5 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel

April 11th 2019

When it comes to stamps of approval for a location, a UNESCO World Heritage Site status doesn’t come much bigger. In Israel there are 9 such landmark sites and each one is a testament to the history, peoples, and diverse natural beauty of this ancient land. When visiting Israel, it’s well worth taking time to visit one or all of these extraordinary places.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) selects World Heritage Sites based on the location having special cultural or physical significance that makes them truly remarkable and worth preserving. There are more than 1000 of these sites around the world and each is demarcated as a protected zone.

The following are just 5 of the must-see official World Heritage Sites in Israel we recommend you visit:

1. Old City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most significant cities in human history. With a story dating back to the 11th century BCE, the old city of Jerusalem is filled with an array of important religious sites and ancient structures. Most notable among these is the Kotel (the Western Wall), the oldest surviving remnant of the Holy Temple walls.

There are also numerous museums, markets, galleries, underground tunnels, and ancient passageways to explore, especially in the Jewish Quarter of the city.

2. White City of Tel Aviv

Not all UNSECO World Heritage Sites are old. In fact, some are relatively new, and Tel Aviv’s White City became one of the first ‘modern’ sites to be given the renowned heritage status. First developed in the 1920s by German Jewish architects, the White City is an area of Tel Aviv famous for its Bauhaus and International Style architecture. These mostly white buildings are distinctive in their design and can be found in and around the Dizengoff, Shenken and Rothschild streets in the center of the city.

3. Masada

Renowned for both its visual beauty and its heroic history, the Masada Mountain Ruins is one of the most popular sites to visit in Israel. The ancient mountaintop fortress set in the Judean Desert, was the site of a brave defense against Roman rule by a group of Jewish rebels. During a Roman siege, and with defeat inevitable, the rebels chose to commit mass suicide rather than be caught alive.

Herod the Great built two palaces on Masada, the ruins of which can be explored to this day, as well as a synagogue and ritual baths.

4. Beit Guvrin Caves

The Beit Guvrin National Park features a stunning complex of caves dug by human hands. A little way south from the modern city of Beit Shemesh, the caves date all the way back to Biblical times. There are at least 800 small bell-shaped caves in the park that were used for a variety of purposes, including storage, defense, and burial (some of which include beautiful cave paintings). Many of these are connected together via passageways, some of which you can explore.

5. Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012, the four caverns of the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve are believed to have been inhabited by humans for over one million years. Located along the western ridge of the Carmel Mountain near Haifa, the caves contain the prehistoric remains of what scientists believe are of both homo sapiens and neanderthals. Today, visitors can explore the caves and enjoy audiovisual presentations of what life would have been like for these early people.