You are no doubt aware that Israel is a country full of history and historical buildings. However, you may be less aware that the country is home to a number of amazing castles and fortresses. Some of them are truly ancient while others are merely old. Keep reading to learn a little about some of the most impressive.
Belvoir Castle definitely falls into the old category. It was built by the crusaders in 12th century and is located near the Kineret. It uses a concentric design, which means that there are two circular defensive walls, one inside the other. The castle was destroyed by Muslim conquerors in the early 13th century who wanted to ensure that crusaders could not reoccupy it. However, they only destroyed the upper floor and filled in the moat, which means that you can visit today and still get an excellent sense of what the castle was like.
In Moshav Habonim you can find Cafarlet Castle. Its origins are not well known, but it was likely built by the Muslim rulers of Israel in the 8th or 9th century. It is rectangular in shape and there are remains of guard towers in each of the corners. While the castle was rebuilt by the crusaders, it eventually fell into disrepair. Today it is not easy to reach, but it certainly worth a visit.
In the far north of Israel, on the slopes of Mount Hermon, you can find Nimrod Castle. Muslim rulers built this medieval complex to help and protect the road to Damascus. While it has not been used for hundreds of years, it is very much part of the landscape and Mark Twain once called it “the stateliest ruin of that kind on earth.” You can visit the castle and enjoy the surrounding national park, beautiful views, and fascinating architecture.
Another truly impressive crusader castle is Montfort Castle, which was built as a home for the Teutonic Order’s administration and protect them from rival crusaders. It was built in the 13th century and is located on a cliff in the Galilee surrounded by forests. Today, it is set in a national park where you will also find numerous rare and endangered plants.
Israel’s best-known ancient fortress is probably Masada. Set on a cliff in the Judean desert, it was once home to King Herod’s palaces and more famously, it was where Jewish rebels took shelter from the Romans before killing themselves rather than being taken captive. You are sure to visit Masada during your gap year and can enjoy the stunning views for yourself.
If you enjoy seaside views then you should visit the Apollonia Fortress. Over the years, the town has been home to Samaritans, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Crusaders, and Jews. The crusaders built the impressive fortress overlooking the sea. However, it only existed for twenty-four years before it was destroyed by Muslim conquerors. Today it is a nature reserve where you can also see a Roman villa, a moat and a mosque.
There are many more castles and fortresses distributed across Israel, such as the Antipatris fort, the Acre Hospitaller Fortress, and the Atlit Fortress. You should try to see as many of these as possible during your time in Israel as each one offers a unique insight into the history of the land.