Day trips from Jerusalem

One of the top attractions in Israel is the Dead Sea. This beautiful salty lake, located in the Judean Desert, is the lowest place on Earth and one of the most magical places in Israel. Since Jerusalem is the nearest big city to the Dead Sea area, most people go on a day trip from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. I also recommend doing that. In this post, I’ll provide some options for getting to the Dead Sea from Jerusalem and also offer a suggested 1-day itinerary for independent travelers.

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How to get to the Dead Sea from Jerusalem? 

The distance from Jerusalem to the northern part of the Dead Sea is about 40 kilometers, which is about 25 miles. It usually takes about 30-40 minutes to drive there, but there could be traffic in the city center in the morning, so it can also take about an hour. If you want to avoid traffic, it’s best to leave Jerusalem around 7 AM or, if possible, even earlier. Most Dead Sea attractions are located more to the south, around 100 kilometers – 62 miles – from Jerusalem. It takes about 1.5 hours to get there.

In this post, I will provide you with a one-day itinerary for visiting the Dead Sea area independently from Jerusalem. Here are the main ways you can get there: 

By rental car

The best way to get to the Dead Sea is by rental car. So, if you’re okay with driving, you can rent a car in advance through Rental Cars or any other rental website, and drive on your own.

The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is relatively easy to drive. There’s usually not a lot of traffic, the road is well-maintained, and most of the drive is very straightforward. However, there are parts with many curves and only one lane, so some people are afraid to drive there. If you’re okay with winding roads, this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

As mentioned above, the ride to the Dead Sea’s northern tip should take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the traffic. To reach Ein Gedi, Masada, and Ein Bokek, it would take you around 1.5 hours. 

When renting a car, also take into consideration that there is a parking fee at the Dead Sea beach, so make sure you have the Pango app (for Android or iOS) to pay for parking. Read more about parking in Israel.    

By public bus

If you’re less comfortable with driving, you can reach the Dead Sea via public bus. For example, the ride from Jerusalem to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve takes about 1.5-2 hours by bus. However, because of low bus frequency, traveling from one site to another could take longer. Therefore, if you’re traveling by bus, you will probably be able to visit only two sites in one day – either Masada and the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea, or Masada and Ein Gedi. If you want to see all the sites, it might be better to stay a night in the Dead Sea area.

Buses 444 and 486 both go from Jerusalem Central Station to the Dead Sea. Bus 444 requires a prior reservation, so it might be better to take bus number 486 if you prefer more flexibility. The good thing about line 444 is that it leaves Jerusalem earlier, at 7 AM, while line 486 leaves at 8 AM, so if you want an early start, you might want to book 444 for the ride to the Dead Sea area and then use line 486 on your way back. If you want to take bus 444, read my guide to buying bus tickets in Israel so you can book your tickets in advance.

I recommend using Moovit or Google Maps to plan your route and timetable. The last bus leaves from the Dead Sea Hotels area (Ein Bokek, עין בוקק) around 8 PM, so make sure you won’t get stuck. 

With a tour 

Maybe the easiest way is to simply take a tour from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. My favorite tour operator in Israel is Abraham Tours, which operates various guided and self-guided tours for budget travelers. They have two self-guided tours from Jerusalem that provide transportation to the main sites in the Dead Sea region:

  • The Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi, and Dead Sea Tour – This tour includes all the main sites and an early sunrise hike to Masada on the Snake Trail. Keep in mind that it does not include entry tickets or a guide.
  • Dead Sea Chill Tour – This tour is for those who only want to chill out at the Dead Sea. The transportation takes you from Jerusalem to a Dead Sea beach and back.

If you prefer a guided tour, you can hire me as your private guide. I don’t drive, but I can guide you in your rented car, travel with you via public transport, or organize a car and driver for the day. Contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com or through my contact form for more info and prices.

Might be useful: The Israel Pass

This itinerary includes two national parks: the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and the Masada National Park. If you plan to visit another national park in Israel or want to add the Masada Museum to this day trip, the Israel Pass could come in handy.

The Israel Pass is a money-saving card that covers all of the INPA national parks and nature reserves in Israel. This includes Masada (not including the cable car), Ein Gedi, Caesarea, Beit Guvrin, Amud Stream Nature Reserve, and dozens more! It lets you enter those parks for free and can save you up to 20%. You can choose between a 3-site, 6-site, or all-site pass, depending on how many places you would like to visit.

For more information about the Israel Passs, visit the INPA website.

A suggested 1-day itinerary from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea 

Remember – this itinerary assumes that you are using a rental car. If you’re traveling by public transportation, you might only be able to see some of the sites in the itinerary in one day.

Station #1: Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

From Jerusalem, drive down to the lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea, which is approximately 430 meters (1,400 feet) below sea level. The first destination in this itinerary is the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, a lovely green oasis in the middle of the Judean Desert.

