What are the 5 must-see UNESCO world heritage sites in Israel? So the Holy Land one of the few countries in the entire world that offers such a high concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites in such a small area. Furthermore, across the land, there are over 3,000 years of history; culture and religion whilst natural wonders pepper the land from north to south. So here is a list of treasured sites that have become welcome additions to the World Heritage List.
Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa And Acre
So many Baháʼí holy places in Haifa and around Acre; including the terraces and the Shrine of the Báb on the north slope on Mount Carmel; and the Shrine of Baháʼu’lláh; the Mansion of Bahji; and the Mansion at Mazra’ih were inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2008.
So the Baháʼí shrines “are the first sites connected with a relatively new religious tradition to be recognized by the World Heritage List.” The UNESCO World Heritage Committee considers the sites to be “of outstanding universal value [and]…inscribed for the testimony they provide to the Baháʼí’s strong tradition of pilgrimage and for their profound meaning for the faith.”
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: The Old City in Jerusalem
The history of the Old City has been documented in notable detail; notably in old maps of Jerusalem over the last 1,500 years. This area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem until the late 19th century; neighboring villages such as Silwan, and new Jewish neighborhoods such as Mishkenot Sha’ananim later became part of the municipal boundaries.
The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981.
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters. The Old City’s monumental defensive walls and city gates were built in 1535–1542 by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: The Biblical Tels
Megiddo is the site of the ancient city of Megiddo whose remains form a tell (archaeological mound); situated in the Jezreel Valley. Megiddo is known for its historical; geographical, and theological importance; especially under its Greek name Armageddon.
During the Bronze Age, Megiddo was an important Canaanite city-state, and during the Iron Age; a royal city in the Kingdom of Israel. Megiddo drew much of its importance from its strategic location at the northern end of the Wadi Ara, which acts as a pass through the Carmel Ridge; and from its position overlooking the rich Jezreel Valley from the west. Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins since the Chalcolithic phase, indicating a long period of settlement. The site is now protected as Megiddo National Park and is a World Heritage Site.
In the Middle Bronze Age (around 1750 BC) and the Israelite period (ninth century BC); Hazor was the largest fortified city in the country and one of the most important in the Fertile Crescent. It maintained commercial ties with Babylon and Syria and imported large quantities of tin for the bronze industry. In the Book of Joshua; Hazor is described as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Josh. 11:10).
The Hazor expedition headed by Yigal Yadin in the mid-1950s was the most important dig undertaken by Israel in its early years of statehood. Tel Hazor is the largest archaeological site in northern Israel, featuring an upper tell of 30 acres and a lower city of more than 175 acres. In 2005, the remains of Hazor have designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the Biblical Tels
Tel Beer Sheba
So the earliest remains of the mound date to the fourth millennium BCE (Chalcolithic period). The mound was abandoned for about two thousand years; during the Bronze Age. It is rebuilt during the 11th century BCE (Iron Age I). The main period represented in the remains found in the tell is the buildings from the 9th century BCE built by the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah; and the tell was rebuilt three times until it was finally destroyed in the late 7th century BCE with the Babylonian conquest.
The biblical city of Beersheba, to which the mound is attributed; is mentioned several times in the Bible, with the first references to the making of the covenant between Abraham and King Abimelech of Gerar after it took in good faith Sarah the wife of Abraham.
Excavations at the site revealed a fortified city from the time of the judges until the destruction of the First Temple. Remains from the Hellenistic period, from the time of Herod, and from the Roman period were also discovered at the site.
There was also a settlement on the site during the Byzantine and Crusader periods, but it was destroyed and remained in ruins until 1880; when the Turks began building the city of Beersheba on a site further west than Tel Beersheba.
In 1990, extensive restoration work was carried out on the tell. From the strata excavated at the tell, the remains of the Israeli city from the 8th century BCE, the Iron Age, have been restored. In 2005, the tell was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev
Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev is a World Heritage-designated area near the end of the Incense Route in the Negev, southern Israel; which connected Arabia to the Mediterranean in the Hellenistic-Roman period, proclaimed as being of outstanding universal value by UNESCO in 2005. The trade led to the development of ancient towns, forts, and caravanserai en route, apart from agricultural development.
Four towns in the Negev Desert, which flourished during the period from 300 BC to 200 CE, are linked directly with the Mediterranean terminus of both the Incense Road and spice trade routes: Avdat, Haluza; Mamshit; and Shivta. As a group, these desert cities demonstrate the lucrative trade in frankincense and myrrh that took place from Yemen in south Arabia to the port of Gaza on the Mediterranean. At its height, the route included cities, Qanat irrigation systems; fortresses, and caravanserai. Vestiges of these works are still visible and demonstrate the use of the desert for commerce and agriculture.
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: Masada
Masada is an ancient fortification situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert; overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by Roman troops from 73 to 74 CE, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels who were hiding there.
