Take in a Sunrise at Mt. Masada

Mt. Masada

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.

Pack List

  • Hat
  • Small backpack and Camelbak
  • Light hiking boots or cross-trainers work fine
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
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RT Distance 2.5 Miles
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Groups
Handicap Accessible
Romantic
Scenic

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Must-do in Israel

Masada is worthwhile in itself, but absolutely make the effort to be at the top for sunrise. The desert sunrise over the Dead Sea and the hills of Jordan are spectacular and well worth an early start. The route up (from the highway along the Dead Sea - the "Snake Path" route) is relatively short, but steep. For fit hikers, it takes less than half an hour, but it can take much longer if you have to stop at every switchback. Going at sunrise also saves you from the worst of the heat - be sure to bring a bottle of water even if you're not expecting to be there long. Also note that Birthright trips frequent Masada at sunrise, so if possible plan your trip to avoid being there at the same time (the Birthright trips bring in hundreds of people hiking all at the same time). And since you're already in the area, be sure to float in the Dead Sea afterwards - it's really unique!


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