6,335 sq km (2,446 sq miles) made up of the West Bank territories, 5,970 sq km (2,305 sq miles) and the Gaza Strip, 365 sq km (141 sq miles).
4.5 million (2014).
717.8 per sq km.
Ramallah. (Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem.)
Head of state:
President Mahmoud Abbas since 2005.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah since 2013.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Israeli-style plugs (one round pin beneath two round pins) are used.
With fertile river plains and scrubby desert, Mediterranean olive groves and many historical marvels, Palestine has plenty to offer. Sadly, war and outbreaks of violence have badly damaged the appeal of this hotly contested land. But despite the widely held perception, Palestine is not a tourist-free zone, with more than two million travellers arriving each year.
The bulk of tourists head for Bethlehem, largely through organised tours from Jerusalem. The main attraction is the Church of the Nativity, thought to mark the spot where Jesus Christ was born. There’s also the winding Star Street, believed to be the path Mary and Joseph took on entering the city.
Far from just a pilgrimage site, Bethlehem is fascinating for what remains of the ancient biblical town, as well as its little medina-style streets and bustling market. Foreign investment is trickling through the city, which isn’t as down-at-heel as many expect, with a few museums now open and lots of shops.
Adventurous tourists head for the Separation Barrier, just outside Bethlehem; apart from dividing Israeli and Palestinian territories, the wall is covered in spectacular graffiti by local and international artists including Banksy.
At present, the majority of tourists stick to Bethlehem. But Hebron in the southern West Bank is the largest city in the territory and essential viewing, not least for its fabled souks. The ancient city of Jericho is also attractive for its garden restaurants and stunning Hisham Palace, while Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, is interesting for its lively energy and ubiquitous cafés.
Travel to Gaza, a densely populated slither of coastal land bordering Egypt and separated from the rest of Palestine by Israel, is nearly impossible – especially after the devastating 2014 conflict. But the West Bank remains surprisingly accessible, and while travel advice should be heeded, it is relatively safe.
Travellers are advised against all travel to Gaza (including the waters off Gaza). Both Hamas and Israel have announced cease-fires following the recent conflict in Gaza. But these cease-fires are fragile and tensions remain extremely high. Palestinian attacks from within Gaza and Israeli air strikes and military incursions continue.
There is a significant threat of internal violence within Gaza. It is believed that splinter terrorist groups opposed to Hamas have the intent and capability to attack or kidnap westerners.
Travellers should be aware that the Gaza Strip borders are controlled by the Israeli and Egyptian governments. Long delays of days, or even weeks, are routinely experienced when travellers request entry/exit permits for Gaza.
There is a risk of rocket fire from Gaza within 40km (25 miles) of the Gaza perimeter (including Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva).
Security has improved significantly in the West Bank. However, travellers should be aware that the situation remains fragile and could deteriorate at short notice. You are advised to consult travel advice regularly and register with the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem if you intend to visit the West Bank.
In the north, we advise against all travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar, along the border with Lebanon (the Blue Line). There are ongoing tensions along the border and a heavy military presence in the area. On 11 September 2009, two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Azhhziv, north of Nahariya in northern Israel. Israel responded by firing a number of shells near the rocket launch site. No casualties were reported on either side.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice:
British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Tel: 020 7008 1500.
US Department of State