Floating in the Dead Sea, a lake known for one of the saltiest formations of water in the world, is a dreamy activity often found high up on any traveler’s bucket list–including mine! To make a visit sound even more exciting and unforgettable, is the fact that it is 1,300 feet below sea level it making it the lowest point on Earth. Truly a double whammy. But exactly what is the Dead Sea all about, why should you visit and how can you have the perfect trip there? Read through this guide to get your questions answered!
Facts, History and a Guide to Floating in Jordan’s Dead Sea
What is the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea, sometimes also known as “Salt Sea”, is a salt lake wedged between Jordan and Israel’s borders. Jordan has ownership of the eastern shore of Dead Sea, while the western shore’s southern half is Israel’s, and the northern half of the western shore reaches Palestinian West Bank. A majority of the water in the Dead Sea comes from the Jordan River, marking the lake primarily as Jordan’s natural wonder to the world. It is also the deepest of the hypersaline lakes.
Why is the Dead Sea Salty?
Compared to the Atlantic or the Pacific Oceans, the saltiness levels of the Dead Sea is approximately ten times more (though it’s still not the saltiest lake or lagoon in the world—Don Juan Pond in Antarctica is.). Where does all that saltiness come from? It is due to the lake being located in a low-lying arid desert, with water flowing in from a sole source—Jordan River. Without a way for the incoming river flow to then get out of the lake to move forward, the water in the Dead Sea evaporates quicker than the water in an open sea or ocean would, leaving behind a bigger amount of salt.
Why is the Dead Sea called the Dead Sea?
The name Dead Sea comes from the fact that, due to the high levels of salinity, fish and aquatic plants cannot live in its waters. In other words, because no marine ecosystem exists in the Dead Sea, at least not in the way they usually do in different types of waters, the sea has been labelled as “dead”. So don’t expect to see any fish, plants, or even birds when you visit the Dead Sea!
Is there life in the Dead Sea? Mostly there is no life in the Dead Sea, as I have explained above. There are no animals or plants, not even seaweed, in the waters. However, some algae and microorganisms do live in the Dead Sea, so in that sense, there is indeed some life in the Dead Sea.
About Floating in the Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea is a popular activity among those visiting Jordan and Israel, many even traveling to the region exactly in order to cross the item off their bucket lists. 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 the latter of the two!).
Other reasons people come include its beautiful turquoise appearance, its designation as the lowest point on Earth, the intrigue that arises from its floating capabilities, and its healing qualities.
The Healing Qualities of the Dead Sea
Now, while the existence of marine life in the Dead Sea might be absolutely minimal, it doesn’t mean that the Dead Sea is somehow dangerous for us humans. Quite the contrary, actually! Its mineral rich waters are known to be quite the treat for your skin, even those with chronic skin conditions finding a lot of relief by floating in the lake, thanks to its restorative properties. floating in the Dead Sea can also help out those with asthma, eczema, cystic fibrosis, some lung diseases, and even other chronic conditions, such as heart disease.
The black mud found at the Dead Sea also has therapeutic qualities, it contains more than 25 different minerals that are said to help with things like acne, cellulite and aging.
Even if you don’t make it to Jordan’s Dead Sea for the therapeutic benefits you can get a taste of it by buying a Dead Sea Mud Mask that will cleanse and reduce pores.
What Does Floating in the Dead Sea Feel Like?
Initially, as you walk into the water it will feel little different than any other lake, though you may feel a little burning if you have even the tiniest open cut or sensitive skin. The strange sensation happens when you lean back and begin to float like a fishing bobber without any effort at all. No water wings or life vest needed.
Why is It So Easy to Float in the Dead Sea?
Because of the high density of the lake’s salinity (34%!), the water is dense. Since our bodies are not as dense as the sea, they float.
Interesting Facts About the Dead Sea
- Since early in history, as early as the Biblical times, the Dead Sea has been treated as a free, natural spa. For example, one legend goes that Cleopatra used the healing properties of the Dead Sea as a part of her beauty regime. In addition, Herod the Great, who’s historical reigning time from 37BC to 4BC, opened up one of the world’s very first spas right by the shores of the Dead Sea.
