Israel’s 10 most important archaeological sites

Le complexe de Massada la nuit tombée

As the cradle of many civilizations and religions, Israel is home to a wealth of historical remains. Discover Israel’s top 10 archaeological sites.

The history of the land we now call Israel is very rich. For over 3,000 years, human beings have torn each other apart to occupy this land promised to everyone and no one at the same time. This conflict continues to this day.

From the world-famous Old City of Jerusalem to the confidential Sepphoris, Israel’s archaeological sites are diverse and varied. To discover them is to immerse yourself in three millennia of eventful history.

Are you a history buff? Discover the top 10 archaeological sites in Israel! Note, however, that two of them are located in Palestine.

Archaeological complexes

Old City of Jerusalem

Jérusalem

Tower of David & Wailing Wall, Jerusalem – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nina Zorina & Yevgenia Gorbulsky

Conservation status : ★★★★★

Public knowledge : ★★★★★

Historical influence : ★★★★★

It’s hard to talk about archaeological sites in Israel without starting with one of the world’s most famous. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Jerusalem is a unique, magical and tragic place.

Jerusalem’s Old City is a perfect example of the blending of religions. Some of the most important holy sites of the three great monotheistic religions are just a few meters away: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Wailing Wall. If you get the chance and are there on the right day at the right time, take a stroll along the Temple Mount / Esplanade of the Mosques. The Dome of the Rock is probably one of the most beautiful monuments in the world.

Finally, walk along the Via Dolorosa. According to Christian tradition, this is the path Jesus took on the day of his crucifixion. Above all, enjoy this visit, for it remains the memory of a lifetime.

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Qumran

Qumran, its caves and manuscripts – Photo credit: Shutterstock – alefbet & John Theodor

Conservation status: ★★★

Public knowledge: ★★

Historical influence: ★★

An important archaeological site, Qumran National Park is located in Palestine. With its lunar landscapes, Qumran is a magical place in the middle of the desert, unique for the panorama that opens up before your eyes. Although the hikes can be difficult because of the heat, our reward at the end is the discovery of vestiges.

It was at Qumran, inside the caves, that the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Ruins of what was once a city are visible and can be visited. Qumran is a unique place. In fact, in the course of a single day, it’s possible to go hiking, see extraordinary landscapes and, last but not least, biblical ruins!

Herodion

Hérodion

Mont de l’Hérodion – Photo credit: Pixabay – Gidon Pico

Conservation status: ★★

Public knowledge: ★★★

Historical influence: ★★★

This archaeological site is also located in Palestine, south of Bethlehem. While it’s not the only one linked to King Herod, it is the only one to bear his name.

The exceptional feature of this site is that the hill is partly man-made! It is an artificial hill on which Herod built his palace.

Many of the ruins are still clearly visible, and it’s easy to imagine the splendor of this place 2,000 years ago. Herod was so attached to this site that archaeologists believe he was buried here.

Fortresses and castles

Massada

Massada

The fortifications of Masada at sunset – Photo credit: Shutterstock – fabulousparis

Conservation status : ★★★★

Public knowledge: ★★★

Historical influence: ★★★★

This archaeological site in Israel is located in the middle of the desert. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most popular. Masada is none other than King Herod’s ancient fortress, dating back to 30 BC. It is one of Israel’s top tourist attractions, as much for its history as for the landscapes it offers.

There are two ways to reach Masada. The first, and recommended, is to climb up on foot. It’s a tough hike, but what a reward at the end! For the less courageous or those who can’t, there’s a cable car!

Remarkably well-preserved, the fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Massada is a remarkable testimony to a very important period in Israel’s history.

Towns and cities

Caesarea

Césarée

Caesarea and its ruins built by Herod – Photo credit: Shutterstock – YKD & Sopotnicki

Conservation status: ★★★

Public knowledge: ★★

Historical influence: ★★★

This archaeological site in Israel is perfect for those who love Roman history. Indeed, Caesarea, located on the shores of the Mediterranean, is home to numerous remains from that era. These include an aqueduct, an amphitheatre and temples.

The ruins are perfectly integrated into the new town. A perfect example is the aqueduct beach, where the Roman aqueduct runs right through it! In fact, most of the ruins are on the harbour side, as close to the sea as possible.

Sepphoris

Sepphoris

Sepphoris,IsraelPhoto credit: Shutterstock – Logan Bush & Logan Bush

Conservation status: ★★★

Public knowledge: ★★

Historical influence: ★★★

Sepphoris is a little-known archaeological site in Israel. Yet it’s well worth a visit. In fact, it was discovered more recently than the other sites.

This site abounds in unsuspected riches. Firstly, it is said to be the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, although this cannot be confirmed. Then, this time with certainty, the site has been occupied throughout history by Byzantines, Crusaders and Ottomans.

The most striking building is the Ottoman Crusader Tower. As its name suggests, it symbolizes the architectural continuity between the first construction by the Crusaders and the additions made by the Ottomans.

Beit She’arim

Beit She'arim

Remains of the village of Beit She’arim – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Barbarajo

Conservation status: ★★★

Public knowledge: ★★★

Historical influence: ★★★

Once an important village in the region, Beit She’arim is a rare find. Indeed, this archaeological site in Israel is an ancient Jewish village from Roman times. Jewish remains dating from after the Roman conquest in 73 AD are rare.

Archaeologists and historians have discovered that Beit She’arim flourished until the 4th century, despite the many Jewish revolts that caused the destruction of many of their buildings and towns.

The site is famous for its necropolis, probably the best preserved in the country. A total of twenty-one catacombs have been discovered, the majority dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries.

Bet Guvrin-Maresha

Beit Guvrin-Maresha

Remains of Beit Guvrin Maresha – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Zhukovskyi & Layue

Conservation status: ★★★

Public knowledge: ★★

Historical influence: ★★★

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this archaeological site in Israel corresponds to the ancient city of Eleutheropolis. The latter was definitively destroyed in the 7th century.

The ruins of Beit Guvrin-Maresha include a large Jewish cemetery, as well as Byzantine remains. The latter are numerous: amphitheatre, church, thermal baths, mosaics…

However, it is above all the numerous caves – ancient necropolises with an astonishing bell shape – that have led to the site’s classification. They are known in French as Grottes de Maresha and Bet-Guvrin.

Beït she-an

Beit she-an

Vestiges of Beit she-an Photo credit: Shutterstock – Altosvic & mbrand85

Conservation status : ★★★★

Public knowledge: ★★

Historical influence: ★★

This little-known archaeological site in Israel deserves a little publicity! Beit she-an is in fact an ancient Roman city that is quite well preserved. Numerous monuments can be easily recognized, and the reconstruction of a cobbled street takes you even further back into Roman times.

The Roman amphitheatre is still in use today. It is perhaps the most impressive amphitheater in the country. Thanks to its preservation to the present day, Beit she-an is a rare testimony to a Roman-Byzantine city in the Levant.

Tel Megiddo

Tel Megiddo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – tokar

Conservation status: ★★★

Public knowledge: ★★

Historical influence: ★★★

Of our selection, Tel Meggido is the oldest archaeological site in Israel. It dates back to the land of Canaan, and was abandoned in 586 BC! This uniqueness has earned the site UNESCO World Heritage status.

Excavations at Tel Meggido have uncovered numerous buildings, including a large temple dating back… 5,000 years!

For our rating system, we used the following criteria:
– State of preservation: based on its date of construction and renovations, what condition the site is currently in;
– Public awareness: how well known the archaeological site is to the uninitiated;
– Historical influence: the historical importance of the site and its influence on subsequent civilizations.