By Tammy Middelton, courtesy Image Tours
Ed-Ventures has been offering Holy Land tours for the past 15 years, although every tour is different, said Ed-Ventures owner Larry Larsen. Some groups are mixed religions or mixed denominations — “we sort of believe it’s OK for Catholics and Lutherans to travel together,” he quipped — and some are college alumni groups or student clubs.
Regardless of who is on the tour, everyone wants to walk where Jesus walked, and “it’s almost a requirement to go to Galilee,” Larsen said.
Groups can take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where passengers “can see almost the entire area of Jesus’ ministry,” he said, and visit other sites, such as the Garden of Gethsemane and Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Ed-Ventures also takes groups to the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
One night might include dinner in “Abraham’s Tent,” a re-creation of an Old Testament feast complete with costumes, characters and authentic food. Or groups can take a Jeep trip or a camel ride into the desert to have tea with Bedouins.
Above all, Larsen ensures his groups meet and interact with local people, both Jewish and Palestinian, to connect with the communities, try to understand what drives the cultures apart and see how hard both sides work to come together.
Image Tours has been family owned and operated for three generations and has been leading tours in Europe since 1939. By far, the company’s most popular package is its Heart of Europe Circle Tour, which will be in its 54th year come 2014.
“We just might perfect it this year,” Justin Osbon, sales manager with Image Tours, said with a laugh.
Image Tours does only one destination: Europe. The company offers 10 European itineraries.
“We specialize in that market and in those destinations,” Osbon said. “We’re not trying to do everything for everybody; we’re trying to do one thing really well.”
The 15-day Heart of Europe Circle Tour is particularly popular among first-time travelers to Europe because it hits the highlights in seven countries.
They’ll see windmills in Holland, rustic vineyards in France and alpine villages in Austria. They’ll visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris, see Germany’s Neuschwanstein castle — which served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle — watch the automated glockenspiel in Munich and ride a cable car in Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne region.
Image Tours ran 61 tours in 2013, and nearly half of its departures are the Heart of Circle Europe Tour, Osbon said.