The Beginner’s Guide to the Dead Sea

Here’s what to expect when visiting the Dead Sea in Israel’s winter for the first time. Spoiler alert: I had so much fun here.

The Dead Sea is really a saltwater lake at the lowest point on Earth – specifically 400 metres below sea levels. The Dead Sea is located smack in between Israel and Jordan. The water here is famously salty, and its black mud is rich with minerals that boasts therapeutic effects.

I visited in February, which is considered Israel’s winter. Though I needed a coat for other parts of my trip, I didn’t need one at all at the Dead Sea. The low elevation meant that the weather remains comfortably warm whole year round.

I was based in Jerusalem during my holiday, and decided to join a day tour that would take me to the Dead Sea. The tour included historic sites in the surrounding areas, so I thought it was a good all-in-one tour.

There are free public beaches along the Dead Sea. Our guide was telling us that a lot of the public beaches were closed due to the alarming amount of sinkholes that have cropped up in recent times.

The tour took us to Neve Midbar beach, which looked like a resort of sorts.

Neve Midbar Beach Resort Facilities

The resort had all of the facilities you’d need, including a changing room. This changing room was crowded the times I was there. There were separated rooms, but the bulk of us just picked a dry spot on the bench to park our bags and changed.

Make sure to thoroughly clean your feet from the mud before entering the changing room. Or else you will get a good screaming at by the lady attendant. No, I mean really scream, while furiously slapping her hands together to get your feet clean. She was terrifying.

There was also a bar and restaurant located onsite.

Anywayyyy, once you make it out of the chaotic changing room alive, find your way to the Dead Sea and get ready to… float!

At the Dead Sea…

At the Dead Sea, find a nice spot and grab yourself some chairs.

We couldn’t find any available chairs nearby and we didn’t mind to plonk our stuff on the sand. The lifeguard noticed our chair-less selves, took a couple of muddy chairs, hosed it down and gave it us. First class service. I noticed that empty muddy chairs are promptly hosed down.

Of course, you can lounge on the chairs. We used it to hold our belongings instead.

How to Float

How to float: sit in the water and simply lay back.

And check another one off the bucket list!

Since your body just floats, you ca’t swim here.

Well, I mean, if you try hard enough, you can. You’d just look hilariously awkward doing it that it’s become pointless.

Once you’re bored floating, just stand on your feet. The waters did not get that deep – or at least I didn’t wade far enough. The waters were warm, but it still got too chilly for me to stay floating too long. 

Slather Up

You cannot go to the Dead Sea and not slather mud on to yourself. I found myself turn into a bit of a kid here. My face in glee as my hands clamoring at the sea bed, trying to grab at soft mud. Once you hit a sweet spot of good ol’ soft mud, smoosh it all over yourself. Honestly? Strangely satisfying.

Don’t forget the face. You can also run the mud through your hair. There are rocks as well, so tread lightly. Remember to grab a bit more mud for your legs.

Once out, bake in the sun! Chill on land and let the mud dry. Once it’s dry, rinse off in the Dead Sea.

So Salty

In case you get salt in your eyes – which obviously I did, twice – there were pipes with running fresh water to help you out a bit.

Tip: the surrounding area of this fountain of fresh water would also be where soft mud is.

Mineral-Rich Waters

The Dead Sea water and mud are enriched with therapeutic minerals. According to our guide, the mud on the Israeli side has more nutrients than the Jordanian side. I don’t know how true that is… but I slathered on that mud on me like it would Benjamin Button my skin back to when I was 15 years old.

I don’t think it did much in that department… but my skin immediately felt baby butt smooth.

I only have three words to sum up my Dead Sea experience: SO MUCH FUN. It’s one-of-a-kind for sure.

We were there for about 2 hours, which I thought was more than adequate initially – because what can you do there but float right – but I was actually rushed for time! I put mud on myself twice and didn’t realize how fast time passed.

Insist on Photos!  

Make a pact with your travel buddies at the beginning of your Dead Sea adventure to take photos for each other. A few snaps of you in the water, and a couple of you caked in mud, and then keep those cameras and phones away.

The extremely salty sea water and caked up mud do not go well with technology.

Extra Tips

If you have any cuts or wounds, cover them up really well. The salt water will sting. That said, saltwater cleanses and heals soooo…

Also apparently you can’t shave, since the saltwater will sting the newly-grazed skin. I can’t attest to this, since those parts of my body have long been taken care of by the magic of IPL #smugface.

What to Bring

Swimsuit to change into, flip-flops would be useful, towel to dry off, sunscreen and a camera.

The tour I went with provided us with towels.

Since the Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on Earth, the sun rays that hit you are supposedly the least damaging. The easiest testament to this is not needing my sunglasses here at all although it was sunny.

So in theory, you won’t get sunburnt if you forgot sunscreen. But I’m Asian and we have some reverence for sunscreen so I slap that stuff on anyway.

Mud Souvenirs

As a touristy facility, of course there were souvenir shops selling mud.

Specifically, Ahava and Premier brands. I don’t know how they differ, but I purchased from Ahava which was a familiar brand at least. I’m not too sure if I scored a good deal, but I was on my last full day of my trip and wouldn’t have time to shop for mud elsewhere anyway. For reference, a packet of body mud costs me 50 ILS.

I’ve tried the mud when I was back home, and I enjoyed it. A little bit more than at the Dead Sea perhaps, since I don’t have to scrape at the sea bed for mud. The mud had some warming effect on my joints and that felt so good. Caution: bathroom will be a muddy mess… but at least you’ll have baby-butt smooth skin..?

In the course of my trip, I spotted other therapeutic muds by other brands on sale, but I don’t know how pure they might be. Yes – some of the mud can have dubious chemicals in them.

I hope this post helped you with what to expect when visiting the Dead Sea for the first time. I had much more fun here than I thought I would, and it was definitely an experience of a lifetime.

Have you visited the Dead Sea? What did you like (or did not like) about your trip? Let me know!

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