Today we present a plan for a 2 weeks road trip around Israel & Jordan. The journey covers all top attractions of both countries. Our trip starts and ends in Tel Aviv, but you can easily adjust it to your needs e.g. change the arrival airport from Tel Aviv to Eilat.
Most flights to Israel arrive to the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. This is where our journey begins. Although you can rent a car directly at the airport we recommend not to do that. Instead, spend a couple of days in Tel Aviv and enjoy this vibrant city. You don’t need the car in the city because the public transportation is pretty good and taxis are relatively cheap. Finding a parking spot is not easy and definitely not cheap. Tel Aviv also has the best network of city bikes we have ever seen – very good coverage and no pre-registration required.
Tel Aviv is a very lively city, where old cultures mix with modern lifestyle. It’s definitely worth spending there several days – you will not be bored.
What to do there? Here are some suggestions:
- Old Jaffa – old fortress with magnificent view at the main city. Wander around the ancient walls, spend some time in flea markets with antics and eat lunch at one of modern restaurant serving traditional dishes with modern twist
- The beach – the unique location directly at the beach makes the city so special. Visiting the beach and riding the bike along the boardwalk are must-do activities for those, who want to understand the city vibe
- Caramel market – fruits, spices, dishes, clothes. All in one place, cheaper than anywhere else in the city. This is where locals mix with tourists
- Museum of modern art – Tel Aviv has something to offer for any one. For art lovers this museum is mandatory. Some exhibitions are changing seasonally, so you can find there something different every time you visit. Reserve at least 2-3 hours.
The next stop on our way is Jerusalem. From Tel Aviv you can easily get there by bus. Same as in Tel Aviv, you don’t need the car in Jerusalem. However, if you are planning a road trip according to our plan we recommend that you rent a car in Tel Aviv city center. There are many local rental companies offering good rates.
For Jerusalem you need to reserve at least 2 days, although some will say that you need at least 1 week to get to know the city. The old city is not that big, but be prepared for crowds all year long. Most attractions are available without bigger queues, but to see popular ones you need to be prepared for longer waiting.
The absolute must-sees are:
- The Wailing Wall (Western Wall) – one of most sacred places for Judaism. Come and see how Jewish people from all over the world pray together.
- All 4 quarters: Christian, Jewish, Muslim & Armenian – the old city is divided into 4 different quarters occupied by 4 different nations. Wander around with no goal in mind to experience their culture and habits
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the eligible place of Jesus Christ crucifixion
- Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) – holy site for thousands of years by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
- Mount of Olives – place where many events descrbied in the Holly Bible took place. Close to eastern walls of the old city.
- Mahane Yehuda Market– very colorful market where you can buy anything you need or don’t need. Dive in, explore, bargain and eat.
From Jerusalem drive south to Eilat. On your way there will be the Ramon Crater. We recommend stopping at the Visitor Center and walk along the crater’ rim. This huge rocky hole makes a big impression. Reserve 1-2 hours for this attraction.
After leaving the Ramon crater drive further south through the Negev desert. Be prepared for driving through huge sandy areas, without any vegetation. Watch for camels on your way!
Eilat is a touristic city with little to no heritage. Private, rocky beaches, shopping malls, ice cream etc. If you just wish to catch some sun you can plan to stay there for several days. However, there isn’t much to do.
Top attractions in Eilat:
- Coral reef – under the water surface a small reef starts, where you can meet colorful sea creatures. Best is at the Coral Reef Nature Reserve, but you can also see a lot of fish if you start at the public beach nearby.
- Red Canyon – 30 minute drive from Eialt city center you will find a red canyon. In the past there was a river running on its bottom, now it’s just an attractive walking route between steep walls. Best reachable by car, the shortest route takes up to 2h to complete. Moderate difficulty.
After you are bored by Eilat’s limited attractions 😉 you can cross the border and experience Jordan. Be aware that you are not allowed to drive through the border in any rental car. There are several options to choose from, none of them being straightforward. You can drive up to the border, leave your car on the Israeli side, cross the border on foot and take taxi either directly to Wadi Rum, or to Aqaba city center.
