Avdat National Park

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In the heart of the desert, on a hilltop above the Tsin Stream watercourse, are the impressive remains of an ancient Nabatean city.

Points of interest

  • In the entrance plaza: video (translated into 10 languages), 3D model of the city, and archeological  display.
  • The bathhouse (by the entrance to the national park)- a well-preserved building from the Byzantine period, with a dressing room and several rooms for water at different temperatures: a cold room, tepid room, two hot water rooms, and stoves. The water came from a nearby well, 64 m deep.
  • Roman burial cave: a magnificent burial chamber. At the entrance is a structure with reliefs of the sun, the moon and an altar on the façade, and in the cave itself there are more than 20 burial niches. Access is from a side path between the Lower City and Upper City.
  • The city fortress: built in the center of the settlement, and used for assemblies and as a refuge for the residents at times of danger.
  • Two Byzantine churches: the southern church, called St. Theodore's Church after the city's patron saint, commemorated in one of inscriptions found here, and the northern church, in which was the city's cathedral. Behind it is a cruciform baptismal basin.

Geographic location

Avdat National Park is on the road to Mitspe Ramon, some 10 km south of Midreshet Ben Gurion, and 20 km north of Mitspe Ramon, to the east of Road 40. A short access road (1 km) allows visitors to drive up to the Upper City, but for those with time to spare, it is recommended to follow the complete trail that starts by the entrance to the site.

Lookout points

The Nabatean temple lookout point: offering a view of the Upper City, the remains of the Nabatean temple, mainly looking west and north. From the lookout point it is possible to see the Borot Ramliya cisterns, the ancient agricultural hinterland, and the expanses of Avdat Heights.

The fortress lookout point: from the top of one of the watchtowers of the city's fortress there is an all-round view of the ruins of  Avdat and Avdat Heights.

Identity card

At this site are the remains of a city that existed for around a thousand years – from the Nabatean period until the Byzantine period. The city spread over a hilltop, standing high above the Tsin Stream. It was named for the Nabatean king Obodas II, who was buried here. When the city was founded it was a waystation on the ancient Incense Route, and it flourished mainly in the Byzantine period. After a strong earthquake in 630 and the Arab conquest of 636, the city fell into decline and was eventually abandoned.

Reasons for declaration:

Avdat is one of the best-preserved Nabatean cities in Israel. It represents an archeological complex - a city and a well-developed system of ancient agriculture and wells.

​Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority

Avdat is one of the most important archeological sites in the Negev. In 2005 it was recognized by UNESCO and declared a world heritage site, along with the desert cities and the Incense Route. Extensive archeological excavations have been carried out at the site, and visitor paths have been set out. In October 2009 Avdat come into the news as a result of a serious act of vandalism that caused severe damage to the archeological remains. In a lengthy rehabilitation project, the damaged artefacts were restored and the security arrangements at the site were reinforced.

Archaeology and history

Avdat was founded by the Nabateans in the 4th century BCE. Initially it was a waystation on the Nabatean Incense Route – the ancient trade routes crossing the Arabian Peninsula to the city of Gaza and the Mediterranean Sea. These routes served the camel caravans, mainly carrying spices and incense. The city developed in the days of King Obodas II (1st century BCE), and was named after him. A temple, an army camp, and other buildings from this time have been found. At the end of the 1st century CE, the city's inhabitants moved over to  agriculture as their main livelihood, and an inscription from this period found at the site mentions the Nabatean king Rabbel II – "Restorer and deliverer of his people". Apparently under pressure of the heavy hand of the Romans, who damaged the Nabatean economy, he laid the foundation for the development of agriculture and animal husbandry. In the year 106 CE, after the death of the king, Avdat was annexed to the Roman empire and continued to develop. The height of its prosperity was in the Byzantine period (4th – 7th centuries CE). The city's inhabitants converted to Christianity and built magnificent churches, developed intensive agriculture, constructed water storage systems, and dug many caves in the hillside. The caves were used mainly as workshops and storerooms for keeping and processing the agricultural produce. Towards the end of the Byzantine period the security situation in the city was undermined. In around 630 the city was damaged by a strong earthquake, and shortly after, in 636, the area was conquered by Arab tribes. These two factors together sealed its fate and the city was abandoned.

Modern archeological study of the city began in the 19th century, and in 1870 a researcher by the name of Palmer identified the site and determined that it was the city of Avdat. Methodical archeological excavations began in 1958, under Michael Avi-Yonah and Avraham Negev, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the 1970s further excavations were carried out at the site.

In the 1950s an agricultural farm was established by the city (Even-Ari Farm), in an attempt to reconstruct the ancient farming methods and ways of storing water.

Geology and geomorphology

Avdat is situated on one of the largest plateaus in Israel, to which it gives its name – Avdat Heights. Avdat Heights is cut through by many channels, and rises in height gradually from 500 m above sea level at its northern border (by Tsinim Cliff) to 700 m at its border with Machmal Ridge. The characteristic rock is chalk (Mitrad formation), over which there are exposed limestone rocks (Horsha formation). These two formations and others at some distance from the city are collectively known by geologists as the Avdat formation, and are dated to the Eocene period (35 – 55 million years ago). The city of Avdat itself is built on a granite hill of the Horsha formation.

Hydrology

At the foot of the city runs the course of the Tsin Stream, one of the largest streams in Israel (120 km long). This is a seasonal stream, and only rare winter floods disturb its tranquility. About 1 km to the west of the city (outside the boundaries of the national park), the Ramliya cisterns are carved in the rock – a series of Nabatean storage cisterns for capturing the floodwaters and utilizing them to irrigate their agricultural crops. The water supply for the city itself came from local cisterns and a well next to the bathhouse. In walking distance of the city there are a number of springs – En Ma'arif, En Avdat, and En Mor in the Tsin Stream (in En Avdat National Park), and Upper En Akev and En Akev in the Akev Stream.

Flora

The most conspicuous vegetation of Avdat Heights is the bushy bean caper (Zygophyllum dumosum), along with other desert species such as common Reaumuria (Reaumuria hirtella), and annuals (especially in spring in rainy years) such as Nasturtiopsis coronopifolia, which create patches of yellow blooms across the area.

Wildlife

The common wildlife of Avdat Heights includes small rodents such as the golden spiny mouse (Acomys russatus), desert birds such as the blackstart (Cercomela melanura) and mourning wheatear (Oenanthe lugens), reptiles such as the star lizard (Stellagama stellio), and arthropods.

How to get here:  Close to Road 40, between Sde Boker and Mitspe Ramon, 15 minutes from Sde Boker.  

 Length of visit: 1 – 2 hours

Best season: All year round

Don't miss: A tour of the visitor center, illustrating the Incense Route, and a visit to the recently excavated army camp.

In The entrance lobby: sold Local Product made by local artists.

Other attractions:

  • Information shop
  • Souvenirs and literature for visitors
  • The Incense Route video
  • Ancient finds
  • Kiosk and guiding center

Opening hours

 Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time 

Summer:
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm
Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm 

Winter:
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm
Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm

 On the eves of New Year, the Day of Atonement, and Passover: 8 am – 1 pm

Contact us

Telephone: 08-6551511

Fax: 08-6550954 

Entrance fee

Individuals:  Adult - NIS 28, child - NIS 14

Student: NIS 24

Group (over 30):  Adult - NIS 23, child - NIS 13

Further information

Click here for site pamphlet  


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

    In the Avdat National Park adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    • Parking
    • entrance area
    • restroom

    path connecting monuments at the site:

    • The Roman villa
    • the service way
    • the wine press and the acropolis

    30.791927,34.768731
    Avdat National Park