It is a group of ruins above a village of the same name that is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places located in the West Bank.

A prominent settlement during the Hellenistic and Roman eras, Christians and Muslims knew Sebastia to be the burial site of St John the Baptist. Situated on a hill with panoramic views across the West Bank, the site contains an amphitheater (which once held around 7000 people) and the remains of a Byzantine church.

St John’s grave was desecrated in the mid-4th century and his bones partly burned, with surviving portions taken to Jerusalem and later to Alexandria, Egypt, where they were interred at a Coptic monastery. A mosque complex in the village contains a shrine to St John and a small museum.

Despite obvious neglect (many of the ruins are strewn with trash and some are daubed with graffiti), It is an essential stop on a West Bank itinerary for history buffs. For the less archaeologically inclined, it is a peaceful place to walk among the olive groves and take in sensational views.


Samaria served as the capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel throughout the ninth and eighth century BCE. The Hebrew Bible states that Omri, Israel’s sixth king (reigned between 880 and 870 BCE), paid two talents of silver for a hill owned by a person (or clan) named Shemer and erected Israel’s new capital on its broad peak, replacing Tirzah, Israel’s second city (1 Kings 16:24).

Some biblical historians suggest that the town of Shamir, which the Hebrew Bible claims was the residence of the judge Tola in the 12th century BC, may be the first mention of a village at this area (Judges 10:1–2).

Alexander the Great devastated Samaria in 331 BCE, and Hasmonean monarch John Hyrcanus again destroyed it in 108 BCE.   In 63 BCE, Pompey reconstructed the city. The descendants of Macedonian troops and Hellenized Samaritans are thought to have lived in the city. The Roman theater
King of Judea Herod the Great rebuilt Samaria in 27 BCE.
 In honor of the Roman emperor Augustus, the new city was given the new name “Sebastia.”
 Herod created two temples in the city, one of which was devoted to Augustus and was built on a raised platform on the acropolis, likely drawing inspiration from the Forum of Caesar in Rome. Kore was honored in the second temple.

The Nabi Yahya Mosque, the primary mosque of Sebastia today, is located inside the ruins of a Medieval cathedral that is thought to have been constructed over the tombs of the prophets Elisha, Obediah, and John the Baptist next to the town square. Roman royal tombs, a few medieval, and several structures from the Ottoman era also remain today in an excellent condition of preservation. The nearby Roman theater has also been renovated by Jordanian archaeologists.

The Gush Emunim Israeli settler organization made an effort to build a colony near the Ottoman train station in the latter part of 1976. The Israeli authorities disapproved, and the people who were ejected from the property eventually founded Elon Moreh, a settlement next to Nablus.

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 What can you visit in Sebastia?

  • The Augusteum – Temple of Augustus
  • Omri Citadel
  • The Church of the Invention of the Head of
    St. John the Baptist
  • The Columned Street
  • The City Wall and Gates
  • The Mosque of Prophet Yahia
    (The Crusader Cathedral of St. John)
  • The Domed tomb
  • The Chapel in the Tower
  • The room of the fortification
  • The Great hall


It’s located in the West Bank, around 80km north of Jerusalem and 10 km northwest of Nablus, on a hill at 463m above sea level. Archaeological remains of the ancient city of Samaria have been
uncovered on the summit of the hill and the present village occupies the eastern and southern slopes.

Where To Eat

Palestine’s cuisine is a delectable assortment of colorful and flavorful meals that shares culinary characteristics with Middle Eastern and East Mediterranean locations. Nonetheless, Palestinian cuisine has a distinctive personality of its own that makes it stand out both locally and globally.

The food in Palestine is really diverse. Seasonal medleys that differ from house to home, from city to village, from coast to mainland, and even from north to south. Each governorate takes pride in its uniqueness and particular specialties, which are made with high-quality ingredients.

Given Sebastia’s popularity as a tourist destination, there are plenty of food alternatives there. Restaurants may be found all throughout Manger Square and its neighboring streets, as well as more traditional shawarma joints up in the Old City.

The market also features a section dedicated to fresh produce, which you should visit even if you have no intention of making a purchase just to take in the vibrant, disorganized piles of fruit and vegetables.

Weather and Climate

The climate in Sabastiya stays enjoyable. The Winter season lasts for three months. In the remaining part of the year, the climate is moderate. The hottest months are the months of July and August.


Summers are long, lasting from May to September, with July and August being the hottest months. Temperatures range between 23-36° C (75-96° F) and you can expect 50-90% humidity.  The good news is that there is air-conditioning almost everywhere you go, from buses and taxis to malls and hotels. However, it is really important to prepare for these temperatures, especially when spending time outdoors. Buy good sun protection, wear long but cool clothes and make sure to drink plenty of water.


Autumn is, for the most part, a continuation of the summer weather. It does get a little cooler and the humidity drops, so it is more comfortable.  The season starts in September and at the end of November it starts getting cooler and we might see a little rain, but not too much.  September is usually as warm as summer, but the temperatures in autumn are similar to those of spring and range between 16-24° C (60-75° F).


Depending where you come from you might not even consider the city weather “real winter weather”.  This is the wettest time of the year and temperatures range between 6-15° C (42-60° F). Israeli schools have a winter break for Channukah during December, this usually doesn’t affect accommodation but activities tend to get crowded. Also, tourists from nearby countries use their winter breaks to enjoy the warmer temperatures in this city.


Spring is between March and May and this is the ideal time to visit this city. You usually won’t see much rain and the temperatures are mild, ranging between 16-24° C (60-75° F), although the nights might still be chilly. Passover falls in April so if you are planning on visiting during this time keep in mind that prices of flights and accommodation will rise and tend to get booked early.

When is the best time to book my flight ?

There are many different factors that effect each route and so the bad news is – no one rule fits all. But, the good news is that Hopper, a Boston-based start up that analyses flight data and predicts the best time to book a specific flight is doing a great job (they are right 95% of the time), so we suggest checking out their predictions for your flight.

What is the cheapest time to fly ?

the high season is from June to August, so those will obviously be the most expensive months to fly to this area. Now, the cheapest month may fluctuate, and the reason for that is that Jewish holidays do not always fall in the same month, for example, one year Passover may fall in March and the next it will be in April.  


“Sebastia, isn’t that dangerous?”  It is not dangerous, because of all the security, the city is probably one of the safest cities .the city is actually relatively safe. Bad reputation is the last thing it’s needs. The roads are secure. It is a lovely location.

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