Our trip to Israel was full of fun and interesting things to do ranging from Biblical history to modern times. We saw where Jesus was born, where he lived, and where he died. We stood by Jews wailing in prayer at the Western Wall. We saw firsthand the struggle between Israel and Palestine in the West Bank. While it was only a few hours in one day, probably the most joyful time we had while in Israel was floating in the Dead Sea. If anyone tries to tell you floating in the Dead Sea is overrated, don’t believe them. Floating in the Dead Sea is truly an awesome experience and a must-do when traveling to Israel.
We visited the Dead Sea on the Masada, Ein Gedi, and Dead Sea Tour, a day trip from Jerusalem, with Abraham Tours. Even though we were traveling to Israel in the winter and the temperatures for most of the trip were quite cool, the weather in Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea was much warmer, with higher temperatures of ten degrees or more, than the rest of the places we visited in Israel. It was hot! So after touring Masada and hiking the steep path of Ein Gedi to see waterfalls, we were excited to strip down to our bathing suits and take a dip in the Dead Sea.
We had our Dead Sea beach experience at Neve Medbar Beach. There are male and female dressing rooms along with bathroom stalls and showers. There are also lockers which cost 15 shekels so you don’t have to lug all your stuff down to the beach. There was even a camel if you wanted a camel ride with a Dead Sea view.
After changing and locking most of our worldly possessions in a locker, including our cameras which we didn’t want to ruin in the wet, salty, sandy atmosphere of the Dead Sea, we traipsed down the hill to the beach. The beach and water were packed with bathers. We decided to avoid the crowd and go a little farther right of the beach for a tiny bit of privacy and more space for floating. A few others had the same idea, including a gentleman who decided to make it a nude beach.
Rome went first and the man who can barely swim and definitely can’t float to save his life was ecstatic as he laid back and floated immediately with no effort at all.
The Dead Sea is nothing short of amazing. The reason why it is so easy to float in the Dead Sea is because it is the second saltiest body of water in the world, with a 33% salt content. The high salt content makes anyone buoyant and actually makes it pretty impossible to swim or do anything other than float. The Dead Sea, which is actually a large lake, is so full of salt and minerals, nothing can live in it. For being so salty, the water is pretty clear in the non-muddy areas, and you can see ledges of salty buildup both in and out of the water.
I quickly followed Rome into the water, but making sure not to splash too much, and tried my hand at floating in the Dead Sea. You can literally sit down in the water and float in a seated position. You can sit, you can recline, you can lie flat, you can do sit-ups, you can do leg scissors, or pretty much any other silly thing you can possibly think of. Another popular trick to do while floating in the Dead Sea is to read the newspaper. I was planning on one-upping that with the addition of a coffee cup in the other hand, but Rome thought that was silly and discouraged me from taking a plastic coffee cup from the plane and carrying it around for a week for one little photo op. Opportunity missed. Feel free to use it and send me the pictures.
The water of the Dead Sea felt nothing like what I imagined. The water feels thick and almost oily. As soon as you touch it, your fingers feel soft when you rub them together as if there is a microscopic layer between them. When you look at the water, you can see ripples, kind of like what you might see in a thick alcohol or liqueur.
If you get bored floating around in the Dead Sea (impossible, I know), the other popular thing to do at the Dead Sea is to slather black Dead Sea mud all over your body. Dead Sea mud has many health benefits. The rich minerals accelerate exfoliation and restore pH balance. Dead Sea mud can improve elasticity. The drying of the mud draws out toxins from skin cells. There is an added benefit of looking super scary and seeing what your skin might look like when you’re 120 years old as the dried mud makes your skin pucker and move in very odd ways. The minerals of the Dead Sea are so sought after, the gathering of potash from the Dead Sea is one of Jordan’s largest sources of income and Dead Sea beauty products can be found everywhere.
However, when you’re at the Dead Sea, all you have to do is reach your hand into the thick, soft, sticky mud and rub it all over yourself. Just be careful when walking through the mud. It can be like quicksand! With my first step into the mud, I was up to my knees. It was only with careful concentration that I got my leg out with my water shoe still on my foot. I’ll bet there’s a lot of footwear to be found in the deep mud.
Based on some research we did prior to our visit as well as our own experience, we have some tips for first-time visitors to the Dead Sea.
Our first Dead Sea tip is to wear shoes that will protect your feet from the rocks and ledges under the water. We suggest wearing simple water shoes. They are inexpensive, they’ll (hopefully) stay on your feet if you step into the deep mud, and they dry fairly quickly. We do not suggest wearing flip flops, which you may lose too easily, or sneakers, which will get water-logged and will take forever to dry.
Don’t shave for a few days before floating in the Dead Sea. Have you ever shaved your legs right before getting a pedicure at the spa? Or have you ever had lemon juice on a cut? That is the kind of pain you’ll experience if you shave before floating in the Dead Sea. Also, beware that any cuts or abrasions are going to sting. Your skin will start to tingle after spending some time floating in the Dead Sea even without any cuts.
Don’t get the water in your eyes. If you do, it’s going to hurt like hell and you’ll need to get your hands on some fresh water STAT. If you aren’t near a lot of people and you aren’t splashing around your partner, you can easily avoid getting the Dead Sea water in your eyes. However, if you’re clumsy or need a little insurance, you can always bring some swim goggles, or even try some onion goggles.
Use a waterproof camera and don’t get it wet. We couldn’t believe it when we saw a man in the water with his DSLR camera. There is no way we would risk ruining such an expensive piece of equipment. If you want to capture all of your Dead Sea fun in photos, bring a waterproof camera like the Olympus waterproof camera (which is what we used) or a GoPro in a waterproof casing. However, try to keep it out of the water as the lens will cloud up if it touches the saltwater. We were pretty good at not getting any water on the lens of our camera, but we could see the immediate salt buildup on the body of the camera caused by just a few drops from our hands. I also made sure to soak the camera in fresh water as soon as we got back to our hostel in Jerusalem.
Wear an old and/or dark bathing suit. The mud is dark and it can stain or make colors fade, so we suggest wearing an old bathing suit that you don’t care about. The darker the better.
Leave enough time to take a shower. You can try to rinse off all the mud in the Dead Sea, but it’s pretty hard to get it all off. Also, as soon as you leave the water you’ll notice deposits of salt stuck on your neck and other places.
Sadly, our visit to the Dead Sea was only for a couple hours. The entire time we were there we laughed and giggled, took silly photos, frosted ourselves with mud, and had a grand old time. Floating in the Dead Sea is definitely a not-to-be-missed highlight of a trip to Israel or Jordan.
Thank you to Abraham Tours and Abraham Hostels for hosting our trip to Israel and making this post possible. As always all opinions are our own. This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them it costs you nothing extra and we earn a small commission which goes towards running this website and bringing you more travel stories.