- You are at a smaller risk of catching a sunburn while tanning by the Dead Sea than you would in many other destinations. This is thanks to the lake residing below sea level, meaning the UV rays have already been filtered through before reaching the salty lake. I would still recommend wearing sunscreen and sunglasses during your visit, however!
- In addition to salt, there is also asphalt being formed from the water. It’ll naturally rise to the surface and has been used since the ancient Egyptians, in their case for mummification processes.
- Sadly, the fact is that the Dead Sea is swiftly vanishing away. It is currently around 600km2, when in 1930 it was still measured at 1050km2. One reason this is happening is because the water from Jordan River is also being used as drinking water as well as farming, leaving less incoming water to the Dead Sea. And mineral mining, done by both Jordan and Israel, only adds to the damage. Thankfully, efforts are being made to preserve this intriguing, historical natural wonder.
- The black mud you can find in the Dead Sea is world famous for its therapeutic and healing benefits, and can be purchased in various forms like triple milled soaps, mud masks and body creams.
One of modern archeology’s great discoveries also takes place by the Dead Sea. This discovery is referred to as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they are ancient Jewish and Hebrew manuscripts of religious properties, found in the Qumran Caves in 1947. These scrolls date back as early as between 800BC and 701BC.
Dos & Don’ts to Visiting
Just like with any destination, there are some do’s and don’ts you will want to be aware of prior to visiting. Below I’ve laid out some of them for the Dead Sea in Jordan, in order for you to have the most fun and respectful visit to the site.
DO bring your camera! The Dead Sea is a beautiful slice of nature, on top of which it is incredibly unique. You won’t want to miss out on a chance of having some tangible memories to reminisce with later on—though try to keep your camera out of the water itself. I set up my Canon 6D on a Joby Gorillapod and attached an interval self timer to that, so that my camera could be place far away and so I could take a thousand selfies without having to ask random strangers!
DO wear some protective footwear while you’re entering the water. Whether that’s sandals, water shoes, aqua socks, or something else similar is wholly up to you. But you’ll want to cover your feet with something or else you might get yourself hurt on salt crystals that are guaranteed to be sharp enough to cut you; once you’re floating it no longer matters if you keep the shoes on, but it’s quite vital when first coming into the lake.
DO fully immerse yourself in the experience of floating in the water and covering yourself in mud. Don’t be scared to get a little dirty while playing around with the mud. It’s got wonderful benefits for your skin and even your muscles, and you’ll want to get the full experience while at the Dead Sea.
DO choose to wear something you don’t mind getting a little tarnished in the process (and arrive to the site already wearing it!). If you’ve got a spanking new or a high end expensive swimsuit brought in your suitcase, you might want to keep it there. Instead, come wearing something that, whilst cute and comfortable, you won’t mind getting a bit of a rocking by the mud and the minerals. The Dead Sea mud may discolor your favorite bikini or swim trunks, so it’s best to bring ones that you don’t love.
Do get the mud from containers by the shore. You definitely won’t want to go underwater whilst at the Dead Sea. Instead, at the beach there will be a container from where you can get your load of mud.
Do rinse it off as soon as you’re out of the water. Although floating in the lake has some amazing healing properties, keeping those minerals on your skin for too long may have an unfortunate adverse effect. That is, unless you’ve been specifically recommended to keep the salt on for your skin condition.
DON’T splash. In other types of waters this may be a fun activity, but NOT at the Dead Sea The high levels of salt in the water will burn your eyes and you will regret having splashed. I accidentally sat down a little too swiftly and it led to one teeny-tiny splat of water directly in my eyeball. It burned so bad that I ran out of the sea and doused my eye with a bottle of water!
DON’T shave for a day or two before your trip. Again, the high levels of salt will burn and your enjoyment of the trip will get trampled on by the pain. And we know you don’t want that! (And on that note, actually do go ahead and cover any cut you might have on your body for the same reason.)
