Sunrise in Masada Israel

Israel: Sunrise at Masada

Aktualisiert am: 12/03/2024

“You want to watch the sunrise in Masada see?” I didn’t want to miss a single highlight on my trip to Israel. “Don’t be surprised, the road there is completely unlit, but that’s okay. Just keep driving, even if it’s dark.” It’s a good thing that the nice receptionist in Arad gave me this tip when I asked her for directions to the Masada fortress in the Judean Desert. Otherwise I would probably have turned back immediately after the first signs warning of “extremely dangerous bends”. Driving all alone at half past four in the morning in the pitch dark along winding desert roads with not a soul around – that was an adventure.

Masada Judean Desert Israel
The road from Arad to Masada: great views during the day, pitch black at night.

Sunrise in Masada: an experience for every trip to Israel

There are places in the world that are particularly famous for their spectacular sunrises or sunsets – and Masada in Israel is undoubtedly one of them. After the long drive through the middle of nowhere, I was skeptical whether the whole ordeal of getting up early would really be worth it. Especially as I was expecting busloads of tourists who were also heading for “Sunrise Masada”. But apart from a handful of rental cars parked in the parking lot, there were few tourists to be seen on the east side of the fortress.

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Masada sunrise
From the fortress you can see far across the Dead Sea.

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Sunrise over the Dead Sea at Masada Fortress

It already looked different at the top of the fortress, most of the visitors had probably taken the route via the other ascent on the west side. Nevertheless, the site was not overcrowded. An impressive silence fell over the area as everyone waited for the one moment when the sun slowly rose from behind the mountain range opposite, glowing bright red.

Masada Sunrise Israel Dead Sea
Incredibly beautiful: sunrise in Masada.

All around us was nothing but a barren desert mountain range, deep below us the Dead Sea, mirror-smooth and still – and suddenly everything was illuminated by the rising, warm sun: One of the most impressive moments of my trip to Israel!

Desert landscape Dead Sea and Judean Desert
Impressive lunar landscape: the Judean Desert by the Dead Sea.

History of Masada, Israel – Historical significance

The fortress of Masada has a turbulent history behind it. In 73/74 AD, during the Jewish War, the fortress was besieged by the Romans. As the capture by the Romans drew ever closer, over 900 inhabitants of the fortress killed themselves to avoid being taken prisoner by the Romans. Since then, Masada has been a symbol of Jewish aspirations for religious freedom and self-determination. Masada has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.

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Archaeological finds at Masada

Various parts of the fortress are still preserved and were made accessible as part of an archaeological excavation. Today, for example, you can see the remains of the huge storage rooms or the bathhouses. In addition, replicas show what King Herod ‘s residential palace must have looked like: Front Row on a slope! The inhospitable surroundings make you wonder once again how much effort it must have taken to build such a structure here on this mountain plateau under the conditions of the time.

Masada sunrise
Below: The foundations of the palace.
Masada sunrise
Front Row and unobstructed view: King Herod’s palace with a view of the Dead Sea.
Masada sunrise

How do you get to Masada?

There are essentially two approaches to Masada, one from the west and one from the east. The route from the east seemed much more popular to me. There is also a cable car on this side that takes you up to the summit. At sunrise, however, you have to walk up the so-called Snake Path, which takes about 45 minutes. There will also be a visitor center with stores and a small museum on this site. This access road is closer to the Ein Gedi Oasis and the Dead Sea.

Masada sunrise
The Roman siege ramp before sunrise.

I came from the west side, the road from Arad is adventurous in the dark. But the way up to the fortress is shorter. The Roman siege ramp (yes, this access is that old!) is steep, but it only takes 15 minutes to get up to the fortress. On the way back to Arad, you have unforgettable views of the Judean Desert – and can pet cute camels on the way (warning: lots of heart-warming camel content to follow!), with which you can go on a desert tour. From Arad (the next town) Masada is signposted, so you just have to follow the road.

Masada camels
Masada camels
Masada camels
Masada camels
Masada camels

Excursions to Masada from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

Masada is one of the most popular day trips from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv! You can book both daytime tours and sunset tours. There are also providers who combine a tour to Masada with a visit to the Dead Sea (also highly recommended!):

From Tel Aviv: book a sunrise tour to Masada*

From Jerusalem: book a sunrise tour to Masada*

Tips on arrival & accommodation

Basically, I wasn’t particularly fascinated by the archaeological excavation, and it also got hot quite quickly, so sun protection and headgear are recommended. After all, it is a mountain plateau in the middle of the desert and the sun shines mercilessly. I would therefore always recommend visiting at sunrise – it’s a truly unforgettable experience! You can find my tips for a great visit here:

Masada sunrise

If you’re traveling by rental car and don’t like getting up in the middle of the night like I do, you can look for accommodation nearby the night before. Then the alarm clock doesn’t ring quite so early. I picked up my rental car in Tel Aviv and then dropped it off at the airport for my return flight.

Find a cheap rental car from Tel Aviv* here

Masada sunrise

I spent the night in Arad at the Inbar Hotel*. Not a highlight, but decent – and contrary to the reviews I had skimmed beforehand, I was greeted warmly by the lovely receptionist, who provided me with lots of tips straight away. (Nice service is unfortunately not always a matter of course in Israel). Without being asked, we were given a plate of fruit in our room as a breakfast substitute.

If you would prefer to stay on the east side and access the fortress from there, perhaps because it is more on the way, there is the affordable HI Massada Hostel*, where many Masada visitors stay overnight.


You can also find out more about Israel in the following articles:

Jerusalem: sights and highlights in the Holy City
City of David: My insider tip for all those who want to learn about culture & history in Jerusalem
Rather thoughtful: My first visit to Jerusalem.


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    • Hi Vera, I can’t recommend you an exact tour, but this is the location I stopped by and took pictures of the camels. I stayed in Arad before, but I regretted not to have chosen this place, it looked so romantic like an oasis: Kfar Hanokdim