Dip your toes into the magical Dead Sea for a truly revitalising experience.
For thousands of years, travellers to the shores of the Dead Sea have delighted in the medicinal powers of this magical place. To the early explorer, these turquoise waters must have appeared as an oasis nestled in between the earthy red mountains of Israel and the hazy blue mounds of Jordan, which are visible just across the water. If it were life-giving water these explorers were hoping for, they must have been sorely disappointed: the water here is nine times saltier than the ocean and nothing lives here.
Despite its infertility, the world’s most beautiful women realised early on the life-giving properties these waters held. The Queen of Sheba was the first to reap the benefits, Cleopatra built the world’s first spa on these shores and even the infamous King Herod holidayed here (his desert fortress Masada sits atop a nearby mountain and is worth a visit for the spectacular views alone).
Nowadays, tourists come from all over the world to experience the unearthly floating sensation you experience as you lie back, close your eyes and bob along the surface. The water and mud contain over 21 different minerals, including calcium, magnesium, bromide, potassium and sulfate, which are said to help all manner of skin and joint complains. The water feels strangely, but pleasantly, oily on your skin and salt-crystals crunch underfoot (be sure to wear flip-flops as they can be sharp).
There are public beaches along the shore, but Ein Bokek, one of the nicest stretches of the shorefront, has been dominated by high-end hotel spas. However, whether you’re staying there or not, you can take advantage of hotel beach amenities for a small charge. The Crown Plaza offers a particularly nice covered walkway down into the sea, with a covered area under which you can float in the shade – perfect for the day I was there, when the temperature hit 45 degrees!
When to go:
Not far from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea lies in the middle of the Judean desert, so it gets hot in the summer (although it’s oddly bearable). A more pleasant time to visit is between October and April.
- Wear flip flops
- Drink a lot of water
- Pay a little extra to make use of hotel beach amenities
- Buy some sachets of mud (it can be hard to find on the shore), slather it on, bake for a few minutes, take amusing photos and wash it off in the sea.
- Get the water in your eyes (I did, I thought I was dying and had to be led blindly to the fresh water showers on the shore)
- Shave the day you visit (or even the day before if you have very sensitive skin), it will sting horribly!