Unveiling Israel’s rich history: A guided journey through ancient sites
Ready to plan your next holiday? Find out how you can discover Israel’s rich history with a guided journey through ancient sites.
Unveil Israel’s history and discover the sites that offer a glimpse into the past. Curious travelers can explore the remnants of civilizations long past from the prehistoric rock art in Nahal Me’arot National Park to the iconic landscapes of Jerusalem and the Roman city of Caesarea.
See Crusader fortresses, biblical landmarks, and the place where Israel was declared a state. Each site is a chapter in the history of the Holy Land. Join one of the 7-12 day Israel tour packages and see archaeological marvels, fortresses, and cities, each holding a piece of the puzzle that makes up Israel’s past.
Nahal Me’arot National Park
This site, located at the foot of Mount Carmel near Haifa features prehistoric rock art, offering insights into the lives and beliefs of ancient inhabitants. The petroglyphs span thousands of years, and the site includes four prehistoric cave dwellings. On display are archaeological artifacts found in the caves, and visitors can walk through one of the caves to watch a short film about the history of the site.
The entire city of Jerusalem is rich in historic sites. You can’t go far without coming across an archaeological site or historic structure. But the highlight of Jerusalem is the Old City where you’ll find a concentration of the most important landmarks.
- The City of David reveals structures dating back to the Bronze Age, showcasing the foundational epochs of Jerusalem. This underground excavated site is believed to be the original settlement built by King David about 3000 years ago. Also at the site are ancient water channels, one built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BC.
- The Western Wall, the only remaining part of the Jewish Second Temple that once stood on Temple Mount is the most sacred Jewish site in the world. The wall was part of retaining walls built around the Temple by Herod around 19BC. When the Temple was destroyed in 70AD only this section remained. If you want to delve deeper into the history of the ancient temple take a tour through the Western Wall Tunnels.
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is a 5th-century AD basilica that encompasses the site where Jesus was crucified at Calvary and the Tomb of Christ. To reach the church, take a walk along the Old City’s beautiful stone lanes, and follow the Via Dolorosa as Jesus did to Golgotha.
- Temple Mount is home to the magnificent Dome of the Rock built in 692AD, and the Al Aqsa Mosque, known as the Furthest Mosque mentioned in the Koran. The mount is open to non-Muslim visitors for just a few hours a day, and you can see several other interesting structures including the Dome of the Chains.
- The Tower of David stands at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. The structure has diverse architectural layers from various eras providing a chronological journey from Herodian times to the Mamluk and Ottoman eras. Today the structure is used as a museum that tells the story of Jerusalem going back 3000 years. In the evening there is a spectacular Sound and Light Show.
- Davidson Archaeological Center, located at the foot of Temple Mount, offers insights into the diverse cultural and religious heritage of the city, spanning from antiquity to the present day. In particular, the area has outstanding remains from the Second Temple Period.
Herodium (or Herodion)
About 10 km south of Jerusalem, The fortress of Herodion, was built for Herod the Great during the Second Temple period. Perched atop a commanding hill this iconic site, constructed around 23-15 BCE, showcases Herod’s architectural brilliance. The distinctive conical shape, formed by an artificial hill, houses opulent features such as a lavish bathhouse, a regal courtyard, and a grand reception hall.
This is also where Herod was buried, and where you can get breathtaking panoramic views. Visitors can explore the layers of its archaeological treasures and the enduring legacy of Herod the Great in the ancient landscape of Judea.
Caesarea National Park stands on the Mediterranean coast and is a captivating archaeological site dating back to Herod the Great. The ancient city was built around 22 BC and was a prominent Roman port city.
The well-preserved Roman theater, the awe-inspiring hippodrome, and the intricate aqueduct system are just some of the historic remains you can see here. Caesarea also features the remains of an imposing Crusader fortress. Visitors can walk through ancient streets, and explore this remarkable archaeological gem.
The fortress of Masada, perched on a rocky plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, is associated with two particular periods of history. Firstly, King Herod built an extensive fortress on the flat summit of Masada in 37-31 BC. You can tour the archaeological remains of his palace, bathhouse, guardhouse, and other structures.
Then in 72-73 AD, during the First Jewish-Roman War, a group of Jewish rebels took to the mountaintop to escape the Romans. They were held under siege for many long months, but the Romans were unable to reach them because of the steep cliffs of Masada. Eventually, the Romans reached the summit, only to find that the Jewish rebels had chosen suicide rather than being caught, punished, and forced to convert.
An archaeological marvel, Beit She’an Roman theater, and Byzantine streets highlight the city’s significance as a hub connecting various civilizations from the Egyptian era to the Roman period. After walking through the well-preserved remains, stay for the evening Sound and Light Show.
Tzipori National Park
This national park is on a hilltop in Lower Galilee. It showcases influences from Roman to Byzantine times, portraying a thriving city during the early centuries of the Common Era. Among the remains are Jewish ritual baths, mosaic floors (considered some of the best in the country), and ancient synagogues.
Capernaum National Park
In Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, is Capernaum National Park where ancient synagogues and Roman-era residential structures provide insights into the vibrant Jewish and Christian communities 2000 years ago.
Capernaum was once a simple fishing village, and it is known as the town where Jesus based himself during his ministry. On a visit to Capernaum, you can follow the 3.5 km-long promenade to Tabgha, where you can see the Church of the Multiplication.
The coastal city of Acre, with its mix of architecture and history from various periods, transports visitors back in time. The Old City of Acre is one of the most interesting and picturesque places in Israel.
Go beneath the city to explore the Knights’ Hall from the Crusader Period and follow the secret Templars’ tunnel to the sea. Above ground tour the restored Turkish bathhouse from the Ottoman era, and visit the magnificent Al-Jazzar Mosque and the Citadel.
The subterranean wonders of Beit Guvrin, featuring bell caves and Sidonian burial caves with painted walls, provide a glimpse into the underground life of ancient communities, spanning various historical periods.
The caves were carved out of the rock from the 4th to 9th century and the chalk was used for roads, mortar, and for creating mosaics. Don’t miss the awe-inspiring underground Columbarium where the Romans kept their pigeons.
For a taste of Israel’s more recent history, take a walk around Tel Aviv to see the Bauhaus architecture and the quaint neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. On Rothschild Boulevard, visit Independence Hall where Ben Gurion officially proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The event marked the end of the British Mandate and the beginning of Israel as an independent nation.