The Dead Sea is one of those iconic sites on many a bucket list. It’s also a fairly unique lake, not just because of its incredible salt volume, but also because it’s shared by two countries, Jordan and Israel (many would argue three countries, with the Palestinian Authority joining the party).
It doesn’t matter from what side you access the Dead Sea (Jordan lies on the Eastern side of the Dead Sea, Israel on the West), there’s really nowhere else on this planet where you can float on the water like Cleopatra and King Herod, a place where you can float in the mineral-rich waters of the world’s most ancient spa…
So, pack your swimsuit, plenty of sunscreen, and get ready to explore the sites and relax in the reviving waters…
An introduction to The Lowest Point On Earth
Before we take you for a float, let’s take a quick look at what makes the Dead Sea such a fascinating place to visit…
The Dead Sea is one of Jordan’s most popular attractions; it shares a border with the Palestinian Authority and Israel to the west. In Arabic it is known as al-Bahir al-Mayyit.
Located in the center/south of Jordan in the Jordan Rift Valley, this unique body of water is technically a lake, which is fed by many rivers, including the Jordan River. It is 50 km long and 15 km wide, and is nearly ten times saltier than sea water. It is also nearly 400 meters below sea level, the lowest point on Earth.
Why is the Dead Sea so salty?
The Dead Sea is landlocked and below sea level; it is also hundreds of meters deep and lies in a valley. The Jordan River brings a ton of mineral deposits into the sea, while rain has washed over desert rocks and washed into rivers, while minerals have collected in this low-lying basin. Also thanks to its hot climate, over centuries the water evaporated and left the minerals and salts behind, while the water became richer and richer with minerals like magnesium and potassium, as well as salt.
The healing powers of the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea, throughout history, has attracted many people, from pilgrims to prophets, Pharaohs and Kings. The rich cocktail of minerals and salts in the water and mud are famous for their health and beauty benefits.
Research has also shown that the quality of Dead Sea sunlight is also unique – there’s a special kind of photosynthesis that promotes healing in the skin, and is renowned especially for helping people suffering from psoriasis. However, despite the health benefits, please don’t forget your sunscreen!
Is the Dead Sea really shrinking?
Yes, it certainly looks like it. Every year the water level is dropping, and little by little, the Dead Sea is disappearing. Increased global temperatures and water use in the area mean that the Dead Sea may well disappear by 2050, if measures are not taken to preserve it. There are various plans and ideas proposed, but let’s hope they actually start to move things!
How do I get to the Dead Sea?
Some hotels offer a complimentary bus service to the Dead Sea, and if not, many will arrange transportation for you with their own shuttle service, or you can negotiate with a local taxi service. It’s also very doable to rent a car from Amman as the roads are pretty decent, and roads are clearly marked.
A taxi from Amman to the Dead Sea will probably set you back around 20JD; bus-wise, there are a number of lines that run, including the bus from Mujaharin/Muhajireen bus station to Rame (costs 1 JD), from there you can get a taxi to the popular Amman Beach for 4JD or less. There is one JETT bus from Amman to the Dead Sea on Fridays, which leaves at 8:00 am.
Getting to the Dead Sea from Petra is a little trickier; there are no public buses from Petra, and a taxi to the Dead Sea will probably set you back around 80 JD (and take around 3 hours). Similarly, you can get a taxi from Aqaba for the day but it could cost upwards of 100 JD. As always, make sure you agree a fare and any stop-offs before heading off.
Where are the best beaches at the Dead Sea?
There is a lot to see and do in the Dead Sea area (see the section below), but the main attraction is, of course, the unique mineral rich Dead Sea itself. Who doesn’t want to soak in the waters, slap on some of that famous Dead Sea mud, and get the prefect picture opportunity of floating in this incredible lake?!
The most famous beach at the Dead Sea is Amman Beach – but be aware there are actually TWO Amman Beaches! The first one you’ll come across when coming from Amman is more expensive (around 20JD), but is a generally nicer place, cleaner, with swimming pools, and Dead Sea mud also available for 3JD.
