Start the tour with a drive to Masada, an incredible rock outcrop that rises out of the Judean Desert and looms over the Dead Sea. Tour the archaeological remains of Herod’s palace-fortress built on Masada’s plateau summit. Masada was Herod’s first great fortress, constructed in c.30BC. The king chose this location for its natural defensive advantages and, as an escape from the city. Tour the site including storerooms, guardhouses, and traditional Roman bathhouses with beautiful frescos. See the fortified double wall, Herod’s northern palace, and the western palace that was intended for guests.
Following Herod’s death, Masada became a Roman garrison and the scene of a dramatic standoff between Jewish zealots and Roman troops in the Great Revolt of 63AD-70AD. See where the Jewish zealots turned Herod’s stables into a synagogue and where Roman soldiers broke through the fortified walls to end the standoff. Also, see the remains of a Byzantine-era church and learn about the ingenious water system that supplied fresh water to the remote fortress. Leaving Masada, the tour takes you past the site of the Good Samaritan Inn, where Jesus set his famous parable.
Approaching the Wadi Qelt gorge, you will have a view of the 1,500-year-old Saint George’s Monastery built into the dramatic Wadi Qelt cliffs. Continue to the archaeological remains of Herod’s palace at the entrance to Wadi Qelt near Jericho. Herod built his magnificent winter palace on the remains of earlier Hasmonean palaces. The elaborate complex was built in three stages with the largest section constructed on both sides of Wadi Qelt connected by a bridge across the valley. Tour the excavated site that reveals the luxurious lifestyle of Herod the Great with its swimming pools, ornamental gardens, reception rooms, courtyards, royal living quarters, and bathhouses.
Additional Options in the Area:
1. Visit Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
2. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and a walk along the banks of David Stream or Arugot Stream.
3. Take a swim in the Dead Sea.
4. Visit Mount Sodom and the Flour Cave.
5. Take an exhilarating desert jeep safari.
6. Watch the Sound and Light Show at Masada.
7. Full day at Masada, with an in-depth tour of the site including the southern section. You can include a hike to Masada; a walk up the Snake Path to the plateau summit or the longer, challenging hike trail that connected the Roman siege camps plus a visit to the cisterns on the northwestern cliff of Masada.