Premium Middle East


Embark on a 21-day Premium adventure through the Middle East, from the heartland of ancient Egypt down the iconic Nile River, to the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, both sides of the Dead Sea and the centre of the Christian world in Jerusalem. Take flight to the temples of Abu Simbel, sail on a Nile riverboat and break bread with local families and communities. Discover lost kingdoms in Jordan, camp under the desert stars in traditional Bedouin accommodation and marvel at some of the world’s most impressive sites in Jerusalem. Uncover the swathes of history alive in this region, joined by expert local guides and a small group of likeminded adventurers.

21 days, from

$9,080

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: XEPIC
Style: Premium
Theme: Explorer
Print itinerary

Details

Countries Visited:  Egypt Israel Jordan
Accommodation: Comfortable hotel (15 nights), Feature Stay (5 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle , Plane , Riverboat , Felucca , Jeep
Meals: 13 dinners, 18 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • A day at the incredible Pyramids of Giza is only the beginning. Discover the Valley of the Kings, Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerusalem’s historical religious sites and experience the unique sensation of floating in the Dead Sea.

  • Experience the best of each country with Feature Stay accommodation – three unforgettable evenings on a Nile riverboat, isolated elegance at a luxury camp in Wadi Rum and old school charm in Bethlehem in a converted historic home. 

  • Embrace local life as you travel with passionate local leaders, meet a local Rabbi, spend an evening with a Bedouin community, and discuss history with a geopolitical expert (a Premium Exclusive Experience).

  • Lift the lid on local cuisine during Exclusive Experiences, including a hummus tasting in Tel Aviv, a zarb dinner at a Bedouin camp, a meal in a family’s home in Cairo and sunset drinks on board a traditional felucca.

  • The unearthing of Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of the world’s greatest discovery’s – at the Valley of the Kings you’ll have the chance to enter three tombs of your choice, followed by a visit to the resting place of the famous young Pharaoh.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Cairo

Welcome to Cairo! On arrival at the airport, take an included transfer to your hotel. You are free to arrive at any time today before an important welcome meeting, held at 6 pm. If you do arrive early, perhaps get out and explore the busy streets, finding a hole-in-the-wall eatery for a snack like ta’ameya – Egypt’s take on falafel. Or you may wish to make the most of your fabulous hotel – the pool area offers magnificent pyramid views. After your welcome meeting, where you will meet your local leader and fellow travellers, head out for an included dinner with the group. Here your leader will introduce you to the dazzling variety of Egyptian cuisine, known for being fresh, delicious and unique to the country. Best enjoyed when shared, tuck into an array of traditional dishes like fatta, a dish made with rice, bread and meat in a garlic and vinegar sauce, and kushari, a tantalising mixture of pasta, rice, lentils and fried onions.

Day 2: Cairo

This morning, tour the mighty Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx with your small group and expert leader, who is a trained Egyptologist. Seeing these ancient and iconic structures up close is a memory that will stay with you long after your time in Egypt is over. For an additional charge, you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops). After stopping to purchase some lunch, Your adventure continues to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of ancient artefacts. Wander the treasure-filled halls, and make sure to check out the optional Mummies Hall for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. The masses of gleaming artefacts recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun are an impressive sight – from jewellery to the famous golden death mask and his gilded sarcophagi, this pharaoh was certainly prepared for the afterlife. Your leader will take you through some of Egypt’s dynastic history, and you will have plenty of time to explore on your own – home to almost 100,000 artefacts, there’s a whole ancient world to uncover.

Day 3: Nile Cruise - Aswan

Catch a morning flight to Aswan – Egypt’s southernmost city. Its relaxed charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Here you will board a Nile riverboat, your Feature Stay accommodation for the next three nights. There’s no better way to soak in the ancient history of the Nile and the incredible sights along its banks. Enjoy all the comforts of a world-class hotel, including a swimming pool, sundeck, restaurant and cabins with panoramic windows to watch riverside life stream by. Travelling by riverboat allows you to get to the heart of each destination while ensuring the journeys in between are every bit as interesting. Travel to Philae Island and visit the beautiful Temple of Isis – the goddess of health, marriage and wisdom – rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated here. Your leader will share stories of the history and changing landscape of the island. Then, board a traditional felucca sailing boat where you can sit back and relax with some drinks as the sun sets over your beautiful surroundings. Stop off at a Nubian village on an island in the middle of the Nile. Walk through the village before sitting down to dinner with a local Nubian family in their home. Enjoy traditional Nubian food, swap stories with your friendly hosts and gain a unique perspective into their way of life.

