On your way to the Dead Sea, be sure to couple your visit with Masada and Ein Gedi – my tips, tricks and what to expect at the historical sites.
In my last post for the Dead Sea, I mentioned that you can – and should – include two nearby historic sites while you’re there.
Prior to being in Israel I had never heard of Masada or Ein Gedi. The tour I joined for the Dead Sea included these two sites. A quick google moment or two, I thought they make for good additions to my Israeli trip.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
Lovers of nature! Do not miss a trip to Ein Gedi. This nature reserve is a lovely respite of vegetation and wildlife in the middle of the desert.
You can go wildlife spotting here, but we only managed to see the ibex.
To be honest, I was expecting it to be a walk in the park. No, I mean a literal walk in the park. I thought it was going to be a scenic Botanical Gardens of sorts. I ended up doing a bit of a hike through the reserve.
At one point, we had climbed up way too high, and realised we ventured into restricted territory – yikes. It just stopped raining too and the trails were slippery. Going back down was a bit of a nightmare. Once we’ve arrived back down, we realise we missed the signs. Therefore, keep track of the trails which were not marked very clearly.
The hike itself was quite nice. While we were up high, the view spanned out to the picturesque Dead Sea.
A highlight would be the David’s Waterfall, which at time of visit was a sad trickle. Pretty, nonetheless. There were also spring waters and pools that you can dip into, but I chose not to because the water was too chilly for me for that. It would have been more bearable in the summer times.
Speaking of which… it was much warmer here than other parts of Israel.
Temperatures are warm
Even though we were there in Israel’s winter, temperatures here were comfortably warm. Same situation as at the Dead Sea – low elevations guarantee warm weather all year round.
This is me in all of my full coat glory. I was for sure, overdressed for Ein Gedi.
I knew it was going to be warmer here, but I didn’t realise just how warm it got. Coming from cold Jerusalem, I brought along my coat. Jerusalem was about 10 degrees celcius. Ein Gedi temperatures rose to about 20 degrees.
Ein Gedi was our first stop, and it was raining as well. My coat seemed appropriate – for the first 20 minutes. After we’ve paid the entrance fees and can’t backtrack to the tour bus. Great. So I was basically hiking with a coat on my back. Luckily I had some sense to carry a backpack, albeit a small one. I manage to hang my coat over my bag and hike hands-free.
So just an FYI, layer up lightly.
We were there for a couple of hours, and then we’re off to Masada.
Masada is one of Israel’s most important archaeological sites. It is located up high on top of a hill, and overlooks the Dead Sea and surrounding desert.
You can either hike up here, or take the cable car – which we did. Because we’ve done our fair share of hiking at Ein Gedi. You can purchase one-way or return cable car tickets. The return tickets were of better value than the one-way tickets.
The excavated ruins at Masada were fascinating. King Herod was a bit of a paranoid nutcase who built this fortress atop of a hill in the middle of the desert in case of a revolt against him. He loved water – like LOOOVEDD – and had huge swimming pools and luxurious water baths built not just in his palace fortress, but in areas outside of it as well. For the public to enjoy.
How did he manage to get gallons of water up this fortress, in the middle of the freaking desert? Genius engineering by his, uh, engineers. Actually, very cool. The fort had so much water, that when Jewish Sicarii rebels took over much later, they were able to survive just as well due to the leftover water that still remained.
The Sicarii were these cool ninja-esque Jewish rebels who hid daggers, or sicae, under their cloak and knifed invading Romans to death. In public. After they killed, they hid back the daggers and blended into the crowd. Ninjas.
In one of the temple ruins, there were Jewish scholars (I think) working on scriptures. You can have them write your name in Hebrew for a small donation. Might make for a unique souvenir.
The Dead Sea
Our last stop for the tour was the Dead Sea, which was my must-dos in Israel. It was truly an experience like none other.
Check out my guide here, for what to expect when visiting the Dead Sea for the first time.
The Masada, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea
A quick non-sponsored review on the tour I was on – the Masada, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea Tour with Abraham Tours.
The company had a Dead Sea tour option as well, if the Masada and Ein Gedi does not appeal. I personally liked the daytrip that I chose because it hit a lot of birds with one stone.
This tour was a self-guided one, meaning the driver/tour guide will briefly tell you about the sites you’re visiting. You get dropped off at the sites, and you’re free to explore on your own. If you have any specific questions, the driver is more than knowledgeable to answer them.
During the Dead Sea experience, towels were provided, which I thought was a convenient touch.
The only place I would say would have been nice to have a guided tour would be at Masada. If you decide to join this particular tour, grab a free guide at the entrance of Masada to make some sense of the ruins. Or quietly join the groups of the many guided tours that would be going on. We only did this once – while the water engineering system was being demonstrated. We would never have figured that one out by ourselves.
Oh. The tour mini bus was awesome – your seats have individual USB ports for your electronic charging needs and there was wifi! Noice.
Have you been to Masada and Ein Gedi? Where else can you visit at the Dead Sea?