Exploring the Other Side of the Dead Sea–Masada

Masada is the single-most visited archaeological site in Israel. It’s a massive fortress built on top of a rugged rocky crag towering over the Dead Sea. Jonathan the Maccabee first built a fortress here in 150 BC and it was later enlarged by Herod the Great. Masada is best known for its role in the Jewish War (66-70 AD) when it was an outpost of Jewish resistance against the Romans.

Beginning the Ascent

Most visitors here make the pilgrimage to watch the sunrise. We couldn’t book a hotel near enough to make this possible, so we summited in the mid-morning sun, which was fine because it was a great day for it–not too hot. (There’s only one hotel/hostel inside the National Park. If you can’t book a room here, the closest option is about thirty minutes away. Warning: stay away from the Oasis Hotel!). There are three routes to the top of Masada: a cable car (similar to Palm Sprigs’ tram), the Snake Path and the Roman Path. We wanted to hike/walk and took the Snake Path, which was a relatively easy hike that switch-backs up the mountainside along a well maintained trail. It took us a leisurely hour with plenty of water and photo breaks to make it to the top (although I imagine that if you’re hiking in the summer, it has to be much more difficult).

Once you arrive to the top, you are immediately rewarded with stunning 360 degree views of the Dead Sea, the surrounding valley and the remains of the fortress and Herod’s fabulous palace clinging to the edge of the cliff.

The lower terrace of Herod's Northern Palace
In the lower terrace of the Northern Palace

Once you descend, the visitor center is a great place to grab lunch (with an accompanying glass of wine) and to shop–they have a great selection of Dead Sea products and foodstuffs, i.e. honey, wine, spices, teas…(Sorry Nicole, I didn’t buy you anything, nor did I buy myself anything. I was too tired from the hike to shop).

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