On the way to Ein Gedi, you’ll pass by the Qumran National Park. You don’t have to stop there because there’s not much to see there today, but it is an important site to be aware of. The Essenes, a Jewish sect, lived here during the Second Temple period. They were very strict about Jewish religious practices, lived a life of poverty, and believed that they were the ones who were practicing and conserving Judaism the right way. It is also where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. Those scrolls are the oldest known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible in the world. Today, you can see these scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

So, you can choose to either stop at Qumran or continue on your way to Ein Gedi. As I said, Ein Gedi is a desert oasis, full of flowing water and green plants that stand in contrast to the whiteish-yellowish desert. There’s a short, accessible path that leads to a small waterfall, but if you truly want to experience the reserve and are physically capable of walking up a lot of stairs, I’d recommend doing the hike to the David Waterfall and back. It’s a family-friendly hike with many natural water pools and waterfalls on the way, and it takes about an hour to complete. If you’re lucky, you might also spot some ibexes and rock hyraxes. 

Learn more about the reserve and its different trails in my post >> Visiting Ein Gedi by Public Transportation.  

Note: Visiting the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve when it’s very hot is not recommended. In case of heatwaves, the nature reserve might be closed. In this case, you can go to Qumran instead and maybe add the Novomeisky Visitors Center near the southern edge of the Dead Sea. 

Driving distance: The distance from Jerusalem to Ein Gedi is about 78 kilometers, or 48 miles. It takes about one hour to drive there from Jerusalem.

How much time does it take? It takes about an hour to hike the classic trail to the David Waterfall and back. You can spend more time in the natural pools or try other hiking trails in the area, which will lengthen your visit.

For opening hours and ticket rates, check out the official website of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. It’s best to reserve your visit in advance because sometimes, especially during weekends and holidays, the slots fill up, and you won’t be able to visit.

The David Waterfall

Station #2: Masada National Park

Next, you can make your way to Masada, one of the most famous sites in Israel. At Masada, you can visit the remains of one of the majestic palaces of King Herod, one of the greatest architects of the ancient world. It’s also where you can learn about the Jewish revolt against the Romans in the 1st century CE. Masada was the last Jewish stronghold before it was captured by the Romans around 73-74 CE. Until today, you can see the ancient Roman siege camps at the foot of Masada.

If you’re traveling to Masada on a pleasant day, you can hike up the Snake Trail to the top of the plateau. It takes about an hour to climb up. This is the cheapest way to visit Masada. If it’s too hot or you’ve had enough hiking in Ein Gedi, you can take the cable car, which requires an additional fee.

If you want to learn more about Masada’s history and the things you’ll see on top, you can start your visit at the Masada Museum located near the entrance. Just make sure to reserve a place in advance through the national parks’ official site.

Another new attraction that opened recently on Masada is the “Masada Challenge,” a trail that takes you along the cliff to places hidden from most of the public. You’ll be harnessed and helmeted before setting off on this adventure. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds awesome. Pre-registration is required, so if you want to do it, register for the “Masada Challenge” here.   

Driving distance: The distance from Ein Gedi to Masada is about 20 kilometers or 12 miles. It takes about 20 minutes to drive there.

How much time does it take? It takes around 1-2 hours to visit the archeological site of Masada. If you would also like to visit the Masada Museum, take another 30 minutes into account.  

For opening hours and ticket rates, check out the official website of Masada National Park. It’s best to reserve your visit in advance because sometimes, especially during weekends and holidays, the slots completely fill up, and you won’t be able to visit.

At the bottom of Masada

Station #3: The Free Dead Sea beach (Ein Bokek) 

When you’re done with both Ein Gedi and Masada, you can finish your day trip at the Dead Sea beach. There are several beaches where you can float in the Dead Sea, but if you’re looking for a free beach – you should head to the Ein Bokek hotel area. There, you can find a long strip of free beach with lifeguard service, open-air showers, restrooms, changing rooms, and sitting areas. There are also many restaurants in the area if you want to grab something to eat. I recommend Mul Hayam

Learn more in my post >> How to visit the Ein Bokek Resort

Driving distance: The distance from Masada to Ein Bokek is about 17 kilometers or 10 miles. It takes about 15 minutes to drive there.

How much time does it take? You can spend as much time as you want at the beach. Since you can’t really swim in the Dead Sea and you can’t stay in the water for more than 20 minutes each time, most people spend around 1-2 hours at the Dead Sea. Of course, if you have time, you can also spend longer.  

After enjoying the beach and showering off all the salt, you can head back to Jerusalem. The distance is about 110 kilometers, which is about 69 miles, and it takes 1.5 hours. 

Conclusion

One of Israel’s classic destinations is the Dead Sea area, where you can float in the salty waters, visit the ancient fortress of Masada, and hike in the beautiful desert oasis of Ein Gedi. I hope this post will help you plan a perfect day trip from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea!

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If you need any more advice, please don’t hesitate to send me a message on my Facebook page or to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

If you’re searching for a tour guide in Israel, I also offer private tours in Israel.

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Yours,

Lior

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