Traveling in Israel: Distance From Nazareth to Bethlehem

When walking the route Mary and Joseph walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem is a journey of about 90 miles. But this was not an easy journey to do.

By Carmen Slabbert
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published December 30, 2021.

Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth when Mary received the news that she was pregnant with Jesus. When it was time for the census that Caesar Augustus called, they needed to travel to Bethlehem, the hometown of Joseph's family.

In Biblical times, the distance they had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 90 miles (145km). Going south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then moving west over the surrounding hills of Jerusalem. The journey itself was difficult as they would have encountered wild animals and thieves along the way.

Significance of This Walk

Today, many people travel the distance on foot, walking through beautiful, sometimes rough terrains with rocky hillsides, desert valleys, and olive groves. This gives the people a better understanding of the difficult ways people needed to travel during biblical times.

For many Christians, this walk has an emotional connection as they feel they could relate to the suffering Mary had to endure while walking this distance while being at the end of her pregnancy.

Distance Between Bethlehem and Nazareth

When walking from Nazareth to Bethlehem as Mary and Joseph walked in the nativity story, the distance is more than 90 miles. Although most nativity stories indicate that Mary was riding on a donkey, it is more likely that she had to walk most of the way. Donkeys are not exactly known as animals that could be ridden long distances on, but rather that they were used to carry goods from one place to another. They are very stubborn animals, and it would have delayed the journey to Bethlehem.

When going from Nazareth to Bethlehem as the crow flies, the distance is about 70 miles. But when walking, certain terrains were inaccessible to people, and they had to take detours. Today, when you want to walk the route Mary and Joseph took, you can always take a guided hike curated by a travel company.

When driving from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the distance by road is about 156.7km, a two-hour drive.