Masada Mountain & Cable Car

The magnificent antiquities of the lofty desert fortress of Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea, symbolize human endurance. In 68 CE, Jewish rebels against Rome took Masada, but when the Romans finally captured the fortress, the historian Josephus relates that the Jews chose death over captivity. Map.

Climb the snake path or ascend by cable-car to tour the beautifully restored remains of this UNESCO World Heritage Site first built by King Herod, complemented by the dramatic display at the Masada Museum.

Main points of interest:

The western complex access to Masada National Park from the direction of Arad (Route 3199).

  • The sound and light show – an audiovisual show held in the amphitheater.
  • Roman siege engines – reconstruction of Roman siege engines.
  • Overnight camping – permanent tents and campsite (for a fee).
  • The ramp – ascent to the site up the ramp built by the Romans takes about 15 – 20 minutes.
  • The ancient northern cisterns – a visit to the vast water cisterns carved out of the mountain.

The mountain plateau:

  • The Northern Palace – the remains of Herod’s magnificent private palace, built on three levels, with mosaic floors, and reconstructed wall paintings.
  • The synagogue – the remains of one of the only synagogues to have been preserved from Second Temple times.
  • The Lots room – the room in which potshards were found bearing the names of the Sicarii living at Masada during the Revolt.
  • The Byzantine church – the remains of the church of the hermit monks, with a mosaic floor and decorated walls.
  • The Western Palace – a spacious palace built during the time of Herod.
  • The bathhouse – the remains of a Roman-style bathhouse with many rooms.
  • The commandant’s office – a set of rooms decorated with reconstructed wall paintings.
  • The southern cistern – a very large cistern for collecting water on the mountain plateau.

The eastern complex:

Access to the Masada National Park from the direction of the Dead Sea (Route 90). At the eastern entrance, there is also a cafeteria, restaurant, souvenir shop, and first aid station.

  • Masada Museum – the Yigal Yadin Masada Museum has been open since 2007, a gift of the Shuki Levy Foundation. A visit to the museum can also include a theatrical narrative experience, giving visitors the background and setting the scene before visiting the site itself.
  • The cable car – from the eastern entrance complex, a modern cable car goes up to the Snake Path Gate at the top of the mountain.
  • The Snake Path – visitors can also ascend to the top of Masada via the Snake Path – which takes about an hour going up, and 30 minutes coming back down.

The western entrance complex – access to Masada National park from the direction of Arad (Route 3199).

  • Sound and light show – as night falls, sound and light shows are presented in the amphitheater at the entrance, telling the story of settlement at Masada.
  • Roman siege engines – at the foot of the ramp are reconstructions of Roman siege engines, used by Universal Studios when filming “Masada” in 1979.
  • Overnight camping – with permanent tents and camping areas. The campsite is equipped with toilets, hot showers, and cooking areas, for a fee.
  • The ramp – to the west of Masada is a ridge that is just 60 m lower than the top of the mountain. In the year 73 CE, when the Romans besieged the Zealots who had made their stronghold on the mountain, they took advantage of a natural rock-fall at this site and built an earthen ramp over it, supported by wooden beams. After a few months the Romans were able to raise a siege tower on the ramp, and destroy the wall. In response, the besieged occupants of the mountain built an improvised wall, but this was torched by the Romans. Above the ramp, a section of the casemate wall is missing, the section that was breached during the siege and through which the Romans entered Masada.
  • The northern cisterns – Herod built an impressively large water collection system. Dams built along the Nachal Masada riverbed diverted the floodwaters into channels, which filled 12 vast water cisterns on two levels, quarried out of the northern slopes of Masada. These cisterns could hold 40,000 m³ of water, which was then carried up through the Water Gate by pack animals, to storage cisterns on the mountain plateau.

The mountain plateau:

