Given the problems between Israel and several of its neighbours added to the problems in several Middle East countries due to the Arab Spring, and perhaps some other closed borders or unsafe countries, if I really want to get to Israel from Europe without flying is it currently possible and which route would be least dangerous and least risk of being disallowed entry at border crossings, etc?

The important part is at the Middle East end. The Europe end doesn't really matter since travelling among the European countries is a piece of cake in comparison.

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    Your default way would be via Syria and Jordan, but I'd say that's not safe. You may need to look into ferries from Greece or Cyprus
    – Gagravarr
    Sep 16, 2011 at 16:00
  • If it was via Syria and Jordan is the route beyond either then totally obvious? I heard the border region with Turkey and Syria is not safe right now. Does Armenia have a border? I could be there in a few months. Also are all other land routes besides Jordan impassable? Sorry for my fairly complete ignorance \-: Sep 16, 2011 at 16:07
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    I believe your two options are trying to get a ferry from Cyprus, or overland it from Egypt (friends in Egypt say the situation is much better now)
    – Gagravarr
    Sep 16, 2011 at 16:13
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    Aha. Now I have to look up the route from Egypt to Europe... I think there is plenty for you to make an answer (-: Sep 16, 2011 at 16:19
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    @PatriciaShanahan: Sure. A lot of people use "overland" to mean "surface travel" or "not flying" rather than "with dry ground under". Jul 6, 2016 at 1:22

5 Answers 5


Promoting comments to an answer...

Looking at the ever useful Seat61 page for Israel, there are three typical routes. One is via Turkey, Syria and Jordan. My understanding of the current situation in Syria is that this one is out. Next up is a direct ferry from Greece, but that isn't running currently. Finally there are suggestions that you can get a ferry from Cyprus on to Israel, I'd suggest you try looking into that.

If you wanted to get to Jordan avoiding Syria, then you'd have to go through Iraq, which isn't any better! I think you'll have to consign yourself to not overlanding it via Turkey any time soon. Ferry in is your best bet.

One other possible option is via Egypt. Friends in Egypt tell me that the situation in the country is much better now, however relations between Egypt and Israel aren't great (to say the least...). That'd likely mean taking the ferry from Venice to Alexandria and then onwards by land to the border (and hope it's open). Snag is, that ferry is reported to have issues at the moment too, as it normally stops in Syria on the way

Looks like your only bet is the Cyprus ferry, assuming their website is telling the truth about it running at the moment...

  • Obviously it will be much easier to get there than getting back (because of visa issues)
    – Grzenio
    Sep 19, 2011 at 14:49
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    There shouldn't be any visa/passport stamp issues via Greece and Cyprus, but you're right it's an issue for overland via neighbouring countries
    – Gagravarr
    Sep 19, 2011 at 16:55
  • Borders with Egypt are working fine as usual (of course you would enter from Taba not Rafah), and relations between Egypt and Israel are more than great as they have always been. Some people in either countries might not love the other, others will always try to ruin these relations and spread rumors on both sides. But thank god both governments have had perfectly good relations for almost 40 years. May they forever live in peace
    – msk
    Nov 21, 2011 at 7:04
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    Israel does not currently stamp passports anymore. They use printed entry cards instead.
    – andrewmh20
    Feb 21, 2016 at 12:50
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    @andrewmh20 At least for the Yitzchak Rabin border crossing (entering Eilat from Aqaba, Jordan) this is not (yet?) true. I got a stamp in my passport in May 2016 when entering Israel. (I did not get one leaving Israel via Ben Gurion airport, though.)
    – Jan
    Jun 6, 2016 at 0:45

The long way around:

It may be possible to get to Israel overland from Europe via a ridiculously circuitous route that avoids the current (2016) trouble spots in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Saharan Africa. The first step is to get to Iran, by one of the following routes:

  • From mainland Europe to Turkey, thence west to Iran, crossing the border into Iran either near Gürbalak, Kapiköy, or Esendere.

Note that as of this writing (July 2016), the U.S. State department does not recommend travel to southeastern Turkey, which would eliminate the second and third of these border crossings. If you wish to avoid Turkey altogether, you could also enter via Azerbaijan:

  • From mainland Europe to Russia, and south into the Dagestan region of Russia.
  • Cross into Azerbaijan and continue south.
  • Cross the border into Iran, either at Astara or Bilasuvar.

Once you have done this:

  • Take a ferry across the Persian Gulf. Three useful routes exist. The Bandar Lengeh–Dubai and Bandar Abbas–Sharjah routes will deposit you in the UAE. There is also a ferry from Khorramshahr to Kuwait City, though it is passenger only and you will need a vehicle for the next step.
  • Obtain a driving transit visa for Saudi Arabia, and drive from the UAE to Jordan (and thence to Israel.)

I am honestly not sure whether this is actually possible. The two steps that I have italicized above may be problematic, depending on one's citizenship. Also, you might have to be cagey with various border officials in Iran, UAE, and Saudi Arabia about what your final destination is. There's the issue of whether you could successfully bring a vehicle along with you the whole way; without that, one would have to rely on long-distance buses, which I suspect would be difficult (particularly in Saudi Arabia.) And given the current state of relations between Saudi Arabia & Iran, it may be difficult to get a Saudi transit visa after visiting Iran.

I don't expect that anyone would actually do this; I was just amused that it might actually be possible.

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    From Europe to Israel via Azerbaijan?? No kidding about "ridiculously circuitous route". Why don't we visit Thailand en route...
    – user4188
    Jul 6, 2016 at 18:26
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    Azerbaijan has been known to compete in and win Eurovision. I don't know if Thailand has done so yet. Jul 7, 2016 at 10:13
  • To my understanding Dagestan has also some unrest. Turky-Iran border still seems to be passed regularly by overland travelers.
    – max
    Nov 20, 2016 at 12:33

The title and the body ask different questions.

Strictly overland is going to be very problematic. It would require passing through at least one of Iraq or Syria. Large parts of both are currently under the control of ISIS and Syria currently has multiple factions fighting for control. Possibly you could edge your way round the east and south of Iraq into Jordan but I doubt it would be an easy trip.

On the other hand if you just want to get there without flying then there are Mediterranean cruises that stop off in Israel http://www.cruisecompete.com/itins/msc_fantasia_cruises_bcdacdfc.html


According to their website, in 2016 Salamis Cruise Lines operates an occasional roundtrip cruise from Limassol, Cyprus to Haifa, Israel and back. You would need to contact them to see exactly what happens if you decided not to get back on the ship (assuming you want to visit Israel for more than a day), and it's probably substantially more expensive than flying (especially if you're throwing away half of the round trip and/or traveling alone). But trying to work with them is probably your best bet.

Other cruise lines occasionally make stops in Israel as part of Mediterranean trips, but those would generally be longer itineraries, while the Salamis trip might theoretically work better as an expensive ferry.

Getting to Cyprus from elsewhere in Europe without flying takes a bit of effort, but The Man in Seat 61 has some tips as always.


In 2015 no passenger oriented ferries operate to/from Israel, however some cargo companies will take passengers as well. Grimaldi certainly does, I am not sure whether anyone else does. It's significantly more expensive than flying to Israel.

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