A Masada sunrise hike is a must when in Israel.
The Masada is perhaps Israel’s most interesting archeological site. It can be easily visited on a day trip from Jerusalem (and even from Tel Aviv) and paired with other unmissable attractions such as the Dead Sea (in fact, you can see the Dead Sea from the Masada) and Ein Gedi Reserve.
A Masada sunrise visit is a fantastic experience – provided you are up for a bit of a challenge, as the cable car that goes all the way to the site doesn’t work at that time of day.
This post intends to be a quick and easy guide for a Masada sunrise visit, with plenty of information to make the most of your time there, tips on the best sunrise tours, practical information and suggestions for nearby attractions. Let me start by sharing some background information about the Masada.
In a rush? Book your Masada sunrise tour with Abraham Tours here.
Some Background Information About The Masada
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Masada has a truly interesting and unique history. The site became known for one of the most tragic sieges in history – the siege of Masada.
The first historian to write about the Masada is Josephus Flavius, who was the governor of Galilee during the great rebellion of the 1st century AC. He claimed that the first fort of the Masada was built by Jonathan the High Priest. However, no remains dating to those time were ever found.
Thanks to its advantageous position, Herod picked the Masada as his winter residence to escape the cold weather of Jerusalem, and increased its security by building a fort as well as storage rooms and water cisterns.
Around 100 years after the death of Herod, in 66 AC, at the time of the rebellion of the Jews against the Roman oppressors, a group of Jews known as the Zealots sought refuge in the Masada. Once Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 AC, they started turning their attention to the Masada, where a community of around 960 Jewish rebels resided.
Led by Flavius Silva, 8000 Roman soldiers built a series of camps around the mountain where the Masada is located (the remains are still visible today), and a ramp on the site of the mountain that they could use to attack the fortress.
After having attempted to get inside for more than three years, once they finally got in, in April 73 AC, the Roman soldiers found a desolate place: all the inhabitants of the Masada were dead.
Indeed, knowing that there was no way they could still resist the attack of the Roman army, the Zealots decided to commit suicide. The history became known as seven persons (two women and five children) managed to escape by hiding in the cisterns, and told the story to the Roman army.
Continue reading to discover how to make the most of your Masada sunrise visit.
A Masada Sunrise Guide
There are three ways to reach the Masada, but not all of them are available at sunrise. You can get to the Masada by hiking the Masada Snake Path. Alternatively you can walk the Roman Ramp. And if you don’t care about a Masada sunrise experience, you can opt for the cable car. Continue reading for more information on each way to reach the Masada fortress.
The Masada Snake Path
The Masada Snake Path starts at around 300 meters below sea level and takes you to the top of the mountain where the Masada is located. This is by far the most rewarding way of reaching the Masada, and the only real option if you want for a Masada sunrise visit.
The trail is a combination of hard dirt, loose rocks and stone steps. It is about 2 km long, and goes along the side of the mountain. This is not a hard hike at all if you are an experienced hiker and exercise regularly.
It will take you between 45 and 60 minutes to walk the snake path all the way to the top – the actual time depends on your pace and on how often you stop to catch your breath and to take photos.
Once you reach the fortress, the views are incredible. I recommend you head straight to one of the view points so that you can enjoy the views of the Dead Sea, all the way across Jordan in the distance.
After that you can start wandering around the Masada. Chances are that there won’t be that many people at that time of day (most visitors opt for the easy way of taking the cable car). As you won’t have a guide, you need to get hold of a map of the site and take a good guide book with you to get at least some basic facts.
Make sure to look for the cisterns, the old warehouse that was turned into a synagogue by the Zealots, the Byzantine church. Facing west, you’ll also be able to spot the remains of the camps build by the Roman army at the time of the siege.
Once you are done exploring you have the option of walking the Masada Snake Path all the way back down the visitors center (calculate around one hour to walk down), or to take the cable car. The overall visit normally lasts about three hours.
GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind that during the summer months Israel can get very hot, and even more so in this part of the country. Expect to take longer to reach the top, and make sure to bring lots of water.
The Roman Ramp
The Roman Ramp is a much quicker option than the Masada Snake Path. It will take you between 20 and 25 minutes to climb all the way up from this path that is located on the western side of the Masada. The ramp is not directly accessible from the main road getting to the Masada National Park. You can get there if you have your own car, or alternatively you will have to walk there from the main gate. It takes about one hour though – so you may as well walk the snake path!
The cable car
The easiest way to get to the Masada is by riding the cable car that started operating in 1971. It literally takes minutes to get to the fortress, and the views during the ride are incredible. However, keep in mind that the cable car won’t be working before 8:00 am – so you can’t use it to get to the site in time for the sunrise.
Practical Information For Visiting The Masada
The cost of visiting the Masada
You need to pay a ticket to get inside Masada National Park. The price varies depending on which ticket you get. This is a breakdown of the costs. All the prices listed are for adults and in Israeli Shekels (NIS).
Masada entry fee without cable car NIS 31
Cable car one way NIS 28
Cable car round trip NIS 46
If you plan to reach the site via the Masada snake path, you will have to pay NIS 31 (around $9 USD). If you decide to take the cable car down (this helps you save time if you intend to visit other nearby attractions) you have to add NIS 28 (around $8), so the total price will be NIS 59 (around $17 USD).
