Israel national parks are one of the highlights of a trip to the Holy Land, which offers many other unique attractions, including ancient palaces, museums filled with antiquities, boat rides on the Sea of Galilee, swimming in the Dead Sea, sightseeing at historical ruins, and strolling down streets where Roman soldiers, kings, and religious leaders once walked. Israel is a small country that makes it possible to visit numerous areas during one trip, so when planning your itinerary, including visits to national parks is an unusual experience that allows you to mixing hiking, sightseeing, and learning about the ancient sites where historical events took place.
Israel national parks to consider visiting include Masada National Park, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Herodion and Caesarea National Park, and Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park. One of the most famous, Masada National Park is the site of King Herod's ancient fortified fortress, built in the first century BC, situated high atop a plateau. The fortress also served as a luxurious palace for Herod and his court. The palace at Masada is accessible by hiking the trails leading up the cliffs or by cable car.
Caesarea National Park is another ancient area with a long history that includes Phoenician, Byzantine, Roman, and Crusader influences. The city was originally named Straton's Tower by the Phoenicians, but the name was changed by King Herod in honor of Augustus Caesar, and the city was the main headquarters for the Roman government for the area.
Within the expanses of Caesarea National Park, visitors have numerous ancient examples of architecture to see, including the Roman theatre, public bathhouses, amphitheatre, Herod's palace, aqueduct, and the inscribed stone dedicated to the Roman official Pontius Pilate. The theater, which seats nearly 4,000 people and looks out over the Mediterranean, was refurbished and is currently used throughout the year for performances.
Another national park in Israel is Herodion National Park, located along the Judean Desert. Herodion was another location where King Herod built a magnificent palace complete with open courtyards, elaborate bathhouse, lush gardens, and pools. The palace, surrounded by manmade walls, created a luxurious fortified area for Herod and his guests. Although built in the desert, the palace and gardens were supplied by water from a specially built aqueduct near Bethlehem. Many of the ruins are still present, and guests can sign up for guided tours.
Two additional Israel National Parks to add to your itinerary are Ein Gedi Nature Preserve and Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park located adjacent to the preserve. At Ein Gedi Nature Preserve, four springs feed the area creating a tropical atmosphere and provide a viable water source to sustain an abundance of plants and trees along with a variety of wildlife, birds, and reptiles. Many trails run throughout the preserve making it ideal for hiking. The preserve also houses more than 800 plant, tree, and flower species in its botanical gardens.
Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park features an ancient synagogue from the Byzantine period. The floor of the synagogue is inscribed with five inscriptions that list names of generations, signs of the zodiac, a secret oath, and two dedications. Located next to the synagogue remnants were found of a Byzantine settlement that included a partial street and dwellings, pool, and a purification bath. Ein Gedi is an area that history buffs will find particularly interesting, as this area near the Dead Sea is the site of the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; for those who want to see the scrolls themselves, they are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Whether you visit Masada National Park, Herodion, Ein Gedi, or Caesarea, your trip to a national park in Israel is sure to add another dimension of appreciation for the history and culture of this fascinating country, as well as its stunning natural scenery.