No trip to Jordan (or Israel, for that matter) is complete without visiting the Dead Sea.
You must have seen photos of visitors there: they’re pictured floating quite easily, reading newspapers, crossing their legs, or doing other things that equally look impossible to do on the surface of any body of water.
However, none of those are impossible in the Dead Sea. If your balance is good enough, you may even be able to stand upright on the water. (Or not. I haven’t seen anyone do this yet.) Indeed, what makes the Dead Sea so special?
This 67km-long lake (yep, it’s actually a lake, not an ocean), bordered by Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank, is the lowest point on earth—420 meters below sea level—and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water.
As a point of comparison, the ocean has a salt concentration of 3.8 percent, while the Dead Sea has 33 percent. See, the water that flows into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River has nowhere to go and therefore does not flow out. It simply evaporates, leaving tons of salt.
One advantage of the high salinity is that the salt makes the water heavier, making anyone light enough to float. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, or whether you know how to swim or not. You will float on the Dead Sea, that’s a guarantee!
My first view of the Dead Sea coastline in Jordan. See the white edge? It’s hardened salt. Also known as the Sea of Salt and the Sea of Death, it’s actually a lake bordered by Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. I loved my brief dip there! #UnravelingJordan #Jordan #travelstoke #travelawesome #lonelyplanet #natgeo #LP
I was lucky enough to get invited to Jordan last year by the Jordan Tourism Board, and visiting the Dead Sea was the last item in our itinerary after exploring Amman, Jerash, Wadi Rum, Petra, and the Dana Nature Reserve.
On our way to Mövenpick Hotels and Resort where we were billeted, we stopped at a viewpoint, and our guide pointed out to us the rock salt (halite) deposits in the coastline. The Dead Sea is so salty that no fish or other marine creatures could survive in it, hence its name. However, he said that it isn’t completely dead, as certain microscopic life forms are actually living in its waters.
It’s only 18km wide, too, so we could see Israel in the distance, as well as Jericho in the north. Those who are Catholic (like me), probably imagined as well where Sodom and Gomorra used to be. From the viewpoint, it was easy enough to see “Lot’s Wife” on Mount Sodom, a pillar that indeed eerily looked like a woman.
We arrived late in the afternoon at Mövenpick, so I begged off from swimming and instead took pictures of the halite deposits. They looked so pretty!
I also took photos of a fellow blogger enjoying the Dead Sea at sunset. You might wonder: how, exactly, do you go about swimming in the Dead Sea? Is it just like any other body of water where you swim face down?
I learned how the next day. What you do is wade slowly into the water and lean back. Your legs and feet will bob up automatically. It might feel strange at first, as if you’re lying on an imaginary lounge chair, but you’ll soon get used to it.
You might try moving your legs downwards so you can stand on your feet, but chances are they’ll just be “pushed” back up to the surface. And while moving around as you float can be a challenge, you can use your hands to steer your body in the direction you want to go.
Remember to keep your head up, and keep movements to a minimum. You don’t want water droplets on your eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. I flailed a bit, as I wanted to stand up, and a few droplets got into my eyes. I tell you, it really stung.
I was quite glad I didn’t shave for a couple of days before my Dead Sea trip, though. I couldn’t imagine how painful it would have been if I had scratches on my body.
Staying more than 20 minutes in the Dead Sea isn’t recommended. I only stayed there 15 minutes, tops, because I was all by myself (my friends were already enjoying Mövenpick’s pool) and I could already feel the sting on my skin.
There’s more to experience at the Dead Sea than its buoyant waters. Its warm black mud, for example, is rich in minerals with skin-friendly properties, which is why people generally coat themselves in mud first before plunging (so to speak) into the Dead Sea.
There are mud deposits along the shore, and my blogger friends coated each other with it. I was late, so it was just me there, but I still found it easy to smear the thick mud on my body from head to foot. I let the mud dry a bit before I rinsed it off in the Dead Sea, and I tell you, I had never felt my skin so taut, so clean afterwards. No wonder people spend a lot on mud packs.
Most tourists visit the Dead Sea as a day trip. From Amman, the trip takes about three hours. If you’re in Petra or Aqaba, you can have a taxi take you to the Dead Sea. It’s best, of course, to stay overnight there. You can have your pick of 5-star hotels lining the coast in Jordan or in Israel. We stayed in Mövenpick in Jordan, but I can’t really say I recommend them.
The Mövenpick is a nice property; the rooms are huge, there are freshwater pools you can swim in, the breakfast selection is great, there are friendly cats roaming around (they were so sweet!), and the resort as a whole looks amazing.
However, we had several snafu with the staff there during our stay, and we didn’t feel so welcome. There are lots of other hotels in the area; choose well to maximize your experience in the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is now a famous tourist destination because of its healing properties. For me, however, the highlight — aside from floating in the Dead Sea, of course — will always be its historical and religious heritage. It was once a refuge of King David, and it also figured in the life stories of Abraham, Ezekiel, and King Saul. I’m not a devout Catholic, but it was this fact that really got to me once I had had my dip in its salty waters.
From Petra to Wadi Rum, Jerash and the Dead Sea, Jordan is definitely one of the most memorable places I’ve been to. Visit during springtime (March to May) when you can!
While the Jordan Tourism Board hosted my stay in the country during the #UnravelingJordan campaign, all opinions are my own. My thanks to Diego Imai for my photo.