Hiking Masada at sunrise is a spectacular experience that should not be missed in Israel.
HIKING MASADA IN SUNRISE
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Climbing Masada at sunrise awards hikers with the most breathtaking moments and jaw-dropping landscapes in Israel.
Hiking Masada for sunrise is one of the best day trips from Jerusalem and the best day trips from Tel Aviv you can treat yourself in Israel.
Sunrise at Masada is almost a mystical experience.
Places like Masada provoke deep thoughts. And, moments like sunrise at Masada challenge you with self-reflection questions.
Watching the Dead Sea giving birth to the sun of a new day from a mountain top in the barren Judean desert looks otherworldly. And the change of the colors of the landscapes as the sun rises looks like magic that transforms the panoramic Masada views into unnatural beauty.
But let me first make a short introduction to Masada, Mount Masada, Masada fortress, and the famous Masada story to understand the geographical position, historical background, and, finally and most importantly, the meaning of Masada to Israelis and humanity in general.
I hiked Masada on my trip to Israel. If you would like to tailor your trip according to mine, I suggest reading my 10 Day Israel Itinerary
Masada day tours from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv:
Viator: Masada and the Dead Sea Day Trip from Jerusalem, and Masada and the Dead Sea Day Trip from Tel Aviv
GetYourGuide: Masada at Sunrise, Ein Gedi & Dead Sea Day Trip from Jerusalem, and Masada at Sunrise, Ein Gedi & Dead Sea Day Trip from Tel Aviv
1. WHAT IS MASADA AND WHERE IS MASADA
Masada is a fortress on a huge isolated mountain plateau in the Judean desert in Israel facing the Dead Sea and the Moab mountains in Jordan.
‘Masada‘ in the Hebrew language literally means ‘fortress‘.
But Masada is more than a fortress. Masada is a symbol of Jewish freedom. And not only Jewish, but Masada is also a universal symbol of the human fight against oppression.
The story of Masada begins with Herod the Great who built the fortress on an isolated hilltop in the Desert of Judea around 30 BC. Herod the Great was the king of Judaea from 37 BC – 4 BC. Later Judea became a Roman province and the place of many Jewish – Roman unrests. But the secluded location of Masada gave a strategic position and peaceful shelter to many Jews.
In Herod’s time, the Masada complex had palaces (the Northern and Western Palace), a storeroom, a synagogue, a bathhouse, and a swimming pool.
Masada’s water supply was managed by a system of aqueducts and cisterns with water storage that had the capacity of supplying 1.000 people for 2-3 years. As a matter of fact, the complex was an extravagant imperial retreat in the arid and desolated Judean desert.
In 73 AD 960 Jewish patriots committed mass suicide during the Masada siege as a rebel against Rome.
They have chosen death instead of slavery. Over time Masada has become a symbol of Jewish pride and hope.
Today Masada is a UNESCO site in Israel. 2001 UNESCO inscribed Masada on the list of World Heritage sites as a universal symbol of the human fight against oppression.
Clearly, Masada has become a top tourist attraction in Israel. And Masada hiking is one of the top things to do in Israel. Whatever you are: a nature lover who enjoys scenic views, a history aficionado, a hiker … in any case, a Masada visit should be on your Israel itinerary.
How far is Masada from Jerusalem?
Masada is an hour and a half drive from Jerusalem.
How far is Masada from Tel Aviv?
Masada is about 2 hours and 15 min drive from Tel Aviv.
2. MASADA STORY
Masada became the headquarter of Jewish rebels against Romans in 66 AD during the Great Jewish Revolt against Romans. Hundreds of Jews escaped from Jerusalem to Masada in 70 AD, during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem.
In 73 AD historic siege of Masada happened. 8.000 Roman troops attacked the fortress. When the conquer of the fortress was about to happen, Jews decided to kill themselves instead of getting into the hands of the conqueror. They divided themselves into groups of 10 people. One of 10 was chosen to kill the other 9 and in the end kill themselves. But how they were killed? They were slaughtered. According to ancient Jewish law, suicide was a sin. Therefore, only 1 of 10 was allowed to make the sin in order to ‘free’ the other 9 of the sin.
960 people at Masada have chosen death instead of slavery. They left all the food behind them as evidence they have not done it because of necessity but rather as a choice.
The act of Jewish Zealots is praised as an act of heroism, agony, and bravery. Today Masada is a place of Jewish pilgrimage. Masada symbolizes the end of the Kingdom of Judea.
