It’s not quite as old as nearby Jaffa – history here stretches back ‘only’ 1300 years – but Ramla’s bustling market, underground pools and crumbling Islamic architecture make it an interesting half-day trip from Tel Aviv. Try to visit on a Wednesday, when the market is at its busiest and most colorful. Map.
Established in 716 CE by the Umayyid caliph Suleiman, Ramla (spot of sand) was a stopover on the road from Egypt to Damascus. Prior to the arrival of the Crusaders in the 11th century, it was Palestine’s capital and it maintained its importance in the Middle Ages as the first stop for the Jerusalem-bound pilgrims who came ashore at Jaffa. Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the majority of the Arab population were expelled or fled and was replaced by poor Jewish immigrants, mainly from Asia (eg India) and North Africa. It’s now a friendly mix of Arabs (20%) and Jews (80%).
A joint ticket for the Ramla Museum, White Tower and Pool of Al-Anaziacosts 22/25NIS adult/concession and can be purchased at the museum. The museum acts as the town’s de facto tourist information centre. For information, see the municipality’s Goramla (http://en.goramla.com) website.
Pool of Al-Anazia (HaHaganah St; adult/concession 14/12NIS; 8am-4pm Sat-Thu, to 2pm Fri, to 6pm Wed & Thu Jun-Aug ) Map. The name means ‘Pool of Arches’, a reference to the majestic stone structures in this underground 8th century reservoir. The most significant structure left from the Abbasid period, it is sometimes called the Pool of St Helena in reference to a Christian idea that the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine I, ordered its construction. Visitors explore the structure by rowboat.
Ramla Museum (08-929 2650; 112 Herzl Ave; adult/concession 12/10NIS; 10am-4pm Sun-Thu, to 1pm Fri ) Map. Housed in a building dating from the British Mandate, this small museum provides an overview of the town’s history. Exhibits include locally excavated gold coins from the 8th to 15th century CE, a collection of traditional products of Arab soap manufacture from the beginning of the 20th century and a display on the 1948 Arab–Israeli War in and around Ramla.
White Tower (Danny Mass St; adult/concession 10/9NIS; 8am-4pm Sat-Thu, to 2pm Fri ) Map. Experts can’t agree whether this 14th-century tower was built as a minaret or a watch tower. One indisputable fact is that the 30m-high structure was built as an addition to the 8th-century White Mosque (Jamaa al-Abiad), of which only traces remain. The site includes three now-dry cisterns and the shrine of Nabi Salih, an ancient prophet mentioned in the Quran.
Great Mosque (Al-Umari Mosque; 08-922 5081; admission 7NIS) Map. Though it doesn’t look particularly impressive from the outside, this is one of the few Crusader buildings in Israel & the Palestinian Territories to have survived almost completely intact. Erected in the 12th century as a Christian church, it was converted into a mosque in the 13th century and the minaret and mihrab (prayer niche facing Mecca) were added at this time. Visits are by appointment only.
Church of St Nicodemus & St Joseph of Arimathea (08-912 7200; cnr Bialik St & Herzl Ave; 9am-noon Mon-Fri) Constructed in the 19th century on a site that Christians believe to be the site of biblical Arimathea, the hometown of Joseph, this Franciscan church has a distinctive square bell tower and a painting above the altar that is attributed to Titian (The Deposition from the Cross). To visit, you’ll need to call ahead.
Samir Restaurant (08-922 0195; 7 Kehlat Detroit St; mains 40-90NIS; 8am-7pm Mon-Thu & Sat, to 6pm Fri ) Map. The clock turns back several centuries in historic Samir, an old Arab family-run restaurant hidden in a dusty backstreet behind the market and set in a refurbished Turkish house. It has an English menu and serves various meat kebabs, dips (try the excellent hummus), falafel and salads.
There are trains to Ramla (map) (13NIS, 25 minutes) from Tel Aviv departing every 20 minutes throughout the day. Buses 450 and 451 depart from Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station every 20 minutes (14.90NIS, 40 minutes).
This is a day tour for you, which is dedicated to Masada. But in Israel everything is different when you get there, I added information about accommodations (guest house and camping sites). Also it’s a great idea to add some information about restaurants and of course how you get there and back to where you came from.
We start with this tour at Masada. After the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 CE, almost a thousand Jews – men, women and children made a desperate last stand atop Masada, a desert mesa surrounded by sheer cliffs and, from 72 CE, the might of the Roman Empire’s Tenth Legion.
