Tel Megiddo National Park in northern Israel allows seeing the remains of the ancient city Megiddo (Armageddon). Let’s begin exploring!
Megiddo vs. Tel Megiddo National Park
Megiddo was an ancient city known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance, especially under its Greek name Armageddon. This World Heritage Site became Tel Megiddo National Park. So for touristic and travel purposes, Megiddo and Tel Megiddo National Park are the same.
And here is a short movie about this site:
Map and Directions
Tel Megiddo National Park is located near Kibbutz Megiddo in Northern Israel in the Jezreel Valley.
If you are reaching this National Park by public transport, you should take a bus to the Megiddo junction. Among Israeli biggest cities, Haifa is the closest one. You can reach Megiddo junction from Haifa using bus #248. If you arrive from Tel Aviv, you can take bus #825 (Tel Aviv – Afula line). In any case, for directions, use the following link to Moovit. Update the starting point, and you will get the updated directions.
If you have a car, you can use a navigation application to get directions. In Waze, type Tel Megiddo National Park, and you will get there. There is free parking on site.
Map of the area:
And here is the map of the national park:
Note: you can click on the image to enlarge it.
Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8:00 – 17:00 (16:00 during winter).
Fridays: 8:00 – 16:00 (15:00 during winter).
On holidays eves usually 8:00 – 13:00.
Adult – 28 NIS, child – 14 NIS, and student – 24 NIS. Free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you are going to visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves post.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in November 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
What Does Tel Mean?
The ancient city of Megiddo is located on a higher plane, which gives it a strategic advantage. But, it is not a mountain. It is a Tel. Tel is a hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot.
In archaeology, tel is an artificial mound formed from the accumulated refuse of people living on the same site for hundreds or thousands of years. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with sloping sides and can be up to 30 meters high.
Tells are most commonly associated with the archaeology of the ancient Near East. They are still found elsewhere, such as Central Asia, Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Greece. Within the Near East, they are concentrated in less arid regions, including Upper Mesopotamia, the Southern Levant, Anatolia, and Iran.
The word Armageddon appears only once in the Greek New Testament, in the Book of Revelation 16:16.
And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.
Armageddon is the predicted location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times. It is either a literal or symbolic location. Why did ancient people say that the battle of the End of Days will be Megiddo? Due to its importance, Megiddo was conquered 25 times! Thus, they said, if there will be an end of the world war, it will probably be in Megiddo.
How do we know that the city was conquered so many times? Besides written sources, excavations revealed 26 layers of ruins. Therefore, I would strongly recommend using a guided tour when visiting this site. Otherwise, understanding what ruins belongs to what period is pretty impossible. During one of our visits, we joined a 10 am Saturday free tour.
What does Megiddo mean?
All sources that I found (including Wikipedia, Britannica, and others) suggest the same. And it is that Armageddon is a combination of two words: Har Megiddo. Har in Hebrew means mountain or, in our case Tel. Thus Armageddon is Tel Megiddo. But when I was trying to understand what is the meaning of the word Megiddo, there was no consensus. Wikipedia suggests that Tel Megiddo means “The Tell of the Governor,” but there are no resources, and I have not found any other sources that support this theory.
Megiddo In The Bible
The name Megiddo appears 12 times in the Bible. And the city of Megiddo was in the tribe of Menashe and is mentioned in the context of the tribe’s failure to inherit the city. In the days of King Solomon, the city became the governor’s center. Additionally, it is mentioned in the context of the construction activities that Solomon carried out in the city. Assyrian and Aramaic sources also mention Megiddo.
Here are several of the mentions:
The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one;
And Manasseh had in Issachar and Asher Bethshean and her towns, and Ibleam and her towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Endor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even three countries.
Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.
And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the Lord, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.
1 Kings 9:15
You can find the full list here.
For some reason, I do not see any information about tours at the official site. But maybe that is because the guides are volunteers. I have seen tours in Hebrew, English, and Russian, but perhaps there are tours in other languages. I would recommend contacting them before your visit and query regarding guided tours. You can contact by phone at 04-6590316 or by mail at [email protected]
Location, Location, And Location
Tel Megiddo was an important city, and the reason is its strategic location. The head of a pass through the Carmel Ridge overlooks the Jezreel Valley from the west. And whoever controlled Megiddo controlled caravans passing on Via Maris (an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia).