RELATED READ: Holy sites in Israel and the West Bank
The Masada complex was forgotten for the remote location in the Judean Desert for the next 13 centuries. It was rediscovered in the late 19th century.
3. HIKING MASADA
The best time to hike Masada to enjoy the sublime beauty of Masada landscapes is at sunrise. I have hiked Masada at sunrise and I would recommend Masada hike for sunrise to all! Masada in sunrise is out of this world.
But actually when and which way you will choose to get to the top of Masada depends on your preferences, the schedule on your Israel itinerary, and your personal fitness level.
I did my Masada hike in late October and went for a sunrise. The sunrise started around 5: 30 am. October is a perfect month for visiting Israel. The summer heat is gone, and the rains have not started yet. Of course, it was an ideal time to hike Masada as well. I have visited Masada on my own, reaching Masada from the west entrance and coming by car from Jerusalem. I have hiked the Roman Ramp and can highly recommend it to everyone.
There are 2 ways of hiking up, but 3 ways of getting up to the top of Masada:
Hiking Masada by the Snake Path
Masada Snake Path goes on the east side of Mt Masada. You need to come to the main, east Masada entrance to take the Masada Snake trail. A hike up by Masada Snake Path takes about 60 min on average. The hike down lasts about 40-50 min. Masada National Park officially opens 1 hour before sunrise. It means that you can start climbing the Snake Path one hour before sunrise. In summer the path usually closes around 10 am because of the summer heat of the desert. The Snake Path starts at 400 m below sea level reaching the Masada fortress which stands at 58 m above sea level. The Path is about a 2 km long mix of wavy hills and staircases. Hiking Masada by the Snake Path is actually a moderate hike, but it can be hard if you hike it in summer because of the heat.
Hiking Masada by the Roman Ramp
Masada Roman Ramp goes on the west side of the mountain. It is the shorter and steeper way up. It is the original ramp made by Romans during the Siege of Masada. Hiking Masada by the Roman Ramp takes about 30 min to the top. Roman Ramp Masada is the fastest way to hike Masada. There’s a parking lot at the foot of the mountain and next to the beginning of Masada Roman Ramp, but driving the route from the Dead Sea side to this west entrance is quite a long and roundabout route.
Getting to the top of Masada by cable car
The cable car runs on the east side of the mountain and above the Snake Path. It goes from the main eastern entrance. A ride to the top of Masada takes only 5 min and the cable car leaves every 15 min. Working hours of the cable car are from 8 am – 4 pm from Sunday to Saturday. Unfortunately, because it starts running at 8 am you can’t use it for the sunrise at Masada. A one-way cable car ticket costs 29 NIS.
4. TIPS FOR HIKING MASADA
Here’s a checklist of the items for hiking Masada. Some of them are necessary and some are beneficial depending on the season you climb Masada (winter or summer):
- check the sunrise time and Masada weather forecast
- wear good hiking shoes (sneakers or athletic sandals in summer)
Recommended women’s hiking shoes: Salomon Trail Runner and Salomon Trail Runner & Recommended men’s hiking shoes: Solomon Lightweight Hiking Shoe
RELATED: 15 Top Womens’ Hiking Boots
- wear a comfortable outdoor outfit
- and bring a flashlight – if you hike for sunrise, keep in mind it’s going to be dark before Masada sunrise
- take with you a bottle of water – if you do your Masada climb in summer, keeping yourself hydrated is essential. Please note that you can refill the bottle at the top
- put sunscreen on your face and wear a hat – protect yourself if you hike in summer. The desert heat in summer can be extraordinarily strong.
- bring a jacket – for hikes to Masada in winter you should bear in mind that at the top can be windy; dress in layers taking into account the temperatures
- have some snacks with you – a muesli bar, fresh or dried fruit. Yes, you will need them. Hiking takes energy. And, if you go for a Masada sunrise hike from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem you will get up pretty early (around 1 am-2 am) and most likely will need to have some snacks.
- take a camera – to take spectacular Masada photos on your Masada trip. Nikon D3500 does great work
- take good binoculars like Bushnell Falcon Binoculars – you will enjoy Masada landscapes!
- put all your stuff in a good quality daypack like Osprey Day Pack
5. GETTING TO MASADA
There are two options to get to Masada: on your own by car or taking one of the popular tours to Masada.
Getting to Masada on your own
If you are planning to visit Masada on your own, you should know that the nearest places to Masada are Arad, Ein Gedi, and Ein Bokek. Masada NP is about 12 miles (20 km) north of Arad, 11 miles (18 km) south of Ein Gedi, and 7 miles (12 km) south of Ein Bokek.
