Jerusalem, Travel

Travel with Kids – Ein Gedi, Masada, and the Dead Sea

Travel with kids in Israel is a great experience.  We took advantage of my parents’ visit this spring to travel, and travel a lot. Just like last summer when good friends visited, I took two weeks off work to travel locally. “Locally.”

Travel with Kids - Playing in the water at Ein Gedi
Jasmine playing in the water at Ein Gedi

Our first trip was to the Dead Sea. Because my parents would be here for five weeks, and we intended to see quite a bit during that time, we worked hard to keep our trips inexpensive. We stayed at a delightful apartment in Arad that we booked through AirBnB, and visited Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, and Masada.

Be’er Sheva and Arad

We got an early start from Jerusalem so that I could go to a doctor’s appointment in Tel Aviv. My parents took the kids to the beach while I suffered through an examination. After a late breakfast, we began the long drive south. Bertrand and I have had a lot of travel success by keeping our eye out for interesting attractions on our way to our main destinations, and this trip was no exception.

Marina in Hertzilyya
Marina in Hertzilyya

We stopped at the Israel Air Force Museum just south of Be’er Sheva for a look at airplanes and a picnic lunch. My dad was fascinated, and the kids had a lovely time climbing into airplanes and helicopters.

About to watch some propaganda at the Israeli Air Force Museum
About to watch some propaganda at the Israeli Air Force Museum

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that my parents have had full lives outside of raising me, and listening to dad describe the work he’d done as an engineer was one of the highlights of the trip.

Playing in a helicopter at the Israeli Air Force Museum
Playing in a helicopter at the Israeli Air Force Museum

After the Air Force Museum, we continued on to Arad, where we settled in, picked up some groceries, and grilled dinner in the garden of our accommodations.

Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea

The next day, I got up bright and early to make breakfast (our favorite part about staying in AirBnBs is having access to a kitchen for breakfasts), then headed out to Ein Gedi for a morning hike.

Ein Gedi is a nature reserve and national park close to the Dead Sea.  There are two major hiking paths, the easiest of which, Nahal David, actually consists of a short 1km loop, as well as a much longer more challenging trail.

I was glad we got there early because it was packed by the time we left. Ein Gedi has several trails of varying difficulty. With the kids and my parents, we took the easiest—a one km loop that hit three water falls for the kids to play in. There’s no food allowed in the park, so we had one last snack before going in, then started hiking. It was a blast! For real, the hike was so much fun that we’re going to take the 2hr drive from Jerusalem to do it again. Perfect length, especially considering how well it was divided by pools for Jasmine and Grace to play in.

Travel with Kids - Beginning of the Ein Gedi hike
Beginning of the Ein Gedi hike
Travel with Kids - View of the Dead Sea from the Ein Gedi Trail
View of the Dead Sea from the Ein Gedi Trail
Travel with Kids - Waterfall at Ein Gedi
Waterfall at Ein Gedi
Travel with Kids - Waterfall at Ein Gedi
Waterfall at Ein Gedi
Travel with Kids - Waterfall at Ein Gedi
Waterfall at Ein Gedi

We ate lunch in a picnic area outside the park (like all of the Israeli families there). We were ravenous. After lunch, we realized that we were almost out of gas. Leaving Ein Gedi, we got bad directions, and wound up driving almost an hour through the West Bank to Jericho before finding a gas station. Once the car was full, we turned around and followed the Dead Sea back to Israel until we reached Ein Bokek.

A morning of hiking had exhausted all of us, including the kids. We debated going to a nice hotel and paying to hit the beach, but decided that since our stay would be only long enough for Mom to say she’d dipped her toes in the Dead Sea, we should go to a free public beach instead. So we did! And it was lovely! Neither of the kids liked the experience (both had scrapes from the hike that morning, and they stung from the minerals and salt in the Dead Sea water), but we adults had a wonderful time in the water. Instead, Jasmine and Grace did what they do best, and made some friends from other kids who were equally ambivalent about getting into the water.

Travel with Kids - Mom, Grace, and I floating in the Dead Sea
Mom and I floating in the Dead Sea with a very crabby Grace

We’d planned on cooking dinner that night, but it was already after four, and there was no way we were going to be able to drive back to Arad, get groceries, cook dinner, and get the kids fed before they turned into disasters from exhaustion and hunger. I got on my phone and looked up restaurants in Arad. We ended up at Kaparuchka, a lovely pizza place that dealt quite well with our crabby children. The salads and pizza were delicious!

Masada

The next day, we woke up bright and early to make breakfast, although not as early as I’d hoped. We let the kids sleep a little bit longer than we’d planned, since they were so tired from the previous day. Then off to Masada! We traced our drive from the previous day, then headed up to the plateau. I’d dreamed of hiking Masada for sunrise, but with the kids and my parents, it wasn’t meant to be. Definitely something that I’ve put on my “Jerusalem Bucket List.” Luckily, there’s a cable car to take us to the top.

Stunning views from the cable car on the way up to Masada
Stunning views from the cable car on the way up to Masada
Travel with Kids - Family photo in Masada
Family photo in Masada
Travel with Kids - Taking a much need water break in Masada
Taking a much need water break

The view was amazing on all sides. The kids were quickly tired though, so we only spent a few hours up at the top.

View from the top of Masada
View from the top of Masada

We ate lunch in the cafeteria—I’d actually advise against it. Expensive, overpriced, and mediocre. It was disappointingly the the worst tourist food we’ve had since we’ve been here.

Travel with Kids - Masada

And then, back to Jerusalem so that we could host friends that evening.

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