The direct distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is approximately 70 kilometres. Mary and Joseph likely travelled more than 90 miles to reach the stable where they would rest.
Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, proclaimed a census, compelling Mary and Joseph to undertake the lengthy journey to Bethlehem. Joseph was born in Bethlehem, Judah, and the law compelled residents to register at their birthplaces.
The fastest path to Bethlehem was directly south through Samaria, but Mary’s advanced pregnancy would have made traversing Samaria’s rocky terrain very difficult. The unfriendly Samaritans in the area, who could have constituted a threat to the two visitors, and the fact that it would be difficult for them to find lodging were further reasons for avoiding that path.
It is thought that Mary and Joseph chose a safer and more convenient path through the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan Valley. They likely continued south to Jericho before ascending the Judean Desert to Jerusalem and then Bethlehem. By the end of their arduous journey, the pair would have walked almost 90 miles, with the majority of that distance through severe terrain.
Divergent opinions exist on the length of time it took Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Some academics estimate that the journey lasted between four and seven days, whereas the Institute for Priestly Formation states that it lasted almost two weeks.