We booked a one-week private tour for two on very short notice -- less than a month. Despite the short notice, our travel agency was able to put together a beautiful itinerary for us, covering most of the highlights of Israel. We started in Tel Aviv, then headed north to Haifa, Akko and the Golan Heights, then down to Jerusalem via Beit She'an, then down to Eilat via Masada, a one-day side excursion to Petra, Jordan, then back to Tel Aviv. Our travel agency provided excellent service throughout. The hotels we stayed at were all very nice, and our guide/driver was extremely knowledgeable. Our travel agent called me personally on our first night in Tel Aviv just to check in and make sure we had arrived safely, which I thought was a very nice personal touch. In short, we were well looked after from the time our plane landed in Tel Aviv until we were dropped off back in Tel Aviv at the end of our visit.
The highlights for me were Jerusalem and Petra, Jordan. I had been to Jerusalem once before and knew it was amazing, and the second visit did not disappoint. I had no idea what to expect of Petra, however, and that turned out to be equally interesting as Jerusalem. The site is more than 2,000 years old, extremely impressive and incredibly well preserved. It is well worth the extra day it took us to visit it. The visit to Petra is via Eilat, which was a nice beach resort town that we probably would not have seen had we not added the Petra visit -- so that was an added bonus. We also found our favorite restaurant in Israel in Eilat -- a very casual but delicious seafood restaurant called Rak Dagim. We wound up eating there both nights, it was so good -- the fish both evenings was caught that very day. Big thumbs up!
As far as the itinerary goes, I would not change anything. I think we got a great overview of the country and did not miss any of the must-see destinations. The only piece of constructive criticism I provided to our agency was that our driver/guide had very strong political views, which he pushed very strongly. Understanding the unique political context in Israel was definitely a big attraction for me in choosing this destination, so I welcomed strong political opinions. The problem, for me at least, was that they were often very one-sided. It would have been even more interesting to have been given a better understanding of what the alternative points of view were. We did get some of that from our Palestinian guide in Bethlehem and our Jordanian guide in Petra, but it would have been nice if our Israeli guide -- with whom we spent the large majority of our time -- had been able to provide a more balanced perspective to us.
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