The “other” Amman Beach is a few meters down from the first one. It’s cheaper to get in (12JD), and there are showers and FREE Dead Sea mud – but it’s renowned for not being as clean as the other Amman Beach.
Some of the Dead Sea hotels also sell a day pass which also lets you use the hotel’s facilities, but these typically start at 40JD for non-guests.
If you’re not keen on paying those sort of day fees and entrance fees at these more touristy beaches, you can head 10 km south of Amman Beach where a lot of locals also go (you’ll recognize it by the few small stands selling snacks and locals parking on the side). It’s not very clean, but is cheap (FREE!) and cheerful.
Your last option for a Dead Sea beach (yep, there aren’t too many, as per the lack of good beaches on the Israeli side) is in the Mujib reserve, as part of the Mujib Chalets (see below). Note that you don’t have to stay in the chalets to access the beach, but it will cost 10JD plus a small tax surcharge.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned after many visits to the Dead Sea, it’s to come prepared! Because of the harsh extremes of this region weather-wise, it’s always worth taking into consideration some of the following points:
Shoes: Bring shoes/waterproof sandals for walking along the shore; sharp, salt crystals are everywhere, they cover the rocks and you need to be careful. You really don’t want to cut your feet before heading into the salty water!
Sunscreen: Bring it! Despite the relatively healthier rays that reach this part of the world, that sun is still mighty hot and will burn your ass off given the chance!
Water: Bring plenty of water to drink but DO NOT drink the Dead Sea water!
Swim safely: Because of the high salt content, you will float on the water naturally, with no effort on your part – yes, it’s a weirrrrd sensation but oh so good! It’s very difficult to actually swim in the Dead Sea because of how buoyant you are; your legs will float, even if you push them down. It can be dangerous to even try and swim unless you are a particularly strong swimmer because your head will be lower in the water than your body. And yes, people have drowned in the Dead Sea, so please don’t try swimming!
Shower: You will need a shower after your swim to rinse off the salt (and some of the amazing Dead Sea mud you may have used as a mask!)…
Where to eat in the Dead Sea area
There are very little options to be honest, apart from a couple of expensive kiosk-like places at the touristy sections. We’d recommend staying at one of the hotels for some decent meals, or if you’re coming for the day make sure you bring a decent sandwich or two.
Where to stay in the Dead Sea area
There are a number of great, typically upmarket spa-like hotels to choose from, but there are also a number of budget-friendly options worth looking at, should you wish to spend a few days by the Dead Sea. Some of the better options to consider include the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort, Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea, the Marriot Dead Sea Resort & Spa, Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea and the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, try the Wadi Mujib chalets. If you’re willing to stay at Madaba, which lies between the Dead Sea and Amman, there are some great budget-friendly hotels, click here for more details.
What else can I see in & around the Dead Sea?
Check out our map at the bottom of the post for an idea of what to see and where to go!
Jordan is famous for its mosaics and in the town of Madaba, you can see an ancient mosaic map of the Holy Land. It is in the Church of St George and goes back to the 6th Century A.D. It is the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land.
A visit to Moses’s Mountain – Mount Nebo – is also a must; this is where Moses was shown the Promised Land. You too can climb to the top and admire the view.
In the southeastern area of the Dead Sea near Safi, see Lot’s Cave: this is where the Byzantine Christians built a church around a cave that is believed to be the cave that Lot and his daughters took refuge in, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the same are, check out The Lowest Point on Earth museum, quite probably the lowest museum in the world!
The Wadi Mujib visitor center, which is just next to Mujib bridge, is also worth checking out. There is also a hot spring pool at the northern tip of the Wadi Mujib reserve, though it’s not easy to find.
Also within reach is the historic castle at Kerak, the twelfth-century Crusaders’ fortress.
The one last site to add to that Dead Sea checklist is Bethany Beyond The Jordan – the site where John the Baptist baptized Christ. UNESCO has recognized the archaeological complex at Al Maghtas, on the east bank of the Jordan River, as a World Heritage Site.