With the help of G-d Almighty

The Hasmonean Winter Palaces in Jericho
Herod's 3rd Palace - Underfloor heating for the baths' steam room

About the Palaces

The Hasmonean Winter Palaces north of Jericho seen from above
The Hasmonean Winter Palaces seen from above

An impressive relic of the latter, and thoroughly corrupt, generations of the Hasmonean kings, who built for themselves luxurious winter palaces on the western side of Jericho.

The palaces were built in six stages by three kings: Yohanan Hyrcanus(the son of Shimon Ben Matisyahu), his son Alexander Yanai, and finally King Herod who built three palaces, furnished with all the luxurious depravity inspired by his Roman masters.

This is an important and unique archaeological site, which bears witness to the period, but is being choked and compromised by the neighbouring Bedouins.


Based on a Hebrew-language article by Erna Covos

Jericho has been blessed with many heritage sites, amongst them, the Hasmonean Winter Palaces and King Herod’s Third Palace, all part of the same archaeo­logical site.

This site dates from the 2nd Century BCE, and bears unique witness to the life and mores of the late-generation Hasmonean kings. The period is approximately 170 years before the destruction of the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem.

The palaces were built in six stages by three kings:

The first one was Yohanan Hyrcanus, the son of Shimon Ben Matitiahu. He first built the royal farming estate, with fruit trees typical to Jericho – dates, persimmon. Water was brought from the nearby Wadi Kelt. Unfortunately, today the Bedouins living in the area have built the place-up, and the farm can no longer be seen.

He then built a watchtower at the southern end, on the bank of the Wadi Kelt river, opposite the hill where the Kipros fortress is.

He then expanded his estate westwards, and built pools.

The swimming pool at the Hasmonean Palaces outside of Jericho
The large swimming pool at the Hasmonean Palaces

His son Alexander Yannai, expanded his father’s estate and built a uniquely large swimming pool (see picture). He brought water from a number of local fresh-water streams: Nueba, the Diuk source (near the Naaran Synagogue), and the Uja some 7 miles north of Jericho. He also built a pavilion to the south of the swimming pool, to enable his guests to enjoy the sight of the swimmers.

Much later, Aristobulus III, was drowned I this very pool by Herod, before he became king.

After Alexander Yannai’s death, his wife built the twin palaces south of the Pavilion, by deep excavations so as to not block the view out. All this was surrounded by gardens and additional pools.

Mikve in the grounds of the Hasmonean Palaces outside of Jericho
Mikve (ritual bath) with twin communicating
basins in the palace grounds

There are a number of Mikvaot (ritual baths) on the site, with twin communicating basins (see picture), using a principle similar to modern practice.

A synagogue was also built – one of the oldest Second Temple era syna­gogues.

The third palace built by King Herod outside of Jericho
King Herod's 3rd Palace

During his reign, King Herod built three palaces on the site. The Third Palace was the most splendid of them (see picture), and was built by top-class Italian craftsmen - giving it a unique style - after Herod won an architectural prize from the Roman Emperor Octavius.

The Third Palace had the largest festival hall in Israel at the time.

The steam bath of the third palace built by King Herod outside of Jericho
The steam-bath of the 3rd Palace

Next to the festival hall, a large round steam-bath house (see picture) was built.

The Wadi Kelt river crosses the palace grounds. King Herod built an artificial hill on its south bank, as well as a large boating pool in the river itself.

Two severe earthquakes left us enough remains to marvel at, although the Bedouins living in the region are steadily encroaching on this most important archaeological site.

Recent Tours & Events

Tour of the Hasmonean Palaces in Jericho
Hannukah 2018 - Visit to the Hasmonean Palaces

This large archaeological site is always on the tourist circuit during the intermediate days of Pessah and Succoth, and during the eight days of Hannukah.

The visit is usually combined with a visit to the Burial Caves of the 2nd Temple Priests, which is a few miles to the North. Erna Covos, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of place serves as a tour guide.