What it's like visiting one of the world's greatest treasures: The 2,000 year-old mountaintop fortress, 'Masada'
Visiting Masada, the ancient fortress built atop a mountain plateau in modern day Israel, is a life-changing experience.
Ben Gilbert/Business Insider
No caveats necessary.
There's simply nothing like visiting an ancient mountaintop fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea. It doesn't feel real. But, due to its isolation and the arid desert climate, the ancient fortress once occupied by King Herod is a shockingly well-preserved relic of humanity's ancient past - one that you can climb to on the same paths used by visiting dignitaries and invading Roman troops.
Here's what that experience is like, first-hand, based on my visit last week.
Since Masada is located in a relatively remote region of mountain desert next to the Dead Sea, we stayed in Jerusalem.
Sunrise at Masada is part of the experience. This is what it looked like at the entrance booth around 4:30 a.m. It was a total relief to see after the ride through pitch black desert morning.
Though sunrise was still an hour away, light started filling the valley below Masada by 4:30 a.m.
There are two options for reaching Masada on foot: the "Snake Path" and the "Roman Ramp." We took the former.
Here's a look at the very beginning of the Snake Path:
On the way up: resplendent views of the Dead Sea and the valley around Masada.
By the time we reached the staging area just below the mountain plateau, I was crazy exhausted. My wife, who runs 10K races for fun and smiles in the face of danger, couldn't stop cheesing.
Don't let the light fool you — sunrise at Masada is distinct and obvious, separate from first light.
As the sun slowly rose in the east, the valley below and the Dead Sea lit up — the first glimpse at the vast, gorgeous landscape we drove through in total darkness.
And that's before we start talking about the incredible fortress itself: Masada.
Masada is situated on a mountaintop plateau. It's a site of major importance to the history of Judaism, having been constructed by a Jewish king.
Between the incredible view of the sunrise and the relative quiet at Masada so early, I would strongly suggest following the Snake Path an hour before sunrise.
More than just pretty views, there's a ton of stuff to explore at Masada — much of King Herod's fortress is still intact.
Masada feels a bit like Mars.
In the distance, in any direction, there are ruins begging to be explored.
Some of those ruins housed the Jewish rebels who fled from the Roman Empire in the first century CE.
As we explored the ruins on the edges of Masada, it was clear why Herod chose the spot for his fortress — 360-degree views of the world around him.
Entire portions of tile mosaics and columns from Herod's time are still in place. It's easy to imagine how gorgeous the palace must have been in its heyday.
Entire rooms are still in shockingly great shape — partially the result of careful restoration, partially the result of being completely isolated in an arid climate.
Here's a look at some of that careful restoration in process — this park worker was already on the job before 8 a.m.
There's an absurd amount to explore at Masada, and it's easy to get caught up in the distant past.
This outlook approximates an outlook that King Herod had during his rule (37 - 4 BCE).
Having explored Masada thoroughly and beginning to feel the heat, we began our descent from the top of the Snake Path:
As we descended, cable cars passed overhead.
But then you don't get to tell people you climbed to the top of an ancient fortress, along an ancient trail, just to watch the sun rise.
And there's the other side, of course. The less beautiful side of history.
- I've had the new iPhone 14 for 2 weeks. I should've listened to Steve Jobs' daughter because I now regret buying it.
- China tells state banks to prepare for a massive dollar dump and yuan buying spree as Beijing's prior interventions have failed to stem its currency's worst year since 1994
- Airtel 5G launched in eight cities, entire country to be covered by 2024
- Essential food item prices spiked in the last one year
- SC to hear SEBI's review petition against RIL on Oct 12
- OPINION: Can trust-based philanthropy become the mainstream?
- PM Modi on India’s 5G launch – here are the key points from the speech
- PM Modi inaugurates India Mobile Congress, experiences 5G devices being showcased