Map from the museum, showcasing the great empires of that age and their trading routes:
Museum and Movie
When entering the site, near parking, there is a small complex of buildings. The house you enter serves as a small store where you can buy souvenirs, ice cream, and entrance tickets. Then you can explore the nearby rooms. Several rooms serve as a small museum, one-room shows movies about this site in different languages, and there is also a quiet area and restrooms.
As we entered the site, we were told that in 15 minutes, a historical movie about Meggido in Hebrew would start. Thus, the first thing I would recommend is to ask about the film in your preferred language (if the guides will not mention it by themselves).
Since we had some time to kill, we started with a visit to the museum.
At that time, horses were integrated into the military and were widely used. You can find the remains of two stables in Tel Megiddo National Park, but we will reach them later.
We watched a ten-minute movie about the history of the site and then played a little with the city’s model.
Near the model, you can find buttons that lift different parts of the model and reveal lower layers.
Ruins of Tel Megiddo
Visiting the museum and the movie took us about half an hour, and then we headed outside to the ruins. The map above has a number for each POI and also suggested a route. If it is your first visit, then I would advise sticking to the route. And that is mainly because the whole site is not big and can easily cover it within two hours.
After a five minute hike from the museum, we reached to point #1.
Number 1 is a water reservoir. You can see the stairs leading to a pool. But, it is still not clear what was the source of the water.
Not sure what’s this bug’s name, but on one of our visits we saw thousands of them:
The Canaanite period
The city gate and Canaanite palace: The main find from the Canaanite period is the city gate (15th century BCE) and the original stone paving from the period that leads to it. Alongside it is the Canaanite palace – the remains of a large structure of rooms built around a central courtyard. In one of the rooms, spectacular items were found, including gold objects, hundreds of pieces of decorated ivory jewelry, and a washroom paved with shells.
Source: unless stated otherwise, all historical quotes were taken from the official site.
One interesting fact is that Tel Hazor National Park and several other places have the same gate. That leads historians to the conclusion that the same government built these gates, the Israelite administration.
The gate from inside:
As you can see, there are rooms on both sides of the entrance. During its construction, the city did not have walls. Thus the purpose of this gate was not defense, and instead, it was a ritual one.
According to the base level, the castle’s size was 30×50 meters, and a collection of decorating ivory that was found here depicts the high status of the ruler.
And we reached #6 – the Northern Stables.
Researchers found the remains of two stables in the city. That means that Megiddo of that era was a city whose primary purpose was horse-trading or supporting the horsemen army.
At Megiddo, two stable complexes were excavated from Stratum IVA, one in the north and one in the south. The southern complex contained five structures built around a lime paved courtyard. The buildings themselves were divided into three sections. Two large stone-paved aisles were built adjacent to the main corridor paved with lime. The buildings were about twenty-one meters long by eleven meters wide.
Separating the main corridor from outside aisles was a series of stone pillars. Holes were bored into many of these pillars so that horses could be tied to them. Also, the remains of stone mangers were found in the buildings. These feeders were placed between the pillars to feed the horses. It is suggested that each side could hold fifteen horses, giving each building an overall thirty horse capacity. The buildings on the northern side of the city were similar in their construction. However, there was no central courtyard. The capacity of the northern buildings was about three hundred horses altogether. Both complexes could hold from 450–480 horses combined.
Researchers excavated this area until the lowest layer. They found 20 layers of different cities. And in the Temple Area, they saw many different Temples from different periods.
The temple area: An interesting site in the “large section” excavated by the early archaeological expeditions at Megiddo. In this area, the earliest remains of the site were found. The temples were used as a ritual site for some 2000 years, until settlement by the Israelites (12th century BCE). In the large section, which was excavated down to the bedrock, more than 20 layers of the settlement were found.
In the right part of the following panorama, you can see the round platform’s remains (diameter of the platforms is 8 meters). Archaeologists found many animal bones, meaning the Canaanite people held many rituals on this platform.
And this is #15, can you guess what it is?
It is a big storage house (7 meters high and 11 meters in diameter). It has two sets of stairs (you can see one of them in the photo).
