The ultimate traveler's guide to the Dead Sea

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

If you visit Israel, the Dead Sea should definitely be on your list. 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!



Before going into the practical stuff, 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 desert 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.



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.



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 the places I recommend you visiting!


Masada


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.


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:


- Tree of Life island in front of Herods Dead Sea hotel in Neve Zohar


- Masada for the best views


- Ein Gedi waterfalls


- 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.




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! :)



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