We have planned to visit the Dead Sea and Masada for a long time so we were very excited to finally go there. April in Israel is the springtime so the weather is excellent for a trip to the desert. Since in our visit to Israel we were staying in the Galilee (northern Israel) we decided that if we were already going to the Negev desert (southern Israel) then we’re going to enjoy a weekend there. We went out on a Friday morning in direction to the city of Arad where we rented an Airbnb home. We were two families (a total of 9 people) so we rented one house for all of us.
At the entrance to the city of Arad, which is very close to Masada and the Dead Sea, we decided to stop at the shopping mall and stock up with water, snacks, and cookies for the evening coffee/tea. We also found a coffee shop of the Aroma chain (very known in Israel), so we grabbed a light meal. This cafe is also open on Saturdays (Shabbat), which was great as almost everything is closed on Saturday in this area. We’ve decided to eat the next day’s breakfast there too.
After the children took out some energy out in the playground we went to the house to leave our bags and continue to the Dead Sea (as detailed below). For those who come to the area at the weekend like us we highly recommend to eat dinner at the restaurant “Muza” which offers a varied menu, tasty and cheap. This is the only restaurant in Arad that is open on Friday evening so you must reserve a table in advance. You can find their details here. The next day we went to Masada, one of my favorite places to travel in Israel which you can read about it below.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place in the world and attracts many tourists. In recent years, the Dead Sea has become a landmark in the world tourism map. Being a leading candidate for one of the wonders of the world, along with the medicinal qualities, attracts tourists from many countries who are happy to combine a vacation with body and soul healing.
The waters of the Dead Sea are known for their medicinal properties and there is a good reason for that: these waters are rich in 26 essential minerals, almost half of them can not be found in any sea, ocean, or other water sources in the world. In the water, you can find a high concentration of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and bromine which contribute significantly to the body.
Quite a few people go all the way to the Dead Sea from all over the world to apply its mud all over their body, so that the sight of people walking muddy on the shores of the sea is not strange in the area. The combination of the soil and the minerals found in the Dead Sea leads to the fact that the Dead Sea’s mud has many advantages: It helps to stimulate blood circulation, increases the oxygen supply to the skin, peel dead skin cells, removes toxins and mainly contributes to skin rejuvenation and a fresh and youthful appearance.
The low location of the Dead Sea and the greater distance from the sun makes the stay in the area less harmful to radiation. In fact, one of the recommended treatments for people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis is to stay at the Dead Sea due to the unique climatic characteristics of the area. It should be noted, however, that the sun must be gradually exposed and sunscreen must be applied to the healthy areas.
We chose to enjoy half a day at the Ein Bokek beach in the southern part of the Dead Sea. This beach has undergone renovations in recent years, and you can enjoy the clean beaches with the yellow sand that was brought here especially and walk along the promenade for about 15 km.
Each area has its own bathrooms and showers, water fountains, sun loungers and umbrellas and chairs for rent. There are also fixed shade sheds, some even in the water. The entrance to the beach is free of charge.
Although the beaches of Ein Bokek have many tourists from all over the world, they are not very crowded, and there is enough space for everyone. The beaches are suitable mainly for those who like comfort but can get along with a slightly commercial atmosphere, as there are shops, restaurants and, of course, hotels near the beaches.
When you enter the water of the Dead Sea you will notice the known phenomenon – you lie on the water but stay afloat without sinking. Lie on your back, relax and enjoy this natural phenomenon. As soon as your legs are in the water, you will feel as if something is pushing them up. As you enter the water with your whole body, you feel that it is becoming lighter and more buoyant.
Be aware that you can not swim and because of the salt you can not dive or jump. Why is this happening? The salt concentration in the Dead Sea is six times higher than in any other body of water on Earth and reaches 31%. The extremely high concentration of mineral salts in water makes water more dense than ordinary freshwater. Since our body weight is lower (less dense) than the Dead Sea’s water, our body’s float capacity is higher, thus allowing us to float.
If you arrive at the weekend do not forget that all the restaurants and shops are closed. Therefore, you should bring water and food.
Do not shave or remove hair the day before and on the day of the visit. Every wound or crack in the skin burns when it comes into contact with the Dead Sea water.
What to bring:
- Sunscreen and a hat – The Dead Sea area is very hot.
- Drinking water – drink plenty.
