A visit to Masada, pronounced Matzada, is something you will never forget. This is an experience for the mind and body, and it suits most ages. Masada is located on a Rock Plateau in the Judean Desert. This plateau overlooks the Dead Sea, and it has become famous for what took place here during the end of the first Jewish-Roman War. When the Roman troops started their siege of Masada the Sicarii rebels at the plateau committed suicide.
If a mass suicide was truly committed on top of Masada has been disputed and discussed, but till today there is clear evidence of Jewish life on top of this rock. A visit will show you ruins where the tiled floors are still intact, and where you can climb down to the amazing water preserves which made it possible to continue the sheltered life on top of the plateau.
The Story of Masada
The story of Masada has served as a symbol of the Jewish spirit and braveness, and because of this it is very common for army groups to come here to be inspired by the story. According to the traditional account of what took place, the Romans broke through the walls of the fort after several months of working their way up. There they found everything destroyed and all of the 960 inhabitants dead. Archeologists have not found any mass grave or skeletons of so many people, and for this reason the suicide account is believed to be a myth.
When to go to Masada
The best time to visit Masada is during the spring and early summer months. There is not much to shelter you from the sun on your way up and during your tour, so make sure to bring a sun hat and plenty of water to drink. Most tours to Masada start in the early morning right at sunrise. This is the best time to start a climb up to the plateau. It is also possible to use the cable car to get up there, but if you are able to climb you should experience the views and fresh air on your way up. The climb is not difficult and younger children can also climb by foot to the top.
Just remember to wear comfortable shoes to hike in. You might want to use a backpack with drinks and possible extra clothes as the temperatures on the way up, on the plateau, and in the water cisterns can vary greatly.
A Guided Tour
Make sure to get a guided tour on Masada, UNESCO world heritage site (declared 2001). There is so much to learn and understand from the ruins, and you will enjoy getting the full background story of the remains of the houses and pools that you are looking at. This is also a wonderful look out place where you will see the Dead Sea and the remains of the legionary camps that once surrounded the fort. You will be able to see where the Romans entered Masada, and envision what the situation must have been like when you hear the stories retold by a skilled guide.
To get to Masada you can take a bus from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. However, it is more convenient to go there in a private car or with a shuttle service. It is possible to hire a guide with a car that can take you to Masada and also let you know everything about the place.
Use the cable car or climb to the top of the plateau using one of two trails, the short ramp trail or the more recommended snake path.
Opening hours are 8.00-17.00 in the summer and 8.00-16.00 in the winter months.
Entrance fee to the Masada National Park is NIS 27/14 for adult/child, additional fees apply for the Snake Path, cable car and the audio-visual show on site.
A nice video about Masada
Visit Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea
It is advisable to combine a tour of Masada with a visit to the park Ein Gedi and a dip in the Dead Sea. If you started early morning, you can make the hike in Ein Gedi and have lunch by the beautiful water falls. As the day gets warmer it will be a wonderful idea to spend the afternoon floating in the Dead Sea.