When planning the trip we figured to hike up to Masada in the pre-dawn light along the hiking trail called the Snake Path and watch the sunrise from atop the legendary fortress It is said the that during the First Jewish-Roman War the Jewish defenders commited mass suicide rather than be captured by the Romans. Our plans were dashed when we learned that in order to be there that early, we would either need to stay near Masada overnight (expensive), join a special sunrise tour (expensive), or drive three hours along highway 90 in early morning (considered unsafe due to poor visibility and complete lack of lighting). Our alternative plan is to rent a car for a day, driving to Masada and see Dead Sea on the way.
We first drove to Masada. Driving along highway 90, the landscape became more and more rocky and desert-like. Close to midday we arrived at the base of Masada, an imposing hill on the shore of the Dead Sea. To our surprise, the car park of the visitor center was free and conveniently located. We choose to walk up the snake path instead of taking the cable car. This was originally the only way to enter the fortress. The walking was quite easy. But the sandy path was baked under the midday sun without any shade. If wasn’t in pleasant March spring weather, it could be a terrible idea to walk up at noon. Bring extra water.
We spent around two hours admiring this impressive fortress, imagining the grandeur of the palace at its peak. The remains were brilliantly restored, convincingly merged with the original rocks. Without the thick black marker line on the wall we would not tell the difference. The most impressive part of Masada is the Northern Palace, built on three stepped terraces on a steep rock face. The lower one was the finest and has a breathtaking view over the valley.
Leaving Masada we drove further south for another 15min and arrived at Ein Bokek on the Dead Sea. The more popular bathing spot for Dead Sea is Ein Gedi, where one can hike inside the oasis and have a mud bath but Ein Gedi is on every Dead Sea day tour’s itinerary. Ein Bokek is much quieter. From outside Ein Bokek looks like any other resort town with hotels and restaurants line up on the coast.
Arriving at the beach, the calm blue water and the golden sand looks extremely calm and clean. Then I realized why. As the result from the high salt content in water, nothing live can grow inside the sea. Therefore the water could be so blue and clean. This is also where name ‘Dead Sea’ comes from. We waded into the water. Swimming in the Dead Sea is very strange for me as I am a horrible swimming. I heard so much about the floating power of the Dead Sea water but it was difficult for me to keep balance. It felt like the water was pushing me out. Then I lost balance and managed to submerge my face into the water! I can tell you it was very very painful!