A Dead Sea Trip – Complete Guide For Visiting For The First Time
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and a cool destination that attracts visitors from all over the world thanks to its cobalt-blue, mineral waters with healing properties, rare animals and interesting sites!
If you’re planning a Dead Sea trip soon, this complete guide will tell you everything you need to know, from the best tours to important advice to keep in mind!
Quick facts: All about the Dead Sea
Located in the Middle East, at 408 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. The vast salt lake is bordered by Jordan to the East and Israel and the Palestinian Territories to the West. And, needless to say, it is definitely an incredible place to visit!
Here are a few reasons to add it to your bucket list:
- It is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the whole world – Because it’s around 10 times saltier than any ocean, this place makes swimming impossible – you simply become so buoyant that all you can do is lean back and float!
- It’s an oasis of relaxation – The Dead Sea is so salty, that no animals are able to live there. So, you won’t have to worry about anything sneaking up on you or brushing against your skin.
- It is essentially a free spa – If you enjoy going to the spa, then the Dead Sea is THE place for you! The black mud usually found on the seabed is high in calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium, making it the ultimate mud bath for your skin. Better than anything you could get at the spa!
- It’s rich in history – Yep, you read correctly: it is almost THREE MILLION YEARS old! Legend has it that it was first spotted by the Roman King of Judea, Herod, and that Cleopatra used to sing about it.
Wondering where exactly the Dead Sea is in Jordan? Here’s a map of the Dead Sea so you can clearly visualise its location:
How to visit the Dead Sea
Now that you know some fun little facts about this unique place, let’s get to the technical things and some very useful information to know before your trip. First of all, know that you can access the Dead Sea from both Israel and Jordan.
FROM ISRAEL. On the Israeli side, there are a lot of day trips organised that take you to the Dead Sea and drop you back at your original destination.
FROM JORDAN. On the other hand, on the Jordanian side, there has recently been a development of hotels on the shorefront that offer luxury access to the Dead Sea. This is by far the easiest and most comfortable way of visiting but be aware that many of these beaches are solely for guest use only.
TIP: Some hotels in Jordan offer day passes to access the sea and there are also a number of public beaches you can visit. These will be cheaper, but will not include many of the amenities that the hotels have (freshwater showers, towels, parasols), which is a huge plus for washing the super salty water off your skin. Personally, I highly recommend booking a hotel for this trip.
Worry-not, as you can find my top recommended hotels down below!
Best Dead Sea tours
If you’re not down for a hotel stay but you also don’t want to stress about your Dead Sea visit, one of my most important pieces of advice is to book an organised tour that will take care of everything. As I mentioned above, you can take trips from both Israel and Jordan and, in order to make everything easier for you, I have hand-picked some amazing options departing from both destinations. I have listed them down below.
A quick note: you’ll see that most of these organised tours include some other destinations as well such as Madaba, Aqaba, Nebo or Petra (on the Jordanian side) or Bethlehem, Masada National Park or Ein Gedi Nature Reserve (on the Israeli side). Which is awesome – you’ll get to see more cool stuff and double the fun while you’re there!
- From Amman: Petra, Rum, Aqaba and Dead Sea 3-Day Tour – my top pick! Especially good if you want to take your time and explore some of the highlights of Jordan;
- From Amman: Day Trip to Madaba, Nebo & Dead Sea incl. Lunch – if you only have a short timeframe to explore this amazing place;
- From Aqaba: Wadi Al Mujib and Dead Sea Panoramic Tour – if you’re looking for a day trip from Aqaba instead;
- Private Tour: Dead Sea and Baptism Site – in case you’re not passionate about large groups and want to explore this site at your own pace and with your own group of friends!
Best Dead Sea beaches
One thing to know right from the start: there are both private and public beaches at the Dead Sea.
WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
The public ones are mostly free to access, but they usually don’t have a lot of amenities and they can be pretty crowded too. The private ones (usually belonging to hotels/resorts) have an entrance fee for tourists (around, let’s say, 30-40 US$) but they spoil you with luxury amenities. If you ask me, I’d say it’s worth it to pay the fee – or, even better, give in to the luxury of it all and just book a room at the hotel or resort. They have the best facilities, including spa treatments as well.
BEACHES ON THE JORDAN SIDE:
- Amman Beach – public beach, but with an entrance fee (one of the cheapest ones too) – a day pass costs 8 JOD (11,3 US$) for Dead Sea access only or 12 JOD (17 US$) to also have access to a public pool.
- O Beach / Oh Beach – 2km from Amman Beach, this one’s a luxurious beach with perfect white sand and infinity pools. Entrance fee is 25 JOD (35 US$) and you get a free beach towel with this price;
BEACHES ON THE ISRAELI SIDE:
- Ein Bokek Beach– large public beach with plenty of free amenities and lots of resorts as well;
- Kalia Beach (Kibbutz Kalia) – lots of cool amenities as well, including a bar, restaurant, pool and more;
- Biankini Siesta Beach – it has the usual beach amenities, plus a pretty nice Moroccan restaurant;
- Ein Gedi Beach – free public beach; This one has showers and even a place to set up your tent if you’re up for camping;
Where to stay near the Dead Sea
If you are looking to stay close to the Dead Sea, then stopping in one of the hotels on the shorefront itself would be the best idea. This will give you private, free and easy access to the Dead Sea and access to the spas as well!
