Travel guide to the Dead Sea - where to find the salt islands?

Updated: Jun 26

Definitely one of the most iconic, wonderful places to visit in Israel. The lowest place on earth, a sea so salty, you can only float in it. Where the air you breath is filled with minerals and the mud from the sea heals body and mind. Welcome to the world's best natural spa. Here you can find all the information you need before planning your trip to the Dead Sea, from how to get there to most Instagrammable spots!


Everything you need to know about the salt islands


Dead Sea salt islands

Some fun facts about the Dead Sea! Did you know its shores are 430,5 meters below sea level?! Driving to the Dead Sea is an experience on its own, from high up the mountains you descend about 1500 meters to reach its shores. It has a salinity (amount of salt) of 34.2%, which makes it one of the saltiest waters in the world - as a result, you can read a magazine while floating in the Dead Sea! Also, did you know it's actually a lake? Sadly, the Dead Sea is receding swiftly, causing dangerous sink holes on its shores. This is why I only recommend you to visit public authorized beaches with lifeguard services.


When to visit

The Dead Sea can be visited all year round, because of its unique climate. However, in winter (Dec-Jan) it can be a bit grey and gloomy on some days and there can even be waves, which makes it impossible to go in. On the other hand, it can be beautiful and sunny during the winter months - so makes sure to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly! Keep in mind that from December to March it won't exactly be sunbathing season, though weather can be pleasant - it's usually not warm enough for bikini sunbathing.


From June to September it is the exact opposite: it will be very hot. Temperatures at the Dead Sea are so high during the summer months that the temperature of the water is high too, which can even make it uncomfortable to go in at midday!


I recommend you to visit in the early morning hours or right before sunset - the sun is not as strong and especially in the early morning the water is a bit cooler.


The best months to visit in my opinion are April-June and September-November. Weather will be very comfortable and the water temperature as well.


Dead Sea Israel

Best beaches to visit

The most visited beach is Kalia Beach, located on the northern shore of the sea and it has all the facilities you might need, from restaurants to a shop selling Dead Sea products. There is an entrance fee here of 59 ILS, making it also the most expensive beach to visit.


My favorite beaches are at the southern side of the Dead Sea, Ein Bokek and Neve Zohar. This is the resort area of the Dead Sea hosting many public authorized beaches with lifeguard services, showers and bathrooms. The great thing is, these beaches are free to visit!


Between Kalia Beach and Ein Gedi, you will see many beaches that are now closed. This is because of the sink holes; sadly the Dead Sea is reclining, leaving dangerous sink holes in its shores. It is very dangerous to enter the Dead Sea on non-authorized beaches - please visit only public authorized beaches!


What to do

Besides visiting one of the beaches and floating in the sea, you can also find some of Israel's best tourist attractions in the Dead Sea area. Below you can find an overview of my favorite places to visit.

Dead Sea salt islands

Salt Islands
A must visit when in Israel: the famous salt islands of the Dead Sea! Because the water level is decreasing, salt islands appear close to the shores creating a fabulous scene. The islands are all close to shore, it takes you about two minutes wading through the water to get there. Very important to note is that the salt crystals are like knives, you must wear some sort of water sandals/teva's because you'll otherwise end up with bleeding feet. Don't wear flip flops, they'll float to the surface. Keep in mind also to bring a towel if you want to lay or sit on the islands!

There are two main areas to see the salt islands:

The first spot is where you'll have the line of little salt islands (in picture above). The area is now a construction site, so you're not allowed to stay there a long time and have picnics and such, security is driving around to check! But you're allowed to visit the island and take photos :)


Where to find the islands? In front of the Isrotel Dead Sea hotel in Ein Bokek there is a roundabout from where you need to enter to the construction site. Keep right and drive towards the water, you can already see the islands. Park in the sand and walk a few minutes to the islands.

If you look for 'Isrotel Nevo Dead Sea Hotel' in Google Maps or Waze it will take you straight to the place.


The second spot is the 'chair', the salt island in the shape of a chair which I recently visited with Raquel from @explorerssaurus. It's a perfect spot for photos! Next to it you also have a salt road walking you into the Dead Sea, a must visit also when you're in the area.


Where to find the chair? In the very north edge of Ein Bokek there is a campground where you park the car. The parking costs 6 ILS an hour, but it has showers and bathrooms to change and freshen up. From the campground, you walk north along the shore for about five minutes, until you see a sand road going into the sea. The road is closed, but the island is on the left side so you can walk/float there from the shore. It's on the left side (when you face the Dead Sea) after about two minutes walking. You can't miss it!



Dead Sea salt islands


Masada

Masada Israel

Masada is one of the top attractions in Israel and no wonder why. This fortress, on top of a steep mountain overlooking the Dead Sea, was one of king Herod's strongholds and the hiding place of the last Jews revolting against the Romans. The fortress was so impregnable, that the Romans had to build a huge ramp made out of sand and rocks to climb up the mountain - until this day you can climb the ramp. It is an important historic sight, perfect for hiking and beautiful views.


It is also the best place in all of Israel to watch the sunrise! From the western entrance, you can camp overnight at a camp site and hike up the mountain from there. From the eastern entrance you can also hike up the mountain via the famous snake trail, although this hike is much longer and more difficult.


Please keep in mind that you cannot enter the mountain from the western entrance and go down the other entrance, there is no connection between the two sides of the mountain. For information about visiting Masada, please click here.


