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Top Details To Look For While Touring Holy Land Sites

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a trip of a lifetime for Catholic pilgrims, as you will have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Israel’s language, culture and sacred history.

While each tour is an enriching experience in and of itself, there are endless tidbits of knowledge about each location that take the experience to another level. Discover hidden gems as you explore these popular sites and enhance your experience to one that is deeply fulfilling and meaningful.

Most Visited Holy Land Pilgrimage Sites

There is much to see when you visit the Holy Land. Below, we will cover some of the most sought-after destinations and some lesser-known details to look for during your visit.


Panorama from Shepherd's fieldA stunning panorama of Bethlehem from Shepherd's field

Bethlehem, most commonly known as the birthplace of Jesus, translates to “house of bread” because the land was historically filled with wheat and barley fields. It is located six miles south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. The surrounding areas are home to many churches, convents, schools, and hospitals supported by Christian denominations around the world.

While you’re here, take some time to look for these interesting finds:

Church of the Nativity

Church of the Nativity fourteen-point silver star in Bethlehem, IsraelThe Fourteen-point silver star, beneath the altar in the Nativity Grotto, marks the spot of the birthplace of Jesus

The Church of the Nativity is built at the site of the birthplace of Jesus. It is revered as one of the most important places in the Holy Land and receives Catholic Pilgrims from all over the world.

While you’re here, pay special attention to:

  • The Door of Humility: The entrance to the church was designed to be “humble” to keep horsemen and carts from entering and looting.
  • The High Altar: To the left of the High Altar, you can see mosaics illustrating the build of the original church
  • Main Nave: High above the columns of the central part of the church, you can see fragments of 12th-century mosaics on the walls.

Shepherds’ Field

The Chapel of the Shepherd's Field in IsraelThe Chapel of the Shepherd's Field marks the place where angels announced the birth of Christ

Shepherds’ Field is where the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. There are two main sites here: the Franciscan Shepherds’ Field and the Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field.

Though they are in close proximity to each other, the more visited site is the Franciscan Field. Both contain archeological evidence that this event took place here, meaning it’s possible that shepherds witnessed the angels’ appearance from both locations.

At the Franciscan Field pay special attention to:

  • The cave: A partly enclosed cave has been adapted into a modern chapel. You can see that the cave roof has been blackened by soot.
  • Ruins: You can see the ruins of a monastery dating as far back as the 4th century


sunset view of JerusalemA sunset view of Jerusalem

The city of Jerusalem is a place of deep devotion for people of many religions. It is home to more than 50 Christian churches, 33 Muslim mosques, and 300 Jewish synagogues.

The Church of The Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, and the Church of St. John the Baptist are just a few of the many important destinations here.

The Church of The Holy Sepulchre

Interior of the Church of the Holy SepulchreThe interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of The Holy Sepulchre is located at the end of the Via Dolorosa path where the last five Stations of the Cross are located. This is the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

While you’re here, pay special attention to:

  • The walls of the staircase leading to the Chapel of St. Helena: Here, you can see thousands of tiny crosses etched into the walls. New research suggests that masons or artisans carved the crosses - likely on behalf of pilgrims who may have wished to keep the dust from each carving as a sacred souvenir.
  • The Edicule: Nearby is a large stone slab where it is said the body of Jesus was prepared for burial. Today you will see Orthodox and Catholic Christians in prayer here.

Via Dolorosa

View on Via Dolorosa in JerusalemView on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa means “The Painful Path.” This half-mile road is marked with 14 stations that depict the events as Jesus made his way to Golgotha, where He was crucified.

The history of this path dates back to the 4th century, when Byzantine pilgrims followed a similar path but did not stop along the way. In the 8th century, the route changed to start from the Garden of Gethsemane, wind through Mount Zion, loop around the Temple Mount and end at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

While you’re here, pay special attention to:

  • The calls of the store owners and vendors: This is precisely what Jesus would have experienced had He been walking this path on an average day in Jerusalem.
  • The convent at the beginning of the path: The location of this convent is where the Praetorium once stood — this is where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus.


Skyline of the City of Nazareth at sunset.Skyline of the City of Nazareth at sunset.

Nazareth is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and where He spent His childhood. It is located in Northern Israel, approximately 15 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee and 23 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea.

The Basilica of the Annunciation

Basilica of the Annunciation in NazarethExterior of the Basilica of the Annunciation in the city of Nazareth

This Holy Land site is an important destination for Catholic pilgrims as it is centered around the Grotto which was once the home of the Virgin Mary.

The church has two levels separated into two different churches. The upper level of the church holds Mass for Nazareth’s Catholic community. The lower level is centered on the Grotto.

While you’re here, pay special attention to:

  • The top of the Basilica: The stunning dome is 55 meters high, and its shape was inspired by the Madonna Lily, a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
  • The entrance to the Grotto: To the left of the cave entrance is a mosaic floor. Inscribed are the words, “Gift of Conon, deacon of Jerusalem.” This is likely a tribute to the deacon who first converted the house of Mary into a church.

Mt. Tabor

The site of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount TaborThe site of the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor sits 1500 feet above the Jezreel Valley plain in lower Galilee. This site is best known as the place of the transfiguration of Christ.

There are two main churches and monasteries on top of Mount Tabor. The Franciscan Basilica of the Transfiguration of Christ is the first and sits at the highest peak of Mount Tabor. This church is a part of a Franciscan monastery complex. The second main church is the St. Elias Greek Orthodox Church, located on the Northern side of Mount Tabor. It is named after the Prophet Elijah.

While you’re here, pay special attention to:

  • Ruins of crusader fortifications: These ruins are numerous and can be seen from various roads and hiking trails around the mountain
  • Panoramic views: From the summit, you can see a breathtaking view of Upper Galilee

There are countless details and tiny treasures of knowledge to explore while touring the Holy Land. If you have been called to visit the place where Mary and Jesus lived and walked, consider joining a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to witness these remarkable destinations for yourself.