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!
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