I always dreamt of visiting Israel, a country steeped in history, culture and beautiful landscapes. Recently my dream came true. And what is more, I visited some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes including Masada National Park.
Because Masada is not really accessible by public transport I booked the Masada and Dead Sea Tour through Egged Tours. The tour takes you to both attractions in a single day and then drops you back in Tel Aviv (or elsewhere in Israel), so its pretty convenient for those who want a taste of the desert environs.
The ancient fortress of Masada is situated upon a mountain in the Judaean desert and overlooks the world-renowned Dead Sea. King Herod of Judaea built Masada during the early Roman Empire (37 – 31 BC) and hence, this is an important site for the people of Israel. Even today, ruins of the fortifications, houses and even a Roman spa and synagogue are to be seen here.
To get to the top of the mountain where the ruins are to be found, you can either walk up or take a cable car – in both instances the view is incredible. Since I was with a group and pressed for time, we opted for the cable car. However, if I had more time I’d rather have walked to the top via the Snake Path for the full Masada experience (and to burn some calories after eating so much Halva!).
At the very top you can see a huge part of the Dead Sea and the surrounding salt pans.
The layout of the hilltop fortress of Masada looks like this – each part on the map has a specific historical meaning. You can click on the image below for further background reading:
Rugged rock forms tell a story of an ancient palace with a multitude of rooms and uses.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, there is even ancient Roman theatre to be found at the edge of the mountain.
You’ll also get to see inside a room that was once a spa, with mosaic tiles still preserved from the ancient times.
As you can imagine, for those with an interest in archaeology, this is indeed a playground and one can take much joy in imagining what Masada once looked like in all its glory.
One of the highlights are the remains of a Byzantine church – the last structure to be built on the mountain.
I simply loved the little window overlooking the Dead Sea…
Furthermore, our tour guide explained the black paint lines that appear on the rocky walls throughout the entire park (see below). These black lines demonstrate the original height of the rock formations when discovered. Rocks above the black line were added later to recreate what Masada once looked like and to ultimately preserve the structures in a more concrete manner. Without this, we may have had a more difficult time imagining what Masada looked like.
And this is the entire fortress from the air. Pretty amazing if you think of just how old the fortress is!
Masada is a must-see if you’re visiting Israel. There is just so much to discover and at every turn, a ruin presents itself with a unique and fascinating story.
And lastly, don’t forget the sunscreen. You’ll thank me for it.