#igtravelthursday – the wonders of the dead sea and massada in negev desert

Dead Sea

The first glimpse of the magical Dead Sea makes me very excited! What an extraordinary place it is laying in between Israel and Jordan in the Negev Desert. When you get the first glimpse from the road a top before starting the descend below the sea level ending up 300m (985 ft) below the sea level. Everything is so still – the air, the water, no movement in the desert – even cars are rather scarce here – although the latter is probably not true during the high tourist season…

Shores of Dead Sea, Israel

The road runs along the Dead Sea and gives amazing views of the area. The colour of the sea stars in darker blue in the northern ends and keeps turning from turquoise to almost light green in the south where it’s more shallow and there are plenty of visible salt mounts everywhere.

Most people go for a swim and cover themselves in mineral-rich mud during their visit, but I forgot to bring my bathing suit – and anyway I am not to keen to swim in cool water anyway, so dipping my fingers in and walking on the salt crust was enough this time for me.

To Massada, Israel

I would definitely recommend hiring a car so you can explore and stop as you please, for there is quite a lot to see and plenty of hiking trails to enjoy in the region. The drive from Tel Aviv was pleasant and pretty, and took some hour and a half to reach the Dead Sea.

One of the great places to visit is Massada, a Unesco World Heritage site (also called Masada – the writing varies for many names in Israel so look for phonetically similar pronunciations and that’s probably the place you are looking for). Massada is an ancient fortress built by King Herod around 30 BCE and situated on an elevated plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.

Massada ruins

The guide books recommend walking up to Massada (some 700 steps) up the Snake Trail rather than taking the cable car and that is what we did also. January is probably the coolest month in the region and the temperature was around 25c (77F) and it was still quite hot to walk up. I can only imagine how it would be in summer when the temperate climbs close to 40c (104F). The recommendation for hikes in summertime is to start before dawn and enjoy the sunset on the plateau.

Massada Israel

The area consists of preserved, and somewhat reconstructed ruins of the fortress, King Herod’s northern palace, Jewish ritual bath, synagogue and watch towers – all surrounded by amazing views of the Dead Sea and the desert. After the climb and exploring it is nice to get to know more about the history in the visitor centre and enjoy some refreshments there from the pretty versatile selection (I was a bit surprised to see McDonald’s here!).

From Massada we continued down south towards another world heritage site Mamshit, famous craters and other sights in the area, but those places deserve a post of their own…

TRAVEL TIP: Massada gets very busy during the tourist season and if you travel with your own car, then parking can be an issue. Also, one needs to board a minibus to reach the visitor centre where you buy the tickets, and the buses are small and were not running that often when we visited the place – so be prepared for some queuing (the earlier in the morning you get there, the shorter the queues).

Negev desert

You can see below more of my Instagram photos from this trip to Israel. Enjoy! 

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