Why A Sunrise Hike Up Masada Should Be On Your Bucket List

I swung my pack onto my back and started up the famous Snake Path, with only the sound of my own breath in my ears and the crunch of gravel underfoot to keep me company.  Stars winked overhead and the sky was a deep indigo, almost midnight blue still, but  the periwinkles and shell pinks of dawn were already starting to creep up over the horizon.

There were no birds, no cars, no obnoxious people blasting their own music.  I’d been up since 2:45am and that fatigue dragged at me (as did my intensely sore muscles from our Jordanian adventures), but the coolness of the night and the prospect of a beautiful sunrise kept me going.

A 3am wake-up call is totally worth it for this sunrise view from Masada over the Dead Sea. Add it to your Israel itinerary, tips for visiting.

I set an aggressive pace, trying to ignore the pain in my ankle.  I’d sprained it pretty badly doing Petra by Night a few days earlier, but I knew this was the last major thing I had to ask of it before flying back to the U.S. later that night.  And I didn’t want to look back on this experience knowing that I’d missed the best sunrise views because of my ankle.

A 3am wake-up call is totally worth it for this sunrise view from Masada over the Dead Sea. Add it to your Israel itinerary, tips for visiting.

A 3am wake-up call is totally worth it for this sunrise view from Masada over the Dead Sea. Add it to your Israel itinerary, tips for visiting.

The light kept changing as the sun relentlessly crept over the horizon, highlighting the salt and mineral deposits from the Dead Sea and glinting off the water.  I had to stop every few minutes to snap a picture (and let’s be honest, to catch my breath), but I was cognizant of the fact that I was literally racing the sunrise.

A 3am wake-up call is totally worth it for this sunrise view from Masada over the Dead Sea. Add it to your Israel itinerary, tips for visiting.

When I finally plateaued at the top, my heart was thumping, my face was glowing red, and I was pouring sweat.  That hike is NOT messing around.  A group of Israeli soldiers had beat us to the top, running up the path for some early-morning training exercises.

But I had made it in time and quickly grabbed a seat on the edge of the fortress.  And then I just watched…

A 3am wake-up call is totally worth it for this sunrise view from Masada over the Dead Sea. Add it to your Israel itinerary, tips for visiting.

Hike up Masada's Snake Path before dawn to watch sunrise over the Dead Sea...total bucket list item! How to make it happen when you visit Israel.

Hike up Masada's Snake Path before dawn to watch sunrise over the Dead Sea...total bucket list item! How to make it happen when you visit Israel.

Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...climb the Snake Path for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Tips for finding a tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

Breathtaking, right??

It was one of those times in life that I wanted to make sure that I was completely present in the moment, and commit it to memory (not just photo card memory).

Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...climb the Snake Path for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Tips for finding a tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

Sitting on the edge of the world, watching sunrise over Masada...worth the challenging pre-dawn hike. Get a tour group to take care of the transportation.

My dad snuck up behind me and got a couple pics.  I am literally a woman on the edge.  You can see how the light kept changing, morphing from purples to pinks to oranges and yellows.  I guzzled water and dug out the feta-stuffed pastry I’d bought in the Mechane Yehuda market in Jerusalem…after that hike, I was STARVING.

You might also like:  Driving the Negev Desert – Tel Aviv to the Red Sea

Feeling like the only person in the world, watching the sun creep up over the Dead Sea #israel

Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...climb the Snake Path for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Tips for finding a tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

I sat there thinking about the fact that I was watching the sun rise over the Dead Sea from an ancient fortress, like people have for thousands of years.

Masada has fascinating (and sad) history and stark, breathtaking views at sunrise...this site in Israel is a must for any itinerary

Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...climb the Snake Path for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Tips for finding a tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

The views from Masada are well worth the climb, especially for sunrise

I finally convinced myself to stop staring at the sunrise and began quickly exploring the ruins of Masada.  I know I didn’t remotely do it justice since I was short on time…you could spend a few hours going through everything.

Masada is a very meaningful site to the Jewish people.  At the end of the First Jewish-Roman War in 73-74 AD, the Romans lay siege to the fortress, where almost 1,000 rebels (including families) had taken refuge and were holding them off.  This was the last holdout in the war, and the siege ended with the Sicarii Jewish rebels committing mass suicide rather than be taken prisoner.

The Romans built a new ramp up to the fortress (which still exists) using Jewish slave labor, and the rebels in Masada refused to attack and kill their fellow countrymen, even knowing that it was ultimately dooming themselves.  You can read more about the siege here if you’re interested.

Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...climb the Snake Path for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Tips for finding a tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

Masada's Snake Path is a challenging climb, but doing it before sunrise for a beautiful view of sunrise over the Dead Sea is totally worth it.

Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...climb the Snake Path for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Tips for finding a tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

Knowing when I needed to meet up with the tour group back in the parking lot, I had to book it back down the Snake Path.  This was obviously easier than the climb, but the downhill/downstairs hurt my ankle even more.  When I got down, I looked back at the hill to see just how far I’d come.  Some people were just starting up the path, and I did not envy them the heat they were going to endure on that hike.  If it were me, I’d do the cable car at that point!

How to hike Masada at sunrise:

  • I took a self-guided tour with Abraham Hostels (where we stayed too), from Jerusalem.  Self-guided means they basically provide the transportation and make sure you get everywhere (we also went to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea afterward), but there isn’t a tour guide that actually tells you stuff.
  • The tour cost about $70 USD per person – more info here if you’re interested
  • Make sure to bring plenty of water and pack some food for breakfast—you’ll need the energy!
  • Get to bed early the night before…you’ll be meeting the tour around 3:30am and in for a long day
  • I saw some folks in light sandals, but I’d recommend tennis shoes or at least sturdy hiking sandals.  The path is very rocky and uneven.

What is the coolest sunrise experience you’ve ever had??  Let me know in the comments!

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Why hiking Masada at sunrise is a must if you're in Israel...breathtaking views of the Dead Sea, history, following in the footsteps of thousands. Tips for finding a sunrise Masada tour, what to wear and bring, how to make the most of this experience.

5 Comments

  1. Beautiful! It’s been almost 13 years since I’ve stepped foot there but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was with a big school group and they were running late. The tour guide said something like, “Well it looks like we’re going to miss sunrise because we got here late.” And my best friend and I said, “NOPE!” and ran up as fast as we could. The two of us and a few brave (and out of breath) followers got the opportunity to catch sunrise and I’ll never forget it. 🙂

    1. It’s funny, my dad kept talking about how he and his brothers ran up the Snake Path when they visited in college, and were barely out of breath. Stupid in-shape South Dakotan cowboys 🙂 I don’t care how in-shape I am, I am not running up that thing! I felt like I really booked it up there and BARELY made the sunrise, but that’s because I kept stopping to get pictures along the way! It really is magical, and totally worth the 2:30am wakeup call!

    1. Hey Nina! I completely agree…I love sunsets, but feel sunrises are completely underrated. And a lot less crowded!

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