As tourist sites go, the Dead Sea has one of the most unappealing names going, but millions of visitors can’t be wrong. There is just something that draws us to bathe in its super salty water. So how do you go about visiting the Dead Sea? Gleaned from two personal trips, and rather a lot of research, this is your guide to visiting the Dead Sea in Israel or Jordan including our top tips for visiting the Dead Sea.
Where is the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea spans the border between Jordan and Israel which it makes a great stop on your Jordan itinerary or Israel itinerary.The northern and eastern shores are owned by Jordan, the north-western shore is in Palestine and the southwestern shore is in Israel. It covers 234m² and lies over 700m below sea level, the lowest place on earth.
Most tourists visit from Israel or Jordan and so that is why I am focusing on those options here. It is theoretically possible to visit the Dead Sea from Palestine, but being right next to the Israeli border, we wouldn’t recommend it.
What is the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea is a saltwater lake, fed primarily from the Jordan River at its northern end. It is one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth, at over 33% salinity. (That’s almost 10 times saltier than the ocean). It doesn’t taste salty, it just tastes gross and I wouldn’t recommend getting in it your mouth as I did.
The water is packed with minerals that are said to be excellent for the skin. These are also found in the mud within the lake, which will not only make a lovely moisturising mask, but has been proved to ease conditions like osteoarthritis.
Why Do People Float in the Dead Sea?
The high levels of salt and minerals in the Dead Sea increase the density of the lake water. Our bodies are less dense and so we bob closer to the surface than we would in freshwater. Think of rubber ducks in a bath rather than the frogs we normally are.
Can you Swim in the Dead Sea?
Floating in the Dead Sea is dead easy, swimming is much trickier. You can lie on your back and kick gently or attempt the kind of breast stroke adopted by older ladies in the slow lane (head above water). However, if the water gets into your eyes, it is going hurt A LOT. Don’t attempt front crawl or the butterfly whatever you do!
Floating in the Dead Sea is more like being a cork than a mermaid. You will be much higher in the water, and much more unstable than you are used to when swimming in a pool.
Top 10 Dead Sea Tips
Whether you are approaching the Dead Sea from the Jordanian or Israeli side, here are some things you’ll need to know:
Tip One: Rinse everything after your swim in the Dead Sea!
The Dead Sea is bad for swimwear, equipment and pretty much any foreign objects that go in the water so we would recommend giving everything a thorough rinse as soon as you get out. The salt will coat everything and start to dry immediately. We destroyed the microphone on a waterproof camcorder by subjecting it to the Dead Sea’s deposits.
Tip Two: Stay safe in the sun at the Dead Sea
You may have heard that the sun here is weaker than the surrounding areas. There is a significant lessening of the effects of UVB rays. However, not the those UVA rays and if you are at all sensitive….or British, you can still burn very quickly so make sure you have excellent sun cream, high factor and water-resistant. Don’t end up looking like boiled lobsters (like we did).
Tip Three: The best time to swim in the Dead Sea
The best time to take to the water is early in the morning or late afternoon. There is little or no shade in the water and it’s best not to bring out your inner mad dog or Englishman in the midday sun.
Tip Four: Plan your personal grooming before your visit to the Dead Sea
Do NOT shave the day that you plan to visit the Dead Sea. Not only will it make your newly shaven skin sore, but if you have any tiny nicks and cuts the water will find them and it stings!!
Tip Five: Protect your feet in the Dead Sea
Some areas can be rocky and the salt deposits can be surprisingly sharp even on wooden entryways. Bring water shoes or jellies that you can wear into the sea or bring your shoes to the edge. Entering via a beach solves this a little but that sand can be pretty boiling too!
Tip Six: Bring some fun props for the Dead Sea
Don’t forget your newspaper! To capture that classic Dead Sea photo, you’ll need a ridiculous prop. We recommend getting these photos before your waterproof camera gets wet. The salt will make your lens blurry.
Tip Seven: Freshwater at the Dead Sea
Bring plenty of water to drink. This may be a sea but you are still in a very arid region and being out in the dry sun will leave you parched.
Tip Eight: Protect your lovely locks
Avoid getting your hair wet. The mud may be great for your skin, but the salt is dreadful for your hair. Stick it up in a messy bun and don’t dunk.
Tip Nine: Don’t bring your best bikini to the Dead Sea
Swimwear is particularly ruined by the Dead Sea. The mud can discolour swimwear and the elastic can even suffer a loss of stretch. That pretty, little white number could end up as a saggy, yellowed monstrosity. I wore old swimming costumes and got rid of them afterwards.
Tip Ten: One for the girls
Ladies, the water of the Dead Sea can make your lady bits sting too if you stay in the water for too long. It’s the salt so nothing to worry about, but it can be uncomfortable. Just rinse and you’ll be grand.
Visiting the Dead Sea in Jordan
Most of the activity for tourists visiting the Dead Sea in Jordan is located at its north-eastern shore. Here you will find a public beach called Amman Beach. This spot includes a pool, changing rooms, bathrooms, a restaurant, lockers and towels. Entrance is around 20 JD (around £22) and the food, lockers and towels cost extra.
Check out our Your 10 Day Jordan Itinerary – World Wonders and Wadis
If you are after a more high-end experience, or want to stay overnight, there is a nice collection of destination hotels. Some of these are huge and when the cost of Amman Beach is taken into consideration, are reasonable value. Some even offer day passes.
The Movenpick Resort & Dead Sea Spa is a great choice. It has a huge spa, a brilliant breakfast buffet, gorgeous pools and direct access to the Dead Sea. They also provide big copper pots full of the magic mud for those about to take a dip.
Finally, for those on a tight budget, there is a free public area (named Free Beach on the Dead Sea on Google Maps). There isn’t anything here by way of facilities but it is free.
Visiting the Dead Sea in Israel
Options for visiting the Dead Sea in Israel are a little more spread out. The easiest and closest public beach to Jerusalem is Kalia Beach. Here you will find The Kalia Beach bar, the lowest bar in the world. Sadly, the prices don’t match.
Check out our blog; Make the Most of Two Days in Jerusalem – A Jerusalem Itinerary
Need somewhere to stay in Jerusalem? Check out our YMCA Three Arches Hotel Review
At the southern end of the Dead Sea is Israel’s finest offering, Ein Bokek. This is a resort area, with several pretty large hotels. In front of these, is a very good beach entry to the sea. There are shaded areas on the sand, bathrooms, shops and showers. To enter the water you can use either a wooden ramp or the shallow beach itself.
Final Thoughts on Visiting the Dead Sea
Let’s face it, the Dead Sea is just a novelty for most tourists; it certainly was for us. I had no health issues that needed solving so it was just a bit of fun. I walked away from Jordan with a big bag of Dead Sea bath salt, but six years later it sits unopened and forlorn.
Now I have taken two dips into its mineral-laden waters, I don’t think I need to return to the Dead Sea. It has to be said though, we still believe it is definitely worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.