The Dead Sea
Although Israel holds many great historical artifacts, religious sites and ancient cities, for many people the highlight of Israel is floating in the Dead Sea. With the Dead Sea and Masada (read Masada post here) within a few miles drive, the combination makes for the perfect day trip to explore some of Israel’s most unique destinations. Ancient artifacts, beautiful landscapes, differing terrains and a visit to the lowest point on Earth, exploring the Judean Desert-Dead Sea region is an awe-inspiring day excursion in Israel!
Passing Jerusalem and winding through the Judean Mountains, in just 15 miles or about 30 minutes, you will descend 4,000 feet to the Dead Sea region! My tour guide stopped his car at the top of the Judean Mountains to overlook the striking colors of the Dead Sea. After passing monotonous beige and burnt orange desert and mountains, the gorgeous and vibrant blue and turquoise of the Dead Sea made for a striking contrast, it truly was an oasis in the desert!
History of the Dead Sea:
The Dead Sea formed thousands of years ago by fault lines shifting in the Earth’s crust, creating the basin where the Dead Sea is now located. Thus the Dead Sea at 1,373 feet below sea level is the lowest point on Earth! Water from the Jordan River flows into the basin and has no way of flowing out, creating the salty content of the Dead Sea. With a salt concentration of approximately 32% the Dead Sea is roughly 9 times saltier than the ocean! The high salt levels prevent life from flourishing, thus virtually nothing can live in the salty waters. The high salt concentration also makes humans buoyant, so we can float effortlessly in the water.
The Dead Sea region has been utilized for thousands of years as a refuge for King Herod, and eventually became the site of Queen Cleopatra’s cosmetic empire. In the 1950’s, the Dead Sea region became known for its health and wellness properties, thus tourists flocked to the region to “cure” various diseases from arthritis, muscle pains, skin conditions and many other ailments. The mineral rich mud and waters are known for cleansing, nourishing, and stimulating the skin, therefore creating therapeutic benefits for those who bathe in the waters.
Although the Dead Sea is thought to have healing properties which bring thousands of tourists to visit the Dead Sea annually, the Dead Sea is slowly dying. With a combination of less annual rainfall and the diversion of the Jordan River (less than 7% of the original flow of the river reaches the Dead Sea), the waters have receded at an alarming rate. The shores of the Dead Sea have receded by nearly 1-meter per year over the last few decades! Talks between Israel, Jordan and environmentalists will hopefully find a solution to the receding waters of the Dead Sea allowing future generations to visit one of Earth’s most appealing natural phenomena.
Floating in the Dead Sea:
Floating in the Dead Sea is THE most unique experience I have ever had in my life! Walking into the water you can feel a salty film coat your skin, if you have any cuts or scratches take a deep breath because it will sting! At waist level the water just seems to pick you up! It is a weird feeling at first, but once I relaxed and stopped fighting the buoyancy, it was fun and somewhat unbelievable that one can float so effortlessly! It was a bit windy the day I went (and storm clouds rolled in toward the end of my visit) the rippling water kept pushing me farther out to sea, as I was trying to float myself back to the shallow area I must have gotten so overzealous that I swallowed some Dead Sea water. A big mistake!! I kept sputtering and coughing out the salty water and for days I had throat irritation. So heed my advice and don’t accidentally drink the water!
Floating in the Dead Sea is like a life lesson…sometimes in life you just have to let go and go along for the ride, or float in this case! Once you let go, amazing things can happen! For me, the fact that I was floating in the Dead Sea made my heart full of joy!! I felt inspired, awe-struck and like the luckiest girl in the world to have the sun shining above me, the Judean Mountains surrounding me and to be floating in the blue waters of the Dead Sea!
Tips for visiting the Dead Sea:
- It is recommended to stay in the Dead Sea for only 15-20 minutes at a time so you don’t become dehydrated and be sure to drink lots of water afterwards.
- With the high salt concentrations, cuts and scrapes will burn. I would also recommend not shaving prior to your visit as shaving can also cause skin irritation.
- Wear long hair up in a bun, the salt will tangle your hair. Just a few of my flyaway hairs got in the water and for days I used loads of hair conditioner to get my hair untangled!
- The Dead Sea floor has a rough, rock salt surface instead of sand. If you have sensitive feet wear water shoes or flip flops to wade into the water.
