Have you ever seen those photos of people reading a newspaper while floating in the Dead Sea?
Well, the truth is you actually can’t spend an entire afternoon sitting in the water, reading the day away. It’s likely you’d dissolve if you did that. Fortunately, you have us to help you have a great experience!
Floating in the Dead Sea is definitely a highlight on any trip to Israel, not to mention an item frequently found on bucket lists the world over!
What makes it so special?
While not classified as one of the wonders of the world, the Dead Sea is a place for the record books. The sea, or lake, really, sits nearly 430 meters (1,400 feet) below sea level, making it the lowest place on Earth. It’s also the deepest hypersaline lake in the world at 306 meters (1,004 feet) and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water at about 35% salinity. For comparison, that’s about 9.6 times saltier than the ocean.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. Biblically, it was a place of refuge for King David. It also played host to one of the world’s first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. Believe it or not, the same salt and minerals are used to create cosmetics and skin care products as well.
Renowned for their therapeutic affects since antiquity, the area has become a major center for health research and treatment. The waters of the sea contain up to eight times more minerals than most seawater!
Today, scientific evidence proves that the Dead Sea can help treat a host of common illnesses. Typical conditions range from joint pain and arthritis to skin and heart problems.
It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?!
Where, what, and for how much?
You can visit the sea from Israel or Jordan, but in this article, we’re focusing only on the locations in Israel. However, the general tips for floating apply to any location in the Dead Sea!
A day trip to the Dead Sea is only a short drive away from Jerusalem (39 km, 24 miles) or Tel Aviv (98 km, 61 miles), either by car or public bus.
The most accessible public beaches are Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek. We recommend Ein Bokek, as sinkholes have recently appeared near Ein Gedi. In any case, both beaches are free to use and admission to the showers and public toilets is only a few shekels. Do make sure to have some coins ready because you will need that shower!
You also have the option of accessing the Sea from any of the hotels that line its shores. There, you’ll oftentimes get private access to the beach and more of a wellness spa experience.
Tips on floating
Due to the hypersalinity of the water in the Dead Sea, it is very easy to float! In fact, it’s almost impossible to sink. However, there are many points to keep in mind so that you have an enjoyable experience:
BEFORE floating in the Dead Sea
- Bring shoes with you – While some people enjoy the feeling of salt crystals under their feet, for most it’s not such a nice time and might even hurt. The salt crystalizes into jagged formations that can cut the bottom of your feet. If you’re sensitive, wear water shoes even in the water.
- Watch out for cuts! – If you have any cuts on your body, even a tiny one, getting salt into it will bring clarity to the saying ’rubbing salt into one’s wounds’. Cover up any little cuts with a waterproof bandage.
- Do NOT shave for 1-2 days prior to your Dead Sea experience, unless a painful burning sensation is what you’re after.
- Ladies, if you’re on your period, proceed with caution. It might not feel pleasant to soak in the Dead Sea. Try it for yourself.
- Put sunscreen on. As it’s the lowest point on Earth, the danger of getting a sunburn is lower, but it’s still there – especially if you come during summer. Use at least some low SPF sunblock.
WHILE floating in the Dead Sea
- Forget your swimming instincts, it’s time to float on your back! Don’t try to swim, don’t try to walk out in the water till you’re up to your neck. Just get in the water, walk till you can squat and gently ‘lie’ on it.
- Also, don’t kick the water to move, just use your hands – you’ll be fine even if you don’t know how to swim J
- For the strong swimmers among you – you can swim breaststroke, but only with goggles. You probably won’t enjoy it too much, as the water will eventually get in your nose and on your lips.
- Don’t splash! It’s extremely painful and stings to have the water get in your eyes!
- Don’t taste the water – the water is way too salty, it tastes horrible and becomes poisonous if too much is ingested.
- If any water gets on your face, don’t try to wipe it off with your wet hand, you’d only make it worse. Just get out and shower.
- Stay just 10-15 minutes, otherwise the more sensitive parts of your body will start burning!
What to do AFTER floating in the Dead Sea
- If you like the feeling of being covered in salt, you can let it dry off until patches of salt form on your body. You’ll need to shower it right off anyway.
- A shower is advised right after getting out. You can always go back in the sea for another 10-15 minutes, but shower in between if you don’t want to have your skin become irritated.
- Cover yourself in mud – packets of mud are sold right by the shore. Buy yourself one and cover yourself from head to toe! The packs are usually too big, so share with your pals or ask someone you don’t know to share with you.
- And last – enjoy your skin being especially smooth for a few days following your Dead Sea fun
You should plan your visit for the very near future. The Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking in recent decades due to the diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River. Large sinkholes have recently started appearing, and while Israel and Jordan are trying to save the Dead Sea, there’s no certainty that it will last for much longer. The sooner you come the more you’ll enjoy.
Have you been to the Dead Sea? Which part of the floating experience did you enjoy the most?