Masada © Ana Paula Hirama
The mountaintop fortress of Masada (sometimes spelled Massada) is one of Israel's most popular and remarkable tourist attractions, situated in the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea. This enduring symbol of Jewish history is the site of an heroic defence by 967 Jewish Zealots, who rose against the Roman Empire in 66 AD and took their own lives when defeat seemed inevitable. The ancient fortress which the rebels defended against Roman siege was built by King Herod on top of the plateau.
You can still explore the ruins of the ancient palaces and structures at the site and see the remains of the most complete Roman siege system in the world; the Roman camps, siege wall and ramp are still clearly visible. Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of profound interest for military history buffs as well as those touched by the bravery of the men, women and children who stood their ground against the Roman Empire.
A cable car ride or hike up the Snake Path takes one to the top, where breathtaking views can be enjoyed over the Dead Sea and the surrounding desert. The Masada Sound and Light Show recounts this dramatic history with special pyrotechnic effects, and takes place in a natural amphitheatre on the west side of the mountain reachable only from Arad. The Yigal Yadin Masada Museum is also fascinating.