DON’T linger. It’s actually recommended not to exceed your stay in the lake for longer than 15 minutes at once. That’s because all the minerals, salt, and mud may begin to feel uncomfortable if you stay for long; so, stay in for 10 minutes, take a break, and then eventually hop back in.
Things to Do Near the Dead Sea
Besides a dip or three in the gorgeous Dead Sea, there’s plenty to do nearby. Whether you want to fit it in your itinerary on the same day or whether you’re lodging right at the Dead Sea and have easy access to these spots is up to you.
You’ll pass this mountain on your way from Amman to Dead Sea, making it one of the easiest destinations to add to your itinerary for the same day. Legend goes that at the top of this mountain is where Moses first saw the Promised Land. Check out the Memorial Viewpoint and the Moses Memorial Church whilst there.
Located near the tense border of Israel and Palestine, Bethany Beyond is one of the most important catholic sites in Jordan. It is said that Jesus was baptized here, making it also the place where John the Baptist preached at. There are tours starting every 30 minutes, taking you through some biblical sites.
Dead Sea Panoramic Complex
Offering perhaps the best views of Dead Sea, along with the Judea Mountains, the complex also includes a restaurant and a museum. It may be a great spot to stop by for some food after your fun times at the Dead Sea.
Best Time to Visit the Dead Sea
Because the Dead Sea is a destination you can visit any time of day and year, you might feel inclined to choose a time when it’s now crowded to the brim to go.
Best Time of Year
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.
Dead Sea Floating at Sunset
To make your visit to the Dead Sea even more spectacular and magnificent, try to time it so that you get to enjoy at least some of it while the sun is setting! Sunsets in general are gorgeous, so you can only imagine what one as a backdrop to something as stunning as the Dead Sea will look like.
How to get to the Dead Sea in Jordan
Now that you know some vital details of what exactly the Dead Sea is and how to have the most awesome time there, you of course need to know how to actually get there!
Where is it located?
As mentioned above, the Dead Sea is bordered by both Jordan and Israel. Specifically speaking the area the Dead Sea is a part of is called Jordan Rift Valley. The entirety of Jordan River, where the Dead Sea receives most of its water from, is also located in Jordan Rift Valley.
Getting To Jordan By Plane
There are regular flights from the U.S. on Jordan’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian, plus several other international carriers that will fly into Queen Alia International Airport located just south of Amman. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From Amman, The Dead Sea is only about an hour drive.
Renting a Car
Driving in any foreign country can be challenging, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals.
How to Get to the Dead Sea by Bus
From Jordan, the closest city to the Dead Sea is Amman, from where it takes an hour or so to reach the lake. It’s entirely possible to get to the Dead Sea by bus from Amman, and without having to compromise too much of you feeling comfortable. Take a bus from Mujarahin Bus Station, until Rame. From Rame, you may be inclined to take a taxi rather than walk, but it’s up to you.
Even easier from Amman the JETT bus runs daily for around $12 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 will give you a private transfer.
How to get to the Dead Sea by Organized Tour
The easiest option to reach the Dead Sea is with an organized day tour. There are multiple tour operators offering day trips to the Dead Sea, and by joining one is a great way to get to where you want, but without the hassle of having to organize and figure out everything by yourself. Here are some highly rated day tours and multi-day tours that visit other sites:
- Amman, Jerash and Dead Sea Day Tour
- Day Trip to Madaba, Nebo & Dead Sea
- Dead Sea and Madaba Tour with Hotel Pickup
Where to 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.
Other Hotels & Lodging
So, how excited are you for your own chance of floating in the Dead Sea? I would be! It’s an incredibly unique destination to visit, with a lot of fun to be had, with great health benefits as a bonus on the side. Some caution may need to be taken while in the water, so as not to burn your eyes or mouth with the salt, but otherwise a trip to the Dead Sea easily makes for a relaxing day. Combine it with the other things to do nearby Dead Sea Jordan and you’re all set for some incredible travel time!
Other Essential Tips
Language(s): 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.
Currency: 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.
Electricity: 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 Mingtong Universal Adapter with no problem.
Visa: 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).
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