  • The Northern Palace – the Northern Palace was daringly constructed on the hilltop, over the chasm. The palace is built on three rock terraces, with a total height difference of some 30 m, and required strong retaining walls. The palace shows Hellenistic and Roman architectural influence. On the upper terrace were Herod’s private rooms, a residential wing with four rooms and a central hall. The rooms were paved with geometric mosaic designs, and frescoes were painted on the walls. The mosaic floor of the south-western room has been preserved, patterned with black and white hexagons. This is a common design in Rome and its environs, and its existence here may be evidence of the origins of the artists who created it. Outside is a semicircular patio, formerly surrounded by columns, which looks out over the He’etekim Cliff in the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea, and the Roman siege array. In the center of the middle terrace was a circular hall surrounded by columns, of which only the foundations remain. This was the reception and banqueting hall. The lower terrace also held a hall, surrounded by colonnades. The exterior walls of the hall were decorated with stucco designs, and the interior walls – with frescoes (wall paintings painted on damp plaster) depicting colored imitation marble panels and geometric designs. The palace also had a small bathhouse, in which were found the skeletal remains of what are presumed to have been three of the rebels, as well as a woman’s braided hair, remarkably well preserved.
  • The synagogue – a building used in Herod’s time as a stable was turned into a synagogue by the rebels. Two pits dug into the floor of the room in which fragments of biblical scrolls were found seem to have served as a geniza, a storage archive for religious texts. Benches were built along the walls. This is one of the few ancient synagogues that was in use at the end of Second Temple times. To the south of the synagogue, in the “casement of the scrolls”, a collection of articles from the time of the Revolt was found, including sections of scrolls and papyrus.
  • The Lots room – many inscribed pottery shards (ostraca) were found in this room, mainly bearing people’s names, including ‘Ben Yair’, the name of the leader of the Sicarii, the dominant group among the Masada rebels. These could perhaps have been the lots cast by the rebels on the night they decided to put an end to their lives, or they may have had to do with the administration of life in the rebel community.
  • The Byzantine church – the church was the meeting place of the hermit monks. The nave of the church is paved with colorful mosaics, and the walls are decorated with patterns made by setting pottery and stones in plaster. The apse at the end of the nave is completely preserved. Glass from the window in the wall of the apse was found in the courtyard, as well as dozens of clay tiles from the roof. In the western room of the church is a mosaic floor decorated with floral patterns and medallions, depicting fruit and a basket of communion bread.
  • The Western Palace – this palace is the largest building on Masada, 3700 m² in size, built by Herod. The entrance lobby has inbuilt benches, and the walls are decorated with stucco designs. On the first story is a hall. Because of four depressions in the floor in which the legs of the King’s throne could have been set, it has been assumed that this was the “Throne Room”. A flight of stairs leads to the second story, which looks out over the bathing complex below, with its magnificent mosaic floor.
  • The bathhouse – the bathhouse is built in Roman style, and all its rooms are well preserved. At the entrance is a courtyard surrounded by columns, intended for gymnastic exercise. The dressing room (apodyterium) is decorated with frescoes and special stone tiles. During the Revolt, an immersion pool was built here. In the tepid room (tepidarium) the frescoes have been wonderfully well preserved. An opening in the wall of this room leads to the stepped pool of the cold room (frigidarium), in which the floor rests on small columns. Hot air flowed through ceramic pipes incorporated in the walls, heating the room. From the roof of the bathhouse, the entire Masada plateau is spread out before the observer.
  • The commandant’s office – the commandant’s office, by the Snake Path Gate, is built as a series of rooms decorated with frescoes (wall paintings made on damp plaster). Most of the decorations are geometric patterns and imitation marble, while others have floral designs.
  • The southern cistern – 64 steps lead down to the bottom of the large cistern. Carved into the wall by the staircase is an inscription – left by a youth movement group on a visit to Masada in 1941.

The eastern entrance complex

Access to the Masada National Park from the direction of the Dead Sea (Route 90). At the eastern entrance, there is also a cafeteria, restaurant, souvenir shop, and first aid station.

  • Masada Museum – the Yigal Yadin Masada Museum has been open since 2007. A visit to the museum can also include a theatrical experience and radio narrative, giving visitors the background and setting the scene before visiting the site itself.
  • The cable car – from the eastern entrance there is a cable car up to the Snake Path Gate at the top of the mountain. The modern cable car replaces the old cable car of the 1970s, and fits in better and less intrusively with the surroundings. The old cable car was installed in 1971, carrying a limited number of visitors to the lowest point on the hilltop, from which they continued their ascent to the top by stairs. In 1998 the cable car system was replaced in order to meet the requirements of the increasing number of visitors to the site. The lower cable car station was built at the foot of the mountain, becoming part of the visitor center complex. The stairs at the upper station were removed, and entry to the fortress today is through a suspended bridge, making access possible also for people with disabilities.
  • The Snake Path – visitors can also ascend to the Masada plateau via the Snake Path – a climb of about an hour.

Access to the top of Masada: Today it is possible to get to the top of the mountain by cable car on the Dead Sea side, or by two paths:
The Rampart Path:
A steep path, but short and convenient, ascending from the western parking lot of Masada (access from Arad). This path, which dates back to ancient times and was made by monks in the Byzantine period, surmounts a difference in elevation of 100 m. It is a 20 minute climb.

The Snake Path:
A long  path that covers a height difference of 350 m. The path is broad and easy, and ascends from the eastern parking lot at Masada. It is a 45 minute climb.
The Snake Path opens an hour before sunrise every morning. The Snake Path is closed in exceptional weather conditions, usually as a result of IDF reports on severe weather conditions in the area.
 
Length of visit: Three hours

Best season: All year round (in summer, morning is preferable)

Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time

  • Summer:
    Sunday – Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm
    Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm
  • Winter:
    Sunday – Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm
    Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm

 

Cable car :
The cable car operates Sunday to Thursday and Saturdays between 8 am and 5 pm (last ascent by cable car – 4 pm, last descent by cable car – 5 pm).

On Fridays, between 8 am and 4 pm (last ascent by cable car – 3 pm, last descent by cable car – 4 pm).
On the eve of holidays, 8 am – 1 pm
On the eve of the Day of Atonement, 8 am – 12 noon

Contact us

Telephone: 08-6584207/8
Sound and light show reservation center – 08-9959333
Fax: 08-6584464
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/masada2012

Entrance fee

Adult – NIS 29, child – NIS 15
Group (over 30): Adult – NIS 23, child – NIS 14
Students- NIS 25

Subscribers:
Entrance is free for annual (Matmon) subscribers, but there is a fee for the cable car:
Adult return – NIS 47
Adult one-way – NIS 28
Child return – NIS 28
Child one-way – NIS 14

Eastern entry plaza (entrance fee and cable car in both directions):
Adult – NIS 76, child – NIS 43
Group: Adult – NIS 71, child – NIS 40
Students- NIS 65

Entrance fee and cable car in one direction:
Adult – NIS 57, child – NIS 29
Group (over 30): Adult – NIS 52, child – NIS 29
Students- NIS 48
Snake Path / Roman Rampart (Ascent on foot – from first light):
Adult – NIS 29, child – NIS 15
Group (over 30): Adult – NIS 23, child – NIS 14
Students- NIS 25

Cable car one direction (for subscribers and cardholders):
Adult – NIS 29, child – NIS 15

Cable car both directions (for subscribers and cardholders):
Adult – NIS 47, child – NIS 29

Museum
Entrance to Masada Museum – NIS 20 (child / adult)

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