Day 4: Nile Cruise - Edfu

Enjoy a peaceful morning on board your riverboat, then set out in the afternoon along the river, relaxing in the sun on deck and taking in the desert hills forming a backdrop over the lush riverbanks. Arrive at Kom Ombo Temple, sitting spectacularly on the river’s edge. Your leader will let you in on the secrets of this ancient temple. Built in approximately 181 BC, Kom Ombo is dedicated to two gods – Horus (god of protection) and Sobek (god of fertility, linked to the Nile’s water). Each god has a dedicated section – north or south – and there have been recent discoveries of mummified crocodiles in the Sobek section. Afterwards, return to your riverboat and continue to Edfu where you will dock for the evening.

Day 5: Nile Cruise - Luxor

This morning, you will be moored near Edfu and may have the option to venture independently into town to see the nearby temple. Sail towards Luxor passing through the Esna Locks. You may have to queue to proceed through the locks, but this is a great opportunity to sit back with a drink in hand and observe life on the Nile – listen to the shouts of the many captains as they navigate their way through the various small boats of merchants selling their wares to a captive audience. Arrive at the open-air museum of Luxor – from the spectacular temple complex of Karnak to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is full of wonderfully preserved reminders of the Pharaohs. Today you'll explore the Karnak Temple. One of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, Karnak is a house of the gods built over a period of some 200 years. Your guided tour of this vast temple of impressive pylons, obelisks and chapels will reveal its finest sections, such as the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Great Temple of Amun.

Day 6: Luxor

Disembark your riverboat and travel to the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. With your leader, explore this place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made. Your leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics, still well preserved in the deepest tombs. Entry is included to three tombs of your choosing, as well as access to the tomb of Tutankhamun. The unearthing of the young Pharaoh’s resting place is one of the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries, and today you will have the chance to explore the painted chamber and marvel at his famous golden sarcophagus. Continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut – a colonnaded building set against high cliffs that create a spectacular natural amphitheatre, then view the Colossi of Memnon – two 17-metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank.

Day 7: Cairo

Board a flight bound for Cairo this morning. On arrival, settle in to your hotel then head with your group to the Al-Azhar neighbourhood to visit Khan al-Khalili Bazaar – a sprawling maze of alleyways including the gold market, cloth market, 'perfume street' and the spice market. Continue to the 9th-century Al-Azhar Mosque – one of the oldest and largest in Egypt. Its perfectly proportioned courtyard and distinctive minaret make it a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. Stop off in Cairo’s oldest coffeeshop for an Arabic coffee or mint tea as you watch the world go by. It’s a known fact that the very best food in Cairo is made inside local homes, but few visitors get the chance to experience this for themselves. This afternoon, you will be one of the lucky few as you are welcomed into the home of a local family for a late lunch. Sit down to a wonderful meal of traditional dishes which you’ll share with your friendly hosts and gain an inside look at modern Egyptian life.

Day 8: Amman

Welcome to Jordan – cosmopolitan and contemporary yet steeped in biblical history. You will be met by an Intrepid representative at the airport and transferred to your hotel where there will be an important welcome meeting with your group and local leader at 6pm. If you arrive early, perhaps visit a local cafe and pick up a coffee and ara’yes – a pita filled with spiced meats. Otherwise, head to the Old Town’s Roman Amphitheatre or find some culture at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. After your meeting, head out to a local restaurant for a welcome dinner with your group and leader. Sharing food is a huge part of Jordanian culture and eating out is a social affair that’s packed with flavour. Tonight your leader will introduce you to some of the country’s most beloved dishes, like mansaf, a dish made with lamb, yoghurt and rice, and kunafa, a delicious dessert made with pastry and cheese.

Day 9: Amman

This morning, leave Amman for a short drive north to Jerash where you’ll find some of the world’s best Greco-Roman ruins. Reaching its peak as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian, Jerash holds a striking collection of archways, theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets. Your leader will share the incredible history of the ruins and help you imagine what life once looked like in this glorious Roman city. Grand columns encircle the city's centrepiece of the Oval Plaza – an atmospheric place to linger after exploring Jerash's riches. Afterwards, return to Amman and head to a cooking school run by a mother and her daughters, where you’ll get a special look behind the scenes of Jordanian cuisine. You’ll feel as through you’ve stepped into the welcoming home of a local grandmother as you learn how to make classics like tabbouleh, flat bread and lentil soup with passionate guidance and generations of culinary know-how. The flavours, recipes and warmth of this evening are sure to stick with you long after your time in Jordan is over.

