Visit the Masada complex: bookings & prices

Visiter le complexe de Massada

Going to Israel? Don’t miss a visit to the Massada complex, one of the country’s most emblematic sites.

Perched high above the plains of the Judean desert, the Masada complex is an ancient fortress built between 37 and 15 BC. Comprising several palaces and impressive fortifications, the fortress housed a garrison. It went on to play a decisive role in the history of Israel, and today remains a symbol for many Jews around the world.

Towering over 400 metres above the plain, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding desert and the Dead Sea! In addition to the exceptional scenery surrounding the site, a visit to the Masada complex gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in its history, through the very well-preserved remains. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about visiting the Masada complex.

History of the Masada complex

L'Histoire du complexe de Massada

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Framalicious

Masada means « fortress » in Hebrew. This citadel is a landmark in Israel’s history, built by King Herod the Great as a refuge from a possible Egyptian invasion. But it was some 100 years later that the story of Masada became legend.

After the Romans took Jerusalem in 70, a group of Jewish rebels, the Zealots, took refuge in the citadel. They lived in this base for 3 years, resisting Roman attacks. But in 72, the general commanding the Roman army in Judea launched an offensive against Masada. A force of 8,000 Romans surrounded the citadel. At the time, the citadel was surrounded by cliffs and accessed by a single path known as the Serpent’s Path, making it extremely difficult to attack or escape.

The 1,000 or so Jewish rebels were sure that the fortress would hold. They had weapons, supplies and easily controlled the road. But the Romans were ingenious and cruel. They decided to build a ramp over 100 meters high to reach the castle walls. They used slaves, Hebrew prisoners, to move thousands of tons of stone and earth.

The ramp took 7 months to complete, enabling the Romans to break down the fortress gates in April 73 using siege engines. But when they entered the walls, they found the buildings ablaze and all the besieged dead. They had preferred mass suicide and the destruction of their citadel to letting it fall into enemy hands. They had left their food supplies intact to prove that they had remained alive and proud to the end.

For this legendary history and the exceptional beauty that surrounds the site, the Masada complex was listed by Unesco in 2001.

Our tips for visiting the Masada complex

Visiter le complexe de Massada

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Dmitriy Feldman svarshik

Remember to bring sun cream factor 50, sunglasses and a hat, as the sun is extremely hot in the desert. It’s best to visit the Masada complex during the cooler hours of the day, at dawn and dusk.

If you want to take the snake trail, be aware that it closes at 9 a.m. on very hot days, and at 8 a.m. in case of extreme heat. You’ll need to plan your ascent accordingly. The Roman ramp is accessible in all weathers.

The seat ramp and snake path are not accessible to people with reduced mobility. They can, however, access all the facilities at the east and west entrances, as well as the plateau via a cable car.

What to see and do at Masada?

Les ruines de Massada

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Dmitriy Feldman svarshik

There are several ways to get to the site. You can take the snake trail for a one-hour climb, the Roman siege ramp in 30 minutes or use the cable car.

Once on the plateau, you’ll discover the North Palace, a remnant of Herod’s private palace. It has three levels with magnificent mosaic floors. The synagogue houses a collection of items dating from the revolt and the siege, including papyrus. You’ll then enter the pottery room, which houses shards bearing the names of some of the rebels who inhabited the fortress.

You’ll need to head for the West Palace, also built under Erode, with its impressive 3,700 m² of floor space. Here you’ll find the throne room and baths. Along the serpent path is the commander’s office. To the south of the plateau, 64 steps lead up to one of the cisterns which, thanks to an ingenious water recovery system, enabled the inhabitants to withstand the Roman siege.

There’s also a sound and light show every evening – an incredible experience if you’re visiting the Masada complex! You can then sleep at the campsite, for an unforgettable night in the desert, illuminated by the twinkling stars. In the morning, climb the ramp to watch the sun rise over the Judean plains.

How much does a ticket to the Masada complex cost?

Le complexe de Massada la nuit tombée

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Admission without cable car

  • Adult: 31 shekels ( €8);
  • Young people: 17 shekels ( €4.5);
  • Adult group: 26 shekels ( €7);
  • Youth group: 14 shekels ( €3.7 );
  • Student: 26 shekels ( €7);
  • Museum: 20 shekels ( €5.3).

Cable car ticket (without entrance) :

  • Adult: 28 shekels ( €7.4) one way, 46 shekels ( €12) return;
  • Young people: 14 shekels ( €3.7) one way, 28 shekels ( €7.4 ) return.

How do I book a ticket for the Masada complex online?

You can visit the official website of Israel’s national parks, where entry is by reservation only. Many agencies also allow you to book a tour online in advance.

This way, you’re sure to have a place for the time slot when you come to visit the Masada complex.

Opening hours

Summer opening hours:

  • Every day except Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
  • Fridays and eves of public holidays: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Winter opening hours:

  • Every day except Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
  • Fridays and eves of public holidays: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Snake Trail opens one hour before sun rise and closes one hour before the site closes. The Roman slope opens 30 minutes before sun rise and closes 15 minutes before the site closes.

How to get to the Masada complex

By bus

Massada lies 100 kilometers south of Jerusalem. The journey takes between 2 and 2.5 hours. The departure station is Central Bus Station, also known as Tahana Merkazit.

To visit the Masada complex, you can either take the 444 bus to Eilat or the 486 bus to Neve Zohar. The bus stops at Masada Junction, and then you have to walk to the entrance of the site. The walk is 2.7 kilometers long. Cabs sometimes wait at the junction.

By car

The site lies 18 kilometers south of Ein Gedi and 12 kilometers north of Ein Bokek, two seaside towns nestling on the shores of the Dead Sea. In both cases, you’ll follow Route 90, then turn off at Masada Junction to reach the eastern entrance to the resort. To reach the western entrance, you’ll need to drive to the town of Arad and then take Route 3199.

Are tickets available in combination with other venues?

La Mer Morte

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Olesya Baron

The Israel Pass allows you to visit the Masada complex and other national parks such as Eilat, Qumran and Ein Gedi. It is valid for 15 days, so you can visit many sites throughout your vacation.

Alternatively, many agencies offer day trips to visit the Masada complex and other attractions in the same area. These tours usually include a swim in the Dead Sea (unforgettable) and a walk in the Ein Gedi nature reserve, departing from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Where to stay near the Masada complex?

If you want to stay as close as possible to the Masada complex, there are several options. You can stay at the Hi Masada Hostel, which is close to the east entrance and has a swimming pool. On the west side, you can sleep in a tent at the national park campsite, for an unusual night in the middle of the desert. If you’re planning to spend several days here, you can also rent an Airbnb.

Alternatively, the seaside resorts of Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek boast several luxury establishments, lodges and campsites. Combine your visit to the Masada complex with a stay on the shores of the Dead Sea.

So, are you ready to pack your bags?