Over the last century, Masada has become Israeli shorthand for the attitude that ‘they’ll never take us alive’. During WWII, before the British stopped Rommel’s German divisions at El Alamein (Egypt) in 1942, some Palestinian Jews made plans for a last stand atop Mt Carmel, and a number of Israeli army units hold their swearing-in ceremonies here, vowing that ‘Masada shall not fall again’.
(Less apocalyptically, the Israeli air force has been known to send groups of officers up to do yoga at sunrise.)
Masada has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2001. The entire site, except the Northern Palace, is wheelchair accessible.
Visitors Center; admission including audio guide atop Masada NIS 20
8.30am-4pm or 5pm Sat-Thu, 8.30am-3pm or 4pm Fri, last entry 30 minutes before closing
A really excellent introduction to Masada’s archaeology and history, this museum combines 500 evocative artifacts unearthed by archaeologists (and five replicas) with introductions to Masada personalities – e.g. Herod the Great, who built a palace here in the 1st century BCE, and Josephus Flavius – to make the dramatic events of 73 CE seem close enough to touch. Visitors receive an audio headset, available in seven languages.
Objects on display include Roman arrowheads; a leather sandal once worn by a Roman legionnaire; the remains of Roman-era dates, wheat, barley and olives; and 11 pot shards that – as Josephus writes – may have been used to select those who killed everyone else as the Romans breached the ramparts.
The plateau atop Masada, which measures about 550m by 270m, is some 60m above sea level – that is, about 488m above the surface of the Dead Sea. Visitors are given an excellent map-brochure of the ruins; similar information can be had from an audio guide (20NIS, including admission to the Masada Museum). Both are available – in Hebrew, English, French, German, Spanish and Russian – at the ticket windows, atop Masada and at the museum.
On the ruins, black painted lines divide reconstructed parts from original remains.
Drinking water is available so bring a bottle to refill. Eating atop Masada is forbidden.
Look down in any direction and chances are you’ll be able to spot at least one of the Romans’ eight military camps and their siege wall. The effort put into the siege by the Roman Legions is mind boggling – no surprise, then, that they commemorated their victories over the rebels of Judea by erecting a monumental victory arch in the center of imperial Rome, the Arch of Titus, whose design,
many centuries later, inspired Paris’s Arc de Triumph.
Sound and light show
(%08-995 9333; adult/child 45/35NIS; h9pm Tue & Thu Mar-Oct)
This dramatic, open-air recounting of the history of Masada is meant to be watched from the base of the Roman siege ramp on Masada’s western side. The narration is in Hebrew but you can rent earphones (15NIS) for simultaneous translation into five languages. Access is via Arad and then Rte 3199; from the Visitors Center, it’s a 68km drive. Get there by 8.30pm.
Trails Around Masada
Paths link the remains of the eight Roman military encampments that still encircle Masada, making it possible to circumnavigate the mesa in part or in full. To get a sense of the area’s geography, check out the 3D relief map facing the Visitors Center ticket windows. From the Visitors Center, a trail heads west up Mt Eleazar to Camp H (30 minutes). From here, Roman legionnaires could peer down at Masada, gathering aerial intelligence on the Zealots’ activities. The path continues to the bottom of the siege ramp on Masada’s western side.
Alternatively, you can walk north from the Visitors Center, following the siege wall on a trail known as Shvil HaRatz (the Runner’s Trail). It, too, eventually goes to the siege ramp on the western side.
Another trail links Camp D (north of Masada) with the eminently hikeable Wadi Tze’elim, 4km to the north.
This famously serpentine footpath winds its way up Masada’s eastern flank, starting from near the Visitors Center. Walking up takes about 60 minutes; count on spending 30 minutes to come back down. If you’d like to watch sunrise from the summit, get to the base an hour before the sun comes up, sometime between 4.30am (in June) and 5.30am (in December). Before 8am, access is from the
security barrier near the youth hostel.
On particularly hot summer days, park authorities sometimes close the trail at 10am or 11am (9am when conditions are extreme) for the rest of the day.
The Romans wimped out and so can you – the path up the spine of their siege ramp takes only about 15 minutes to climb. The catch is that the ramp (ie western) side of the mountain is accessible only from the town of Arad, a 68km drive from the Visitors Centre via Rte 31 and then Rte 3199. If you’d like to watch sunrise from the summit, get to the base of the ramp half an hour before the sun comes up.
(return/one-way 76/57NIS, child 43/29NIS; hevery 15 min 8am-4pm or 5pm Sat-Thu, 8am-3pm or 4pm Fri, last trip up 45mn before closing)
Whisks you from the Visitors Centre to the top, in Swiss comfort, in just three minutes. Each car holds 65 people. Wheelchair accessible.
