The steep cliffs rising out of the Judean Desert look like an unlikely place for a fortress, but there, 400m up, overlooking the Dead Sea, sits the legendary stronghold of Masada. Masada was first fortified by Herod the Great in the late first century BC, who was apparently so scared his people would revolt that he built this virtually impenetrable fortress. There’s a cable car for those who don’t fancy taking one of the various different paths that lead up the hill, but to get the feeling that you really conquered Masada, opt for the ancient snake path, which winds its unsheltered way up the eastern side – an exhausting forty-minute walk. Your reward is an archeological site that appears to dangle over the edge of the precipice, and tremendous views across the desert and the Dead Sea.
Buses run to Masada from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Eliat. Check out Tourist Israel for tours and transport info.