Pedalling towards Bethlehem on a holy cycling tour
Bike Palestine's unconventional tours take in monasteries, mosques and miles of spectacular landscape
There's a touch of Monty Python about the idea of a cycling tour of the Holy Land, but for George Snow, who has been leading visitors through Israel and Palestine for seven years, it's the best way to get to know a complex part of the world.
"The tour is for those who love cycling and want to experience the political situation in Palestine at first hand, away from the crowds of tourists who only see Jerusalem and Bethlehem," he says "My tour shows the real Palestine."
The route takes in "occupation, refugee camps and a beer factory", he adds, but "it is, believe me, great fun".
After meeting in Jerusalem, a short minibus ride takes the cyclists to the town of Jenin, from where their trail winds its way through Jericho and Bethlehem, calling in on churches, mosques and Turkish baths. It also includes a walk across the wilderness to the ancient monastery of Mar Saba.
Bikes, helmets and plenty of water are supplied, as is the services of an accompanying minibus, which can give cyclists a lift up the steeper climbs. Sustenance is provided by local families or at restaurants en route.
A good level of general fitness is an advantage, Snow advises, but "you don't have to be a great athlete". Cyclists aged between 17 and 70 have successfully completed the course – and tour members of all ages will enjoy a guided walk through Jerusalem and a detour to the Dead Sea.
A seven-day Bike Palestine tour costs $1,400 (£1080), with a $200 (£154) single supplement, which includes guides, accommodation and meals but not flights to Tel Aviv. The next tour starts on 15 September. Full details at bikepalestine.com