haifa as a base for three nights). As I worked as a volunteer on a kibbutz on the outskirts of Haifa some years ago, I have a soft spot for this city, the most egalitarian and secular in the country.

But if you are just visiting on a day trip from Jerusalem, make the sensational Bahá’i Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site, your priority. Time permitting, explore the German Colony area, which is overlooked by the Bahá’i Gardens.

VISITING HAIFA AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

From Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, take bus #940 to Haifa’s Central Station.

You can also catch the train from Jerusalem to Haifa.

Akko

To visit Israel’s finest Crusader ruins and a walled Ottoman city

sea wall and tower at akko isreal

For my money, Akko is Israel’s hidden gem.

At the last count, I have visited Akko three times and never tire of its charms. As if preserved in a time-warp, waves crash into the Akko’s time-worn walls and fishing boats bob gently in the city’s harbour.

Within a bastion of crumbling walls, the 200-year-old Arab town is a labyrinth of alleys and stairwells leading up to the ancient Turkish fortifications.

Outside Arab Akko lies the new city, encroaching on the embattled walls.

Finally, impervious to this contest, is the vast subterranean Crusader City.

VISITING AKKO AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

From Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, take bus #960 to Haifa’s Merkazit Hamifrats and transfer onto a local bus. The total journey time is just over two hours.

Akko’s bus station and train station are about a 20-minute walk from the main entrance to the Old City.

Day trips From Jerusalem Along the Dead Sea

The next three day trips from Jerusalem – Qumran, Ein Gedi and Masada – take you to the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Each of these destinations is a day trip in its own right. But as they are all served by the same bus routes – #444 and #486 –  you can combine them to make a longer day excursion from Jerusalem. Just check the bus schedules in advance.

Qumran

For a fascinating peek inside the lives of an ancient sect.

In 1947, teenage Bedouin shepherds looking for a missing sheep stumbled upon a collection of earthenware jars in a remote cliffside cave.

But these were no ordinary jars.

Inside were the Dead Sea Scrolls, two-thousand-year-old manuscripts, written by an ancient sect called the Essenes. They are considered to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century as they led to a greater understanding of the Bible and the Jewish world at the time of Jesus.

VISITING QUMRAN AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSLAEM

To get to Qumran, take bus #444 or #486 from the Central Bus Station. The journey should take you 40 – 50 minutes.

Ein Gedi

For that quintessential Israeli image of you reading The Jerusalem Post whilst afloat, head to the Dead Sea.  

a man applying mud to another mans back at the dead sea

Sitting between Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, at 400 m below sea level, the Dead Sea is not really a sea but a very, very salty lake.

Visit the oasis of Ein Gedi for an opportunity to bathe in the Dead Sea, as well as to explore its springs, streams, flora and fauna. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to slather yourself in therapeutic Dead Sea mud.

VISITING EIN GEDI AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

To get to Ein Gedi, take bus #444 or #486 from the Central Bus Station. The journey time is from 65 minutes.

If you prefer, you can take an organised tour to combine visiting the Dead Sea with other attractions, such as Jericho and the River Jordan. Click here to book.

The high salt content of the water can make your skin sting like crazy. Watch out for those open cuts and scrapes – cover them with a waterproof plaster before leaving – and don’t shave before visiting.

Masada

To visit a symbol of Jewish nationalism and sacrifice set in the desolate landscape of the Judean desert.

view of desert and dead sea through window in rock at masada

Masada shall not fall again

So goes the oath of allegiance sworn by newly enlisted Israeli soldiers. Rising 400m above the Dead Sea, this clifftop plateau and its tenacious defence by Jewish rebels has achieved almost mythical status, symbolising heroism and sacrifice.

Built as a fortified complex by Herod the Great (3740 to 4 BC), Masada became the last rebel stronghold after the Romans crushed the Judean uprising, destroying the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. 967 Jewish defenders held off 8,000 Roman legionnaires during a three-year siege.

Using Jewish slave labour, the Romans built a giant ramp up the side of the cliff and dragged battering rams up it. In 73AD, Eleazer Ben Yair, the rebels’ commander, gathered his people and instructed them that death was preferred to slavery.

Each man burned his possessions, bade farewell to his loved ones and then put them to death. Ten men were chosen by a lottery to execute the others and then to take their own life.

