(7/2021) The Pros and Cons of Climbing Masada at Sunrise
Masada is the most popular National Park in Israel, and for a good reason. The majestic wilderness, the rich archeological finds and the site’s dramatic history make Masada “a must” for anyone visiting Israel.
In the 1990s a modern cable car was installed over its eastern edge, yet some still prefer to hike up to the summit, along “snake path”. Named by First Century historian Josephus for its winding shape, indeed the “snake path” looks like a giant serpent leaning against the side of the mountain.
Especially among youth groups it is popular to hike up to the site’s summit and see the sunrise. Perhaps the sunrise marks a new dawn to a site whose Jews faced such a gloomy end some 2,000 years ago?.
If you are also considering hiking up to the top of Masada at sunrise, consider the following –
- The hike takes about 50-60 minutes, and is equal to climbing a 86 story high building (1150 feet).
- In the 1970s the path was cleaned, cleared and conserved. 1200 steps were set along it, and at some parts rails were also installed.
- Even if climbing at sunrise you must pay admission fee (NIS 28). Count in about 10 minutes for payment if there is a cue.
- In the summer, the sunrise over the Moab mountains is at around 6:00. That means that the hike should start at about 5:00.
- If staying in Jerusalem, you should leave by 3:00am. That’s a very early start (!) It is also possible to spend the night before at Masada youth hostel. It is 3 minutes’ walk away from the “snake path”. It is a modern and nice hostel, and it even has a pool.
So should you do it?
Keep in mind 2 main obstacles –
- The first cable car to Masada’s summit is at 8:00. If you are a group and some prefer to wait for the cable car, the sunrise hikers will have to wait for 2 hours for those taking the cable car (!).
- The early wake up and the exhausting hike are VERY tiring. It is hard to be as focused to appreciate the site and the explanations after such an intense activity. You will simple miss a proper and full appreciation of the site.
Are there any alternatives?
- There is an option of ascending from the western side, through the Roman ramp. But it’s a viable option only if there is a driver willing to drive for an hour (!) to get the car from the western side to the eastern side of the site. It is also possible to return to the car on the eastern side, but then you miss Masada’s visitor center and its unique museum (both on the eastern side).
So what should you do if the sunrise hike doesn’t suite the whole group?
- Best solution in our opinion is to take the cable-car up to the site and tour it properly, with full attention. At the end of the tour, anyone who wants can walk DOWN the “snake path”, back to the visitor center. It is also a strenuous experience, but does not require an extra early wake up, and enables alternatives for those who are not eager to hike.