Tourism plays an important role in the economy of Israel by creating jobs and bringing revenue into the country. Israel is a popular tourist destination and offers beaches, religious sites, ecotourism, and historical sites. Israel received approximately 3.54 million tourists in 2013. This article takes a closer look at the most popular paid tourist attractions here.
10. Qumran National Park
The Qumran National Park is located around 1 mile from the Dead Sea in the West Bank of Israel. It is home to the archaeological ruins of a settlement from the Hellenistic period, which survived from between 134 BC and 68 AD. This park is also the site of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient manuscripts, were discovered. The Qumran National Park received approximately 377,000 visitors in 2012.
9. Coral World Underwater Observatory in Eilat
The Coral World Underwater Observatory is located in the city of Eilat. This site is home to a park, a conservation center, and the largest public aquarium in Israel. The aquarium here holds around 850 species of marine plants and animals; an even larger number of wild species can be seen from the underwater observatory. Some of the most popular exhibits at this tourist attraction include: the Red Sea (made to look like a Red Sea ecosystem), turtle and stingray pools (with green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and hawksbill sea turtles), the Amazon, Rare Fish, Shark World, and Coral. The turtle conservation program here has successfully released hundreds of turtles into the wild. In 2012, this site received 423,000 visitors.
8. Yamit 2000 in Holon
Yamit 2000 is a water-themed amusement park located in Holon. This attraction offers a wide range of activities including a wave pool, a heated pool, water slides, a turkish bath, several jacuzzis, and a spa. Because this is a family destination, Yamit 2000 also has a variety of swimming pools ranging from a baby pool to an olympic-sized pool. Families can also participate in a number of sports as this amusement park also has a soccer field, tennis courts, and basketball courts. The Yamit 2000 park received around 431,000 visitors in 2012.
7. Hamat Gader
Hamat Gader is a popular hot springs attraction, located in the Yarmouk river valley near the border with Jordan. These hot springs have been used since ancient times. In fact, the first bath houses here were built during the 2nd century AD by a Roman military stationed nearby. In 1923, this site was included within the newly drawn borders of Palestine where it remained until 1967, when Israel once again gained control of Hamat Gader during the Six-Day War. The resort located here was opened in 1977. In 2012, 440,000 individuals visited Hamat Gader to enjoy its therapeutic waters.
6. Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park
The Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park is located near the previously mentioned Qumran Caves. This national park and nature reserve is one of the most popular natural sites in Israel. The nature reserve was established in 1971 in order to protect the diverse plant and animal life found here. These plants and animals include species from various ecosystems, including: desert, tropical, Mediterranean, and steppe. The national park was established in 2002 and is home to a number of important archaeological ruins. Visitors are able to see the ruin of a settlement from the 1st century AD as well as the Chalcolithic Temple, believed to have been a shrine. In 2012, 471,000 people visited the Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park.
5. Hermon National Park (Banias)
The Hermon National Park and Nature Reserve is located in Banias near Mount Hermon. The natural spring running through this site was once used to worship Pan, the Greek god of wild nature and shepherds and their flocks. Visitors here can enjoy the Banias Waterfall, which falls from 32.8 feet above. The stream is accessible via the Hanging Trail, which winds a short distance through the park. Another point of interest here is the Shrine and Cave of Pan, where visitors can get a closer look at the ruins of the shrine to Pan as well as the remains of temple that was built by King Herod. Approximately 561,000 visitors came to this park in 2012.
The fourth most popular paid tourist attraction in Israel is Caesarea National Park. This park is located on the Mediterranean coast and is home to the ruins of an ancient port city. Nearby is the modern-day city of Caesarea, which provides a stark contrast to the archaeological remains on the beach. The ancient Roman theater here has been restored and today, offers concerts during the summer. More adventurous visitors can dive through its underwater museum. In 2012, the Caesarea National Park received around 670,000 visitors.
3. Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan
The Zoological Center of Tel Aviv - Ramat Gan is also known as the Safari Ramat Gan. This attraction cover 250 acres and houses the largest number of wildlife cared for by humans in the Middle East. This includes 92 bird species, 83 mammal species, and 23 reptile species. The Zoological Center offers both a zoo exhibit and a safari experience. Additionally, this organization participates in successful breeding and conservation programs, releasing endangered species such as white-tailed sea eagles and griffon vultures into the wild. In 2012, around 713,000 visitors came here, making the Safari Ramat Gan the third most visited paid tourist attraction in Israel.
Masada is the second most popular paid tourist attraction in Israel. It received 724,000 visitors in 2012. Masada, located on a mesa that looks down on the Dead Sea, is the site of an ancient fortified city that was built by King Herod between 37 and 31 BC. It was protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Visitors can visit the archaeological ruins here by hiking the Snake Trail, which goes around the eastern side of the mountain, and the Roman Ramp Trail, which goes around the western side of the mountain. When temperatures are too high, the trails are closed and visitors must use the cable car to reach the top. Some of the sites inside include: a bathing pool, a Byzantine church, and 2 palaces.
1. Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
The most popular paid tourist attraction in Israel is the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, formally known as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens. This zoo is well-known for its collection of plants and animals, which represent the wildlife mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. In 2009, this zoo housed 104 bird species, 68 mammal species, 60 fish species, 28 reptile species, and 11 amphibian species. Visitors are able to view the animals here through open outdoor exhibits, separated only by moats or glass windows rather than metal bars. Animal interactions are offered at the following exhibits: Lemur Land, West Side Story aquatic exhibit, and the children’s zoo. In 2012, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo received 752,000 visitors.