Once at the top of Masada there is plenty to see and do to keep you busy for a three hours or so depending on your pace. While the majority of Masada has crumbled from its original glory the remains are still an attraction and worth seeing. There are many tour groups to latch onto if you want a free guide or you can just wander around on your own. From the ruins of the store rooms to the royal bath houses there is much to take it in during your visit. And, of course, the stunning views of the Negev desert and the Dead Sea from the tip top of Masada.
One of the most interesting and historically relevant things to see while at Masada is the Roman Ramp. While Masada at first looks like an impossible fortress to attack the Romans chose an excellent place to mount an attack on the Arad side of Masada. The Roman Ramp is a naturally formed dirt ramp that slopes up to the top and it was here that the Romans made their successful siege to put down the Jewish rebellion. Standing on the top of Masada looking down the ramp it is easy to imagine thousands of Roman soldiers making their victorious charge. Don't miss a chance to see a part of history during your visit to Masada.
While most tourists choose to take the lift up to the top of Masada there are other that choose to hike to the top via the snake path. While it may not be as fast as taking the lift the snake path is a great way to appreciate the beauty and magnificence of Masada. With the Negev desert and the Dead Sea as a back drop to the hike up to the top it adds even more to the experience of visiting Masada. The hike takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the top and less time going down. The path is easy to navigate and there are plenty of places to sit and rest and take in the panoramic views. Plus hiking the snake path is far cheaper than taking the lift so save some money and have your camera ready for all the scenic views on the way up!
Masada is one of the great remaining achievements left over from the time of King Herod and even thousands of years after the fact Masada still remains a marvel to all who visit. For any visitor to Israel to miss out on seeing Masada would be to miss out on not only a historical icon but incredible sweeping views of the Negev desert and the Dead Sea. Located about two south of Jerusalem by bus or car, Masada is a great way to get out of the bustling city and into the beauty and quiet solitude of the desert. Masada has been modernized to fit any type of tourist, they have a lift that takes visitors to the top in minutes and for those who before to do it the natural way there is a path to the top of Masada as well.
Masada is a rugged natural fortress, of majestic beauty, in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last days of Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army, in 73 A.D.It was built as a palace complex, by Herod the Great, who reigned from 37-4B.C.
Masada today is one of the Jewish people's greatest symbols. Israeli soldiers take an oath there: "Masada shall not fall again." Next to Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of tourists visiting Israel.
After Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70, the Great Revolt ended-except for the surviving Zealots, who fled Jerusalem to the fortress of Masada, near the Dead Sea. There, they were besieged by the Romans for three years.Once it became apparent that the Roman's would soon succeed, the Zealots’ leader decided that all the Jewish defenders should commit suicide.Then the men killed their wives and children, and then each other.
Don't bother with the cable cars. They are a waste of money, and you won't get the real Masada experience. There is a hostel at the foot of the mountain that is really cheap, if not free (last time I went, my freinds payed, so I don't know the price, sorry). Stay there overnight the night before you plan to go up, and then wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning (depending on winter or summer, the sunrise will be later or earlier) and hike up the "snake path". Its a decent climb and kind of hard at points (especially if you're afraid of heights!) I'd rank it at like a 3 or 4 for someone in decent shape. The hostel will usually provide tea, coffee and some sugary snacks for you if they know you're climbing up in the morning (especially if you go with a group of people) and go and climb up the mountain to beat the sun. There is nothing better than climbing up Masada, and watching the sunrise. Trust me on this one. Then you can either take the cable cars down, or hike back down once the sun is relatively high and you've done your exploring, and go back to the hostel, which has a really nice breakfast restaurant that really hits the spot after a nice hike. Also on the way down, if you do hike, during the summer months there is a small vendor once you get down who sells fresh squeezing "meetizm" (juices) usually citrus, but sometimes others as well. Get the orange juice. Its like, 7 shekels, if my memory serves (last time I was there was 4 years ago) and its so delicious. Highly recommend it. Enjoy your stay in Israel!
After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple( 70AD), the last of Jews from the " great revolt" fled to Masada( they were called the Zealots). They stayed here on top of the great mountain of Masada for 3 years. The Romans came and the Zealots could see them building their camps( which are still there by the way, some remains). The Zealots realized that it was only a matter of time that the Romans conquered Masada, so the leader of the Zealots( his name was Elazar) decided on mass suicide because the alternative once the Romans prevailed would be slavery for the men, prostitution or some other terrible life for women, if they survived. He made this speech "Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice.... We were the very first that revolted [against Rome], and we are the last that fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom.Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually." Elazar ordered that all the Jews' possessions except food be destroyed, for "[the food] will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessities; but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery." And so the men killed the women and the children and the last man died with a sword to his heart. So when the Romans reached Masada, all were dead. To this day, Israeli soldiers take an oath at Masada to never allow Masada to fall again.
Just north of Ein Gedi (about 40 minutes south of Jerusalem) is one of Israel's most important archaeological sites, the Qumran National Park. It is in the caves of this ancient settlement that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. Evidence has been found of people inhabiting the caves as early as the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E. The Romans stormed the area and occupied it for 20 years. In 132-135 C.E., Bar-Kokhba's fighters lived in the ruins. The community, referred to as the "Dead Sea Sect," to which the Dead Sea Scrolls apparently belonged lived in Qumran around 130 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.
