Hiking to the Ancient Fortress of Masada in Israel
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.