When the Roman soldiers burst in the following morning, they were met by a deathly silence. The only survivors were two women and five children, living witnesses to the story of Masada.

Although some historians have cast doubt on the so-called myth of Masada, claiming it to be exaggerated or incorrect, it remains a symbol of pride and nationalism for Israel.

What is beyond doubt is that Masada is a fantastic day trip from Jerusalem.

Take the winding path or the cable car up to its plateau and explore the impressive ruins, including Herod’s private palace, whilst looking over the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea.

VISITING MASADA AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

It is best to set off early. The bus journey from Jerusalem takes around 90 minutes. Take bus #444 or #486 from the Central Bus Station. The journey time is from 80 minutes.

It can be brutally hot with little shade. Bring plenty of sunscreen, water and a hat.

If you fancy climbing Masada, there are two paths that you can take. The shorter but steeper Rampart Path takes around 20 minutes. The Snake Path is broader and easier and takes around 45 mins.

Allow around 2 – 3 hours for your visit.

ORGANISED DAY TOURS TO MASADA & THE DEAD SEA FROM JERUSALEM

If you prefer, you can visit Masada on an organised day tour from Jerusalem, combined with the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. Here are some good options with free cancellation:

Masada at Sunrise, Ein Gedi, & the Dead Sea from Jerusalem

Climb Masada and the surrounding deserts as the sun rises. Then head to Ein Gedi Oasis Nature Reserve for a hike and finish the day by floating in the Dead Sea.

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Masada & Dead Sea Tour: Full-Day from Jerusalem

Ascend Masada by cable car and take a guided tour of King Herod’s mountain fortress. Afterwards, relax and swim in the Dead Sea.

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Destinations Within a 30-Minute Drive from Jerusalem

If you have limited time in Jerusalem and want to spend more time exploring the city – and who would blame you! – here are a few destinations that you visit from Jerusalem in half a day or less.

Bethlehem

For an easy visit to the West Bank and to check out an important Christian site

stone walled church with two towers with a cross on top in Bethlehem

If you would like to visit the West Bank, Bethlehem is the easiest option day trip from Jerusalem.

Just 9km south of Jerusalem and easily accessible by bus, it is celebrated as the birthplace of Jesus. But don’t expect the “little town” of the Christmas carol. Today’s Bethlehem is a small city and is home to one of the largest Arab Christian communities in the Middle East, although their numbers have dwindled in recent years.

The main draw is the Church of the Nativity on the appropriately-named Manger Street, marking the site of Jesus’s birth.

This fortress-like church is not particularly attractive and may disappoint you. However, there are fragments of well-preserved 5th Century mosaic floors, and the church has a solemn atmosphere with whiffs of incense filling its cavernous interior.

In contrast to the oppressiveness of the Church of the Nativity, the light and airy St Catherine’s Church has achieved fame as the site from which Midnight Mass is broadcast. You can reach it via steps from the north of the Church of the Nativity.

Also, don’t miss The Grotto of the Nativity, the site of the manger where Jesus is believed to have been born, accessible from the south side of the altar.

For a non-religious focus, visit the Separation Wall

Covered with graffiti, this separation barrier cuts off Bethlehem from the rest of Israel. Banksy famously drew on it for the first time in 2005, depicting children with buckets and spades next to a crack in the wall through which could be seen an idyllic beach.

VISITING BETHLEHEM AS A DAY TRIP FROM JERUSALEM

Bethlehem is considered a safe place for tourists to visit. However, check the situation in the West Bank before you travel. Note that escalations in violence in the Gaza Strip do not mean that trips to other Palestinian cities are unsafe.

The easiest way to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is to take frequent bus #231 (formerly known as #21) from the Arab bus station in Sultan Suliman St, just across from the Old City’s Damascus Gate. The journey takes around 30 – 40 minutes and goes via the village of Beit-Jalla.

You should remain on the bus at the security checkpoint. Although soldiers might enter the bus to check your passport, particularly when heading back into Jerusalem, this is fairly painless. Palestinians may have to exit the bus and line up outside for security checks.

There is also a private shuttle bus service between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Although easy and convenient, this is not particularly cheap.

Remember to dress modestly when visiting these religious sites.

As Arab buses run on Shabbat (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset)  and Jewish holidays, Bethlehem is a good option for these days when transport options are limited.

