When it comes to the holy land, there are many holy places to visit – After all, this land boasts with many important historic events, including: Jesus’ birthplace, his childhood town, his crucifixion and various other places mentioned in the Bible. If you are visiting Israel for the first time, you might feel overwhelmed by the abundance of biblical sites and not know where to begin. In this article, we have put together a list of ten Christian places that you simply cannot miss in your trip to the Holy Land.

1- VIA DOLOROSA

Imagine a street less than one kilometer, yet it feels like traveling through an entire journey when walking on it. Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem is a pilgrimage route, where the events leading to the death of Jesus took place. You will come across many Stations of the Cross. Each of them represents a different aspect of the tortures, crucifixion, and punishments Jesus endured.

The Stations of the Cross are clearly marked with circular plaques that have Roman numbers carved, so it is impossible to miss them. You will begin your journey at the Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation, where Jesus was sentenced to death and crowned with a thorny crown (John 19:1-3). Continuing, you will walk past the sites of his first fall, and his encounter with the Mother. As you end your walk, you will reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the burial site of Jesus.

Throughout this striking walk, you will see a lot of local shops on both sides. Also, don’t be surprised to see other pilgrims carrying giant crosses to manifest the suffering of Jesus.

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Via Dolorosa

2- CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

The ultimate destination on Via Dolorosa is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that contains two of the holiest places in Christianity. The first one is Calvary (Golgotha), the site of the crucifixion, and the second one is the Aedicula containing the tomb of Jesus. Another interesting spot in the church is the Stone of Anointing, where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial. These crucial spots are part of the Via Dolorosa, particularly the last four stops.

To grasp the full experience, you should visit the church via guided walking tours. Otherwise, you might miss out on the small but striking details.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

3- MOUNT OF OLIVES

Olive trees and crops often symbolize peace, so it was not a coincidence that Mount of Olives in Eastern Jerusalem was referenced many times in the Bible. The Old Testament mentions King David’s escape (2 Samuel 15:30), the pagan temples of King Solomon (1 Kings 11:7-8), and Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 11:23). Acknowledging the mountain’s history, Jesus frequently hiked up there to pray, even on the night before his arrest. When the time came, he entered Jerusalem by descending The Mount of Olives into the city (Luke 19:29-44).

Today, it is home to many pilgrimage sites, from churches to ancient olive trees and the Tomb of Mary, the supposed burial site of Jesus’ mother. If you can handle the steep hike, you will have rewarding views of Jerusalem in the end.

MOUNT OLIVES

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Mount of Olives

4- BETHLEHEM

A trip to the Holy Land would not convey meaning if you didn’t visit Bethlehem, the city of births. In addition to being the birthplace of Israel’s King David, it was also the birthplace of Jesus, as mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. Traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Mary ended up giving birth to Jesus inside a cave. Today, the cave lies underneath the Basilica of the Nativity, the oldest intact church in the Christian world.

Due to occupations in the past by the Ottoman Empire, Jordan, and Britain, it is also possible to see traces of different architectural styles in Bethlehem. Although the majority of locals are Muslim today, pilgrimage tourism is the foremost income, due to the abundance of the underground caves that Jesus’ parents sought shelter.

If you have the chance, you should visit Bethlehem during religious holidays to see how festive it can become, especially during Christmas.

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Bethlehem

5- QASR EL YAHUD

For a Christian pilgrim, it is necessary to visit not only the physical birthplace but also the spiritual birthplace of Jesus. An essential part of a Holy Land tour should be Qasr El Yahud, the famous baptismal site on Jordan River. As referenced in Matthew 3:13-17, John the Baptist carried out the baptism of Jesus here.

The area surrounding the river is also known as the Land of the Monasteries. Here, you will find churches dating back to the Byzantine period and commemorating the baptism. Throughout history, many pilgrims took refuge in these monasteries, especially during the Muslim rule. The Greek Orthodox Monastery of St John is the most famous of them.

Don’t forget to visit the Baptism center to find out more about the history, and the renovations of the place.

Qaser El Yehud - Baptism site on the Jordan River

6- SHEPHERD’S FIELD

The majestic caves of Eastern Bethlehem will take you back to the birth of Jesus. These caves were initially nothing but lookout points for shepherds, who were keeping an eye on their flock. The field attained a whole new meaning when the shepherds encountered an angel. According to the Gospel of Luke, this angel announced the birth of Jesus. To find out why the announcement first reached the shepherds, you need to visit Beit Sahour, known as the Village of the Shepherds.

Interestingly, the exact site of the incident is unknown, but there are three possible locations in Beit Sahour: The Church of the Shepherds and Shepherd’s Field in the east, and the Chapel of the Angels in the north. These sites have one thing in common, the depictions of the announcement. Overall, you would need to scan every inch of this town to learn about the birth of the Good Shepherd.

7- TABGHA

We can consider Tabgha a place that manifests the compassion of Jesus. After finding out about the death of John the Baptist, he went to the Church of the Primacy of St Peter with five loaves and two fish. In a blink of an eye, the fishes and the loaves multiplied more than enough to feed 5000 people in the village (Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 14). It is also known as the place where he appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection.

The church in Tabgha boasts elegant mosaics from the 4th century, illustrating the loaves and fishes. You should also visit the rock below the altar because it was the site that Jesus blessed the food before the Multiplication.

8- NAZARETH

To comprehend the life of Jesus, you need to understand the life of Mary first. Before Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, she was in Nazareth in today’s northern Israel, where she got pregnant with him at the age of fourteen. Although the Old Testament doesn’t refer to Nazareth, the New Testament emphasized it as the hometown of Jesus. More specifically, he gained wisdom and knowledge in Nazareth (Luke 2:52).

Although the majority of the population is Muslim today, Nazareth contains some of the highlights of the Holy Land. The Church of the Annunciation is perhaps the most remarkable structure in the entire city and the largest church in the Middle East. The archangel Gabriel declared to her about her pregnancy in this church. You can find carvings inside, depicting the meeting between Mary and Gabriel. Underneath the church, there is the grotto and the cave she resided during pregnancy. The other points of interest include places that she regularly visited, such as Mary’s Well.

Christmas in Nazareth | Holy Land VIP Tours

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Church of Saint Joseph in Nazareth / The Annunciation Church in Nazareth

9- MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

The hills in the Holy Land comprise a combination of stunning scenery and rich history. Mount of Beatitudes is one such location, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, as well as the villages Tabgha and Capernaum. This idyllic corner of the Holy Land has several biblical references. Most importantly, it was the place of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus dictated his teachings available in Matthew 5-7 NIV. We also believe that he met his apostles many times after his Resurrection to assign them tasks.

While the exact spot of the event is uncertain, many pilgrims visit the Church Of The Beatitudes, an octagonal church designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. You should also pay a visit to Domus Galilaeae, a Christian center where you can find books about Christ’s teachings.

Visit Mount Beatitudes and the Catholic Chapel

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Mount Beatitudes and the Catholic Chapel

10- CAPERNAUM

Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is a witness to many of Jesus’ Miracles, so you should save extra time to visit this lovely town. First of all, he spent an enormous amount of time in Capernaum for his teachings and prayers. Here, you can find the house and Church of St. Peter, one of the first disciples. There is also a renovated synagogue made of white limestone, where – as many archeologists believed – Jesus conducted his teachings.

Capernaum church view

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Capernaum