Chenyon Layla Metzada Ma’arav
(08-628 0404 ext 1; http://www.parks.org.il; western entrance, Masada; camping adult/child 53/42NIS, tent rental incl mattress 75/65NIS, 5-person hut with bathroom 450NIS)
A modern, well-equipped camping area on Masada’s western side, near the base of the Roman ramp. Prices include the use of kitchen facilities and admission to Masada. Mattresses and sleeping bags can be rented for 10NIS. Road access is via Arad.
Camping is permitted in a parking area, signposted ‘Nature’s Cultural Hall’ (because operas are staged here), on Masada’s eastern access road at a point 1km west of the junction with Rte 90 and a bit under 2km east of the Visitors Center. There are no amenities, not even water; bring a flashlight/torch.
Masada Guest House
(%02-594 5623/4; http://www.iyha.org.il; dorm/single/double 145/305/424NIS; reservations 8am-6pm Sun-Fri)
This 350-bed hostel is ideal if you’d like to see sunrise from atop Masada. The six-bed, single-sex dorm rooms border on luxurious. Staff do their best to separate travelers from the packs of noisy schoolkids. The swimming pool is open from Passover to October. Dinner (US$16.80, on Friday US$19.60) is served most nights until 8pm. Frequently booked out, especially on Friday, so reserving is a must. Situated a few hundred meters below the Visitors Center. Wheelchair accessible.
Eating & Drinking
Free drinking water is available atop Masada.
Visitors Centre Food Court
(mains from 24NIS; huntil 4pm or 5pm)
Stalls serve felafel (24NIS), shwarma (35NIS), sandwiches and cold beer (26NIS); also has a cafe, McDonald’s and a cafeteria charging 46NIS to 78NIS for a meal. Situated downstairs from the ticket windows.
Getting There & Away
Masada’s Visitors Center, on the eastern side of the mountain, is 21km south of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve; the access road from Rte 90 is 3km long. All intercity buses serving the Dead Sea stop a few hundred meters from the Visitors Center; bus times are posted at Visitors Center ticket windows.
The Roman siege ramp, on Masada’s western side, is accessible from Arad (via Rte 3199). As the crow flies, the Visitors Center is a bit over 1km from the siege ramp; by car the distance is 68km! To get there from Arad, you can take a taxi (08-997 4444; day/night 120/150NIS).
Egged buses (www.bus.co.il) link sites along Rte 90 (including, from north to south, Qumran, Ein Feshkha, Metzukei Dragot Junction, Mineral Beach, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Ein Gedi Beach, Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Ein Gedi Spa, Masada, Ein Bokek, Neve Zohar, Neot HaKikar Junction and Arava Junction) with the following destinations:
Jerusalem – buses 421, 444 and 486; 25NIS to 49.50NIS, one to two hours, about hourly 7am to 5pm Sunday to Thursday, hourly until about 2pm Friday, at least one Saturday night.
Eilat – bus 444; 49.50NIS to 82NIS, 2½ to four hours, four per day Sunday to Thursday, three on Friday, one to three Saturday afternoon and night.
Tel Aviv – bus 421; 46NIS to 49.50NIS, 1¾ to 3¼ hours, departs Tel Aviv at 8.45am and Neve Zohar at 2pm Sunday to Friday. In Tel Aviv departs from the Central (Arlozoroff/Savidor) train station; goes via Jerusalem.
Be’er Sheva – buses 384 and 385; 31.50NIS to 44NIS, 1¼ to 2¼ hours, four per day Sunday to Thursday, two on Friday.
All of these lines can be used for travel north and south along the Dead Sea’s Rte 90, which runs along the Dead Sea’s western shore (eg from Masada to Ein Gedi Beach).
If you’re short on time, it’s possible to do a one-day circuit from Jerusalem on weekdays (Sunday to Thursday). Take bus 444 from Jerusalem to Masada (first departure at 7am); after visiting Masada, hop on any northbound bus to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve; walk over to Ein Gedi Beach for a dip; and finally take bus 486 back up to Jerusalem (last bus at about 7.30pm).
The Dead Sea’s western coast is served by Rte 90 – Israel’s longest highway, it continues north to the Lebanese border and south to the Red Sea. There’s an army roadblock about 14km north of Ein Gedi at the junction below Metzukei Dragot.
The Dead Sea is served by three east–west highways:
Rte 1 – thanks to this modern, divided highway (and a stretch of Rte 90), Ein Gedi is only 75km from Jerusalem. Rte 1 passes through the West Bank but rarely has security issues. For Jerusalem-bound traffic, there’s an army roadblock between the large settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
Rte 31 – connects Arad with Rte 90 at a point a few kilometres south of Ein Bokek. To get to the back (western) side of Masada, take Rte 3199 from Arad.
