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Travel: Modern pilgrim’s progress to the Holy Land

27 January 2023

What options exist for Holy Land pilgrimages this year? Christine Miles asks Christian travel companies


Skyline of the Old City in Jerusalem with Damascus Gate, Israel

Skyline of the Old City in Jerusalem with Damascus Gate, Israel

Lightline Pilgrimages

LIGHTLINE is a Christian business offering bespoke parish and diocesan tours of the Holy Land, many of which are advertised on its website for others to join. Most trips are led by Anglican or Roman Catholic clergy, and include a daily eucharist.

Typically, a Lightline pilgrimage starts with three nights by the Sea of Galilee, exploring the north of the country, then time in Bethlehem and Jerusalem following the life and ministry of Jesus. Lightline is often able to arrange special permission for choir groups to sing at some of the sites. Extensions are available to add on visits to Jordan (Petra; Jerash; Mount Nebo), or to Sinai and St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

The company also offers week-long Bible study retreats based in Galilee (at the German Benedictine property Pilgerhaus Tabgha), or in Jerusalem (at the Gloria Hotel in the Old City), which provide teaching and opportunities for reflection alongside day trips in the area. Priced from £2000pp all-inclusive.

Lightline is the official pilgrimage partner for the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and works closely with Palestinian Christians. So that groups can hear their experiences of life in the region today, all Lightline pilgrimages include spending time with Christian communities. The company also offers the chance to meet Jews and Muslims. In the past, visits have included meeting peace activists, settlers, journalists, religious leaders, and politicians. Lightline is one of the few operators that can arrange visits to settlements and refugee camps.

Bespoke family trips to the Holy Land are also available, starting from £1600pp a week all-inclusive for a family of six, including private minibus and driver. And, in 2024, Lightline will begin offering youth groups the chance to visit the Holy Land. Trips will be not-for-profit, starting from £500, and will accommodate 40 young people on each trip. Participants must be 18-plus (or younger, if accompanied by an adult).

Lightline also offers group and family trips following St Paul’s missionary journeys in Turkey, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus. Other destinations for bespoke tours include Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, and Poland. Trips with flights are ATOL-protected.

Contact: Phone 0845 610 6447, or visit lightline.org.uk.


McCabe Pilgrimages

THIS year, McCabe Pilgrimages celebrates 40 years offering bespoke pilgrim holidays for parish and diocesan groups, specialising in the Holy Land and trips following St Paul’s missionary journeys.

istock A section of the Via Dolorosa, the path said to have been taken by Christ on the way to his crucifixion, with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the background

Some parish-led tours are open to others and are advertised on the McCabe website. Currently, these include several eight-, ten- and 12-day Holy Land pilgrimages; a five-day trip to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee; an Advent Holy Land pilgrimage; and a 15-day tour visiting Israel, Palestine, and Jordan in 2024.

The company is receiving more enquiries for ecumenical trips and pilgrimages involving a couple of parishes joining together, to help make trips financially viable. This year, McCabe is also offering family and friendship groups their own bespoke Holy Land trips (minimum ten people).

McCabe offers a number of core Holy Land itineraries, dependent on church tradition and trip aims, such as engaging with Palestinian communities, or time built in for prayer and reflection. The company also offers the chance to worship with local Christians, and suggests that all trips include a visit to at least one Christian social-justice project supported by the McCabe Educational Trust (all holidays include a £15 donation).

For trips to Jordan, as well as a five-day Holy Land extension, McCabe offer an eight- and ten-day pilgrimage. And in May 2024, a 15-day Holy Lands trip to Jordan, Israel and Palestine is available.

Last year, the company introduced a series of McCabe Travel Club tours led by McCabe guides. New this year will be a number of Holy Land trips for Advent and Christmas 2023, and Easter 2024 (to be released soon). Five new destinations have been released so far, however: an eight-day “Trail of the Holy Family” pilgrimage in Egypt, and a 14-day trip that includes a Nile Cruise; Tuscany; Cyprus walking retreat; in the footsteps of St Thomas in southern India; and an Advent in Austria trip.

McCabe also offers itineraries to India, Malta, Nepal, Armenia, Turkey; a number of European destinations; and UK trips to Iona, Celtic Cornwall, and in the footsteps of the Northern Saints. All holidays are ATOL or AITO protected.

Contact: Phone 020 8675 6828, or visit mccabe-travel.co.uk.


JC Journeys

JC JOURNEYS has been offering bespoke group and family Holy Land trips for the past five years, which the company suggests make an “essential pilgrimage for anyone interested in both the life of Christ, the early church and the story of the Bible”.

Eight-day Holy Land itineraries typically include time in Jerusalem’s Old City (Western Wall; Via Dolorosa; Church of The Holy Sepulchre; Mount of Olives); around the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Capernaum, Tabgha, Mount of Beatitudes); Bethlehem (Manger Square, Church of the Nativity, Shepherds’ Fields); and in Nazareth (Church of the Annunciation, St Mary’s Well, Mount Tabor). On the return journey, a stop is made on the shores of the Mediterranean at Caesarea Maritima: the ancient port city of King Herod the Great where Pontius Pilate lived.

