Masada – is an ancient fortification occupying a strategic, magnificent location of an isolated rock plateau, similar to a mesa. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an incredible place and story of bravery, revolution, survival and honor.
History of Masada
King Herod, whose architectural feats have left an indelible mark throughout the country, built two palaces for himself on Masada and added fortifications to it between 37 and 31 CE.
A group of zealots took refuge in the Masada desert fortress during the Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE) and withstood the Romans for three years. Eventually the Romans built an assault ramp up one side of the hill allowing them to deploy superior troops and technology. On the night before the inevitable Roman victory, the defenders committed mass suicide to avoid capture. Masada has been extensively excavated and even food stores were found!
Masada has passed into modern Israeli as a classic narrative and a symbol of independence, honor and the good fight — Masada will not fall again!
The well-preserved remains of Masada have been carefully and laboriously reconstructed in an effort to pay homage and respects to the site and the heroes that once resided in it. King Herod’s northern palace remains the most impressive structure on the site. It was built on three rock terraces that overlook the valleys below.
Follow the black lines on the building — they show the extent of archaeological restoration above the historical remains. There are some impressive mosaic floors.
Climbing and descending Masada
There are two ways to go up and down Masada – the simplest is the cable car ride; but for the more adventurous there is the legendary “snake path.” Be reminded, though, that Masada is a very high place, so it would not be an easy climb but not impossible, either. No strollers and plenty of water. The “classic” way is to wake up before dawn and make the climb in the cool of first light – reaching the top in time to enjoy the sunrise over the Dead Sea from the top of Masada.
When is the best time to climb Masada?
Anyone can climb Masada at any time of the day, but most visitors like to go there at sunrise, which has become a sort of tradition. Once on the top, people will get to enjoy spectacular views of the Moab Mountains and the Dead Sea.
Many companies offer Masada climbing tours that are combined with other activities ranging from a morning yoga session in Masada to a wellness tour at the nearby Dead Sea, to enhance the experience.
There is a youth hostel and also a very basic camping grounds — but this is the desert!!
Getting to Masada
Masada is just off road 90 and is also served by several buses, including routes 486 and 421.
See Masada Reserve
See also Nature Reserves
Masada Sound & Light Show
There is a sound and light show at Masada, which is presented against the dramatic backdrop of Masada’s western side.
Note that the access is not from the main Dead Sea road (90). You must drive down the completely unconnected road from the general direction of Arad.