If you've always wanted to dive head first into thousands of years of history, where you can feel like the exploits of Napoleon, Saladin, and Herod are happening all around you – then a trip to the coastal cities of Acre and Caesarea is the perfect adventure. And you don't have far to go. Acre is just 20 minutes north of Haifa, and our tour begins there:
Acre – A UNESCO World Heritage site, this ancient Crusader port dates back almost 5000 years and is the world's only preserved Crusader city. Visit the Old City excavations, walk through the tunnels, bazaar, Crusader halls, mosque and khan. Stroll along the ramps of the Old City past the St. John Baptist Church and lighthouse, initially constructed in the times of Richard the Lionheart, which are home to the Crypt of St. John and the Knight’s Hall where religious functions were once held.
Wandering the alleyways and walls of Acre, you may feel as if you are in the process of conquering Acre yourself – just like Saladin (who succeeded) and Napoleon (who failed). With these thoughts, you can continue in your travels until we arrive at another significant historic stronghold – Caesarea.
Caesarea – A major center of Christian life during the first millennium of the Christian era, today this city is home to some of the most impressive ruins on the Mediterranean coast. Caesarea, an ancient city and harbor, was built by Herod the Great between 22 and 10 BC and named in honor of Augustus Caesar. As one of the most splendid cities in the region, Caesarea acted as the capital of the province for almost 600 years. Today it's a breathtaking archaeological park including a hippodrome, an ancient aqueduct which once brought water from a spring 6km (4 miles) north of the town, a Roman theater, and a Crusader city.
Because both these destinations are relatively close to Haifa, a variety of tours offer different combinations of the two locations, and some also include Megiddo. Depending on your wishes and the advice of the cruise ship, you can decide whether you also want to see the "end of the world" in the historic Megiddo.
Megiddo – Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Megiddo is home to one of the most important biblical archeological sites in Israel. Walk among the excavations and see the impressive remains of many ancient civilizations - Roman, Egyptian, Canaanite, Israelite and Assyrian.
The site includes the city gates, stables from King Ahab’s time (over 2,900 years ago!), and waterworks that include a 25-meter deep shaft and a 70-meter tunnel that leads to the springs. The many artifacts found here include a collection of ancient ivory objects and jewelry – the richest Canaanite treasure ever discovered. In the Book of Revelations, chapter 16, Megiddo (also known as "Armageddon") is prophesied to be the site where the world comes to an end.
If you have time, or if your tour only includes some of these locations, you can take the opportunity to explore Haifa itself, including the Bahá'í Gardens, panoramic views of Haifa and the north of Israel from Mount Carmel, the Stella Maris monastery, or the cave of Elijah the Prophet.
And then, back to reality… a short return trip and you're back on your cruise ship in the Haifa port. If you're leaving Israel tonight, we wish you a very pleasant voyage. If you're spending the night in Haifa and still have some energy – the city of Haifa awaits you with a range of attractions… but that's in a separate part of the blog!