West Masada entrance and Roman Masada Ramp are reachable from Arad. Eastside of Masada, where is the main entrance and the Snake Path, is reachable from Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi.
Masada is 118 miles (190 km) southeast of Tel Aviv and 65 miles (104 km) south of Jerusalem.
Getting to Masada by sunrise Masada tours
Popular Masada sunrise tours go from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Masada sunrise tours usually leave Tel Aviv at 2 am (3 am in winter) and Jerusalem at 3 am (at 4 am in winter) and arrive at the foot of Masada at 5:30 am (6.30 am in winter). The tours allow 3 hours on the site on average. After visiting Masada the tours often go to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi to spend the rest of the day.
Sunrise Masada tours:
Viator: the Dead Sea, Masada at Sunrise & Ein Gedi Nature Reserve Tour from Jerusalem
GetYourGuide:Masada at Sunrise, Ein Gedi & Dead Sea Day Trip from Jerusalem and Masada at Sunrise, Ein Gedi & Dead Sea Day Trip from Tel Aviv
I didn’t take a tour. I did my Masada hike on my own, and I also went to the Dead Sea after hiking Masada. It is nice to float in the Dead Sea, treat yourself to the healing water of the Dead Sea, and nurse your body with the therapeutic mud of the Dead Sea after a sunrise hike to Masada.
6. MASADA FEES
NP Masada entrance fee: 28 NIS
Masada entrance fees
- the main eastern entrance from the Dead Sea + 2-way cable car: 76 NIS (adult), 44 NIS (children, Israeli citizens)
- the main eastern entrance from the Dead Sea + 1-way cable car: 58 NIS (adult), 30 NIS (children, Israeli citizens)
- 1-way cable car: 29 NIS (adult), 15 NIS (children, Israeli citizens)
- 2-way cable car: 47 NIS (adult), 29 NIS (children, Israeli citizens)
- the main eastern entrance + climbing the Snake Path: 29 NIS (adult), 15 NIS (children, Israeli citizens)
NP Masada opening hours: 5:30 am
7. BEST TIME TO VISIT MASADA
Israel has two seasons: summer and winter.
Summer in Israel lasts from April to September, while winter in Israel lasts from October to March.
Winter daily temperatures at Masada go from 10ºC, the lowest temperature in October, to 25ºC, the highest temperature in March. Summer daily temperatures at Masada go from 18ºC, the lowest temperature in April, to 37º C, the highest temperature in September.
I visited Israel in October and hiked Masada in a late October sunrise.
It was a perfect time to visit Israel and hike Masada. Daily temperatures in October in Israel were around 77ºF (25ºC) in most of the country, but still very hot in the Dead Sea area. The sunrise temperature at Masada was about 70ºF (21ºC).
• NP Masada visiting hours:
8 am – 5 pm Sat -Thu; 8 am – 4 pm Fri (April – Sep)
8 am – 4 pm Sat – Thu; 8 am – 3 pm Fri (Oct-Mar)
• Cable car hours: 8 am – 4 pm (Sat – Thu), 8 am – 2 pm (Fri)
Masada National Park is open on Shabbat. Keep in mind that on Shabbat most things are closed in Israel. The Shabbat lasts from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Therefore, depending on your Israel itinerary, I would suggest scheduling a sunrise hike to Masada on Saturday morning.
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Wednesday 23rd of January 2019
Wow! What spectacular landscape and photos, though the story was even more intriguing. I was not familiar with Masada until reading your story. How sad, but truly heroic, as well.
Wednesday 23rd of January 2019
Oh, the number of times I've tried to get myself to do sunrise hikes but failed to wake up so early to start! I always look at amazing pictures such as yours and then plan one but don't get around to doing it. Good to know that there are other options to get to the top of Masada for lazy people like me - such as the cable car. Even the Roman ramp looks pretty cool!
Wednesday 23rd of January 2019
What amazing views! Your photos are stunning. I think it would be so rewarding to hike up for the sunrise but I might opt for the cable car.
Tuesday 22nd of January 2019
OMG your photos are so stunning. They are breathtaking themselves. I can only imagine what it would be like to see the sunrise in person.
The history of Masada is so interesting I am so glad you shared it with us. Headquarters for the Jewish rebellion.
The hikes to the top look rewarding, but I’ll take the cable car :)
Tuesday 22nd of January 2019
Wow! I have been to Masada but I took the lift. It didn’t even occur to me to hike up but I bet that was mystical and really brought home all the history. What a great memory