Here are my best recommendations:
ON THE JORDAN SIDE:
- Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea
- Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa
- Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea
- Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa
- Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea
ON THE ISRAELI SIDE:
In case you don’t want to book a hotel room just to enjoy a little bit of floating in the Dead Sea, here is a list of hotels that offer a day pass for beach access even if you’re not staying there:
- Mövenpick Resort & Spa – day pass costs 55 JOD (77.6 US$) and includes a 15 JOD (21 US$) food voucher
- Marriott Resort & Spa – day pass costs 50 JOD (70.5 US$) and includes a 25 JOD (35 US$) food voucher
- Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea – day pass costs 45 JOD (63.5 US$) and includes buffet lunch
- Ramada Resort by Wyndham – day pass costs 25 JOD (35 US$) and includes buffet lunch
TIP: If you’re on a budget, there is the option to stay at hotels that are located further away, but these would require private transport to the beaches at the Dead Sea as the distance would be too far to walk.
How to get to the Dead Sea
Getting to the Dead Sea by public transport poses somewhat of a challenge to even the most battle-hardened travellers. Sadly, in Jordan, public transport in the area is sparse and doesn’t seem to operate other than on a Friday, which is mainly for locals attending their Sabbath.
This means that taxis and organised day trips (see my recommendations above) are your best bet in terms of getting to the Dead Sea or the hotels around it. Here are some taxi trip price references:
AMMAN TO THE DEAD SEA. 60 km, 1 hour, around 40 JOD (56.5 US$)
AQABA TO THE DEAD SEA. 273 km, 3 hours, around 100 JOD (141 US$)
WADI RUM TO THE DEAD SEA. 303 km, 4 hours, around 120 JOD (169 US$)
PETRA TO THE DEAD SEA. 198 km. 3 hours, 80 JOD (112.8 US$)
WADI MUSA TO THE DEAD SEA. 135 km, 2.5 hours, 70 JOD (98 US$)
TEL AVIV TO THE DEAD SEA. 170 km, 2 hours, 707 ILS (216 US$)
JERUSALEM TO THE DEAD SEA. 116 km, 1 hour, 350 ILS (107 US$)
Alternatively, if you’re in Israel, you can usually travel from Tel-Aviv (on the 421 bus that runs once a day) or from Jerusalem (bus route 486 that runs five times a day), but the journey will be around three hours one way.
RELATED READ: Are you planning to visit Petra after the Dead Sea? If you aren’t, you should! Check out this article for must know tips: Complete Guide to Petra, Jordan – Best Petra Tours, Sights, Hotels and Tips
BONUS: Curiosities and FAQs
WHY IS THE DEAD SEA DEAD?
If you’re wondering why the Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea - the answer is simple! The water here has a salt concentration of 34.2% (10 times more than ocean water), so it’s basically impossible for any aquatic beings or plants to live in it.
HOW WAS THE DEAD SEA FORMED?
The Dead Sea was formed millions of years ago when it was only a simple saltwater lagoon, connected to the Mediterranean Sea. After the tectonic plates shifted, the water connection to the ocean was lost, so the Dead Sea transformed into a lake that became saltier and saltier as the water evaporated over time.
HOW BIG IS THE DEAD SEA?
Well, truth be told, it’s pretty small! It’s more the size of a lake, at only 60 km in length and 8-12 km in width.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE DEAD SEA?
The busiest time at the Dead Sea is during spring (March to May) because of the nice temperatures and lower chances of rain. June is also a very good month to visit, as the temperatures are not too hot yet.
ALL ABOUT THE DEAD SEA MUD BENEFITS
The Dead Sea mud is said to be a thing of legend. You’ll see people caking it onto their bodies and faces, letting it dry out in the sun until it cracks before washing it off in the sea. This mud is found all around the seabed and it is known to have a whole lot of health benefits, backed up by extensive research. These include: improving skin conditions such as Psoriasis, arthritic pain relief, soothing chronic back pain, helps treat acne, reducing skin impurities - and more. BUT! If you have hypersensitive skin, check that you don’t have any sensitivities to any of the minerals it contains or speak to your doctor or dermatologist if you are unsure.
BONUS #2: Useful tips to know before bathing in the Dead Sea
- I know you want to, but it’s best to NOT spend a huge amount of time in the water – it will dry out your skin;
- Speaking of which… you might want to take a swimsuit that you’re not in love with, as the salty water can, sadly, discolour it and the mud gets everywhere;
- Avoid wearing jewellery because swimming in the Dead Sea will have it tarnished almost instantly (everything except 24k gold);
- IMPORTANT! – Do everything you can to avoid getting the water in your eyes! Take it from me – it stings like hell! And don’t forget to bring a towel to dry your wet hands after you get out of the water – you don’t want to touch your eyes with your wet hands… again, it stings!
- Avoid shaving for a couple of days before taking a dip in the Dead Sea – Some people mentioned that stings as well!
- Don’t forget your flip flops – there are some rocks and salt shards here and there;
- Don’t forget to hydrate!
This was my complete Dead Sea travel guide! I tried to collect the most important information that I’ve learned during my trip here – such as the best tours available on the market right now, suggestions for accommodation and the best beaches, transportation and more! I hope all this precious info will help you organise the best Dead Sea holidays!
If you’re curious to read more about other exciting destinations in Jordan, I recommend clicking here to discover all my adventures there.