Named after Roman Emperor Tiberius
Squeezing to the limit on an already extremely busy non-stop day we managed to somehow leave Nazareth with just enough time before the sunset and make a quick visit to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. And all thanks that we had a rental car we were able to do this as otherwise depending on public transportation would have been probably impossible to visit everything in just one day, unless visiting just the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and nothing else and quickly leaving the city for the Sea of Galilee as unfortunately most of the organised tours do.
At only 40 kilometers to the north east of Nazareth it’s a quick and easy drive there. For us this was more of a “we must reach this place so we can say we’ve been there” just because of the Biblical means, rather than a properly pre-planned excursion, although a much realistic reason was our incredible shortage of spare time. I would have preferred to have had enough time to spend a whole day circling the entire Sea of Galilee, that’s for sure.
Although much of the ancient city was destroyed years back in natural disasters as earthquakes and flooding from the Sea of Galilee, the little that remained (apart from religious constructions) was razed in 1949 over objections of who owned the houses. Saying this, do not expect to see a beautiful city unfortunately. And even on the last years there has been a better track of preservation and reconstruction projects, there is not much from the original Roman, Crusaders, Ottoman and newer eras. Instead, ugly large hotels aligning the main promenade and some historical buildings behind.
Because of being of such small size the area that comprises the historical old town, you should take this in consideration in not planning too long time here for visiting as otherwise you will end up without anything else to do. In the other hand, and at only 53 kilometers circumference around the lake, there are countless archaeological sites and ancient little fishing villages; well enough to keep you busy for a whole day or more. Both north and south sides where the Jordan River meets the lake are extremely nice and historical spots that should not be missed for example. The southern extremity has also a baptism place. Of course you don’t need to go a get baptized, but the views from this point of the river are really nice and well deserve the visit.
Not far and already en-route leaving from the southern point of the Sea of Galilee towards Tel Aviv, you will start to climb some hills where you will get awesome panoramic views of the entire Sea and the Jordan Valley. This was actually the best part of the entire trip here! The sunset was spectacular, and there are nice spots where you can stop the car for this purpose.
For more information about Tiberias check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites, as for the Sea of Galilee, those are the Wikipedia and Wikitravel links. Israel’s currency is the Shekel (ILS). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Tiberias and nearby
- Saint Peter’s Church Originally a Franciscan Crusaders church built in the 12th century was later transformed into a mosque during the Ottoman period, and again turned back into a church in 1870. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the city.
- Church and Monastery of the Apostles Built and destroyed many times through history, the current Greek Orthodox building dates from the 19th century.
- Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon Tomb He, also known under the name of Maimonides and Rambam was one of the most prominent Spanish physician in the 13th century who worked side by side with Saladin. He died in Cairo and legend says that before his death he requested his remains to be loaded onto a camel and bury him wherever the camel would finish, which was, Tiberias.
- Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai Tomb One of most prominent sage in the Holy Land by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in the hands of the Romans. He is believed to have faked his dead and escaped the city in a coffin under the view of general Vespasian to who he prophesised he would become the new Caesar, which turned to be true.
- Meir Ba’al Hanes Tomb He helped to compile the Mishnah in the 2nd century AC. It is one of the holiest sites in Judaism and on the place there are two synagogues, the Sephardic with its white dome, and the Ashkenazi with the blue dome.
- Hamat Tiberias Located to the south of the city is an archaeological park where the remains of a synagogue dated between 286 and 337 CE lies next to the 2000 years old ancient hot springs and baths used since Roman times. Of great interest is the mosaic floor featuring the zodiac and Helios entirely preserved. The place is believed to have been built on the ruins of the biblical city of Hammath.
- The Sea of Galilee Tiberias itself lies on the shores of this lake, also known as Kinneret, is earth’s lowest fresh water lake, and second lowest lake overall, after the Dead Sea which is in turn, the lowest salt lake in the world. Both lakes are linked by the Jordan River. Just 21 kilometers long by 13 wide, it forms a circumference of around 53 kilometers. In Biblical references, it is supposed to be the place of one of Jesus’ famous teaching episodes, the Sermon on the Mount, the miracles of walking on water, calming the storm or the disciples and the boatload of fish. Many historical cities lie on the shores for what is worth to spend at least one full day circling it.
The best way of coming here by all means is having your own transportation as a rental car. Not only that will give you the flexibility you much need but will also mean that you can move around wherever and whenever you want. I cannot imagine doing all we did on this day, first visiting Nazareth and then Tiberias and around the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the panoramic views of the entire valley if we wouldn’t have a car.
But not everyone drives, and I include myself here as I was not the driver, therefore other options are by bus. From Nazareth to Tiberias there is a good and frequent connection , but that will leave you only there and having to take different buses to elsewhere around the lake, or as distances are not big at all in here, taking taxis. It should not cost you too much a quick trip to the Jordan River and back ti Tiberias for example and after all this is something you need to do.
Buses from elsewhere in Israel will most likely call first at Nazareth, therefore have in consideration Nazareth to be the easiest base for this trip.
Yet again and on the same note as I explained in the previous guide for Nazareth, we did not stay overnight anywhere here but at our base city Tel Aviv.
If you are planning in doing a tour across many cities and places as we did, then consider having your base hotel at either Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or both, and commute from there on day trips. This will save you money and hassle in having to change hotel every other day. Distances are quite short in the country, and if either by train or bus, or rental car, you can move easily everywhere.