Old City Acre
Acre is one of the oldest port cities in the world; and its documented days begin in the Early Bronze Age. For many years it was a key city for the conquest of the Land of Israel, as its location on the wide coastal strip allowed easy access through the Galilee to the interior. Acre knew ups and downs and went from hand to hand many times.
Acre reached its peak when it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 13th century and as the capital of Ahmad al-Jazar in the late 18th century. Since the 19th century, the importance of the city has diminished, in relation to Haifa, which was the main port city of the north of the country. Accordingly, the development of the city was slow compared to that of Haifa. In 2001, Old Acre has declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: White City of Tel Aviv
The White City refers to a collection of over 4,000 buildings built in a unique form of the International Style in Tel Aviv from the 1930s, with a strong Bauhaus component; by Jewish architects from Germany and other Central and East European countries with German Cultural influences; who immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine after the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany. Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in the Bauhaus/International Style of any city in the world!
So the Preservation, documentation, and exhibitions have brought attention to Tel Aviv’s collection of 1930s architecture. In 2003 UNESCO proclaimed Tel Aviv’s White City a World Cultural Heritage site; as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century.” The citation recognized the unique adaptation of modern international architectural trends to the cultural; climatic, and local traditions of the city. Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv organizes regular architectural tours of the city.
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: Prehistoic Sites
The Caves of Nahal Me’arot are located, are a UNESCO Site of Human Evolution in the Carmel mountain range near Haifa in northern Israel.
So the four UNESCO-listed caves are:
- Tabun Cave or Tanur Cave (lit.: “Oven”)
- Gamal Cave or el-Jamal (“Camel”)
- el-Wad Cave or Nahal Cave (“Stream”)
- Es-Skhul Cave or Gedi Cave (“Kid”)
The four caves were proclaimed a site of “outstanding universal value” by UNESCO in 2012. They are protected within a nature reserve.
The caves were used for habitation by hominins and prehistoric humans and contain unique evidence of very early burials, at the archaeological site of el-Wad Cave in the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve.
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel : Bet-Guvrin
Beit Guvrin – Maresha national park was declared in 1989 to preserve the impressive remains of the city of Maresha, further research on the site, and conservation of the natural forest. The national park covers an area of 5,000 dunams with many caves and diverse underground spaces and important archeological remains. In the southern and highest part of the garden is Tel Maresha. In June 2014, UNESCO declared the National Park a World Heritage Site.
The rock of the Judean Hills is made up of a layer of chalk that is a soft limestone from the Eocene period, which was stratified in the ancient sea. A layer 1–3 meters thick; of hard limestone, called ‘Nari’, developed above the chalk. The chalk rock is convenient for quarrying underground spaces and producing bricks for the building. Most of the building’s bricks were cut from bell-shaped caves with a round opening at the top.
Through these openings, they entered and commenced the quarrying labor, and descended down the quarry; line by line, and took out upward chalk bricks for construction purposes. Some of the caves and cavities are hewn and were used for various purposes; such as dwellings; cloth houses; cisterns; Columbia facilities and burial caves. Some of the many caves in the garden area have been installed for the public to visit.
5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: Necropolis of Bet Shearim
So Beit Shearim is the currently used name for the ancient Jewish town of Bet She’arāyim “House of Two Gates”) made popular by its necropolis, now known as Beit Shearim National Park. The site, located on a hill; was purchased by the Jewish National Fund; and historical geographer Samuel Klein in 1936 identified as Talmudic Beit Shearim.
So the partially excavated archaeological site consists mainly of an extensive necropolis of rock-cut tombs and some remains of the town itself. In 2015, the necropolis was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, the town’s vast necropolis is carved out of soft limestone and contains more than 30 burial cave systems. Although only a portion of the necropolis has been excavated, it has been likened to a book inscribed in stone.
Furthermore, its catacombs; mausoleums, and sarcophagi are adorned with elaborate symbols and figures as well as an impressive quantity of incised and painted inscriptions in Hebrew; Aramaic; Palmyrene, and Greek; documenting two centuries of historical and cultural achievement. The wealth of artistic adornments contained in this, the most ancient extensive Jewish cemetery in the world, is unparalleled anywhere.
My UNESCO World Heritage Private Tours
So as part of the private tours I give, I also get requests for these important sites as well. Usually, in an itinerary of 2-3 days, we can cover all these UNESCO sites in Israel. But if my guests would like to have a more detailed tour of each site, then we would need more like 4-5 days of touring. In any case, I promise you the tours are detailed and full of interesting information. In fact, my favorites are Tel Megiddo and Jerusalem. I think these two are just outstanding and quite impressive. Then of course Masada with its spectacular views.
So pick up the phone or just contact me via the contact page and I’ll send the best possible quote! By the way the earlier you will get in touch the better quote I could offer you! The High season in Israel is from mid-March till early June. And of course around Christians and Hanuka.