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Ashdod Ecological Park and Ashdod-Yam Fortress

Ashdod has a number of nicely set up beaches, although none have breakwaters. Consider a walk through the Ecological Park, which includes the Ashdod-Yam fortress. Kids will also appreciate the Lachish River Park and its animal exhibits. There is no payment to enter this park.

Ashdod Ecological Park and Ashdod-Yam Fortress:

Ancient Ashdod was one of the Pentapolis, the five major Philistine strongholds on the Mediterranean coast. Prior to this, in the 17th century BCE, it was a fortified Canaanite city and after the Philistine period it was Judean, Hasmonean, Roman and then Byzantine. Tel Ashdod has been excavated, but most of the ruins were covered over to protect them and the whole area is closed off.  So, not worth visiting. However, there is a unique museum in Ashdod that covers just the Philistine period.

 

There was also another ancient city on the coast about 5 Km from Tel Ashdod called Ashdod-Yam (Ashdod-on-the-Sea) and this is located in the southern part of modern-day Ashdod. Ashdod and Ashdod-Yam were interconnected but distinct from each other. By the Byzantine period, Ashdod-Yam had overshadowed the more inland Ashdod, although both cities are identified in the 6th century Madaba map in Jordan.

 

The fortress of Ashdod-Yam is adjacent to a nature conservation park along the coast and both can be conveniently visited together. At the end of the hike, also consider taking a swim at the adjacent Be’er Sheva Beach.

 

The city of Ashdod was named after the Philistine city of Ashdod, although the tel is about 6 Km from the city center. Modern-day Ashdod was conceived at the same time as its port and shortly after the formation of the state. The first huts were built on its sand hills in 1956.

 

From its beginnings, Ashdod was planned to be big and it is now the sixth largest city in Israel. Each neighborhood was designed to be a separate but inter-connected entity with its own administrative center and parks. Ashdod port accounts for some 60% of the goods passing through Israel. Its tourist attractions were also carefully planned.

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Time: About 1¾ hour for the Coastal Loop

Distance: 3¾ Km for the Coastal Loop

Directions and parking: Depending on which end you start from, put into Waze “Beer Sheva Beach Ashdod” and click on ”חוף באר שבע אשדוד“ or “Ashdod Yam Fort” (not Ashdod-Yam Park as this is a different place). The advantage of starting at Be’er Sheva Beach is that you can end your hike with a swim. There is blue and white parking at both entrances – so you will have to pay by Pango at both locations. There are no picnic areas with picnic tables in the park or by the fortress.

Type of walk: Circular

Difficulty: With its gentle hills, this hike looks as if it should be very easy. But in actually it is not. This is because the path is loose sand and especially on inclines is quite laborious to walk on. If using sneakers, use only sneakers that the sides are not so low that they will fill up with loose sand easily. The Coastal Path on the beach is actually much easier to walk on if you walk close to the sea, as the sand there is more packed. There is a chance, though, that you will get your shoes wet if you are not careful to avoid the waves on the shore.

Admission: There is no admission fee. There are WCs by the fortress and also on the beach. This is a website with more details about the ecological park.

Fortress.jpeg
Ecological pathway.jpeg
Nice view.jpeg

Using the map at either entrance to the park, decide what loops you would like to do. All the paths are clearly indicated by wooden poles. On the Coastal Pathway you will come to two artificial wetlands and an orchard showing how agriculture was once carried out here. The Orchard Pathway is marked green, but joins up with the blue-marked trail at either end.

 

The Ashdod-Yam Fortress is located just before the entrance to the park. It was built In the Muslim Umayyad period at the end of the 7th CE as one of a series of fortresses built along the coast to protect the coastal area from Crusader attack. This particular fortress was built on the ruins of a Byzantine settlement. It was reconstructed by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. It continued in use until the Mameluke period and then abandoned. The nearby port was destroyed during the Muslim period to prevent it being used by the Crusaders. The city itself became covered in sand, although the ruins of the fortress are still standing and are fairly intact. It has a rectangular structure, with gates on its western aspect facing the sea and its eastern aspect. There are towers at each end and on both sides of the two gates. In the center of the fortress is a courtyard surrounded by domed rooms. You can climb up stone steps by the gate to an observation area. The fortress is sometimes used for concerts.

Other activities in Ashdod:

 

​All the 6 beaches in Ashdod have the blue flag designation, one of the world’s most recognized voluntary awards for beaches, showing that they meet strict environmental, safety and accessibility criteria. The beaches in Ashdod do not have surf breakers and depending on the weather conditions, the waves can be quite fierce. (Note that a significant number of deaths are reported from drowning in beaches in the Israeli Mediterranean and Lake Kinneret, predominantly although not exclusively by using unauthorized beaches without lifeguards or through after-hour use of beaches when there is no lifeguard).

Lachish River Park. This park is along the southern bank of the Lachish Stream. The path is suitable for a stroller and wheelchair. It has green lawns and boating, and a range of animals in fenced-off areas. These include antelopes, zebras, deer, ostriches, rams, ibex, deer and others. The animal exhibits are not as comprehensive as a regular zoo and not as expansive as a regular safari. The animals are identified, although there is little other educational material. However, the kids are sure to enjoy it. There are benches near the fenced in areas, which is a nice touch. There is no admission charge. Directions: Enter into Waze “Etgarim Lakhish Park.”

 

Ashdod-Yam Park. This is a very large park that extends from the heart of the city to Gandhi Beach. It has lawns, walking paths suitable for strollers and a wheelchair, bicycle routes, rock gardens, skating park, shaded playgrounds, an artificial lake with boat rides, and in the evening a light, water and music show at scheduled times throughout the entire year. There is no admission charge.

The Museum of Philistine Culture. This is a unique museum about the history and culture of the Philistines. See our webpage.

 

Other activities with a fee include: Etgarim Park, Ashdod Museum of Art, the Visitors Center at the port (only with a group).

An excellent web-based guide to activities in Ashdod is the following. Click here.

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