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Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

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Miami, Florida
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Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

Planning to take a vacation mid-november with my brother and elderly father to Jordan/Israel. Plan to fly into Amman and spend ~ 1 week traveling down to Aqaba using private driver/guide. Then plan to cross to Eilat and visit Masada, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

My questions are: 1) I presume I must cross the border at Aqada-Eilat in the late afternoon the day before if I want to climb Masada at sunrise the following day. How easy is it to hire a guide/driver in Eilat or should I try to retain the driver/guide I have in Jordan? Also where should I sleep the night I cross to get an early start to Masada?

2) Do you know if it would be cheaper to go back to Amman to fly home or go to Tel Aviv to fly home?

Thank you in advance

Tel-Aviv
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1. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

1. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Eilat to Massada:

http://goo.gl/maps/Ek9pB

You should stay overnight in Aqaba, cross the border in the morning and drive up to Massada. Note that in the winter the site closes at 4 PM so you should arrive no later than 1 PM.

You cannot retain the car/driver from Jordan because Jordanian vehicles cannot cross the border.

2. It will be a lot easier to fly home from TLV. The ticket may be slightly more expensive but you will save a day and the Israeli exit tax if you cross a land border (about $30)

Edited: 20 August 2013, 06:26
NYC/Israel
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2. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

As said a Jordanian vehicle can't enter Israel ( nor do Israeli vehicles enter Jordan) AND a Jordanian guide can't guide in Israel ( and the reverse, again is true) You will not find a guide hanging out in Eilat ( or Masada) to hire on the spot. Your choices will be to drive yourself to Masada OR hire a guide to meet you in either Eilat or Masada.

If you want to climb Masada at sunrise you need to be in Israel at sunrise so you should NOT spend your previous night in Aqaba. ( it would then be impossible!) Cross during the afternoon, drive up to Masada and spend the night in the Youth Hostel at the foot of Masada. ( youth hostels are for everyone in Israel and they are more like roadside motels than you pre-conceived mindset allows) You CAN get a room with a private bath

http://tinyurl.com/2aqyk7

In terms of plane costs, it is cheaper to return to Jordan but much more convenient ( and isn't time money) to fly out of Tel Aviv!

Tel-Aviv
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3. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

Sorry. I missed the "sunrise" in your question. Note that in mid-November sunrise is around 6:10 AM so you would have to start climbing before 5:30 AM. This climb may be too strenuous for your elderly father:

http://tinyurl.com/kwzq9yu

The cable car does not start operating until 8 AM.

The easiest option is to rent a car in Eilat and return it in Jerusalem. If you want to stay at the Youth Hostel in Massada then you must book well in advance.

Israel
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4. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

the Snake Path opens one hour before sunrise - if you want to climb Masada for sunrise your best bet is to be there, or very close by, the night before - otherwise you are looking at starting your day at 2 or 3 am in order to get there in time.

As stated, if you are thinking of staying at the hostel at the base of Masada you need to book way, way in advance as it books up very quickly and the odds of finding a room there at the last minute are less than zero.

Ottawa, Canada
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5. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

Regarding a guide. Since you can not have your Jordanian driver/guide, you have several options.

1) Hire a private guide/driver in Israel. You need to do this well in advance. The prices will be more expensive than Jordan so don't be surprised. The guide can pick you up at the border, take you to Masada, guide you at Masada and take you to Jerusalem. They can stay with you there if you need a guide. You would pay a daily fee for the guide which includes the car, and cover the costs of the guides hotels and meals as well. Depending on how fit your father is, this may be a great option.

2) Arrive in Israel at the Aqaba border crossing, take a cab to Eilat, rent a car (reserve ahead online to ensure you will get a car and get the online discount usually offered) and drive yourself to Masada. Stay overnight. If the Masada Hostel if full, the next closest places are the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Guest House or the hotels in Ein Boqek, both about 15 minutes away. You could hire a guide the next morning for Masada but that has to be done in advance and they will meet you there. I think this is a very expensive option considering you have a car and the guide will also come by car. There is signage up top and after 8am there is a good audio tour available. In addition, the museum at Masada would be worth visiting especially if you don't have a guide. After Masada drive yourself to Jerusalem and return the car.

3) Arrive in Aqaba/Eilat border crossing and take a bus to Masada, stay at the hostel and have a guide with a car meet you in the morning. The bus will need to be pre-booked as will the guide and the hostel. The guide can then stay with you to Jerusalem and guide you in Jerusalem as well.

Anyway you look at doing this, you need to book ahead. Guides are not available 'on the fly' in Israel and don't wait at sites. Cars need to be booked ahead to ensure there is one you need, and accommodations need to be booked ahead.

A little planning and you will be all set.

San Juan, Puerto...
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6. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

Could someone clarify the opening hours for Masada? The snake path opens one hour before sunrise, even in the winter (jan)? Then the park and cable car open at 8am? So where do you actually watch the sunrise from?

I've been looking for Masada's official website but can't find it. Could someone please share the link?

Thanks.

Gippsland, Australia
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7. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

The official brochure for Massada is here:

parks.org.il/ParksAndReserves/…masadaEN.pdf

It gives the opening times on it with the exception of the sake path.

The official site would be this one since it comes under the banner of a national park:

parks.org.il/parks/…default.aspx

That gives the opening time of the snake path as 5:30 am.

Israel
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8. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

While Jordanian cars are allowed into Israel, Jordanian guides are forbidden from guiding here. Your best bet cost wise is as stated cross over in time to take the Eilat bus to Masada (check schedule at www.bus.co.il). The border is a 5 minute taxi ride to the bus. Make a reservation at the Masada Youth Hostel and in the morning climb the snake path for sunrise. Have a guide with a car meet you there and take you either to Jerusalem or you can take the bus back to Eilat. The snake path is not easy for anyone with mobility or footing issues and the cable car does not work until 8 a.m.

If you rent a car you can walk up the Roman Ramp which is easier and has you facing the sunrise as you walk up. The site opens in time for this hike from either side and you pay the entrance fee. There is no cable car or audio guide and may not even be a brochure (not sure about this). But the experience is really something and highly recommended. Note that January the weather may not be the nicest with high winds and cold slapping dust storms(cold meaning around 55 F), so you need to dress accordingly and with good walking shoes.

Chana

Israel

San Juan, Puerto...
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9. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

@heather: thanks for the link. i had tried the parks.org.il site before but couldn't access it well. but the brochure is excellent. great information there.

@chana: 55F is not too cold, but the wind might make it uncomfortable. I will be bringing a winter coat anyway, so that should help. as long as there are no tiny steps and is all ramp i think i can manage the hike.

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: Traveling from Aqaba to Jerusalem

The hike up Masada on both the Snake Path and the Roman Ramp has steps. On the Snake Path there are fewer and they are spaced and small in height but there are definitely steps. The Roman Ramp has many wooden stairs going up. If you have trouble with stairs or mobility issues at all, I would suggest you take the cable car. You can watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea from the bottom of the mountain instead of the top. The cable car will whisk you up to the top in no time flat. There are paved paths on top that are wheelchair accessible but some of the other paths also have small sets of stairs (some you could probably manoever around) just so you know.

It can be cold on top of Masada with the biting wind. Although 55F doesn't sound too cold, standing up at the top in semi-darkness with the wind blowing can feel pretty chilly (and I am Canadian so know about cold).