One of the most incredible parts of my trip to Israel was hiking up the Masada Snake Path. At this point, I wasn’t terribly into to hiking yet, but knew how exciting it was to challenge myself. The Masada is very special in itself. Let me give you a bit of background information.
The Masada is a desert fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea in the southern part of Israel. It is nearly 2,000 years old and was built by King Herod. The Masada has a lot of historical relevance for the Israeli people. In year 72, the Masada served as protection for the Jews fighting against the Roman Empire. The Empire formed a number of camps around the base, and you are still able to view the remains from the top of the Masada. The Romans constructed a ramp up the western side, as they prepared to invade and enslave the Jews. In order to preserve their dignity and free will, the 960 Jews living at the top decided to commit suicide instead of becoming enslaved by the Romans. An interesting fact is that they left their food behind so the Romans would know they didn’t die from starvation.
Hiking the Masada is reasonably demanding. They now have the option to take the cable car up and back down, but I believe if you have the ability to hike, that’s the best experience. You can find the cable car at the tourist center at the foot of the Masada. You’re also able to climb up the ramp created by the Romans on the western side of the Masada, but the most popular way is the Snake Path, a very steep hike up the eastern side.
The most popular time to climb the Masada is at sunrise, where you will have incredible views of the sun rising over the Dead Sea and the desert. I hiked on a January afternoon with the rest of my Birthright group, so it was definitely hot, but not sweltering as it would have been in the summer months. Make sure you take a lot of water and a hat! The sun in Israel is very hot, and you don’t want to get heat stroke on the way up!
I wore my hiking sneakers, which gave great grip for the rocky terrain. It is a very steep hike up, so take your time and have breaks. The lack of shade can be difficult if you try to push yourself too hard. As I hiked the Masada with my peers from my group, it took just under an hour and a half to hike up. The Masada is 400 meters high. Get ready to sweat!
The views make it worth it. If you find yourself struggling, just pause and look into the horizon. Remember your camera, as this is an experience of a lifetime. Just think of the historical significance, and what that means to you. There is a reason you’re hiking the Masada, even if you were coerced into it with a group. Understand the history and how special it is that you have the freedom to hike up such a beautiful area. It’s worth it, and makes for a great story later!
Before you know it, you’ve reached the top the Masada. There is a shaded platform to rest, and this is a great opportunity to take pictures! From here, there is a lot to explore in the area. Take your time and enjoy the historical surroundings before the descent, which will only take about 40 minutes.
If you start your trip to Israel from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, there are a number of tour companies available to take you to the Masada. There are options ranging from group tours, private tours, or even self guided tours, and hikes at various times of the day. There are also shuttles available from the cities pro a reasonable cost. Another option is renting a car if you prefer working on your time schedule. I personally enjoyed having our fun guide with us, as he was very knowledgeable about the Masada, and I learned a lot more than I otherwise would have.
The snake path: One hour before sunrise daily.
museum: April–September 8 A.M.–5 P.M.
October–March 8 A.M– 4 P.M.
The area is closed one hour earlier on Fridays.
Cable-car hours: Sat.–Thurs.: 8 A.M.–4 P.M.
Fridays: 8 A.M.—2 P.M.
Entrance and cable-car return: Adult: NIS 76; child: NIS 44; Israeli senior citizen: NIS 44
Entrance and Snake Path: Adult: NIS 29; child: NIS 15; Israeli senior citizen: NIS 15
If you are on a Birthright trip, you will not have to pay for the hike up the Masada.
Masada puts on a spectacular light and sound show every Tuesday and Thursday from March to October. The show is at 9 P.M. until August, and starts at 8 P.M. after that. You need to be there thirty minutes beforehand. Entry fees: Adult NIS 41; child NIS 34. If you go with a group over thirty people, there are discounted prices: Adult NIS 37; child NIS 28.
Have you ever hiked the Masada? What is your favorite hike in the world? Leave a comment!