Follow in Christ’s footsteps through Galilee
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people”—Matthew 4:23.
Few locations are mentioned more often in the New Testament than Galilee—a lush, mountainous region east of Haifa in northern Israel. Most visitors arrive in Israel expecting vast expanses of rocky desert. Galilee upends their expectations. Here they’ll find orchards and vineyards. Its higher elevations result in more rainfall and lower temperatures, so it’s not uncommon to encounter fields of wildflowers here, plus streams and waterfalls. That’s one reason Galilee has gained a reputation as a peaceful resort region and a popular draw for tourists.
For spiritual pilgrims, of course, Galilee’s popularity isn’t due to its natural beauty. Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth and spent most of His life and public ministry in this area. He taught here, called His disciples here and performed miracles here. In fact, of the thirty-three miracles documented in the New Testament, nearly a third of them took place in or around Galilee.
When our travelers walk the shores of the Sea of Galilee, they are literally walking where Jesus walked. The spectacular landscape surrounding them was the setting for some of the most unforgettable moments in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even today, people remark about how the land feels rich with the presence of Jesus.
Our Israel itineraries typically bring passengers into this region on their third or fourth day in the Holy Land. Here are a few of the highlights of their time in Galilee:
Three decades ago, locals accidentally discovered a small wooden vessel buried in the mud along the lake shore. This was a colossal find. The ancient boat dated back to the first century and represents a typical fisherman’s vessel—exactly the kind of craft someone like Peter would have been using when Jesus first approached him. A replica of this boat, known as “the Jesus Boat,” can be seen in a local museum and helps visitors better visualize so many stories from the Gospels.
Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
Imagine climbing aboard a large, wooden boat and setting out on the Sea of Galilee, expecting a leisurely sailing experience and fresh air. But as the gentle waves lap against the hull, you think about Jesus and the disciples floating on these same peaceful waters, in a boat very similar to this one. Before long, someone from your tour group begins singing the familiar refrain of a popular hymn or worship song. Instantly, you’re transported. At this moment, in this sacred place, the presence of Christ surrounds you. These deep, transformative spiritual moments are common for our passengers during this activity.
Mount of Beatitudes
Overlooking the lake, this beautiful green hillside isn’t just one of the most attractive spots on the shoreline. It has also been a site of Christian pilgrimage for centuries. Here is where Jesus is thought to have delivered His most famous message: the Sermon on the Mount. Our groups often enjoy sermons preached here by their tour leaders, giving them first-hand experience of the unique acoustics of this area. The hill forms a natural amphitheater, and the water behind the speaker amplifies the sound. Acoustical tests have shown that a voice easily carries across this hillside.
Located next to the Sea of Galilee, this village became Jesus’ adopted hometown and was the home of disciples including Peter, James and John. As such, Jesus worshipped and taught in the Capernaum synagogue. In fact, this was where He delivered His “I am the Bread of Life” message in John 6. Capernaum also became the setting for many of His miracles. Despite this sacred history, the village fell into ruin until its rediscovery in the 19th century. Today, excavation sites include the potential location of Peter’s house and one structure that may have been one of the earliest Christian churches in the world.
Southwest of Capernaum, a warm spring enters the lake near the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes. The higher water temperature and nutrient content attract fish, making this a favorite spot among ancient fisherman. As a result, it served as the location of many interactions between Jesus and the disciples, including Jesus’ third appearance to His followers after the Resurrection. This is when Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Traditionally, Tabgha is also the site where Jesus established Peter as the foremost among the disciples, saying “on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). At this location, the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is built over a flat rock where Jesus is thought to have been cooking fish in the John 21 account.
This ancient port on the Sea of Galilee is located six miles from Capernaum. Matthew 15:39 says that Jesus traveled here by boat and He may have preached here during His years in ministry. By the end of the first century, Magdala might have been home to 40,000 residents. It’s most famous resident, of course, was Mary Magdalene, the first person to witness Jesus after the Resurrection. Most recently, Magdala has become known as a bustling archaeological site, home to a Jewish synagogue built 50 years before Christ’s birth and the ornate “Magdala Stone” discovered here. Further excavation has revealed an entire Jewish town, which today helps visitors better understand what life was like for Jesus and His earliest followers.
While many historical sites around the Sea of Galilee have a connection to the life of Jesus, few are mentioned as often in the Gospels as Bethsaida, located on the northern shore of the lake. Many of Jesus’ miracles were performed here, including the well-known account of Him giving sight to a blind man (Mark 8:22-26). Despite these miracles, the residents of Bethsaida frustrated Jesus, who once cursed this fishing village for its lack of faith (Luke 10:13). Here, visitors can see a cobblestone street that dates back to the New Testament and enjoy some of the best views of the Sea of Galilee.
One of the most scenic, peaceful regions of Israel, Galilee is home to historical sites right out of the pages of Scripture. If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in Israel, you’ll encounter reminders of His life and ministry everywhere you look. For our travelers, it’s not just a beautiful resort area. It’s a land bursting with Christian history, and among the most spiritually impactful destinations in the Holy Land.