The Dead Sea is quite possibly one of the coolest places on earth. If you travel to Israel or Jordan, you absolutely MUST visit and go for a swim in the Dead Sea! Not swimming is not an option! We went in winter and felt fine. Plus, there’s really no risk of drowning because you CAN’T SINK.
As a scientist, I understand the physics behind why you float in the Dead Sea, but I admit I was still skeptical! I did my best to actually TRY to allow myself to go under the water, like wrapping myself up into a ball, or forming a perfectly straight pencil, but nothing worked. You just can’t sink – and that sensation is remarkable!
How to get there
Like nothing I have recommended before, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend traveling with Abraham Tours. Associated with the Abraham Hostel, Abraham Tours is open to anyone, regardless of whether you are staying at the hostel, and has many trips to many places within Israel, including the Dead Sea.
We selected the one day Dead Sea-Ein Gedi-Mesada tour, and it was fan-freaking-tastic!
We arrived to the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, and were offered a complimentary breakfast while we waited before the tour began. Pickings were slim, but still, it was free! The tour company was extremely organized and promptly herded us onto the proper tour bus when it was time to go. We spent the rest of the day listening to stories from our driver, a native Israeli and former Hasidic Jew, together with about 14 other tourists, as we were shuttled to our destination.
The first part of the tour for us was the nature reserve at Ein Gedi. It was a short hike through the park and up a mountain to see 3 increasingly impressive waterfalls. I always enjoy a little escape to nature, so I found it very satisfying. The waterfalls weren’t Niagara or anything, but I liked the feeling that I was walking in a small oasis between the desert and an inhospitable sea.
The Dead Sea
Our next stop was swimming in the Dead Sea. As I mentioned above, we were there in the winter, but everyone still jumped in (and the water was fine).
Like any salt solution, when the water component of salt-water starts to evaporate, it leaves behind salt crystals, starting from the outer rim. The same is true in the Dead Sea, however, those salt crystals form giant daggers that you inevitably step on as you enter the water. You can wear water shoes to make it less painful, but there is a high probability you will lose them to the mud! But, as long as you can get past the zone of salt daggers, the rest is easy and worth the temporary discomfort. Just lean back and let the water support you!
Well, of course you should also try to avoid getting salt-water in your eyes. The salt content is so high, it seriously burns for several minutes.
One cool thing about the tour with Abraham is that they bring you to the one beach where you can still find naturally occurring Dead Sea mud. They sell this stuff all over the world as a mineral rich mask which is good for the skin. In fact, I can attest that my adult acne completely subsided for two whole week after coating my face in it. So, it’s pretty good for you, and definitely fun to play in! Oh, and there are showers there so you can wash up after, so there are no excuses!
The last part of our tour was a visit to Masada. Masada is an ancient fortress atop a strategically selected mountain which was basically impenetrable by invaders. It was used by the Jews as a refuge in the era of Roman rule to avoid persecution and death. Unfortunately, after a year of siege, the Romans were eventually able to reach the complex, and, when it was clear their demise was near, the people of Masada performed a mass suicide to prevent their impending death or enslavement by the Romans. As the story goes, they drew lots to decide who would murder the others before ultimately killing himself. Only a few people stayed behind to tell the tale.
Today, Masada is a timeworn fortress ruin, atop a magnificent mountain, with a colorful story. When visiting, you can choose to walk the winding snake path up the mountain, or pay a few shekels for a cable car ride. We were short on time, so we took the cable car up and then walked around the complex imagining what the fortress would have been like in the times of Herod the Great, for whom Masada was built. Most impressive of all, though, were the views of the neighboring Dead Sea.
All in all, the trip to Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, and Masada was one of my favorite days in the Holy Land. It was a day where nature, history, and physics-defying swimming collided to make me truly appreciate the country that means so much to so many people. All three sites are certainly worth a visit if you are planning a trip to the Holy Land 🙂
What do you think? Have I convinced you to go to the Dead Sea? Let me know in the comments!