A broad view of the storage house:
During excavation, researchers found remains of wheat among the wall stones. That led them to believe that this was storage for grain. At this size, you can store 1,000 tonnes of grain.
The storage probably built by one of the last Israeli kings, and some believe that it was made together with the stables to supply food for horses.
The Temple area from another side:
Overview of the Jezreel Valley.
Remains of an office building from the Israelite period (#11).
Remains of a residential house from the Israelite period (#13):
And these are the southern stables (#16). Actually, in the photo, you can see a part of the stables and the entrance to it:
As you can see, archeologists partly restored one building. Initially, there were five such buildings.
The Water System
And now we are reaching, in my opinion, the most impressive construction in Megiddo, The Water System (#20):
The water system probably began as a reservoir in King Solomon’s day, when a path between parallel walls led to the spring outside the city walls. Later, apparently, during Ahab’s time, a more complex system was built to conceal the spring and allow people to draw water without leaving the city walls.
The system includes a 25-meter-deep shaft to bedrock. At the bottom, a 70-meter-long, 3-meter-high tunnel was dug. The shaft floor was lower than the spring, allowing water to flow from the spring to the shaft, where people could draw their water. A wall was built to conceal the location of the spring.
The concrete stairs are the modern ones. And if you take a closer look at the stones to the right, you will be able to see ancient stairs leading down.
Due to the siege possibility, people at Megiddo needed access to water. Thus during the Israelite period, the water system was built. Let’s go 25 meters down:
and some more:
When reaching the bottom, you will see a 70 meters long tunnel:
The tunnel leads to a spring located outside the city. The shaft itself is at a small angle so that the water will flow into the trench.
The tunnel’s exit was closed with a big wall and covered with dirt (for camouflage).
We went through the exit and then followed the road back to the entrance of Tel Megiddo. This walk around the park took us 10 – 15 minutes.
The Earliest Christian Mosaic in Israel
Tel Megiddo National Park is located near Megiddo junction (roads #65 and #66). On another side of the same junction, you can see Megiddo prison.
Recently archaeologists found a stunning mosaic in that prison. It is believed to be the earliest Christian mosaic in Israel. This mosaic is a part of a Roman camp, and it is from the 3rd century. Meaning it was constructed before Romans adopted Christianity (Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, which accepted Christianity, and 10 years later, it had become the official religion).
There are plans to move the prison to another location and create a new park surrounding this exciting finding. But the Coronavirus put this process on hold. Thus in the meanwhile, we can see it only in the following news coverage:
We have visited Megiddo several times by ourselves, and on several other occasions, we joined tours. I enjoyed our visits more during the times we joined the tours. Since there is a lot of history and many archeological layers, I would suggest joining a tour. I saw two types of tours. The first one is Christian oriented (with many quotes from the bible) and the second one is archeology and history-oriented. I mention this since it is better to know which is which before you join.
We have joined the free tours made by volunteers (that I mentioned above), and they are of the second type.
Armageddon is a combination of two words: Har Megiddo. Har in Hebrew means mountain or, in our case Tel. Thus Armageddon means Tel Megiddo.
There is no consensus as to what the word Megiddo means. Wikipedia suggests that Tel Megiddo means “The Tell of the Governor,” but there are no resources, and I have not found any other site that supports this theory.
Megiddo was conquered more than 20 times. Thus, they said, if there will be an end of the world war, it will probably be in Megiddo.
You can visit additional National Parks And Nature Reserves, or you can check out Israel Trip Planner for additional POI in this area. Another option is to check nearby attractions on the map at the beginning of this post.
The word Armageddon appears only once in the Greek New Testament, in the Book of Revelation 16:16: “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.”
Megiddo is situated in Lower Galilee between Afula, Yokne’am, and Umm al-Fahm.
Tel Megiddo National Park is not a big one. And on average, the visits took us about 2.5 hours. But despite its size, it is an important site from both historical and religious perspectives.
Moreover, the smaller dimension makes it suitable for a visit with children. Thus, if you are in the area, I would recommend stopping there with or without your family. Furthermore, check on the official site for free tours, and join one of them.
Have you ever been to Tel Megiddo National Park? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.