“ Sightseeing Type: Parks / Gardens „
On our trip around Israel and Jordan this summer, one of the attractions that we stopped at was Caesarea National Park, which stands on the mediterranean coastline, about an hour north of Tel Aviv.
Caesarea is known to many due to its reference in the New Testament concerning Paul, but is home to one of King Herod's grand palaces, looking out over the sea, as well as being once a great Roman city.
The park itself has three main entrances - one near the theatre (where we parked on a stony car park), one south of the Crusader city wall, and one near the eastern gate of the Crusader city.
Entrance to the national park carries a fee, however, if like us, you plan to visit other national parks in Israel, it is better value for money to purchase a pass for 90 shekels (approx £15) which allows you into 6 of the national parks in the country. As long as you visit 4 or 5 of these, you will easily recoup your money.
Should you decide not to buy the 6 park pass, entrance into Caesarea alone for an adult costs 36 shekels (approx £6). Children enter for a reduced rate of 22 shekels ( approx £4).
The park is open all year round, although in the summer season between April and September the park opens between 8am and 6pm. It closes at 4pm the remainder of the year, and an hour earlier on Fridays.
There are also several walking routes, ranging in length that are available throughout the site. We had limited time, so we simply tried to see as much of the site as possible, whilst also taking time to rest in the shade in the draining summer heat.
The first site we came across was the huge roman theatre that stands on the south end of the site, and is in fact, the oldest of the roman theatres found in Israel. It was built during King Herod's reign, and was able to seat up to 4000 people. The theatre is frequently used nowadays for concerts.
A short walk from the theatre takes you to the ruins of Herod's palace, jutting into the sea, and you can appreciate the magnificient views that he would have enjoyed from here.
Just beside the palace is the Hippodrome, housing a vast arena with seating, most likely used for horse racing and other sporting events. This huge area resembles a modern day stadium, and could seat up to 10 0000 spectators.
Behind the hippodrome stands the remains of the public bathhouse. This area is worth visiting along simply to see some of the beautfiul and original (as far as I know) floor mosaics.
Unfortunately we did not have the time to visit some of the other sites in Caesarea including the aqueduct, which is off the main sea front site, the crusader city or the harbour.
We did however cool off in the some of the air conditioned artist/gallery shops, selling original art work and hand crafted jewellery etc.
There is also a fabulous ice cream shop near the crusader gate entrance, which sells a vast array of refreshing ice cream flavours. If you are lucky enough like us, the owner will even give you free samples of some of his new creations, such as those ice creams made with yogurt. If you are visiting Caesarea in the peak of the summer heat like we did, a cooling ice cream is essential.
Overall, although from an aerial view, Caesarea may not look enormous, it does take quite a while to look around all the excavations, especially if you are visiting in the summer time, when with the extreme heat, walking at any fast pace is really out of the question. We were disappointed not to have had the chance to watch a short film about the national park, as part of the 'Time trek audio visual display', near the harbour area, but we simply did not have the time to do so.
Even if you are not interested in these Roman excavations, the beautiful mediterranean sea front location of Caesarea alone should attract you. It really is a great place to visit, but ensure you leave plenty of time, and do try and avoid the midday sun, if you want to really appreciate what there is to see in the park.
Caesarea National Park is located off the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway (road no. 2), near Kibbutz Sdot Yam, west of the town of Or Akiva. It can be reached via the Orot Rabin power station junction or from road no. 4 via Or Akiva.