The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Masada, an ancient fortress built by King Herod the Great, dates back to 37 BC. It’s location on a cliff overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea is a spectacular spot from which to watch the sunrise.
Ride the cable car up to Masada or hike the Roman Ramp or the Snake Path. At the top, explore remnants of Roman encampments, synagogues, homes, and ruins of Herod’s Palace complex, with its ancient bathhouses and well-preserved mosaics. Most impressive are the views, which span the vast Judean Desert and the Dead Sea.
Full-day tours to Masada run from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, or Herzliya, and typically combine a visit to the mountaintop fortress with a soak in the Dead Sea and a hike through the nearby Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Snake route is the most popular and easily accessible hiking route to Masada and takes around 45 minutes, but it’s a steep uphill climb with many steps.
- Wear comfortable shoes, and bring sunscreen and plenty of water, especially if you plan on hiking; temperatures can reach 100°F (38°C) in the summer months.
- The cable car and viewpoints at Masada are fully wheelchair accessible, although some of the ruins may be tricky to reach.
How to Get There
To reach Masada, take bus 486 from Jerusalem or Ein Gedi, or bus 421 from Tel Aviv. Or, travel on either Road 90, which runs along the coast of the Dead Sea, or Road 3199 from Arad by taxi or private vehicle. There’s a parking lot near the Masada Visitor Center at the bottom of the cliff, from where you can set out by cable car or the Snake Path.
When to Get There
Sunrise is the best time to watch stunning views from the mountaintop, and an early start is recommended to avoid the midday heat, especially during the summer months (June–August). On Tuesday and Thursday evenings between March and August, the open-air theater on the western side of Masada holds a sound and light show, which tells the story of the ancient fortress.
History of Masada
In AD 68, Jews took over the fortress of Masada to seek refuge from the Romans. They held out for several years, until the Romans used a ramp to reach the fortress. Once defeat was inevitable, around 960 Jews chose mass suicide over captivity. Today, the Israeli people look at the fortress as a symbol of bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of adversity.