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Ein Gedi and Masada

Explore Herodian and Roman history, siege strategy, desert scenery and religious ideology on this full-day private tour from Jerusalem. With the help of a driver-guide, you’ll avoid having to deal with logistics and can enjoy your day learning about ancient history in the Judean Desert while exploring archaeological sites and desert trails. Gain an insight into the cycles of oppression and liberation in ancient times, the sophisticated engineering techniques of the Romans, and the desert flora and fauna of this wild and isolated part of Israel.

Your private driver-guide will pick you up from your hotel in Jerusalem on the morning of your tour. First you’ll head south, driving through the desert and along the Dead Sea shoreline for about an hour and a half to reach Masada, a rugged cliff-top fortress where King Herod the Great built two opulent palaces in the 1st century BC.

Today it’s a World Heritage Site, accessed by cable car and offers views over the Judean Desert and Dead Sea far below. The free-standing sheer-sided plateau provided a strategic vantage point, and in 66AD 960 Sicarii rebels and Jewish families were besieged here during the First Jewish-Roman War. The siege ended in tragedy and, it’s believed, the mass suicide of the rebels, which spelled the end of a Jewish presence in the area. Your guide will explain the story and the significance of the site for archaeologists, and for Jews, as you walk around the ruined palaces, walls, baths and cisterns and look at the Roman siege ramp and encampments.

Following your visit to Masada, your guide will recommend a place to stop for lunch (not included in the tour cost) before continuing on to Ein Gedi nature reserve, an oasis in the middle of the Judean Desert, significant as David’s hiding place from King Saul. Here, natural spring water cascades over a series of ledges in the desert rock, creating waterfalls and freshwater pools that give life to palm trees, bulrushes, and tropical and Mediterranean plant life.

It’s a great area for hiking and swimming and you may see hyraxes, ibex, and many native bird species as you walk along the Nahal Davide trail. This is a circular hike that follows the river to the Shulamit waterfall, approximately 1.7 km (1 mile) from the entrance. While the route is quite gentle and many parts are shaded, much of the path is uphill so this one- to two-hour hike will require a certain level of fitness.

Once you’ve finished and had time to rest or have a swim, your driver-guide will take you back to your hotel in Jerusalem.

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Audley Travel specialist Paula

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