Organised day trips to Bethlehem

But perhaps you don’t feel comfortable visiting Bethlehem or wish to combine it with a visit to another West Bank destination? If so, consider taking a guided tour.

Here are some excellent options, all with free cancellation:

Half-Day Tour of Bethlehem from Jerusalem

This affordable guided tour of Bethlehem includes transport from central Jerusalem

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Full-Day Tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem

This 10-hour excursion includes a guided tour of the key sites in Jerusalem’s Old City

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Full-Day Tour of Bethlehem and the Dead Sea from Jerusalem

Follow your guided exploration of Bethlehem with a relaxing dip in the Dead Sea

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Bethlehem, Jericho & River Jordan Tour from Jerusalem

For a deeper exploration of Palestine, choose this full-day excursion which includes the wonderful landscape of the Judean Desert, Jordan River and the ancient city of Jericho.

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Ein Kerem

For a respite from Jerusalem with the opportunity for short hikes in a national park

The peaceful village of Ein Kerem, just 30 minutes from the centre of Jerusalem, is a great option for a half-day trip.

Regarded by Christian tradition to be the birthplace of John the Baptist, it is a beautiful spot. Wander its alleys and streets, go for an easy hike in the nearby National Park or visit one of the several churches.

VISITING EIN KEREM

To reach Ein Kerem take the Light Rail Train service to Mount Herzl (final stop) from where it’s a 30-minute walk. Alternatively, pick up bus #28 from the stop.

If you have time, why not combine this with a visit to Yad Vashem

Day Trip to Petra from Jerusalem

To visit one of the most sensational archaeological sites in the world

the facade of the treasury at petra jordan

The last and the most ambitious of these day trips from Jerusalem, Petra deserves way more than one day (I visited Petra as part of a small group tour to Jordan). That said, I have friends who have jumped at the chance at visiting Petra from Jerusalem.

This is a VERY long day trip – be prepared for a 3 am pickup! –  but a visit to the ancient Nabataean capital of Petra is unforgettable.

>>> CLICK HERE to book your day trip to Petra from Jerusalem

There are not enough superlatives in The Oxford English Dictionary to describe Petra. Hidden deep in the Jordanian desert, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been voted one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

After walking for more than a mile from the entrance gate through a natural 3m-wide fissure, nothing can prepare you for the sight of the Treasury, Petra’s finest monument. Almost a match for this is watching the sunset at the Monastery.

TIPS FOR VISITING PETRA
  • Petra is a huge site and considerable walking is involved. Therefore, be kind to yourself and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Modest clothing is recommended: no short skirts, low cut shirts or garments revealing the midriff
  • As Petra can get very hot, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, hat and scarf, ATM card or cash

Planning Your Trip to Israel

Getting your hands on a good guidebook to help you to plan your trip to Israel and to explore the country whilst you are there, is a smart move. I recommend the Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories, which was a constant companion during my visit.

How to get around Israel

By bus

Intercity buses are your easiest option for travelling between Israel’s major cities.

Buses depart Jerusalem for Tel Aviv and Haifa frequently. For less frequent services, such those operating between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea and Eilat, it’s wise to book your bus ticket in advance.

The days when Egged and Dan had the monopoly on bus travel in the country are long gone and there are now multiple companies operating.

By train

There is limited rail service in Israel, connecting Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Nahariya, also stopping at Ben-Gurion Airport, Beersheba and Jerusalem.

THE RAV KAV CARD

To travel on buses and trains in Israel, buy a Rav Kav card. There are two types of card available: a personalized card and an anonymous card. Unless you are a long-term visitor to Israel, opt for the anonymous card, which doesn’t require personal information.

You can buy a rechargeable Rav-Kav card for 5NIS at kiosks throughout the city, as well as post offices, Cofix chain stores and Maayan 2000 branches (alternatively, get one for free by showing your passport at the Egged desk at the Central Bus Station).

You can then pre-load the card with rides or passes (per day/week) and scan it each time you board a light rail or bus service.

By sherut

A sherut (shared taxi van) can be useful for travelling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Sheruts leave Jerusalem once they are full from the corner of Rav Kook Street and Hanevi’im Street in Jerusalem (across Jaffa Rd. from Zion Square), and terminate at Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station.

I have found sheruts to be a useful option on Shabbat when transport options are limited, and for travelling between Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem

BEWARE OF THE SABBATH!