Mitzpe Moab

Perfect viewpoint to visit when driving back from the Dead Sea! It's located on the edge of Arad and really the perfect place to watch the sunset. It's very easy to find, just type in 'mitzpe moab' in Waze or Google Maps and you'll get straight there. Endless desert views, all the way to Jordan!


Dead Sea Israel

Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi national park hosts one of the most famous places in Israel: the hideout of King David, when he was on the run from King Shaul. This desert oasis is one of the top destinations in Israel and one you shouldn't miss! It has many wonderful hiking trails, with caves, waterfalls and pools - click here for more information.



Neve Zohar wadi & fortress

This is one of my favorite hikes in the country. It's a 14 km long wadi, taking you through spectacular desert landscapes and an abandoned fortress. The hike is free of charge and relatively easy, though you must always check with local authorities from fall to spring about weather conditions - there might be flash floods in case of rain.


Qumran

Qumran is a tourist attraction on the rise, because this is where the famous dead sea scrolls where found, which are the oldest Torah (Bible) scrolls known in the world. For more information about visiting, click here.


Most Instagrammable spots

There is no doubt the Dead Sea is a very Instagrammable place in Israel, you can take breathtaking photos here of the salty shores and impressive desert landscape. Here's a list of my favorite places to take photos:


Where to find the Dead Sea salt islands?

- The salt islands in front of the Isrotel Dead Sea hotel in Ein Bokek


- Ein Gedi waterfalls and heart-shaped pool


- Neve Zohar lookout above the Neve Zohar fortress (on the road between Arad and Neve Zohar)


- Promenade between Ein Bokek and Neve Zohar for the best salt crystal photos


- Mt. Sdom and Lots wife pillar for epic desert views




Where to stay

If you are planning on spending one or several nights at the Dead Sea, I recommend you to either stay at the Ein Gedi camp lodge, or to choose one of the many hotels in Ein Bokek or Neve Zohar.


The camp lodge is the budget option, but a very comfortable one. The camp lodge has air conditioned tents, good facilities and wonderful views! Another budget option is to book an Airbnb in Neve Zohar; though I only recommend this when you're traveling by car. There are great Airbnb's in Ein Gedi too, but they're more expensive and usually booked far ahead.


Whenever I visit the Dead Sea, I stay at one of the hotels in Neve Zohar or Ein Bokek. There are countless hotels here, with good facilities, private beaches and great views. My favorites are the Isrotel Dead Sea hotel, Herods Dead Sea hotel and David hotel.


Dead Sea

How to get there


By car

There are different routes reaching the Dead Sea from Israel: one is through Jerusalem, through road 90 (north or south) and through Arad. Because the Dead Sea is partially located in the West Bank, there is a military checkpoint halfway road number 90, which is the road that drives you all along the shores of the Dead Sea. When you come from either Jerusalem or the north (from Beit Shean), you'll partially drive through the West Bank. If you come from the south (Eilat) or from Arad, you won't enter the Dead Sea from the West Bank.


Keep in mind that when you travel through the West Bank, it is important to bring your passport since identification might be asked.


If you drive from Tel Aviv, I recommend you to take the route through Arad, which basically drives you around the West Bank. Because you don't pass through Jerusalem (which is always busy with traffic), the road is more quiet and comfortable. Especially if you want to visit the southern beaches of the Dead Sea (the best beaches), this route is your best option.


By bus

Because the Dead Sea is such an important tourist attraction in Israel, it is very easy to reach by bus. The easiest and most frequently used bus is route 486 from Jerusalem to Neve Zohar. This bus runs every half an hour and stops along all the important sights and beaches along the Dead Sea. Also from Tel Aviv, this is the easiest way to get to the Dead Sea by bus, since you will only need to transfer at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. If you prefer a direct route from Tel Aviv, take bus 421 from Tel Aviv to Ein Bokek, this bus runs twice a day from the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station and takes you to the southern shores of the Dead Sea. Note: this bus does not go to Ein Gedi and the northern beaches!


Please keep in mind that on Fridays, busses stop running somewhere in the afternoon before Shabbat goes in. After nightfall on Saturday, when Shabbat is over, public transport will start again.


By organized tour

To make it easier for tourists to visit the Dead Sea, many touring companies offer daily day trips to the Dead Sea from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat. Most of these tours take you to Masada, Ein Gedi and a northern Dead Sea beach to float in the water. A popular option is the Masada sunrise tour, which shows you the sunrise over the Dead Sea from Masada. There are also tours that offer a shuttle service from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.


My favorite touring company is Abraham Tours. Their tours are self-guided and the most affordable. Another company I recommend you is Tourist Israel, their tours are affordable too and mostly come with a guide.


Practical information

Because the Dead Sea is so salty, it is not recommended to go in right after shaving and with open wounds because the salt will hurt. So ladies, make sure to shave your legs a day before visiting - trust me, I know what I'm talking about! Also, you should never get the salt water on your face - when it comes in your mouth or eyes you should immediately rinse out the water and see a doctor. The lifeguards on public beaches will know what to do in such circumstances.


Moisturize: whenever I visit I always bring my moisturizer, the salty water and unique dry desert climate quickly makes your skin dry.


Lastly, because of the unique climate at the Dead Sea you must drink liters of water. At the public beaches there are water tabs everywhere, but I recommend you to bring at least three liters of water each in your car - just to be safe. You dehydrate very fast in the salty water so don't forget to keep drinking!


Do you have any questions, recommendations, comments? Leave them below!


Happy floating! :)


Masada

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