Israel is no longer an isolated country that’s desperately seeking tourists. Last year almost 4 million of them entered the country, many of them drawn to Tel Aviv-Jaffa and to Eilat, frequently cited over the years by well-regarded travel magazines as leading tourism destinations. Still, the choice of another of Israel’s famed sites among those that are “worth a trip” – according to a leading international tourism publication – is a real reason for celebration: Caesarea is the newest addition to the list of recommended cities on Travel + Leisure’s list of “The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2020.”
The ancient port city was chosen thanks to its “happy marriage of antiquity and modernity,” which is attracting more tourists than ever before, according to the magazine’s website. Visitors are specifically directed to Caesarea’s new King Herod Visitors’ Center, with its abundance of archaeological treasures including colorful mosaics and gold coins, and to the Old Caesarea Diving Center, where one can embark on underwater journeys with scuba gear or snorkels along the historical port.
Also recommended by the site is a stroll among Caesarea’s ancient ruins – from the breakwaters of the ancient port, via the bathhouses and the Roman columns, to the ruins of the magnificent Roman amphitheater – along with more modern attractions including the Helena Restaurant and the recently renovated Dan Caesarea Hotel.
The massive subterranean stone vaults built near the port by the Roman King Herod the Great (aka Herod the Builder), upon which the Temple of Augustus stood in antiquity, was restored during construction of the new visitor’s center. This extensive system of archways was discovered five years ago during accelerated archaeological excavations at the site, and their construction is dated to over 2,000 years ago. The center, which cost 150 million shekels ($43 million) and was financed by the Caesarea Baron Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, features a new promenade that connects the ancient walls and fortifications with the aqueduct, offering a pastoral and historical walk over the Mediterranean.
Travel + Leisure’s list, which is cataloged alphabetically and not in order of importance, includes destinations such Beijing, with the world’s biggest airport; Boston, America’s “next great hotel city”; Lille, France, Europe’s fashion capital for 2020; and Tblisi, Georgia, with its nightlife “revolution.” Although the impact of such recommendations is doubtful, they do reflect trends in tourism and show that Israel has done pretty well in that realm in recent years.
Now the Israeli tourist has to be convinced to tour his country with the enthusiasm of the visitors from abroad.