Added by Jared Blitz
Masada is infamous for its sunrise. It starts off with vibrant blues, purples, and pinks before turning everything on the mountain gold, including the Dead Sea that lies below.
Before it was known for its sunrise, Masada was an ancient fortress atop a mountain plateau constructed under the rule of King Herod the Great sometime between 37 and 31 BCE. Long story short, as the story goes Masada fell to the Romans in 73 CE after the Jewish Zealots running the fortress slayed their own women and children before committing suicide rather than being overtaken by the enemy and enslaved or murdered.
Since I wasn't responsible for the logistics of this iconic hike, I'm including directions from Wikitravel. It states:
"Most people access Masada from the eastern side near Road 90, which runs down the Israeli coast of the Dead Sea. The less used option is Road 3199 from Arad to the western side. The road ends at a parking lot, from which there is a comparatively easy 15-20 minute ascent to the top.
By bus you can get to Masada with line 486 from Jerusalem or Ein Gedi or with line 421 from Tel Aviv Arlozorov - Terminal 2000 via Ein Bokek (Dep. 09:00 Su-F and 12:00 M-Th from Tel Aviv, 13:13 Su-F and 16:13 M-Th from Masada, 2h40, ₪84.20 return). The buses stop at the main entrance from Road 90, and the price is quite expensive (₪40 from Jerusalem, ₪36 with a student discount)."
I approached from the aforementioned west side of the mountain, which is the easy 15-20 minute hike. That is probably the way I'd recommend ascending since the whole reason is to watch the sunrise. The sunrise really is as magical as everyone says. It was one of the more memorable experiences I have had hiking in the early morning. Overlooking the Dead Sea (that is rapidly disappearing due to drought) adds to the experience if you're interested in the history of the area.
Prior to leaving, you can walk around and see old bath houses and other architecture that archaeologists have uncovered and preserved. The engineering is really impressive considering the historical era and how difficult it is to get water on top of a mountain in the desert.
When you're done exploring Masada, hike down the 2.5 mile "Snake Path" along the mountainside. Basically, it's 2.5 miles of switchbacks. The difficulty only lies in the fact that switchbacks are boring and you're fully exposed to the sun, so if you're hiking during the summer it can be a little rough. The end does offer another treat, however, with a couple of fresh-squeezed juice bars waiting for your business, offering a cheap (I remember it being roughly 50 cents US for about 20 oz) reprieve from the heat.
If you don't feel like hiking down there is a cable car you can ride for about $20US.
- Small backpack and Camelbak
- Light hiking boots or cross-trainers work fine
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