From Friday at sundown until Saturday at nightfall, train and bus services do not operate in Israel. The exceptions to this are services in Haifa, Nazareth and Eilat, Arab bus services and limited sherut services.

Don’t get marooned. If you are going on a day trip from Jerusalem on a Friday, plan to get back by noon at the latest.

Due to soldiers’ weekend leave, expect public transport to be packed with soldiers (many with guns) on Thursday evening and Friday morning and especially on Sunday mornings until about 10 am.

By car

Whilst having a car will give you greater flexibility, it is not necessary unless you wish to take a day trip to the more hard-to-reach areas like the Upper Galilee or Golan Heights. Whilst roads are good and major road signs are unusually in Hebrew and English, Israeli drivers can be impatient.

By organised tour

Organised day tours come into their own when visiting destinations that are difficult to reach by public transport, when you want o see more than one destination in a day or when there are logistic challenges in getting somewhere.

Day tours are also a great way to meet people as a solo traveller.

With the exception of Petra, it is possible to do all of these day trips from Jerusalem by public transport. However, you may find it easier to bundle a few of these day trips into one as a day excursion; the Dead Sea destinations for example or the cities along Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Where to stay in Jerusalem

Jerusalem has accommodation options to suit all budgets. Over the years I have stayed in many places in Jerusalem, mostly hostels and guesthouses in the Old City.

If possible, choose a hotel close to the Old City. However, as the Old City essentially closes down at night, dining options are limited.

As a solo traveller, safety is important to me and walking around Jerusalem at night has always felt safe, even in the Old City.

Here are a few places that I recommend.

Splurge

Harmony Hotel

A fabulous hotel in a superb location, close to a good selection of restaurants and bars and less than 15 minutes walk from Jaffa Gate. The evening happy hour is a real bonus!

>>> CHECK RATES & BOOK A ROOM

Mid-range

Lutheran Guesthouse

In the heart of the Old City, this is one of the most characterful places in which I have ever stayed. Sadly, the dorm beds have long gone, but it does offer private rooms.

>>> CHECK RATES & BOOK A ROOM

Budget

Abraham Hostel

This city-centre hostel is a 30-minute walk from the Old City but has been recommended to me by a friend. It offers dorm beds and private rooms in a communal atmosphere.

>>> CHECK RATES & BOOK A ROOM

>>> None of these choices takes your fancy? Discover other great accommodation deals in Jerusalem here.

Is Israel Safe for Female Solo Travellers?

Take it from a six-time visitor, five of these visits as a woman on her own, Israel is safe for female solo travellers.

Israel is the Middle East’s most liberal and democratic country, and because of the obligatory army service, the country is used to strong, independent women. Jerusalem’s abundant hostels give women travelling alone lots of opportunities to buddy up with other solo travellers if needed, and the city has a good public transport infrastructure.

Taking an organised day tour from Jerusalem is another way to beat solo travel loneliness, and can be a good way of getting to know Israel quickly.

The elephant in the room is the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which has led to Israel not exactly winning any popularity contests in the Middle East. This means that security is tight in Israel.

However, these enhanced security measures help keep the tourist areas of the country safe.

Get used to seeing soldiers with guns everywhere; I have literally tripped over them when entering an intercity bus (guns, that is, not soldiers).

As the situation can be volatile, always check with the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) travel advisory before you go.
Whilst you are away, stay vigilant and keep an eye on local media.

In particular, some areas of Jerusalem have been flashpoints for violent clashes between protestors and security forces, including East Jerusalem, around Temple Mount and the Damascus Gate and Lion’s Gate areas of the Old City.

PLAN YOUR TRIP TO ISRAEL

GETTING THERE

Skyscanner is my go-to platform to search for flights. I like having the ability to filter results by cabin class and to compare the price of flights across an entire month. Skyscanner also supports multi-city options in searching for open-jaw flights.

STAYING THERE

I book 80% of my accommodation with Booking.com. Rates are competitive and many reservations are cancellable without penalty.

Alternatively, check rates and availability on Expedia.

Check accommodation reviews, and prices across a range of booking platforms, on TripAdvisor.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Wherever you travel in the world it’s important to have comprehensive travel insurance to protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. Check if World Nomads will cover your needs.

OTHER TRAVEL RESOURCES

Check out my Travel Resources page for the companies and other resources I use when planning my trips and whilst I am away.