The direct distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is around 70 miles as the crow flies. Before they arrived at the stable, Mary and Joseph had probably journeyed more than 90 miles.
After Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, declared a census, Mary and Joseph were forced to make the lengthy journey to Bethlehem. The law obliged residents to register at their birthplaces, and Joseph was from Bethlehem in Judea.
The fastest way to Bethlehem was through Samaria, but the mountainous terrain would have been especially difficult for Mary, who was nearing the end of her pregnancy. Other reasons for avoiding that path were the presence of unfriendly Samaritans in the area, who could have presented a threat to the two travellers, and the awareness that finding shelter would be difficult.
Mary and Joseph are thought to have taken a safer and more pleasant path across the Jezreel Valley and further east to the Jordan Valley. They probably continued south to Jericho, then up through the Judean Desert to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The couple will have travelled more than 90 miles by the end of their difficult journey, much of it through challenging terrain.
The number of days it took Mary and Joseph to accomplish their epic journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem has been debated. Some researchers say the journey took between 4 and 7 days, whereas the Institute for Priestly Formation claims it took a week and a half.