The Masada mountain top desert fortress is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel and sees many tourists on a daily basis. The sunrise hike up to the fortress on top of the Masada Mountain is regarded as one of the best things to do in Israel. So when traveling to Israel soon put this on your bucketlist to see the sunrise over the Dead Sea.
Masada is a kind of table mountain beautifully located on the Dead Sea about 2 hours driving South from Jerusalem. On top you will find ruins of an old palace dating back to Herod The Great from 35 BC. The views over the Dead Sea all the way to Jordan are amazing and worth getting up for in the middle of the night.
History of Masada Israel
Masada is the place were the first Jewish – Roman war was ended with the tragic mass suicide of almost 1,000 Sicarii Rebels that were trapped on Masada Mountain. Herod the Great built himself 2 palaces on top of Masada in 37 BC.
The archeological findings are not in line with the legends of the Romans, but despite that Masada is a place full of history and it possible to tour the ruins of the palaces with a guide for those interested.
If history is your thing then one of my Masada travel tips would be to hire a guide, otherwise these ruins are just like any other pile of stones.
In 2001 Masada was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nowadays apart from the Masada mountain you will find a souvenir shops, cable car and a Masada Museum displaying the archeological findings.
How to get to Masada Israel
From Jerusalem to Masada
From Jerusalem to Masada takes about 1,5 hours. The drive along the Dead Sea is pretty spectacular. The roads are very well maintained, and it is easy to navigate. Renting a car is the easiest way to get to Masada from Jerusalem, but there is also public transport leading to the main entrance of the Masada mountain. Take bus 486 from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station towards the Dead Sea and get off right at the entrance of the Masada National Park.
From Tel Aviv to Masada
The drive from Tel Aviv is just over 2 hours and follows the same route. Make your way to Jerusalem, then head towards the Dead Sea and drive the scenic road South along the Dead Sea until you get to Masada.
How to visit Masada Israel
You need to ask yourself two questions before you visit Masada:
- Do you want to hike up the Masada Mountain or take the cable car?
- Do you want the see the sunrise from Masada?
In case you want to see the spectacular sunrise over the Dead Sea then there is only one option and that is to hike up Masada Mountain. Unfortunately, the cable car only opens at 8:00 am and the sunrise is about 6:30 am.
Best time to visit Masada Israel
As said before seeing the sunrise from the top of the Masada Mountain is one of the best things to do in Israel. But that means you gotta come really early. The hiking trail opens approximately 1 hour before the sunrise. Expect a huge crowd at that time.
From April to October the average monthly temperature in Masada National Park is above 30 degrees (86 F) so as soon as the first rays of sun get above the mountain you will start sweating. Especially from May to September when temperatures can easily reach 40 degrees (104 F) the best time to visit Masada is in the morning.
It is adviced not to hike Masada during the day in the summer months as there is no shade to hide from the sun and you can only buy or get free drinking water at the entrance of Masada National Park. Along the track or on the top there are no facilities!
Mountain Masada (sunrise) hike
There are two hiking trails when visiting Masada.
Snake trail Masada (East Entrance)
The most common and easiest way to reach the top of Masada mountain is via the snake trail. The length of the trail is 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) and the climb 350 meters (1150 ft). It takes 45 to 90 minutes depending on your mood and fitness. The path is relatively wide and has a moderate inclination. Although Im pretty fit, don’t take this Snake Trail going up to the top of the Masada Mountain lightly. On the other hand I saw loads of elderly also hiking the trail.
Pros: The easiest and fastest way for a Masada sunrise experience from the main entrance with good public transportation services. Entering from the East Entrance you can expect proper facilities and also nearby other great things to do in Israel: Dead Sea, Ein Gedi.
Cons: The walk is longer and much harder compared to the west approach and yeah it definitely is crowded.
Roman Ramp Trail Masada (West Entrance)
A much less popular way to visit Masada is through the west entrance. You can get here by a 25 minute drive on a minor road going east from the desert town of Arad. The Masada West Entrance opens at first light (crack of dawn). That will be about 45 minutes before sunrise. The walk is only about 700 meters (0.5 mile) and climbs just 50 meters (165 ft). Visiting Masada through the Roman Ramp Trail will only take about 15-25 minutes.
This trail is much less challenging than the Masada Snake Trail, but you will surely be in time for the sunrise. The Roman Ramp Trail is the easiest and fastest way to visit Masada.
Arad is a pleasant town with plenty of lodging options. It can be reached with public transportation from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Make your way to Be’er Sheva and then catch the 388 bus to Arad.
There is no public transport from the Masada West Entrance to the Masada East Entrance. In that case you need to take a taxi, which will cost around 100 NIS ($30).
There is nothing around the Masada East Entrance and no facilities at the Roman Ramp trail. My Masada travel tip when coming from the East Entrance is to go down (hike or cable car) on the West side and take a dip in the Dead Sea after!
Check out Israel by foot if you want full day hiking experience to visit Masda.
Where to stay at Masada Israel
Dead Sea - Ein Bokek
There are a couple huge family resorts around the Dead See town of Ein Bokek about 15 minutes from Masada. There are no budget options in Ein Bokek.
- Isrotel Ganim Hotel Dead Sea: 3,300 reviews, score 8.1 - $200
- Crown Plaza Dead Sea Hotel: 3,300 reviews, score 8.1 - $200
- Isrotel Dead Sea Hotel: 1,900 reviews, score 8.1 - $220
- Milos Hotel Dead Sea: 350 reviews, score 8.1 - $350
There is one budget accommodation near Masada: HI Massada Hostel, right on the foot of the hike in the Masada National Park. They also have a swimming pool with good views. Their review score is 8.1 out of 2,500 reviews. Dorms cost around $40 per night, double rooms start from $120.
Arad is a sleepy desert town so don’t expect too much for it, but it definitely is an authentic experience. Surprisingly there are some very nice accommodation options though.
All of the following places have more than 100 ratings and score 9.0 and higher:
- Hen Street Flat: $70
- Dead Sea Sun Guest House: $85
- Akhva Accommodation Unit: $100
- David’s Fancy Apartment: $120
I hope you liked all my tips for traveling to Masada Israel. In case you still have questions please send me a message on Instagram @traveltomtom and Im more than happy to guide you. Be careful as it could create some serious wanderlust with pictures from more than 100 countries.
Thank you for reading this Israel travel blog and enjoy your trip to Israel.