As I solidify my itinerary for my trip, I have more specific questions. I am traveling with my college age daughter and a close family friend. We two elder ones are in our 50's and 60's - which is relevant to our plans below.
First of all, I re-read through my previous threads/posts on this topic and want to thank you all for your valuable advice and suggestions.
While taking them into consideration, we now plan to rent a car for this day (and the day before), forgo the pre-dawn hike up Masada and begin our ascent closer to 8 AM. We plan to leave Jerusalem at 6 AM (sunrise is at about 6:40 AM so it should be starting to get light out.) My daughter and I plan to hike up and our friend would like the choice to take the cable car up, which I believe opens at 8 AM. We plan to spend about an hour on Masada and will all descend via cable car at about 10:30 AM. I figure we will spend a little time to shop and for a snack.
By 11:30, I plan we will be on our way to a hotel by the Dead Sea for a dip and lunch (an hour for each.)
By 2 PM we would head back north for a visit to Ein Gedi as well to Qumran and start heading back to Jerusalem by 3:30 PM
1) Does the day's schedule sound realistic?
2) Do you think we could be back in Jerusalem to return the car by 6PM considering travel time, rush hour traffic and the fact that I am not familiar with driving in Jerusalem? (If not, I will plan to return it the next day.) I am planning to rent with Eldan.
3) Is Ein Gedi a good destination in the middle of the winter - is there something to see or experience there without a big hike?
4) Is there a place to ride a camel along our route? (My daughter and I had a ride last year and could easily skip this and I doubt our friend will be interested, but I thought I'd ask anyway, just in case she's interested.) I read somewhere that one may have a chance to ride a camel at Mount of Olives....
As always, your suggestions and input are greatly appreciated. - Eve