The Templars’ Tunnel in Akko is an extraordinary underground passageway built by the Knights Templar (a Christian military order) to connect their main fortress at old Akko’s southwestern tip with the port. It is one of Akko’s most visited sites, with an underground stream and impressive domed ceiling. It is a marvel of ancient ingenuity and a must-visit for anyone going to Akko.
The Templars were a military-monastic order who, in the name of the pope, aided pilgrims coming from Europe to visit the holy sites in the Land of Israel. They first settled in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount, hence their name – “the Templars”, or the guardians of the Temple. Following the conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, the Templars made their home in Akko and began to build their quarter in the city’s southwest side.
The main fortress of the Templar order was built at the western edge of the tunnel. The Templar Fortress was the strongest in the city. Its entrance was protected by two imposing towers with 28-foot thick walls. Two smaller towers were built on either side of the main towers and each was topped with a gilded lion.
Visiting the Templars’ Tunnel
The tunnel is 150 meters long and extends from the Templars’ fortress in the west to the city’s port in the east. It served as a strategic underground passageway that connected the palace to the port. The lower part of the tunnel is carved in the natural stone and its upper part is a semi-barreled dome made of hewn stone. The tunnel was discovered by accident in 1994 by a local plumber.
The Antiquities Authority ultimately made the tunnel available to visitors. The tunnel’s western section was opened to the public in August 1999. From 1999 to 2007, the city continued to expose and rehabilitate
the eastern section of the tunnel and, in 2007, the entire length of the tunnel was made open to the public.
You can enter the tunnel at either end. Tickets to all the Crusader sites are sold at both access points. Inside, buttons along the walls let you start short infographics in either Hebrew or English.
The Templars’ fortress marked the western end of the Templars’ Tunnel. Sadly, this fortress is no longer in existence. The most noticeable monument in the area is the modern lighthouse. Today, western end of the tunnel is situated close to the lighthouse. The eastern end of the tunnel is located in Akko’s southeastern sector, in an area that once was the anchorage of the city’s port. Today, this is the site of the Khan al-Umdan, which was the merchants’ inn used for international trade.