Masada: The Most Visited Attraction in Israel
Masada fortress, the most visited tourist attraction in Israel after the Western Wall in Jerusalem, is home to the archaeological ruins of King Herod’s fortress and first-century Roman villa built into the surrounding rock face.
Located in the Judean Desert approximately 18 km south of Ein Gedi on top of a mountain plateau, Masada provides breathtaking views of nearby landmarks, including the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert, and gives visitors a glimpse into the history of the Jewish-Roman conflict.
Besides the stunning scenery, this archaeological site was recognized by the World Heritage UNESCO organization as containing the most complete artifacts in the world remaining from a Roman siege. At Masada, the Romans built a 2-km long and 2-meter thick wall to trap a small group of Jews, who rebelled against their Roman oppressors and overtook the mountaintop. Tragically, the Jews ultimately took their own lives rather than face capture.
Beginning in the 1960’s, the fortress at Masada was carefully excavated and visitors can now view bathhouses, storehouses, and a synagogue built over 2,000 years ago. In addition to the numerous archaeological artifacts dating back to 66 AD., the site features a museum especially established to theatrically tell the story of Masada.
The site also offers audio tours, a souvenir shop, a restaurant, and overnight camping. An inspiring sound-and-light show is available from March to October at 9 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.
To get to the top of the mountain, take the cable car or climb the Masada Snake Path. The cable cars are located on the east side near the Visitors Center. The hiking paths are entered from either the eastern or western parking lots.
The Snake Path is moderate in difficulty and takes at least 45 minutes. Enter from the eastern side using the Dead Sea Highway (Road 90). About 18 km south of Ein Gedi turn right at Masada (Metsada) Junction and drive 2 km until the eastern parking lot. To hike before the sun gets too hot, climb Masda at sunrise. The Snake Path generally closes by mid-morning due to the intense sun.
To get to the Masada ramp trail, follow signs starting in the city of Arad (Road 3199); drive approximately 22 km until the western parking lot. The ramp trail starts at the parking lot but is shorter and steeper than the Snake Path. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes to reach the top.
For further information: see the Parks website.
Masada Israel: Did You Know?
In 2005, a 2,000-year-old Judean date palm tree seed found during an excavation at Masada in the 1960s was successfully germinated. The tree, named “Methuselah” after the oldest person in the Bible, produces the Judean Date, a species that had previously been extinct for centuries. Today, the plant resides at the Arava Sustainable Agriculture and Renewable Energy Research and Visitors’ Park in Israel and is approximately 2.5 meters tall. It is hoped that the tree will provide fruit with medicinal properties.