Aqaba on the map seems to be a twin city to Eilat, but it’s much different. You will not find half-naked tourists lying on public beaches. The city seems to be much more authentic though.
- In Aqaba you can rent another car or use public buses or taxis to reach popular attractions.
Wadi Rum is the first big attraction on your way from Aqaba. You will need to turn off the main road and head east, following signs. Wadi Rum is a huge, sandy area filled with steep rocks. Recently it got more recognition thanks to the movie “The Martian” with Matt Damon, which was shot there.
You can travel through this desert only in 4×4 cars. However, unless you have your own jeep and a lot of off-road experience it is not recommended to drive on your own. Instead, you can hire a 4×4 with an experienced driver, who will drive you around and show you all highlights.
Local Bedouin families offer a holistic desert experience – the full tour starts at one of their homes, where you are greeted with a sweet tea. Then you hop on a 4×4 (usually old Toyota) and travel through the desert the whole day. The trip usually offers a private lunch cooked by you guide. The tour ends with a sleepover in a private Bedouin camp, where you can taste the genuine Bedouin cousin – meet & vegetables slowly cooked in the dirt hole filled with hot coal.
In the morning the guide will drive you back to the Wadi Rum city and escort to your car, so you can continue your journey.
- Cost of private 4×4 for 2 persons with a guide, overnight at Bedouin camp, food and beverages is around 120$
- You can arrange different trip (half-day, no overnight etc). Email your chosen Bedouin camp for details.
The most famous Jordanian tourist site. Similar to Wadi Rum, this place got even more recognition after the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. Petra is an ancient city drilled entirely in rocks. A long time ago it served as a meeting point for merchants from all over the world, who came there in caravans to sell their goods. The central point of Petra is the Treasury, with a decorative façade carved in stone.
Petra is much busier than Wadi Rum. It’s usually full of tourists who came their individually or in large groups. You can walk around on foot, ride a carriage or travel on mule’s back. The latter 2 seem morally questionable.
After the main entrance you walk into a very steep, narrow canyon, which slowly descents towards the treasury. The walk takes around 1h one way. To see all historic sites in Petra on foot you will need to reserve at least 1 full day.
An additional attraction is the “Petra by night” experience. You meet in the evening at the main gate and walk through the canyon in darkness. The only source of light are candles, which generate a mysterious atmosphere. When you reach the treasury, you can enjoy a short show – listen to the original Bedouin music and taste some sweet tea. They will also tell you about Petra heritage.
- Entrance to Petra costs 50JOD/day or 55JOD for 2 days. If you stay in Jordan for less than 3 days the ticket will be more expensive (90JOD)
- Petra by Night costs additional 17JOD
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea lies between Jordan and Israel, so you choose the side you want to visit it from. The Israeli shore is pretty developed, with big hotels in expensive resorts. The Jordanian side should be more rural, with less accommodation opportunities.
If you decide to follow our trip plan we advise to cross the border again, switch back to your original car and drive north to the Dead Sea. Stop at any resorts that suits your needs and enjoy a dip in the salty water.
The Dead Sea is known for its minerals so make sure to cover yourself in mud, let it dry in the sun and then wash it off in the sea. The natural mud can be found in some SPAs directly in the sea. In other resorts you will need to buy it in bags, often available at the lifeguard stations.
From the Dead Sea you can drive further north to the Nazareth area. Here you can choose from several attractions. We recommend staying for the night at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus was walking on water. There is not much going on there, but in Tiberias there is a nice boardwalk and many decent restaurants.
A must-see in the area is Haifa. This city lies on steep hills above a busy harbor. Looking down at the sea provides magnificent views. The number 1 attraction there are Bahá’í gardens, which spread vertically from the hilltop almost to the harbor. We recommend starting from the top and walk down through the garden. At the bottom you will find a German colony – a hippy place to relax and eat. In the evening you can walk along the Dado Beach, stopping at one of many beach bars to watch the sunset.
If you still have some days left you can explore the area more and visit e.g Acre and Goran Heights. Or you can spend the rest of your trip in the vibely Tel Aviv. The choice is yours, but we guarantee you will not be disappointed.