Day 10: Dead Sea

Today you will make the journey from Amman to the Dead Sea. Named for the lack of life in its waters, this lake is so intensely salty that the water density makes swimming very difficult, but bobbing on the water's surface is a truly fun and one-off experience. En route, stop off at Mount Nebo and hear the story of how Moses saw the Promised Land before he died from what is believed to be this very spot, and St Georges Church, best known for its Byzantine mosaic depicting a map of the Holy Land. On arrival, enjoy some time to float in the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea, relax on your hotel’s beachfront or take a dip in one of three swimming pools or jacuzzi.

Day 11: Petra

Depart the Dead Sea and drive to the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak – your leader will explain how this ancient castle was originally built to protect the eastern flank of the Latin Kingdom and its trade routes to the sea before it fell to Saladin in 1189. Enjoy superb scenery and stop off at the viewpoint overlooking the Dana Nature Reserve before arriving in the late afternoon to your Petra accommodation. Petra dates back to the sixth century BC and is considered the crown jewel of Jordan, featuring an impressive series of tombs and dwellings carved directly into the rock. On arrival, there is time to check out the town that has grown around the site and to relax, ready for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow.

Day 12: Petra

Today will be spent uncovering the secrets of Petra with the knowledgeable guidance of your leader. The iconic view of the Treasury's glorious facade, glimpsed from a narrow cleft known as the Siq, is perhaps the single-most striking sight of the entire region. The Siq leads through the rock and is at points only a few metres wide, with walls soaring up to 180 metres on either side. Explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several ancient tombs. You will also have time to climb to the Monastery if you wish, providing a magnificent view of the entire site. There is a cafeteria on the site, where you can enjoy your own light lunch. The rest of the day will be at your leisure. This evening, perhaps take the chance to witness Petra by night if your dates align. Seeing the Treasury plaza lit up by candlelight while Bedouin music plays is a truly memorable experience.

Day 13: Wadi Rum

For another glimpse at Petra, rise very early for an unguided morning visit, if you wish. Then, drive to Wadi Rum, a protected area of desert that impresses with sandstone mountains, canyons and arches. Enjoy some lunch in the small village of Rum and browse the informative visitor’s centre. Afterwards, jump into a local jeep and journey into Wadi Rum with your Bedouin hosts. Visit several of the area’s distinctive rock formations and appreciate the vast silence and spectacular desert landscapes. These landscapes are home to hardy Bedouin communities that live in scattered camps. You will gain a deeper understanding of their way of life as you join them for a zarb (underground oven) dinner at one of their camps, set in an amazing location deep in the desert. Tonight’s Feature Stay accommodation is a luxury camp that offers a splendid base among remote and wild surroundings. Spacious tents are fitted out with creature comforts like king-sized beds, air conditioning and en suite bathrooms, and all furniture is made by hand with décor inspired by Bedouin culture. Fall asleep in your luxurious tent beneath a magnificent canopy of stars and wake up to a sunrise over the red-hued landscape.

Day 14: Amman

After waking up in the unique surrounds of your Bedouin camp this morning, take a walk around the area – the length of which depends on the group’s desires – before scaling one of the large dunes to enjoy panoramic views of your surrounds. Afterwards, return to Amman for the evening. Tonight you may like to join your group for a final dinner to round off your adventure – speak to your leader about the best restaurants in the city that are popular with the locals.

Day 15: Jerusalem

Welcome to Israel! Your journey begins in Jerusalem, a city brimming with ancient history and holy sites. You will be collected from the airport and transferred to your centrally located hotel, where you’ll meet your small group and experienced local leader for a 6pm welcome meeting. After your meeting, join your leader on an orientation walk to get acquainted with your home for the next three nights. Discover a captivating city influenced by its multicultural residents who have roots across the world, and leave feeling like a local. Then it’s time to get to know your group over an included dinner at a restaurant set in an atmospheric 120-year-old building, serving up traditional and international delights. You may like to try maqluba, one of the region’s most celebrated dishes, and find out why the name translates to “upside-down”.

