Visiting Masada and the Dead Sea together makes the perfect day trip from Jerusalem or other locations in Israel. They are located right next to each other, so visiting them on the same day is easy and convenient.
Getting to Masada and the Dead Sea
Israel is a small country, not much bigger than New Jersey. The roads are in excellent condition, so getting around is fast, safe, and convenient.
We drove to the Dead Sea from Eilat, which is located at the southern tip of Israel. This is a drive that takes a little over two hours, if you take the direct route. Tim and I took the scenic route through the Negev Desert, so our journey lasted over four hours. Even so, we had enough time to visit Masada and float in the Dead Sea, but we had to be quick about it. Our day ended with a two hour drive to the Ben Gurion Airport since we had an early flight the next morning.
From Jerusalem, it is only takes an hour and a half drive to Masada and the Dead Sea. To get there, you have the option of renting a car, hiring a taxi, or taking the bus. There are many tour options that take travelers to Masada and the Dead Sea from Jerusalem. For more details on how to take the bus to Masada, visit the Tourist Israel website.
From Tel Aviv, it takes 2 to 2½ hours to get to Masada and the Dead Sea. For the best experience, either rent a car or join a tour. For tour information, visit Egged Tours.
Masada is a fortress constructed on top of a rock plateau. Two thousand years ago, King Herod built a palace here. Roughly one hundred years later, a group of Jews took refuge at Masada, fleeing from the Romans. For seven years the Jews lived here, safe on the top of Masada from the Romans. During this time, the Romans were building a ramp to the top of Masada. Once the ramp was constructed, it was inevitable that the Romans would take the Jews prisoner. Rather than fall into the hands of the Romans, the Jews committed mass suicide, about 960 people in total.
Now, Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel.
Hiking to the top of Masada
While the cable car whisks visitors to the top in just a matter of minutes, expect the climb to take a half an hour or more. During the hot summer months, this will be quite the accomplishment in the middle of the day. We were here in April and started the climb at 2 pm and temperatures were above 90°F (33°C).
The Snake Path is a combination of gravel trails and stone steps. It is a constant climb to the top. It is strenuous, especially in the heat of midday, but to watch the views over the Dead Sea unfold as you steadily climb higher is the reward. Sure, you’d get to see this in the cable car, but there is something about the bragging rights to have climbed to the top of Masada.
Once on top of Masada (and after a quick break in the shade, if you can find any) you can begin your tour of the ruins of the fortress. View the ancient storehouses and homes. The best part of being up here are the views over the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert. Off to the east you will be able to see Jordan.
Second option to climb Masada: You can walk up the Roman Ramp, a much easier option, but it is not accessible from the Dead Sea highway. To get here, you will have to take a 40 minute detour to the western side of Masada.
Masada at Sunrise
Climbing Masada just before sunrise is another popular thing to do while in Israel. There are tours available from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, getting climbers to the base of Masada before sunrise. If you get your timing right, you will arrive at the top of Masada in time to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea.
Visiting the Dead Sea
From Masada, it is a 20 to 30 minute drive south to the Ein-Bokek free beach. There are changing rooms and showers here, also all free of charge. For those just wanting to take a quick dip in the Dead Sea, this is the easiest (and cheapest) place to go.
For those with more time, consider going to Ein Gedi, a natural oasis on the banks of the Dead Sea. Another option is Mineral Beach, one of the best places to coat yourself with Dead Sea mud and then soak in the water.
Sign next to the Dead Sea Highway
Floating in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, sitting 1,400 feet below sea level. The water is almost ten times saltier than the ocean. This saltiness is what makes it so easy to float in the Dead Sea. The water has an oily appearance and coats your skin with an oily, salty film. Any nicks or cuts you may have burn when they come into contact with the water.
Tim and I were surprised at how easy it was to float in this water. Just lower yourself in the water and pop! your feet come right to the surface. It’s like floating on a raft, only there is no raft!
Advice for Visiting the Dead Sea
Don’t shave for two days before swimming in the Dead Sea. Any nicks or cuts will sting from the salty water.
Do not get the water in your eyes. It burns!
Do not drink the water. It is very harmful to your health and tastes terrible (so I’ve heard).
Wear an old swimsuit. The salty water can discolor the fabric.
Have you been to the Dead Sea or Masada? Do you have any other advice for our readers? Comment below!
Read More About Israel:
- 10 Day Israel and Jordan Itinerary
- 30 Things to do in Jerusalem, Israel
- How to Visit Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock
- Off-the-Beaten-Path in Israel: The Negev Desert
- Highlights from Israel and Jordan
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