Hiking to the Ancient Fortress of Masada in Israel

Greetings,

Today we shall discuss one of the incredibly cool things I got the opportunity to partake in while on my recent bender trip through Israel with the distinguished people behind Dig Israel. We’re going to talk about hiking Masada aka the ancient desert palace that overlooks the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert. I’m a huge fan of old castles, forts and love “putting myself there” when I stroll around in awe…

The day was busy and we arrived in the early afternoon. If you’re lazy or just not capable of making the climb, there is a gondola that will bring you up, we opted for the hard way aka a path up the side that was built by the Romans when they decided they were going to take Masada, no matter what. Those Romans were like ants, just an endless supply of manpower and when someone died, someone else showed up in the same shoes to keep marching on…

The hike takes about 30 minutes unless you’re stopping every few seconds to take a photo like yours truly. Once you arrive to the plateau, it’s got this majestic feeling. It’s literally this huge natural plateau in the middle of the desert where none other than the master builder Herod The Great decided to build a fortress.  The more I read about the gent, the more I’m in awe but that’s a different story, yes? This palace had everything including a near endless supply of fresh water due to ingenious engineering and flash floods.

Masada is also a Unesco World Heritage Site but not because of the castle itself, strangely enough. It’s the most complete remains in the present day of Roman siege works and this includes the camps, fortification and attack ramps.  These pictures give you an idea but the area is just endless and incredibly rugged with scarce water and an unrelenting desert sun. The mechanics of how the fortress got water was also pretty incredible but that’s a story for another day.

Supposedly the “big thing to do” is visit during sunrise but unfortunately time did not permit. There are countless hotel options in the area surrounding the Dead Sea. Therefore, if you wanted to do a morning sunrise hike or just cable car up, it wouldn’t be a problem. We did get to hang around for a taste of sunset aka the opportunity of seeing it under a whole new light, so to speak. While in the area and in the habit of rising early; try and catch a Dead Sea sunrise and a break of dawn soak in the sea.

Sadly, the fortress had a tragic ending and is the place of the “last stand” for Jewish patriots against the Romans in 73AD.  Eventually the Romans did capture the fortress and there was a mass suicide. It sounds barbaric and absolutely mental to kill everyone before killing yourself but what would you do if the other option was rape and slavery for the women and being crucified if you were a gentleman?

It’s not an easy decision, is it?

We ended up hiking down the way we came which was considerably easier as sunset was starting to take the big stage in the sky. We couldn’t stay longer as we had dinner arrangements but I’d love to go back. This place was awesome and I thoroughly enjoyed my time strolling around enjoying the scenery while learning about its history. I’d love to see what it was like in full swing but sadly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

If you’re in Israel and heading to the Dead Sea, consider hiking Masada – it’s worth it.

Tips hat,

18 Comments

  1. flips

    November 5, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Wow !! This is stuff I love to see.. Now how do they bring water up there.. this is quite the task.. fill up a camel and milk it when its up there? I find this quite puzzling?>?… Nice post either way

    • Rob

      November 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks and I’m not exactly sure but I do know it involves genius engineers and flash floods…

  2. The Welsh Wizard

    November 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Fascinating, thanks’ for sharing.

    • Rob

      November 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Pleasure, it’s what I’m all about.

  3. Wends of Journeys and Travels

    November 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Impressive and how beautiful the vista of Masada as captured here. Inspirational post this is for me who dreams of coming to Israel too :)

    • Rob

      November 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      Israel was great times, lots to see and do.

  4. ava apollo

    November 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Looks amazing. I need to get to Israel as well! If it’s only a 30-minute hike I don’t know why one would take a gondola and rob him/herself of the satisfaction of making the climb!

    • Rob

      November 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      In all fairness, the hike was from the other side and you have to take a long drive to get there. I think most for the sunrise or on tour groups have to.

      Israel was interesting, including the cities. I’d like to revisit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

  5. Molly Nurse

    November 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    This looks awesome! So much beige everywhere but it is just beautiful. Desperate to get to Israel (and the dead sea!!) so I guess this is a definite on the list.

    • Rob

      November 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      If you make it to the Dead Sea, try and wake up early for your soak. During the day it gets so hot you’ll stay a fraction as long as you’d like and it won’t be as relaxed.

  6. Koren @ City Gal

    November 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Great photos! I’ve been to Israel on 3 separate trips, one of which when I was 12 and had my bat mitzvah in one of the temples at the top of Masada. It was quite the experience. I’ve almost forgotten what it looks like now, so this brought back a lot of pleasant memories. ;)

    • Rob

      November 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Glad it brought back some pleasant memories for you.

  7. Molly Nurse

    November 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep that in mind. Definitely worth getting out of bed for!

  8. Matthew Karsten

    November 9, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Looks like an impressive site. What a view from the top too!

  9. Ellen Keith

    November 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

    What a beautiful site! Walking up, no matter how steep or long or tiring, beats taking the gondola. The feeling of reward and self-satisfaction at the top always makes the visit more meaningful!

  10. Sam

    November 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Looks like an incredible place, and what a rich history. Hard to imagine it having fresh water from the photos, I’m intrigued.

  11. Irene

    November 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    amazing photos just beautiful!!

  12. Yesim

    January 5, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I have been in Masada. Masada is wonderful historical place.

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