Straight from spending an unforgettable night camping in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, we headed directly to another once-in-a-lifetime Middle East experience: a float in The Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a salt lake over 1,300 feet below sea level, making it the lowest elevation on Earth. Nestled between the country of Jordan to the east and Israel to the west, the unusually high salt concentration (8.6 times saltier than the ocean) causes a natural buoyancy that makes you float like a fishing bobber.
No water wings or life vest needed.
Hordes of people flock there, some to benefit from it’s natural healing properties in the mineral-rich waters and others to take the quintessential photo of floating in the sea while reading the Jordanian Times newspaper.
I was gonna be the latter of the two.
We arrived in the early afternoon to the section of The Dead Sea that is loaded with luxurious resorts, but mine was the pretty and posh Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea who had its own private beach, plus 9 pools in case you actually wanted to do some swimming.
This would be a five-star Dead Sea floating experience.
After exploring the expansive resort grounds, and getting lost on several occasions, it was time to bob. Though there are public Dead Sea beaches, being a guest at this resort allowed me the use of their private one, so I headed down to the waters edge picking up towels and a bottle of water along the way.
Floating in Jordan’s Dead Sea
I set up my Canon 6D on a Joby Gorillapod and attached an interval self timer to that, so I could take a thousand selfies without having to ask random strangers. There was no way I wanted to miss getting photographic proof of what was about to happen.
With the camera equipment set, I grabbed my Jordanian Times newspaper and headed for the water. Wearing my leather sandals (bad choice of footwear), I stepped into the water of the rocky shoreline. Concerned that the timer would start to quickly making me miss the shot, I sat down a little too swiftly and it led to one teeny-tiny splat of water directly in my eyeball.
It burned like a Mofo (aka: really bad)!
I ran out of the sea and doused my eye with the bottled water, now it made sense that it was freely provided upon arrival. When the teardrops stopped rolling down my face, I decided to try again. This time I tiptoed into the salty water and ever so lightly sat down. I slightly wobbled from side to side and, for fear of getting more water in my eye, started to paddle my arms which got more water into my eye. Damn.
Call me a slow learner, but by the third time I knew the system and was determined to have a successful float. Determination worked. The trick was to get out deep enough to be able to just pretend you are sitting in the water, then RELAX!
Piece of cake.
It was relaxing once I got the hang of it, until there was a spontaneous fear that a fish would come nibble on my butt. This was a common anxiety while floating in the water on my back. But, I instantly remembered the reason that The Dead Sea got it’s name was because the salinity of the water makes it impossible for animals to survive.
No fish would be biting my butt. Phew.
Time for a mud bath!
The Dead Sea mud contains more than 25 different minerals that each have different therapeutic properties. It is said to help with things like acne, cellulite and aging. Load me up.
I applied the mud all over my wet body and waited for fifteen minutes for it to work its magic. Then it was back into the sea for a final rinse.
Floating turned out to be a lot tougher work than originally expected, and the Kempinski Hotel turned out to be the perfect place to unwind afterwards.
The restaurant served traditional Jordanian food, the gorgeous infinity pool boasted an uninterrupted view of the sea and the patio of my room was the perfect place to get some much needed work done.
Just before nightfall, there was one more gift from The Dead Sea and Kempinski Hotel.
The most beautiful sunset.
. . . Check it Off Your Bucket List . . .
There are regular flights from the U.S. on Jordan’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian (www.rj.com), plus several other international carriers that will fly into Queen Alia International Airport located just south of Amman. From Amman, The Dead Sea is only about an hour drive. If you do not rent a car, from Amman the JETT (www.jett.com.jo) bus runs daily for around $10 USD and stops at the Amman Beach at The Dead Sea. Viator offers a private transfer from the Amman airport to The Dead Sea hotels for about $70 USD or for roughly $150 USD AAT(www.ammanairporttransfers.com) will give you a private transfer. You can also get to The Dead Sea by renting a car, which can be the most flexible way to explore. The airport has numerous companies, many of which are also found in America (Dollar, Thrifty, Budget, etc.), so do a search on a site like Expedia (www.expedia.com) or Skyscanner (www.skyscanner.com) who will compare the rates from different car rental companies. The cost starts at around $40 USD per day. The roads are in good condition and the important signage will be in English as well as Arabic, but make sure you have a good map or GPS.
Arabic is the official language. Many Jordanians in the urban and tourist cities speak English, though fewer will in the smaller villages, especially the Bedouin elders.
The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar. Some places will accept American Dollars, but it is not a guaranteed so exchange some money. ATMs can easily be found in Amman (and there is one at the airport), but can be challenging in the smaller towns.
Jordan travel requires Plug C / D / F / G / J, 230v. Most outlets will be the same as the European with two round prongs. You will need an adapter and a converter if your devices are not dual voltage. I used the Insten Universal Adapter with no problem.
When to Go:
The best time to visit The Dead Sea is from March to May or late September to November when the temperatures are moderate and rainfall is at a minimum. In the summertime the temperatures can soar up to 115 degrees, which will be fine while in the water but unbearable outside of it. In the winter the daytime temperatures may be comfortable in the mid 60s, but the evenings will get down to the low 40s and the sea may be pretty chilly.
How to Visit:
Visiting The Dead Sea can be done numerous ways, but the most common is either by a day trip from Amman or the nearby town of Madaba, or by staying at one of the luxury resorts that back up to the sea. If day tripping on your own, The Dead Sea has a few public beaches or the resorts will have private ones. For an easy option, Viator offers a private day-trip from Amman to The Dead Sea that includes a float starting at $75 USD.
Where to Stay/Stay:
The luxurious Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea(from $175) is where I happily stayed. It not only has 9 pools, but also a private beach so you can float while escaping the crowds. For a unique experience, the Russian Pilgrim Mission (from $90) is built on a sacred place, the site of the baptism of the Lord. For a budget stay in the nearby town of Madaba, choose the Mosaic City Hotel (from $64) that’s close to the center of town and under a half hour to The Dead Sea.
Be very careful getting in and out of the water. Beware of splashing and don’t get the water in your eyes! If you do wash it immediately with bottled water.
US Citizens will need a visa, which can be purchased at the airport in Amman. A single-entry visa that is valid for up to 60 days currently costs 40 JD (about $56 USD).
Don’t shave for at least two days before getting into The Dead Sea, unless you want it to be a stinging experience.
There’s not a lot happening in the area around The Dead Sea, so if you are just there for the bucket list check don’t plan on staying too long.
Bring a pair of water shoes (a Keen style active shoe would work well), the rocks/salt along on the floor of the water can be sharp. Plus, I mistakenly wore my leather B.O.C. street sandals, they immediately got distorted from the salty water and had to be thrown away.
Pack an old swimsuit. The Dead Sea mud may discolor your favorite bikini or swim trunks, so it’s best to bring ones that you don’t love.
Pack some sort of technology that will allow you to get the iconic photo of you floating in The Dead Sea; a tripod for your camera to shoot from shore or a selfie stick for your waterproof device.