The Masada is open throughout the year, but the opening time vary between the winter and the summer season.
Summer opening hours: Saturdays to Thursdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm; Fridays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Winter opening hours: Saturdays to Thursdays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm; Fridays from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
How to get to the Masada
There are several ways to reach the Masada: you can rent a car, hire a taxi, use public transportation or go on a guided tour that includes transportation (more about guided tours of Masada below).
The Masada is at about 100 km from Jerusalem. Public bus 486 connects Jerusalem to the Masada five times per day from Sunday to Thursday, so on those days you can get there by public transportation.
PLEASE NOTE: There are no public buses from Jerusalem to the Masada on Fridays and Saturdays.
From Tel Aviv
It takes between two and two and a half hours to get from Tel Aviv to the Masada. The best way to get there is by car or on a guided tour. Bus 421 connects Tel Aviv to the Masada, but this is honestly not a good option as it takes too long and you’d end up having too little time at the site.
The best Masada sunrise tours
If you want to visit the Masada at sunrise, unless you have a car there is no other option than going on a guided tour departing from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I honestly recommend doing the tour so that you don’t have to worry about driving in the wee hours of the day, and you can just snooze while someone else does the driving.
The best Masada sunrise tours are run by Abraham Tours – you can book them here. The tours depart at around 2:00 or 3:00 am from Tel Aviv and at around 3:00 or 4:00 am from Jerusalem, depending on the season. You will get to the Masada entry point at around 4:45 am (in the winter time), in time to start hiking to see the sunrise.
Guided Masada sunrise tours include transportation but don’t cover the entry fee for the Masada.
The tour is not guided – you get a driver that gives you some basic information about the sites you are visiting, and that coordinates the timings and movements from one place to another. The tour also goes to Ein Gedi Reserve and to the Dead Sea, so you get to see three of the best attractions in Israel in just one day.
This is honestly an excellent tour. I have done other tours of the Masada and the Dead Sea where I was pushed around the site in a terrible rush and ended up spending a whopping hour at a Dead Sea cosmetics factory – what a waste of time!
TIP: If you do a Masada tour at sunrise, make sure to bring water and some food for the day.
If you are not an early riser and are not interested in hiking, you can opt to do a more classic also with Abraham. You can book it here.
What to wear and carry when visiting the Masada
Wearing comfortable clothes and shoes is important when visiting the Masada, especially if you are hiking the Masada snake path. Another thing to keep in mind is that this part of Israel is significantly warmer than the rest of the country, and gets incredibly hot in the summer months.
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes – either a pair of light hiking shoes or TropicFeel walking shoes if you want something even lighter. Wear a hat – especially on warmer days and make sure to bring enough water for the hike and the visit. Apply a good dose of sunscreen as soon as the sun is out.
Remember to take a torch or headlight with you as you will start hiking in the dark.
If you are doing a tour that also comprises Ein Gedi Reserve and the Dead Sea make sure to also carry a swimsuit, sandals or flip-flops and a light towel.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and the Dead Sea are two places that you can easily reach after your Masada sunrise visit.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
Ein Gedi is a truly wonderful place, where you’ll be able to admire some unique wildlife. The park is home to several hiking trails that will take you to gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes where you can find a quiet spot to relax in the shade. You won’t really have time to hike too much if you are on a tour of the Masada – just follow the main trail to all the nicest waterfalls and mark down the place for a future visit.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The entry fee for Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is NIS 28. It is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm from April to September; and from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm from October to March.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is one of the most fun places to visit in Israel, and visits are often combined with tours of the Masada. This is the lowest place on earth – more than 400 meters below sea level; and the water is so salty that you can only float on it and not swim.
Scattered along the shores of the Dead Sea you will find several beaches – some private and some public – and resorts where you can relax and spend a few hours enjoying the benefits of the Dead Sea muds and salts. You will have to pay close attention to the guidelines for visiting, which are worth repeating here:
- Don’t run in or near the water: it can be very slippery and muddy, and the last thing you want is falling in the water. Depending on the area, there is also sharp salt rocks near the water which may cut you!
- Wear flip flops to get as close as possible to the water.
- Don’t put your face in the water: you’ll badly burn your eyes and lips!
- Don’t taste the water.
- Avoid getting in the water if you have just shaved or if you have a wound: the salt in the water will sting your skin!
Further readings about Israel
Are you planning a trip to Israel? Make sure to read my other posts:
- The 10 Best Places To Visit During A Trip To Israel
- A Complete Guide To Israeli Food
- 29 Things To Do In Jerusalem You Can’t Miss
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of Jerusalem
- What You Must Know Before Visiting Temple Mount And Dome Of The Rock
- What You Need To Know About Shabbat In Jerusalem
- 9 Fantastic Day Trips From Jerusalem
- 21 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Tel Aviv
- The 13 Best Day Trips From Tel Aviv
- Where To Stay In Tel Aviv: Recommendations By An Almost Local
- Tel Aviv Vegan Food Guide: The Best Vegan Restaurants In Tel Aviv
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Haifa, Israel
- 17 Truly Unmissable Things To Do In Eilat, Israel
- Everything You Need To Know To Hike The Jesus Trail
Legal Disclaimer: My Adventures Across The World contributor Elisabetta Tavani was a guest of Abraham Tours during her tour of the Masada and thanks them for the great experience. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are honest and without any bias.