I’ve heard it said that if you’ve seen one sunrise, you’ve seen ‘em all – well this morning I think I officially disagree.
Using my hostel in Jerusalem as a base, I booked on a tour leaving Abraham’s hostel (about $60) early in the morning so I could catch sunrise from one of Israel’s UNESCO national parks at Masada.
I set off around the ungodly hour of 3am in the minibus. Masada is shy of 2 hours away, about 150km, so you pull just before 5am, with sunrise expected around 6am. That gives you around an hour to hike to the top of the mountain to catch it.
The national park costs around $6 per person to enter (not included in the tour price) and then you’re free to start the hike. If all that falafel and hummus has taken it’s toll, there is a actually a cable car too ($10) but it doesn’t start until 8am so if you’re there for sunrise, make sure you’ve got your hiking boots on guys cos there’s no cable car for us!
It should still be pretty dark when you start your ascent, so the temperatures are a lot cooler than normal. The hike isn’t easy, not by a long shot, in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s actually quite tough. The fittest of the bunch will do it in around 30 minutes or so, the more ‘physically-challenged’ lets say could do it in an hour or more. Despite it being so early though, you’ll be sweating like there’s no tomorrow so make sure you bring a big bottle of water.
It’s steep and relentless, and although it’s a UNESCO park and the views are beautiful, generally speaking there’ll only be a handful of tourists, another huge plus about visiting Israel in the hot summer season.
As it begins to get light, you can see that the scenery in the desert is just beautiful, a huge, sparse, barren landscape as far as the eye can. It literally looks like something from another planet. Finally you make it to the top and you stumble across the Masada ruins at the top, a fortification built by King Herod in the 1st century. The ruins have been excavated well and are pretty impressive, but the main draw for me was the view so I headed over to the sunrise viewpoint and waited.
From here it’s almost fully light, you can see to the Dead Sea and beyond, to the mountains of Jordan in the East and it’s really impressive. Finally you see the sun pop up, the sky turns a set of different hues and your sweat-riddled climb has all been worth it.
I spent the next 30 minutes or so wandering around the ruins, taking some snaps and then headed back down around 7am, still before the cable car began. Going down is a lot faster than the way up! Although by this point the sun is shining and the temperatures are creeping back up to 30 degrees all too quickly.
If you’re on a tour, you continue on to a desert oasis with a couple of small waterfalls. It’s nice to escape the crazy heat and go for a dip. The tour costs around FIND OUT, so should you take a tour? I chose to because I wanted to see sunrise here, there’s no way to do that with public transport so although the tour doesn’t come cheap, it offers you an opportunity that you don’t otherwise get. If you’re not keen on the early start, then public transport in the afternoon does work out cheaper, but you miss sunrise, which in my opinion is half the beauty of the occasion. All in all, if you’re traveling in Israel, Masada needs to be on your itinerary one way or another!
Soon after you head to the Dead Sea for a real bucket list experience, but that’s for tomorrow’s article! Happy travels!
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