Visiting the Dead Sea in Israel
The lowest, saltiest place on earth! No trip to Israel is complete without covering yourself in mud and floating in the ridiculously buoyant Dead Sea. The Dead Sea can be visited from Jerusalem for a day trip or a longer stay if you wish. The distance between Jerusalem and the northern point of the Dead Sea is 39km (about 15 miles) and on to the tourist areas is about 45km. For me, using my hostel in Jerusalem as a base was the best tactic to use when I was trying to visit the Dead Sea. It’s only around 50 minutes drive from the door of Abraham’s hostel, to the northern shore of the warm, salty waters of the lowest place on earth, what more could you ask for?
There are a few ways to visit the Dead Sea via tours, or independently. Yesterday I talked about the very awesome Masada Sunrise Tour ($60). You’ll be pretty hot and sweaty after that, and you’ll have earned a break so if you went on the sunset tour, the last stop on the way back to Jerusalem is at the Dead Sea. But if you didn’t take the Masada sunrise tour, fear not. Abraham’s runs tours regularly in the afternoons, taking you straight to a great section on the Dead Sea, they feed you local dates and tea, and the whole afternoon is taken care of for about $30.
GETTING TO THE DEAD SEA FROM JERUSALEM:
On the Israeli shore, the best place to take a dip is Ein Bokek Beach (open 7am to 6pm, to 4pm in winter), along the sea’s turquoise-hued southern basin. Recently given a complete makeover, this wide public beach, sandy and spotless, has lifeguards and offers a variety of free amenities, including shade shelters, changing booths, open-air showers, toilets, a paved promenade and nighttime lighting. It’s a touch less than 2 hours from Jerusalem.
If you’re feeling independent, you can take public transport here too, but it doesn’t work out that much cheaper as each beach in the Dead Sea has a cover charge (crazy I know, but true) of around 10 Euro/$12. For your money, though you get showers, changing rooms, sun loungers and even a swimming pool if you choose the right one.
So what’s the Dead Sea like?
It’s tough to put into words when you enter it’s such a strange sensation. The Dead Sea is the lowest place in the whole world, so the salt content is unreal. As soon as you stop standing and start ‘swimming’ you’ll see what I mean. Your entire body automatically defaults to lying within 10 inches of the surface of the water, you can’t swim because the water won’t ‘allow’ your legs deep enough under to kick out, they get drawn back up again.
If you’ve shaved or have any cuts or bruises though guys, be careful because the salt stiiiiings! It’s really good for you though so if you can face it, you should jump in any way, just be careful to keep it out of your eyes. Agony doesn’t come close to explaining that.
After experiencing the weirdness of floating in the water, it’s time to lather up with the dark clay/mud. People come from all over the world for the healing power of the Dead Sea, you cleanse with the mud, let it dry wash, it off and you’re skin is as good as new. I was a skeptic actually, but when you rinse off you’re smoother than a baby’s behind.
Time to reel all the praise in. So the Dead Sea is an absolute must-visit during your time in Israel. However, it’s not a normal trip to a lake or ocean, you don’t spend hours swimming and splashing in the water, getting in and out again. One hour, two maximum is enough time to spend here. The feeling is great, and you’ll be so clean after your mud session, but the salt content is so high and the water tastes so unbelievably bad that after your first or second splash in the eye or mouth, you’ll be ready to escape. Suddenly you’ll understand why they build pools right beside the Dead Sea.
I’ve now been 3 times, once on the Jordanian side and twice on the Israeli side. It’s such a fun thing to do so make sure you don’t miss out. Happy travels!