With JC Journeys, it is possible to request to meet local Christian families and priests, arranged through Friends of the Holy Land. As an integral part of the JC Journeys’ experience, all trips include free time, communal dining and times of prayer and worship.

Eight-day group trips start from £1900pp, including flight, half-board accommodation, transport, tours, and guides. The company offers an extension to Jordan visiting Amman (two nights), and/or Petra (one or two nights). Bespoke family trips start from £2000pp, including private driver and guide.

JC Journeys also specialise in “Faith in Art” breaks, and in trips to places of religious significance in Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Greece. Holidays with flights are ATOL protected.

Contact: 01886 812862; email: enquiries@jcjourneys.com; or visit jcjourneys.com.


Special Pilgrimages

SPECIAL PILGRIMAGES is a third-generation, family-owned travel company which started in Jerusalem in 1975, with an office still there today. The company has arranged pilgrimages and tours for parishes, dioceses, and other groups to the Middle East from the UK since 1983, and runs about 40 parish trips per year.

Special Pilgrimages was awarded an outstanding-service award from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in 1997. Trips are bespoke, but the most common request is for an eight-day tour, priced according to accommodation rating and activities requested (cable car rides from Jericho to the Mount of Temptation, or in Masada National Park, can be added, for instance).

Longer trips can add Jordan to the itinerary, to visit Mount Nebo (where Moses lived out his final days) or Petra; or to Mount Sinai and St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. Special Pilgrimages can also arrange contact with Christian charities it supports in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, or incorporate visits to projects supported by parishes.

istock Mount Tabor, also known as the Mount of Transfiguration

Every year, Special Pilgrimages runs several subsidised trips for people who would otherwise struggle to afford to visit the Holy Land. Visitors spend five nights in Bethlehem, visiting Jerusalem’s Old City, the Mount of Olives, Mount Sion, and more; and two in Galilee, visiting the Sea of Galilee, the River Jordan, Nazareth and Mount Tabor. The trip, leaving 28 May, is priced from £1125pp including flights, sightseeing, fees and half-board accommodation. A second trip is likely to run in November.

Special Pilgrimages also arrange trips to other pilgrimage destinations and shrines. New for 2023, the company is offering opera tours for parish groups to Germany. Another new destination is Santiago de Compostela (May to October), with pick-ups available for those who only wish to walk part of the ten-mile daily route. Bookings with flights are ATOL-protected.

Contact: Phone 01702 394000, or visit special-pilgrimages.co.uk/home.


Richmond Holidays

RICHMOND HOLIDAYS specialise in quality summer and ski holidays for Christians, in resorts or chalets run exclusively by Richmond staff. This year, they are again offering a guided Holy Land tour, running 29 May to 6 June.

Their last trip to the Holy Land was in 2018. This year their nine-day tour will be based in 4-star accommodation in three locations: Hadera (one night); Tiberias, on the Galilee (three nights); and the Judaean mountains outside Jerusalem (four nights).

Visits will include Mount Bental; the River Jordan; the Sea of Galilee; lunch and camel ride in the desert; and Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The group will also visit Masada National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, taking the cable car to visit Herod’s Palace; En Gedi (one of David’s hiding places); Qumran (site of the Dead Sea Scrolls); and to have a dip in the Dead Sea.

Richmond’s Holy Land trip aims to deepen scriptural understanding and encourage participants in their faith. As well as a local tour guide, the trip is led by the Revd Neville Jones, formerly deacon at Christ Church, Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, and his wife, Anthea, who will lead the week’s prayer, ministry, and teaching times.

The trip is for adults only, and spaces are capped at 40. Travellers need to be comfortable standing and walking for periods of time. Priced from £2496pp based on two adults; £2576pp for individuals willing to share a room; £3362 single traveller. Includes Virgin Atlantic flights, all fees and half-board 4-star accommodation. Richmond is a Travel Trust Association member. Trips with flights are ATOL protected.

Contact: Phone 020 3004 2661, or visit richmond-holidays.com.



TRAVELINK specialises in group and individual travel to the Holy Land and other biblical destinations, via its Tours for Christians website. You can book a flight only, join an organised tour, choose a fixed-itinerary package holiday (various itineraries of Israel and Jordan are offered online), or tailor-make a trip.

Organised Bible-lands tours include trips for church groups; ministry-led tours by Christian leaders that are open to all; and historical and archaeological tours led by licensed Holy Land guides.

In 2023, the company plans to offer cruise trips to the Holy Land. Cruise accommodation is equivalent to three- or four-star-hotel standard, and prices for a ten-day all-inclusive, including some excursions (additional excursions and return flights extra), will be similar to standard Holy Land tours.

Tours for Christians also offer trips to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and Italy. One tour of interest this year is a 13-day “Seven Churches of Revelation and the Footsteps of St Paul” tour of Italy and Turkey. The trip includes visiting the basilica of St Peter in the Vatican; the Colosseum in Rome; Istanbul; and Cappadocia. Holidays are IATA and ATOL protected.

Contact: Phone 020 8931 8811, or visit www.toursforchristians.com/tours.

Details correct at the time of going to press.

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