- A bathing suit, towels, and slippers
- Mat or towels to lay on the sand. You can rent chairs.
- Changing clothes – the feeling that the salty water leaves on the body is greasy. It is not pleasant to walk around with the bathing suit or clothes that were in contact with the water, so it is recommended to shower and change clothes before leaving and continuing the trip.
How to get There
Address: Ein Bokek beach.
Ein Bokek beaches are located in the Ein Bokek hotel area, in the southern part of the Dead Sea (the beaches are actually located in the Dead Sea evaporation pools). From Route 90 there are two entrances to Ein Bokek: north and south, 5 km apart, the southern entrance is two kilometers north of the junction of roads 90 and 31.
Masada is a site of global importance. Masada is a considered an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel.
This is a fortress on a rock shaped like a rhombus, raised half a kilometer above its surroundings and located exactly where you can take the best shots of the Dead Sea. This is a must visit at least once in a lifetime.
A Little Bit Of History
Masada was the royal fortress of Herod and the last outpost of the Zealots, a jewish group, during the Great Revolt against the Romans in the years 66-73. The site is full of archaeological remains from the Herodian period, including palaces, a bathhouse, warehouses, a water storage plant and more. Herod surrounded the entire peak of Masada with a strong wall, this is not an easy task as the length of the summit is about 600 meters and its width, in the center, is 300 meters.
Herod did even more; Masada was not only a fortress, but a royal fortress with large palaces, an elaborate bathhouse and smaller palaces, which probably served Herod’s family.The northern palace is the most impressive building in Masada, and the way it is built is still amazing today.
During the Byzantine period the mountain was home to a community of monks, and a church was built there, whose remains can be seen to this day.
So apart from antiquities, Masada has, of course, a magnificent view and a fascinating historical story: The zealots, fleeing from the Romans, lived in Masada for seven years until it was clear that the Romans would take the Jews as slaves. The story tells that the Jews decided to commit a mass suicide and to avoid losing their freedom.
There is nothing like seeing the sunrise from Masada! It is an exciting and beautiful sight, but it also requires a particularly early awakening. The sunrise will be even more beautiful if you sleep well the night before nearby. You can find some accommodation in the area, like the city Arad.
There is a beautiful audiovisual show on the western entrance of Masada. It is a spectacular show that is projected on top of Masada Mountain, with huge screens, advanced lighting and a unique soundtrack. It is shown only between March and October on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 20:30, but it is better to check with the site before.
How to get there
From Jerusalem via route 1 and 90 you’ll arrive to Masada national park in about 2 hours.
From Arad to the main entrance/ Eastern entrance it will take around 45 minutes. From this entrance you can take the cable car (for a fee) or hike the snake path, which is steep and takes about 45 minutes (not recommended for families with young children).
From Arad to the site of the audiovisual vision and the Roman Ramp / Western entrance it is a 25 minutes drive. There is a special road descends from Arad to this entrance. Convenient signs at the entrance to the city of Arad direct you to this road. Please note that in this entrance you can only get to Masada fortress by hiking the Roman Ramp which takes about 20 minutes.
*Note that the travel difference between the western entrance (Roman Ramp) and the eastern entrance (the cable car and the snake path) is about one hour drive, so plan in advance how you want to go up.
If you are using a navigation device on the way to the site, make sure it directs you to the correct entry.
Ways to go up to the Masada Fortress
- By cable car – only from the Eastern entrance.
- Hiking the Roman Ramp – about 20 minutes of walking up the ramp (Western entrance)
- Hiking the Snake path – about 45 minutes of walking on a steep path (Eastern entrance).
When to travel to Masada
You can visit Masada whole year round, however in the summertime (especially July and August) it is extremely hot and makes it more difficult to hike and travel there.
What to bring to your trip to Masada
- Water – this is very important as it gets really hot and at the top of the fortress there is no place to buy anything.
- Hats – if you don’t want to finish the day looking like a tomato you should wear a hat.
- Sun screen – again, you wouldn’t want to be burned from the strong sun there.
- Good shoes – the surface is not flat and there are alot of bumps and stones, so put on sports shoes or hiking shoes to avoid tripping over.
We hope this guide would be helpful to anyone who wants to visit this beautiful area of Israel. If you have any questions you can leave them in the comments below or contact us.