The Dead Sea is an indisputable attraction in Israel. The prospect of levitation on water attracts many tourists, but this is not the only reason why you should go to this area. There are two more places that can’t be missed.One of them is the fortress – Masada, located in the Judean Desert, above 400 m above the Dead Sea level, or less than 100 meters above sea level.
Masada is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Israel. It was built in 30 BC by Herod the Great – King of Judea.
The size of the fortress is impressive, especially because of its bloody history. In 66 AD, during the Jewish War, Masada was occupied by Sycarians – the most radical branch of Zelots. However, tragic events took place in 72 AD during the Romans siege of the fortress. Its seemed that it was impossible to conquer Masada because of its location. However, led by Flavius Silva, the Romans raised a siege wall and a slope to attack Masada effectively.
When on 1st May 73, it became clear that the defenders would not be able to maintain the fortress, they decided to commit group suicide. According to the plan, every man was supposed to kill his entire family, then 10 were chosen from the other men who killed the rest. The rest ten men chose the one who killed 9 and after that killed himself. Thus, as a result of a group suicide, 960 people died, only two women and five children who managed to find a shelter, avoided a tragic death.
When the Romans reached the place they saw a mass grave. Additionally, Zealots set the entire fortress on fire, except for full granaries. This was meant to show Romans that their suicide was not related to food shortage as a result of the long-term siege of the fortress. For the Israelis, Masada is a symbol of heroic struggle until the end, to this day Israeli soldiers take an oath here, saing: ′′ Masada will never be conquered again ′′
At the top you can now see Herod’s northern palace, where an amazing view of the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert is spread from the viewing terrace. It’s also worth a look at a bathhouse near the palace, which is decorated with wall paintings. There are two ways to get to the top: on foot taking so called Snake Path that can be covered in about an hour or a cable car. When deciding to walk you have to consider the high temperatures prevailing in this area. The optimal option is to use the cable car to the top and walk down. The admission to the top of Masada costs 31 shekels, single ticket for cable car costs 28 shekles, while return one costs 46 shekels.
Absolute must-do attraction is swimming in the Dead Sea. As part of a short introduction, the Dead Sea, which is actually a lake, is 430 meters below sea level. However, as I recall from my geography lessons, it is crypto-depression, meaning that its bottom is further 340 meters below sea level. Consequently, the Dead Sea is located more than 700 meters below sea level.
It is also the most salted lake in the world. The best place to swim here is the free beach in Ein Bokek. There are numerous showers, changing rooms and restaurants. While searching another place to swim, consider that at the Dead Sea, you should avoid bathing in unauthorised places, because you can find numerous faults under a thin layer of salt, where you can collapse without a trace.
Before bathing in the Dead Sea, it is not recommended to perform waxing/shaving procedures, because to put it mildly, the bath may prove to be uncomfortable. I guarantee that even minor cut you will feel very intensively.
When swimming, violent movements should also be avoided, as it’s harder to maintain balance in saltwater. Anyway, it’s hard to talk about swimming here, because it looks more like levitating on the water.
It might appear that salt spas and Masada are the only reasons to visit this area. However, there is one more unique attraction – the Ein Gedi oasis.
Here you can see amazing views of the Dead Sea area, caves, old synagogue, and take a bath in waterfalls surrounded by lush vegetation which is very impressive, taking into account harsh conditions here.
The best way to end a trip to the Red Sea is observing the area at sunset.