The Bible records that 3,000 years ago David hid from King Saul at Ein Gedi. When David surprised the King and spared his life after finding him unarmed, Saul said David would succeed him on the throne.Located on the Dead Sea's western shore, Ein Gedi ("spring of the goat") is a desert oasis with waterfalls, pools of water and two large streams. It is a hiker's paradise with beautiful foliage, exotic birds and a range of wildlife, including rabbits, deer, ibex and leopards (don't worry, you're not likely to run into any).
Ein Gedi served as a water source during biblical times (Joshua 15:62, I Samuel 24:1-2). The spring begins to flow 656 feet above the Dead Sea. About a half-hour's hike will take you to a waterfall and pool. Another trail leads to Shulamit Spring, the top of the falls and the Dodim Cave. Further along are the ruins of a Chalcolithic sanctuary believed to be from the year 4,000 B.C.E. From atop the trail it is possible to get a spectacular view of the Dead Sea, the mountains of Moab and Kibbutz Ein Gedi.The oasis is known for its thriving date palms, which are the principal crop of nearby Kibbutz Ein Gedi. The Kibbutz also owns a spa further south where you can take a hot mineral bath and coat yourself in Dead Sea mud. A camp site is also situated near the Dead Sea beach
Just recently Masada has opened a new museum to showcase some of the finds from this important site. Till now there was only a small wooden structure that held a few of the items found here, the vast majority were held in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Today you can tour the Masada Museum and see what was found here. The displays hold everything from dinner ware to enormous jars used for storage, like those you can see by our friend Guy. The last presentation shows a series of pottery shards that have some Hebrew names inscribed on them, they represent the last survivors on Masada. There are also some sculptures to show the way life might have been, from the stone mason working on a column, to the workers laying mosaic tiles.
When you enter the museum you get a head phone that explains what it is you are seeing as you walk the path.
Masada's largest building, constructed by Herod, to be a winter palace.
Contains many rooms and installations, and was a self-sufficient unit. Colored mosaic pavement with circles and border ornaments of plant and geometric designs were found here in the archaeological excavations.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth 417 meters (1,373 feet) below sea level. and the largest "Natural Spa" in the world. Everybody can float in its waters. See photos.The area is famous for its black mineral mud, which people cover themselves with. The sun shines in this area on average 330 days of the year. It is a very popular place for Israelis, all over the year.
We came to this part of the sea from Massada, which is a short way away.
"At each spot used for habitation, both on the summit and about the palace, as also before the wall, he had cut out in the rock numerous large tanks, as reservoirs for water, thus procuring a supply as ample as where springs are available."
The solution of the water problem in the desert fortress is undoubtedly one of the wonders of Masada.
In order to survive on the mountain, Herod quarried numerous cisterns on the summit and the northwestern slope. Rainwater that flowed in the floods in the nearby streams was stored here. The water was collected by a system of dams and two aqueducts, parts of which can be seen to this day. Two rows of cisterns were dug in the slope, eight in the upper row and four in the lower, that contained a total of 40,000 cubic meters of water. From the cisterns two paths led up to the mountain, one from the upper row to the Water Gate in the northeast of the mountain and the other from the lower row to the Snake Path Gate in the east. Convoys of animals brought the water up to Masada along these paths. When they reached the summit, the water was poured into a system of channels leading into the cisterns throughout the mountain.
But a lover of 'La Dolche Vita' like Herod would not be content merely with drinking water. The water planning of Masada also included attention to hygiene and recreation, as we see from the bathhouses and the swimming pool located in the southern part of the mountain.
The Northern Palace is one of the most exceptional edifices erected by Herod. To design this three-tiered palace, his architects made use of two terraces in the cliff face below the prow-like summit of Masada.
Access to the palace was via a well-defended approach that led to its upper level. This upper terrace was comprised of four main rooms that opened up onto a semicircular veranda. A cleverly-built staircase led down the cliff to the middle terrace, situated on a ledge twenty meters below. This terrace was comprised of a circular hall enclosed by a portico. A large room was built next to the hall.
The walls of the Northern Palace were decorated with frescoes, and the columns, made out of stone segments, were plastered over to give the illusion of single carved columns.
On the bottom-most ledge of the palace, three skeletons were discovered: of a man, of a young woman, and of a small boy. Near them were found hundreds of pieces of silvered armor scales, dozens of arrowheads, a remnant of a Jewish prayer shawl, two braids of hair and a dainty pair of leather sandals, preserved for two thousand years.
Near the northwestern section of Masada's wall, a building whose inner wals were lined with stones benches was found. This building had two phases. During Herod's time, it had two rooms: a small anteroom and a larger columned main room. Its floor was covered with animal dung, indicating that it had been used as a stable at some point.
During its second phase, the structure underwent a major renovation: stone benches were built in the main room and a small adjoining cell was added.
Two scrolls were found in two pits under the floor of the cell: one contained the two final chapters of "Deuteronomy" and the other composed of excerpts from Ezekiel's prophecy of the dry bones. These finds led excavators to believe that the cell served as a "genizah" and that the building must have been Masada's synagogue.