Israel's Highway 90, the lowest road in the world, traces the western edge of the Dead Sea and is the main link to many of the numerous historical sites and attractions in the area. These include the following:
Masada: Approaching Masada, the desert mountaintop fortress that was the scene of the epic, and tragic last resistance of the Zealots, an ancient Jewish sect, to the Romans in 73 A.D. Though it's difficult to tell from the bottom, there are many impressive ruins atop the 1,300-foot peak.
You can hike up the Snake Path to the top of Masada, but the cable car is a lot more fun and, when summer temperatures soar, a far more comfortable option as well. A ticket up costs $15, round-trip $20. Once holidays.
Qumran National Park and Visitors Center: This is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. According to the Dead Sea Regional Council, they are the oldest biblical documents ever found. Two thousand years ago, these ancient caves on the northern shore of the Dead Sea were home to the Essenes, a Jewish sect that had fled from Jerusalem. The scrolls were found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947.
The Makhtesh Ramon is the world's largest natural erosion crater. There are viewing platforms in the town of Mitzpe Ramon and also great views from the new desert resort Beresheet.
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
This desert oasis is one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the Middle East, combining flora and fauna from three climatic regions: desert, tropical and Mediterranean. The David Stream flows through the reserve, creating refreshing pools and waterfalls, surrounded by surprisingly lush vegetation. Be on the lookout for local fauna such as Nubian Ibex, rock hyrax, and the tristram starling.
South of the reserve flows the Arugot Stream, where hikers can follow a trail though a canyon of waterfalls and pools. Other points of interest include the Ein Gedi Spring, the Chalcolithic Temple (from the Copper Age), and ruins of an ancient synagogue. Note: it is forbidden to access the reserve during heavy rain or flash flood watches.
Zohar Fortress and Wadi Zohar
This is a ancient Roman fortress with an Israeli fortress alongside, situated at the end of an ancient road that leads from the Dead Sea shore to the desert plain beyond.
You want biblical associations? Mount Sodom, at the southern rim of the Dead Sea, has them in spades. This desert ridge is made up mainly of pure salt rocks: essentially a salt cork "top" rose up over time and formed the odd peak. Venture west of Sodom to visit the Wadi Pratzim, with its short hiking trail, and Flour Cave.
Bokek Fort and Wadi Bokek
Bokek Fort is another ancient Roman fortress, at the entrance to Wadi Bokek, that is east of the Ein Bokek resort hotel area. It was once surrounded by cultivated land watered by the Bokek and No'it springs. The Wadi Bokek spring runs alongside the fortress.
Einot Zukim Nature Reserve and
This is another desert oasis, separating the desert from the Dead Sea. The "hidden reserve" is located at the south end, and can be visited only on a guided tour.