Israel and neighboring Jordan are filled with ancient sites and cities from every part of their long histories. Some sites are famous places of pilgrimage; others were lost and forgotten until modern times. Now, dazzling physical monuments to the past are being recovered at a rapid pace.
- City of David: Just outside the present walls of Jerusalem, this is where most of Jerusalem was located from prehistoric to Old Testament times. Presently undergoing intensive, sometimes controversial, archaeological excavation, this area is now in the densely populated Arab neighborhood of Silwan. It is best visited on an organized tour or with a guide.
- Capernaum, Tabgha & the Mount of Beatitudes: This lyrically lovely corner of the Sea of Galilee was the center of Jesus’s early ministry. It contains the sites of St. Peter’s house, the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes, and the Sermon on the Mount.
- Masada: Herod’s dramatic desert palace, built on an almost inaccessible mesa/plateau in about 10 b.c., became the final stronghold of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. Here, in a.d. 73, the last Jews to live under their own rule (until the 1948 creation of the State of Israel) committed mass suicide on the eve of their conquest by Roman armies.
- Basilica of the Nativity (Bethlehem, West Bank): The site of Jesus’s birth, this is the oldest surviving church in the Holy Land; the Persians spared it during their invasion in a.d. 614 because, according to legend, they were impressed by a representation of the Magi (fellow Persians) that decorated the building.
- Caesarea (on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa): Built by Herod as the great harbor and seaport of his kingdom, this was the splendid capital of Roman Judea and Byzantine-era Palestine. The vast Roman and Crusader ruins include amphitheaters, a hippodrome, and Crusader forts that are all the more romantic with Mediterranean waves lapping at the ancient stones.
- Zippori (Sepphoris, near Nazareth): This cosmopolitan Jewish-Hellenistic city, close to Nazareth, was the capital of the Galilee in Roman times. Especially interesting because the area was probably familiar to Jesus, Zippori’s highlights include a colonnaded street, a mosaic synagogue floor, and a masterpiece mosaic portrait of a Roman-era woman dubbed “the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.”
- Korazim: Once hidden by mountains of thistles, this Roman-Byzantine-era Jewish town in the hills just northeast of the Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place with sweeping views of the lake. Houses and an ancient synagogue adorned with beautifully carved black basalt detailing still stand.
- Akko: The seaside city of Akko, or Acre, is packed with history and a must for a day trip or overnight. A port for over 4,000 years, its Old Walled City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its Subterranean Crusader City is nothing less than spectacular.
- Petra: One of the great wonders of the world, yet forgotten for a thousand years, this legendary 2,000-year-old Nabatean city carved from the walls of a hidden desert canyon is the highlight of excursion tours into Jordan. The entire Petra experience, including the trek into the canyon, has an air of adventure and mystery. Stays of 1 or 2 nights are recommended.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.