Hiking Masada at sunrise was totally worth it, and I recommend it to everyone who asks. Later in the day, you can take the cable car if you don’t want to spend 45+ minutes with aching calves. It will be far less rewarding, though, and you’ll miss the beautiful sunrise over the Dead Sea. At the top, you can see to see the beautiful, rugged mountain landscape of the Israeli desert for miles. You can explore the ancient fortress and learn about the history that took place there. The ruins still define rooms, palaces, and churches atop the towering mesa.
Sunrise is usually anywhere from 5:30-6:45 am depending on the time of year, so plan to get up early! We woke up at 3:45 and were staying less than 15 minutes away. Plan for 1.5 hours to check in, get a map, and hike to the top. Then plan for another hour at the top marveling at the sunrise, taking pictures, and wandering around. The trail up is called the Snake Path because of its windy twists and turns. There is railing and stairs on much of it, but be prepared for about an hour of steep walking and stairs. Of course, after that, the journey down is a breeze!
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