One could never tire of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem can easily tire a visitor given the extensive amount of sites to see and experience. After so much sightseeing, my body needed a rest. No better activity for this than floating in the Dead Sea, the world’s largest outdoor spa.
To be honest, I wanted to visit the Dead Sea for many years. Its geography as the lowest point on Earth and its chemical composition have fascinated me along with its health benefits.
GETTING TO THE DEAD SEA
The entire east shore of the Dead Sea is in Jordan, the north west shore in the West Bank and the south west shore in Israel. Travel information on the wider region can be found in my Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Travel Guide.
My research showed that access to the Dead Sea by public transport was difficult. Not willing to rent a car I decided book Tourist Israel’s Dead Sea shuttle bus service and see where it took me.
Exiting Jerusalem, the bus journeyed through the mountainous and barren Judean Desert. I and a number of other passengers were astonished that such an arid area could be the root of so much consternation.
QASER (QASR) EL YAHUD
Our first stop was at a centre with changing rooms, palm trees and timber decking leading down to a small river. Russian-speaking tourists dressed in white robes were gathered in and around the river, dunking their bodies into the brown water. A rope held afloat with buoys was strung across the middle of the river. A church appeared through the trees on the other side of the river.
A sign indicated that this area was Qaser (Qasr) el Yahud, the river was the historical River Jordan and the little floating rope was the international border with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Subsequent research showed that this was the location of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The church on the Jordanian side was the St. John the Baptist Church.
Signs also advised not to stray from the official pathways as the area is land-mined since the Israeli occupation in the late 1960s. There are plans to de-mine the area as this Times of Israel article shows.
The bus dropped us off at the Dead Sea’s Neve Midbar resort located on the most northern shore. It is well equipped to meet the needs of visitors with a restaurant, shop, bar, changing-rooms, toilets, showers, and lifeguard services.
Timber decking leads to the shoreline where you can apply the area’s natural mud. Plastic seats are dotted around the shoreline with some under sheltered areas. Neve Midbar is immediately south of Kalia/Kalya beach resort.
The warm, syrup-like dense water was a unique feeling which I got used to in a matter of seconds. Even while squatting down I was pushing against a force that was keeping me afloat.
I felt confident lying back on the surface of the water. Straight away I was floating in the Dead Sea. It was incredibly relaxing. A buoyed rope prevented visitors from floating over to Jordan or in a southerly direction.
I found the Dead Sea experience a very sociable one. It brought out the best in everyone so I got plenty of opportunities to chat with other travellers.
DEAD SEA TIPS
Given the high mineral composition of the Dead Sea special instructions need to be followed. Along with the instructions on the below sign the following tips will make your Dead Sea trip more comfortable:
- 15 minutes was the recommended time to spend in the Dead Sea.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Make sure you have no skin cuts or have shaved within 24 hours.
- Take the usual precautions that you would when sunbathing.
- Bring sandals or aqua shoes to protect your feet from the hot sand/mud. In some parts of the Dead Sea the residual salt has developed into a hard crust which could easily cut your feet.
- Don’t wear anything too fancy. The sea will discolour it. Likewise with jewellery.
- Goggles protected my eyes from splashes but sunglasses would have been more apt as the strong sun dazzled me.
FLOATING IN THE DEAD SEA: THE VERDICT
My skin felt soft and smooth, and I further enhanced this sensation by applying wet mud and allowing it to dry. I returned to the water to wash off the mud although some visitors applied the mud before entering the sea in the first place.
I spent the remaining few hours, before the shuttle pick-up, relaxing at the resort which also includes a regular swimming pool. I visited in November and still felt utterly refreshed and invigorated. I can see why the Dead Sea is a popular medical tourism destination.
I waited years to visit this unique area of natural beauty and it was an experience I shall cherish for many years to come.