Israel is known for its history and importance to all three of the major religions of the world. But did you know it is also home to some of the most beautiful and majestic national park? As a site of numerous historical cities – including many of cultures that are no longer being practiced – Israel boast a vast array of archaeological remains and structures from the earliest of recorded history.
Avdat National Park
Avdat National Park, located in the Negev region of Israel, is the site of one of the famed ancient Nabatean cities along the Incense Route, and was named after the Nabatean king Oboda (30 B.C.E.-9 B.C.E.) who is buried there. The Incense Route was known as the road that many of the costly perfumes, incense, and spices were brought from Arabia to the Mediterranean ports. Having been built, destroyed, and rebuilt, Avdat was a city that flourished, even after the Roman Empire took over the region. The city remained until the 7th century Arab conquest.
Though there was not much left of the city, the restored gateway displays the grand restored gateway suggests a majestic site of trade and culture. The view from the wall surrounding the ancient city is a beautiful tapestry of the highlands below and the Even-Ari farm. It is here that the Byzantine-era agricultural techniques originally developed by the Nabateans have been reconstructed.
A Roman-era bathhouse near the visitor’s center and a Roman watchtower with an inscription that dates from the late-third century CE are among the attractions in the park. Still in use at times is a Byzantine wine-press that leans toward the traditional and ancient wine producing techniques of that time. Caves around the area can also be seen at the park, including one that contains 21 burial niches, and others that served as cisterns, tombs, and storerooms.
Masada National Park
Masada National Park was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park, based as the site of the ancient Masada fortress built by King Herod the Great, stands at the apex of a grand natural plateau that looks out over the Dead Sea.
The park has also been noted for preserving a 1st century Roman villa, and is the most complete collection reflecting the Roman siege system in the world. This is the physical record that helps tell the tale of the final events of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans, and a symbolic battle for the fight for freedom.
The most recognized structure of Masada National Park is likely the Northern Palace, which was built on the northern face of the plateau cliff. Built on three rock terraces, each one containing large rooms and supported by immense retaining walls, the palace rises to the top of the plateau where the remains of four bedrooms display a view of the beautiful countryside. From these rooms, one can gaze upon the En Gedi to the north, the Dead Sea, and the Mountains of Moab to the east. Also at the top of the palace are the remains of almost thirty storerooms, that have revealed hundreds of clay pots that could hold an immense collection of food for the royal family and their servants.
Along with the beauty and scenery of Masada National Park, the area also presents a sound and light show on the western side of the mountain that tells the historic tale of the Jewish rebels last days at the palace. Shows are presented during the months of March to October, and play every Tuesday and Thursday. The show is presented in English, Russian, French, Spanish and German through ear-phones that can be rented at the site. Camping is also available.
Ein Gedi is another site in Israel that is well worth visiting. Situated on the shore of the Dead Sea at the lowest place on earth, Ein Gedi is considered by many to be an oasis in the wilderness and has even been considered a ‘Garden of Eden’ by some. Deep canyon rivers and a lush landscape are striking variances from the desert surroundings.
Known for its natural and wild setting with an ancient primeval history and archaeology, Ein Gedi is also recognized for its beautiful tourist attractions and its international reputation for its spas.
Containing historical and archaeological remains from what are believed to have been its very first settlers, the oasis holds historical remnants that date back more than 5,000 years. According to Biblical history, David took refuge in Ein Gedi as he was pursued by King Saul, and later synagogues and temples were built there, strengthening the Jewish culture in the area.
Another attraction in the area is the botanical garden Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which was founded in 1953, contains plants and trees from around the world. Guests are invited to lodge in the kibbutz guest house or they could camp by the Dead Sea.
Other attractions include Jeep tours through the desert, and tours of the Qumran Caves.