Things to Do in Galilee
In Christian doctrine, the angel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth and told her she was going to give birth to Jesus. Built over the Grotto of the Annunciation, where some believe Gabriel appeared, the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation celebrates this miracle. Don’t confuse it with the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
Set in north Israel, the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) is the country’s biggest freshwater lake. Bordered by lush countryside and fed by the Jordan River, it’s there that you’ll find farming villages and bustling towns among ancient ruins and biblical sites where Jesus lived, ministered, and is said to have performed miracles.
Situated across a courtyard from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is the small Church of St. Joseph. Built in 1914, the neo-Romanesque Franciscan church was constructed over the remains of an earlier church and above a series of stone chambers believed to be the workshops of Joseph the Carpenter. The entire church and the caves below are rather simple, particularly in comparison with the basilica next door, but well worth the detour.
Located where the Jordan River flows from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea, Yardenit (Jordan River Baptismal Site) is one of the world’s most important places of Christian pilgrimage. It's believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ.
The Golan Heights, a lush, rocky region on the Syria-Israel border, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, and is a site of political and territorial conflict. It is also a popular tourist destination, thanks to its desirable wine region, Israel’s only ski resort, nature areas with abundant wildlife and outdoor activities, and more.
During the twentieth century ancient church ruins in Tabgha were excavated, uncovering a stunning mosaic basilica floor from a Byzantine era church, hidden for some 1,300 years. In 1936 a replica of the Byzantine basilica was built on the same site, believed to be the ‘solitary place’ where Jesus miraculously multiplied five loaves and bread and two fish to feed 5,000 listeners.
These loaves and fish, which give the Church of the Multiplication its full name (the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes), are depicted in the mosaic just in front of the altar. Other parts of the tile mosaic show a variety of birds and plants from the Galilee region.
A 2015 arson attack badly damaged parts of the church, but luckily the fifth century mosaics remained unharmed.
The ancient city of Pella, one of Jordan’s most underrated attractions, is also one of the country’s most important archeological sites. Humans have been living in and around Pella continuously for more than 6,000 years.
Among the ruins in the area are the remnants of a Greco-Roman theater, a Chalcolithic settlement dating back to the fourth millennium BC, Byzantine churches, Bronze and Iron age walled cities and early Islamic residential neighborhoods. Excavations in Pella have been ongoing since 1979, and there are still countless sites left to be excavated.