One of Israel's oldest cities, Ashkelon dates back more than 5,000 years and makes an appearance in the biblical story of Samson. It’s a mecca for pilgrims and history buffs who will be in their element with the chance to visit ancient tombs and explore Byzantine churches and Canaanite ruins.
Things to do in Ashkelon
Perched high on a hilltop, the Tomb of Sheikh Awad dates back to the 13th century. It's one of several sites built by the Mamelukes along Israel's Mediterranean coast. As well as peering into the ancient domed crypt, you can enjoy sweeping views over Ashkelon’s northern beaches.
History buffs shouldn’t miss the 4th-century Byzantine church located in the historic Barnea Quarter. It's known for its gleaming marble slab floors and multicoloured glass mosaic walls. You can also visit Maqam al-Nabi Hussein, a marble prayer area that attracts Shiite pilgrims from India and Pakistan.
For a lively street scene, head to Migdal. The historic shopping district is crisscrossed with pedestrian-friendly streets lined with shops, cafes and restaurants. The neighbourhood is dotted with Bedouin architecture, including a handsome mosque known as The Khan.
Ashkelon National Park is set on the Mediterranean coast and lures you in with its sun-drenched beaches. You can also visit archaeological ruins, such as the Canaanite Gate, which dates back to 1850 BCE and is said to be the world's oldest arch. You can also see ancient statues of Nike, the winged goddess of victory.
Getting around Ashkelon
Buses are the easiest way to get around Ashkelon, connecting to nearby cities like Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva. Taxis are a popular way to get to and from the international airports at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, located around one hour from Ashkelon.