- With the receding shores, finding the therapeutic mud to slather on your skin can be a bit tricky. Most resorts will sell refined packages of mud to use while sunbathing.
- Dead Sea resorts often have day packages. I took advantage of the day pass from Crowne Plaza Dead Sea Resort. This pass costs around 250 NIS (approximately 65 USD) and includes lunch, beach towels, changing rooms, swimming pool and Dead Sea beach access.
- The most important tip is to have fun and enjoy the fact that you are floating in the saltiest body of water in the world and are standing on the lowest point of dry land on Earth!
Looking for more posts on Israel? Read these:
Exploring the Christian Sites of Galilee, Israel
Exploring the Desert Fortress of Masada
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Wow, that is so crazy! Its such a shame about the water level. I hope the dead sea is still there when I finally make my way over 🙁
Thanks for stopping by the blog, Lauren! I was shocked to hear about the receding water levels! Hopefully a solution will be found to allow for future generations to enjoy the Dead Sea! Safe travels! 🙂
I have it on my list! I have so many places on my list, I hope I will have time for them all!
Hi Simona! My travel wish list is so long, that my biggest fear in life is not being able to visit all the places I want to see before I depart this world! Safe travels! 🙂
This looks lovely! I’ve always wanted to go! And thanks for the tips, too, these are very helpful!
Thanks for visiting the blog, Michelle! The Dead Sea was lovely! I truly hope you can visit Israel or Jordan to float in the Dead Sea! Safe travels! 🙂
What an awesome place. That is one of my dreams to swim in the Dead Sea but as a German with Afghan roots (and born in Afghanistan) I am very hesitant to go there :/ Happy, u enjoyed!
Thanks for reading the post! I truly hope one day you can fulfill your dream and visit the Dead Sea! Floating in the Dead Sea is a unique experience! Safe travels! 🙂
Your photos are so beautiful! They instantly made me want to go and try a bath in Dead Sea, especially now when we’ve got winter where I live 🙂
Hi Joanna! Thanks for the kind words! The Dead Sea is an incredible place, floating in the water was a very unique and surreal experience! Safe travels! 🙂
I never thought of becoming dehydrated for being in the Dead Sea too long. Im planning a trip to Jordan next year, and the Dead Sea is on my list!
Hi Amber! Thanks for stopping by the blog! You will love Jordan! I visited Petra and Wadi Rum and briefly stayed in Aqaba/Red Sea area. Wishing you a wonderful trip to Jordan and I can’t wait to read about your experiences in Jordan and the Dead Sea! 🙂
Great information here. The Dead Sea is something I would love to be able to visit! I would love to go overland from Egypt but I doubt this will happen soon! See you, Ohio girl 🙂 (Not being weird. Also from Ohio)
Thanks Dara! You should take an overland trip from Egypt, a visit to the Dead Sea is worth the journey! I remember our Ohio conversation from Twitter, so I know you aren’t be weird! 😉 Wishing you safe travels and if I ever visit Egypt I would love to meet you! 🙂
Swimming in the Dead Sea is definitely on my bucket list. Apparently I should prioritize is a bit more – I had no idea the water was receding so quickly. Thanks so much for all of the history and the useful facts. I’m actually really wishing I could hop on a plane right now…
Thanks for stopping by the blog! Floating in the Dead Sea was so fun! I didn’t know about the receding waters either until my visit to Israel! I truly hope you can check the Dead Sea off your bucket list soon! 🙂
I’ve never been there but it’s high up on my list! It must be such an odd sensation to be floating in the water like that… 🙂
Thanks for visiting the blog, Tess! Floating in the Dead Sea was incredible! Safe travels! 🙂
Amazing photos! Great write-up!I so much want to float in the Dead Sea!
Floating in the Dead Sea was incredible! Thanks for visiting the blog! Safe travels! 🙂
Thanks for sharing this Heather. I actually did this when I was a child but can’t remember the experience. Reading this makes me want to go back and do it again though. Great tips too regarding not staying in the water too long, cuts and scrapes etc. That’s actually really good to know.
Thanks for visiting the blog, Mike! Floating in the Dead Sea is one of my favorite travel moments! I truly hope you visit again soon to experience the Dead Sea as an adult! Safe travels! 🙂