Caesarea Trumps Masada as Top Tourist Site

YERUSHALAYIM -
The ruins of the ancient port city, Caesarea. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israel is blessed with many tourist sites, both ancient and modern — and the most popular of these in 2016, a Parks and Nature Authority survey shows, is the National Park of Caesarea, site of ancient Roman ruins and an active amphitheater overlooking the sea. The Caesarea site was the most popular among all tourists, Israeli and foreign, and took first place for the first time, beating out the perennial favorite, Masada, which came in only second this year.

Among Israelis, however, it was neither site that was the favorite, but the National Park of Ashkelon, which includes ruins that predate the Roman period. Until two years ago, Masada was the top site visited by both Israelis and foreign tourists.

Overall, 612,000 tourists visited Caesarea in 2016, while Masada welcomed 520,000 visitors, 329,000 of them from outside Israel. In third place was the Ein Gedi site, with 446,000 visitors, followed by the Banias, where 432,000 people enjoyed the springs and pools. That was followed by the Ashkelon site, with 369,000 visitors.

Over 8.7 million people visited the country’s national parks in 2016, 6.7 million of them Israelis — a 10-percent increase over 2015, and 25 percent more than in 2012, the Authority said, summing up what it said was an “excellent” year.