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Masada, in the Southern District of Israel, is an ancient fortification on top of an isolated rock plateau. On the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, it’s a popular place to see when visiting Israel.
We visited during our tour through Israel. It was actually one of the highlights of our trip, although we were very under prepared (we often to hike, in 35 degree heat, in flip flops…). I wish that we had done a little more research prior to visiting Masada so to help others I I put together this complete guide to visiting Masada!
How to get to Masada
It takes approximately 1.5 hours to drive from Jerusalem to Masada, and just over two hours to get there from Tel Aviv. You can also get the bus if you are travelling on more of a budget. From Jerusalem, catch the 486 bus. It runs 5 times per day, stopping at the Masada Junction a short walk from the entrance to Masada National Park. From Tel Aviv, there is one bus per day (number 421).
Read also: Visiting Bethlehem: A complete guide
Things to do at Masada
One of the main things to do at Masada is hiking. There are two hiking trails available, depending on your fitness levels and preferences. You can take a short walk along the Ramp Trail from the western side of the mountain, or a longer hike up Snake Path.
If walking isn’t for you, or if you are travelling in the height of summer like we did, there is a cable car that takes you to the summit. It leaves every 10 minutes from the visitor’s centre. Whatever way you get there, you’re guaranteed fantastic views!
As well as being the departure point for the cable car, the visitor’s centre also has a museum. Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the museum tells its story. There are excavated artefacts and plenty of information about the history of Masada.
Set across three levels, you can see Herod’s Northern Palace at the northern tip of the plateau. With a staircase, terraces, baths and more, it’s absolutely fascinating to behold.
Plenty of other ancient architecture can be seen. There is a synagogue at Masada, one of the oldest in the world – as well as a bath house, a Byzantine church, and the western palace which was actually Herod’s official residence. Wander around these incredible buildings and their reminds, and you’ll be completely awestruck.
There is a light show too. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) during the summer months between March and October, visitors flock to the Masada amphitheater. This can only be reached on the road from Arad. The light and sound show tells the history of Masada.
The best time to visit Masada
Israel is a hot country. However, the winter months do see lower temperatures at times. In January the temperature in Masada can get as low as 10°C with highs of 21°C – but in July and August, it goes up to around 40°C. If you can handle the heat you’ll be able to visit and hike Masada at any time of year, but it is something to bear in mind!
In terms of what time of day to visit Masada, sunrise is recommended. Not only is it not yet the hottest point of the day, it is also absolutely beautiful to see the sun rise above the desert. Tours are often arranged to arrive in time to see this.
Read also: Visiting Mitzpe Ramon: A complete guide
If you are wanting to hike, you definitely need to get there early. The Snake Path is one of the most iconic hikes in Israel. At 400m long, it takes between one hour and ninety minutes to climb. The path opens around one hour before sunrise but on hot days, it will be closed by 9am for visitors’ safety.
To visit the museum and the rest of the national park, the opening times are as follows:
Summer opening times
April to September: 8am-5pm
Winter opening times
October to March: 8am-4pm
Fridays and holiday-eve opening times
Masada: practical information
To enter the Masada National Park, there is an entrance fee. The tariff is as follows:
Entrance with cable car (two ways)
- Adult: NIS 77
- Child: NIS 45
- Israeli senior citizen: NIS 62
Entrance with cable car (one way)
- Adult: NIS 59
- Child: NIS 31
- Israeli senior citizen: NIS 30
Entrance to eastern side/Snake Path
- Adult: NIS 31
- Child: NIS 17
- Israeli senior citizen: NIS 16
The entry fees for the light show are as follows:
- Adult: NIS 41
- Child: NIS 34
For groups of over 30 people, adult tickets are NIS 37 and child tickets are NIS 28. The light show starts at 9pm between March and August, with shows in September and October starting at 8pm. You are advised to arrive 30 minutes beforehand.
Where to stay when visiting Masada
If you are taking a day trip from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or elsewhere then you likely have your accommodation sorted. However, you may be looking to spend the night closer to Masada. There are a few options available depending on what you are looking for:
Or Gani is a guest house with WiFi, free private parking, air condition and private bathrooms. Reviews cite the host as being kind and caring with excellent breakfast-making skills! With Masada around 9 miles away, it’s one of the closest authentic-style accommodations to the national park.
Dead Sea Yehuda Apartments are self-catering, and located around 10 miles from Masada. With free parking and free WiFi as well as your own kitchen and bathroom, the accommodation has everything you need.
For a hotel, check out the Daniel Dead Sea Hotel around 8.5 miles from Masada. Free WiFi, free parking, a pool & spa as well as sea views and a kid’s club make it perfect for everyone. The beach is nearby, too!
If you’re looking for luxury, Spa Club Dead Sea Hotel is the place for you. Again, it’s around 8.5 miles away from Masada and parking is available. The hotel ticks a lot of boxes in terms of accessibility, and offers an extensive list of spa treatments.
To see a more comprehensive range of accommodation options available close to Masada use the map below. You can zoom out to see more places to stay, although beware that the further away from Masada your hotel is, the further you will need to travel!
There’s your complete guide to visiting Masada, Israel. With so much to see at the national park, it’s an easy day trip to make or one that could be extended into an overnight stay!