Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Leaving Tel Aviv: Day Trip to Masada and the Dead Sea

One of the things I do love about Israel is how varied it is in topography in such a small area.  This means that getting from the dry desert plateaus to the lush northern mountains is only a drive or bus ride away.  Israel's size also makes it easy to get out of any metropolis, including Tel Aviv, to quickly reach a destination flush with natural beauty.

So, when my friend's from the states swung by for a, Israeli wedding and invited me for a "day trip" to Masada and the Dead Sea, I simply could not refuse. We decided to leave Tel Aviv at night (~12:45am), and arrived at the foot of Masada by around 2:30am. We pulled into the parking lot at the eastern entrance where there are picnic tables, garbage cans, and restrooms close by. We then had time to drink some coffee, eat some snacks and get organized before heading up the snake path at around 4:00am to catch the sunrise.

As you can see, during our walk up and after we arrived at the top, we encountered a hefty number of tourists, mostly Birthright participants.  So, I elbowed my way through towards the rising sun to try and snag some iconic shots of the sunrise over Masada.  

Me, harnessing the power of the sun between my fingertips! 
In addition to the countless Birthright teens and post-teens that dotted the face of the desert plateau, we also encountered a well-attended bar-mitzvah which I assume had commenced in darkness.  If you take a look at the photo below, you can see their congregation in the far back.

We wandered around checking out the main attractions: the synagogue, the baths, the water storage and well-preserved frescos and mosaics from Herod's palace.  We tried our best to creep close-enough towards the Birthright groups on their 10-day trip to Israel so we could overhear the guides explain various anecdotes and historical Israel facts, but once the sun started getting hotter, we decided it was time to head back down. 

So we stumbled back down the snake path and back to our car, pulled out a map, and headed towards the nearest accessible dead-sea beach that provides dead-sea mud.  We ended up at the Ein Gedi Spa which offers tourists access to their beach, their spa, their showers and their mud. They have a variety of different packages depending on the level of luxury you are looking for.  We, of course, took the cheapest package and proceeded to pull on our bathing suits and head to take a dip in the salty sea. 

 We bathed in the sulfurous water until our skin started burning. Then we headed towards the hot salt-water springs, the wet mud, and their lovely chlorinated swimming pool before showering off and heading home.

Some shots of the dead sea on the way back:

Definitely a fantastic day/night trip that I highly recommend to anyone in Israel: tourist or resident alike.

If you have questions, or need more info about the trip, e-mail me or leave your comment here!


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