Day 16: Jerusalem

Set off on a walk through Jerusalem as your leader shares local knowledge and ancient tales. Enter the Old City and visit Temple Mount Courtyard, where you can see the Dome of the Rock from the outside and Al Aqsa Mosque. Follow the Via Dolorosa along Jesus’s path to crucifixion and stop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, then visit the remains of the Western Wall on the Temple Mount. Take some time out for lunch before meeting with a local rabbi, learning of Jewish traditions and a different perspective on the Israel–Palestine conflict. Then check out the views from the rooftop of a 19th-century guesthouse. Your evening is free to explore on your own.

Day 17: Jerusalem

This morning, head to the clifftop fortress of Masada, where you’ll take a cable car to the top. Your leader will explain why this World Heritage-listed site is so important to Jewish people, as a symbol of exile from the Holy Land, of bravery and self-sacrifice. Afterwards, drive to Qumran, an archaeological site on the West Bank, home to major discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. You’ll even have a chance to float in the famously buoyant Dead Sea, which is not only fun but is also believed to provide numerous health benefits. Discover the slow-paced town of Jericho in the West Bank, where people have lived for over 11,000 years. Return to Jerusalem where you’ll have the unique opportunity to meet with a regional expert for a lively conversation about the fascinating geopolitics of the area.

Day 18: Bethlehem

Drive out to visit the Garden of Gethsemane before stopping at the Mount of Olives, where you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Old City. See the Church of All Nations then continue to Yad Vashem for a sobering visit to Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Take a guided tour with a local expert to hear personal stories of those affected by tragedy. Continue to Bethlehem and see the Church of the Nativity and the nearby Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour. Arrive in Bethlehem and head to your Feature Stay accommodation, the Dar Sitti Aziza, Palestine’s first heritage hotel. Converted from the home of the owner’s grandmother, the 200-year-old property hangs onto its original charm, with Ottoman influenced architecture and rooms named after their former purpose, such as the wine room and the olive room. If you’re lucky, the owner may be there to greet you and fill you in on the hotel’s history. Perhaps take some time to enjoy the peaceful courtyard, admiring views of the Church of the Nativity beneath the shade of pistachio trees. Then onto an activity you won’t find in the guidebooks - spend the evening with a local family in Bethlehem who will serve up a traditional Palestinian home-cooked dinner. Learn about life in this historic city, surrounded by churches and mosques. Hear the stories about daily life and enjoy traditional Palestinian food with your hosts.

Day 19: Haifa

Say goodbye to Bethlehem and travel to Tiberias, a holy city sitting on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. If conditions allow, take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee while your leader fills you in on its spiritual significance. Afterwards, pay a visit to Tabgha, said to be the site where Jesus fed 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Take the chance the see the church built to commemorate the miracle and admire the mosaics adorning its walls. Then it’s on to Capernaum, where you’ll find two ancient synagogues and the church said to have been the home of Saint Peter. Here you’ll tuck into a traditional St Peter’s fish lunch while your leader regales you with the story of how the fish got its name. After lunch, visit the Church of the Annunciation – it’s believed this is the place Mary was told by an angel she would conceive and bear God’s son. Finally, continue to Haifa, a dynamic city where old and new go hand in hand. On arrival, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the famous Baha’i Gardens and snap a picture of its 19 manicured terraces (garden entrance not included).

Day 20: Tel Aviv

Today, stop at the former crusader port of Acre. Visit the complex of buildings occupied by the Knights of St John, and take a peek at the secret tunnel of their rivals – the Knights Templar. Continue to Caesarea, once a great port town built by King Herod around 25 BC, the city was eventually abandoned and lost under the desert sands. Thanks to excavations in the 1950s, an amphitheatre, hippodrome, palace, Roman temple and a network of aqueducts are now on display. Arrive in Tel Aviv and spend the afternoon discovering this high-energy city with your leader, visiting the Old City of Jaffa and Peace Square. Take a dip into some of the world’s most heavenly hummus during a special tasting session in downtown Tel Aviv. Tempt your tastebuds with a range of toppings, textures and flavours and find out why this city takes its hummus so seriously.

Day 21: Tel Aviv

With no activities planned for today, your journey through Israel and the Palestinian Territories comes to an end after breakfast. You are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out times.

21 days, from $9,080

to book call 1-844-205-6226


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