Rte 25 – passes through Be’er Sheva and Dimona on its way to the Dead Sea’s southern tip, near Neot HaKikar.
Locals recommend that you arrive in the Dead Sea area with a full tank as the only petrol stations are (from north to south) at Lido junction (40km north of Ein Gedi near Jericho), Ein Gedi Beach, Neve Zohar junction and Arava junction (11km west of Neot HaKikar).
Most hikes are circuits so you end up where you began. For one-way hikes, you can arrange (for a fee) to be dropped off and picked up, eg by the kind folks in Neot HaKikar. Only one car rental company (Hertz) has an office at the Dead Sea (at Ein Bokek).
Two amateur archaeologists fishermen brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, stumbled across the outline of something, which might look like a buried boat in 1986. It was on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee, near Migdal, the home of Mary Magdalene.
The design of the boat was typical of ancient boats in the Mediterranean region during the time of Jesus. The planks of the hull were edge-joined with joints held in place with wooden pegs, a rounded stern and a fine bow. The boat had been used for nearly a century.
At the end of its life, the fishermen removed all useful wooden parts, including the mast, stem post and stern post for spare parts. Then they pushed it out into the lake, where it sank in the silt.
The problem started because of the media hype, demonstrating ultra-Orthodox Jews in nearby Tiberias and the local weather.
The media hype following the discovery forced archaeologists to attempt an immediate excavation. The Ministry of Tourism was hoping for attracting more Christian pilgrims, the ultra-Orthodox Jews were demonstrating against the prospect of a boost to Christian missionary efforts and rains had begun.
Then excavators and volunteers was forced to work around the clock for 11 days, to released the Jesus Boat from its muddy surroundings.
The Jesus boat is 8.3 meters (27 feet) long, 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) wide and 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) high. This size would have enabled it to carry up to 15 people. Conservation of its waterlogged timbers then took 11 years and was in the year 2000 permanently displayed Yigal Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar, near where it was discovered.
For this (multiple day) tour, you need to have the following:
An itinerary (this one for example. Click here to customize this tour for you). This is very important, especially for this tour, because it’s possible that the kids have already visited or seen the sights and excitement in this tour. And in Israel there is so much choice, it’s not normal. Customizing this tour for you is easy, quick and very rewarding.
A guide. You can use the information here instead of renting a guide, but in the end it’s more expensive and a huge hassle. I can imagine that having a guide with this tour is not so much needed as with other tours, but still he can be of high value for you and your family.
Transport. Transports can be that you hire a mini-bus with driver, or you rent a car or let your guide do it for you (click here for more info).
This tour is for families and their children. It will bring you to Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Acre, Sea of Galilee, Golan, Safed, Jerusalem and Eilat. The tour is designed for the individual, as for groups, with or without a professional guide. The guide can speak English, German and Dutch.
You will visit the following cities or places in this tour:
Sea of Galilee
Click on More Info or Things to do behind the sigh. Restaurants in the neighborhood of the sights are available in this itinerary each day. Click on Restaurants.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Tour will run with a minimum of 8 participants.
And what are we going to do in this tour?
And for sure we forgot to mention something here. And that is not all. Each evening, when you are tired of the day activities, we organize something different.
A boat cruise
A movies evening
A small city tour
So far the activities (we let you in rest at night, because we assume you want to sleep). The tour includes:
Breakfast (buffet). The breakfast is with your hotel.
Lunch. The lunch varies on the day of the tour; mostly a local restaurant, but there are days we bring lunch packages and even picnics with us.
Dinner. We eat in restaurants and barbecues.
When there are requirements of a special diet, please indicate this when you register the tour. There will be no additional costs required for such diets.
There are twelve days you spend touring Israel with the family theme for this tour. This tour starts with Tel Aviv and it ends with Eilat. The designers of this tour wanted different aspects integrated here and they succeeded with that. Because we are talking about a family tour, that means actually for this tour one thing: Having fun with your family. And having fun means that everyone will enjoy the tour. So, no boring things, no overly conventional museums, digging sites, another church or desert. No, this tour is a careful combination of fun in several levels from amusement parks to doing something fun yourself. And we are not talking about what this tour will do for the family bonding.
Another thing about this tour. We don’t think that children younger then 8 years old can join this tour. Many of the activities are specially designed for kids eight years and older and teenagers and with kids younger then eight means that one of the family members will be hold back, and that is not fair, not? That said, we have special programs for those younger kids (you need to pay a surcharge for that per family). For details, please contact us and we email you such programs.