When researching our trip to Israel there was one thing we knew we couldn’t miss: the chance to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea by taking the Masada Snake Path to the fortress. Luckily it lived up to the hype and it was one of our favourite experiences on the trip.
There are several hiking paths to the top but the most iconic and commonly used is definitely the Snake Path.
You don’t need to be a hiker to walk the Masada Snake Path, you just need a little determination. Although many people visit on a tour, it isn’t necessary. It’s very easy to do independently, and of course a lot cheaper!
Here’s exactly what to expect from hiking the Snake Path for sunrise, one of the best hikes in Israel.
Read next: The must-see places to visit in Israel
Hiking the Masada Snake Path
Distance: 2.1km one way
Time: 45 minutes - one hour up and 35 minutes down
Difficulty: Steep but a very good, well defined path, mostly stepped
Starting the hike
Unfortunately you can’t start the hike whenever you want as the pathway is only open one hour before sunrise (the gate is manned) but even if you walk slowly you’ll still find you have enough time to get to the top before the sun comes up.
After buying a ticket (Masada is a national park), you’ll go through the turnstile and begin the slow trudge to up to the fortress.
The path is gravel and well maintained for the most part, though we’d advise wearing trainers or hiking boots (not open toes shoes) as it is stony and uneven in a couple of places. The steeper sections have hand rails.
It’s a good idea to have a torch with you to check footing, although it was only dark for around 15-20 minutes and after that it was easy to walk without any additional light.
The track is a series of switchbacks and there are plenty of places where you could stop either on benches or on a handily placed rock for a breather as you head up.
It’s not a difficult walk but what makes it feel difficult at points is the fact that you probably haven’t slept much knowing your alarm is going to go off at the crack of dawn!
I felt a little light headed at points so, if you’re like me, and think you won’t sleep much beforehand, then bring some snacks and a decent amount of water to get you through (there’s a delightfully ice cold water dispenser at the top in case you need a top up).
Some people motored up the path in around 30 minutes, but the average duration was around 45 minutes and many people take the full hour.
Reaching the top
Once you reach the top there is heaps of space to spread out and grab a seat so that you’re ready for the sunrise.
We found lots of people congregated together at the platforms at either end but there is loads of room along the walls to spread out and feel like you’re not part of a crowd.
The sunrise is stunning as it slowly illuminates the Dead Sea and surrounding desert.
You’ll find it warms up pretty quick at this point, and as you explore the fortress you’ll probably find you need to start removing a few layers of clothing!
The fortress is really impressive and there’s actually a lot to see.
Much of it is in ruins but there is enough left that if you are really enthusiastic you could spend a couple of hours looking around but we found that around 40 minutes was enough for us.
After that point we felt like heading back down for a nap : )
Hiking down the Snake Path
If you’ve had enough walking at this point you could wait until 8am for the cable car to start running. The walk back down the Snake Path is easy though and it should only take around 35 minutes as it’s downhill all the way.
You also get to enjoy all the scenery that was under darkness on the way up so we’d recommend going for it.
If you find descents difficult it might be a good idea to have walking poles with you, or make use of the hand rails which are in place on many sections.
I tend to find descents difficult sometimes, but as the path is in good condition this one wasn’t difficult.
Masada Snake Path entrance fee
Masada is a national park and costs 29 shekels to enter (approx US $8). If you plan on visiting three or more national parks in Israel then you should buy a national park pass which will save a small amount of money.
How to get to Masada Snake Path
Masada is a 15 minute drive north of Ein Bokek, the main hub for the Dead Sea and you will need to park at the Masada Eastern Parking before starting your hike. Even if you don’t fancy sunrise, you will need to be there before 10am as this is when they close the Snake Path due to the heat.
Where to stay for the Masada Snake path
The key thing when booking any hotel around here is to ensure that you are booking the correct country! Tripadvisor especially loves to recommend options in Jordan when you search Ein Bokek, so make sure you don’t accidentally book the wrong Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, otherwise you’ll find yourself having to make a trip to another country.
Ein Bokek - This is where the majority of hotels with private beaches are based and is also beside the public beach. Although extremely limited it also has the most dining options.
Ein Gedi - Around 30 minutes away from Ein Bokek you’ll find Ein Gedi. Currently due to sinkholes in the area you can’t visit the Dead Sea from here but it is worth looking at if you don’t want to stay in a resort area. The nature reserve here is wonderful. There are a couple of dining choices at the hotel or Kibbutz but no other options. Food was generally poor.
Neve Zohar - This is a small village around five minutes drive from Ein Bokek. Good if you don’t mind not having access to a private beach. There are no dining options whatsoever but you can drive over to Ein Bokek. Accommodation is extremely rustic and to be honest we considered it to be up there with the worst value accommodation we had in Israel. For this reason we wouldn’t recommend it unless you really want to save a few shekels.
We stayed in all three areas and only liked our accommodation in Ein Bokek - and not just because it was 5 star, over the last two years we have mainly stayed in small guesthouses around the world but we just can’t recommend the choices in Ein Gedi or Neve Zohar.
The Crowne Plaza
Head and shoulders above the rest, the Crowne Plaza is the place to go when visiting the Dead Sea. The rooms here are plush, comfortable and come with stunning views of the sea itself. There is a beach literally in front of the hotel, so you won’t have to walk far to float. Ask for a renovated room.
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Are you planning a trip to the Dead Sea? Would you hike up to Masada before sunrise? Let us know in the comments below!