As a kid, I had always heard about the mysterious Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, and wondered what it would be like to float in it. I had had no idea that it was located between Israel and Jordan, or that it was shrinking by one full meter annually, or that it was a part of King Herod’s vision for his fortress on the hill overlooking the sea. All I knew is that it sounded like fun. And it was this girlhood excitement that I brought with me when I finally fulfilled a childhood curiosity.
The first thing that struck me about the Dead Sea was the beautiful aqua blue color of the water, being further dramatized by the pale Jordanian mountains as the backdrop and the vibrant multi-colored rocks all along the shore.
The second thing that surprised me about the Dead Sea was how warm the water was. Together with the high salt content and oily film it can be compared to swimming in a bowl of hot soup.
Although the buoyancy of the Dead Sea is well-known, I found I wasn’t prepared for just how that would feel. It was a sensation like I had never experienced: like a champagne cork bobbing in the water. It was not hard to imagine that I was a fiberglass kayak when I flipped from back to front and vice versa.
And then there was the mud. We noticed several Israelis walking along the shore in one direction and coming back covered in black mud. A woman told us of the affects this mud treatment has on your skin so we followed the others, dug out some dark-colored mud from a small cave and covered ourselves. We looked just as ridiculous as the others but as promised, our skin felt unbelievably smooth once we rinsed it off.
Although the water (and mud) gave our skin a smooth and soft finish, we learned of some important guidelines to follow when visiting the Dead Sea.
- Due to the 20% salt content your skin can dry out quickly, leaving you at risk for headaches and possible dehydration. It is therefore recommended to drink LOTS of water after your dip and not to stay in too long. After you get out be sure to wash off all the salt from your skin.
- Do not shave for a couple of days before visiting the Dead Sea and take note of any cuts, no matter how small, that you have. Believe me, you will be aware of them once you get in!
- Don’t dunk your head and try not to get any water in your mouth. Drinking the water is considered very dangerous and if this happens you are encouraged to seek medical attention immediately.
- Bring shoes down to the shore because (in the summer) the rocks can get hot enough to burn your feet, even if you are walking quickly up to the showers.
Getting There and Away
We recommend enjoying the flexibility of renting a car so that you can stop at any beach you like, such as En Gedi Beach, along highway 90. Otherwise, you are limited to the more touristy beaches of Ein Bokek that are often attached to very expensive hotels.
Another option is hopping on a bus to Ein Bokek, the largest town on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, about 15 minutes south of Masada. From Tel Aviv’s Central Railway Station you can catch Egged bus 421 from platform 3. If you are coming from Jerusalem take bus 486, which makes a stop at Masada and continues all the way to Eilat, Israel’s most southern point.