The Dead Sea is a natural marvel that you simply have to check out. Yes, those pictures of mud covered tourists with just the whites of their eyes peeking through are for real – you too can smother your body in mud, or, alternatively, float on your back in the warm, salty waters of the Dead Sea, soaking in some sun or reading a newspaper. It’s an amazing experience!
Known in Hebrew as the Yam HaMelah (The Salt Sea), the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth at some 420 metres below sea level (you’ll see plenty of signs on your way to the Dead Sea indicating the sea level and how far below it you currently are). It gets its name due to the fact that fish and plants cannot survive the salinity and harsh environment of the sea, though there is known microscopic bacteria.
The Dead Sea is 67km in length and 18km at its widest point. It’s part of the Syrian – East Africa Rift Valley, hence its low lying location, and is flanked by the Judean Mountains to the west and the Moab mountains to the east. Its main source of water is from the River Jordan in the north and springs and streams from the east and west. But there are no outlets: the only way water escapes from the Dead Sea is through evaporation (an estimated 7 million tonnes of water daily!). This results in high concentrations of salts and minerals, providing mineral-rich muds to smother on pale tourist skin, thermomineral springs to bathe in, and mineral-rich salty water to float in (with or without newspaper!).
What’s the weather like at the Dead Sea?
Climate wise, the Dead Sea has warm weather pretty much all year. In the summer it can get extremely hot, even up to 40C (the record is in the high 40s, which is a wee bit hot, even for a dry heat like that at the Dead Sea). In the winter it averages out at 20-23C. You’re not likely to see much rain either, the mean annual rainfall is approximately 100mm.
In our opinion, the climate is just perfect in the Spring, with warm days, cool nights, and the sea itself just starting to warm up without turning into the hot tub it invariably becomes in the hot summer months.
What are all these health benefits I keep hearing about?
This climate lends itself favorably to various therapies, such as Climatotherapy, Heliotherapy, Thalassotherapy and Balneotherapy. For further details about the health benefits of the Dead Sea, see our guide to the healthiest location in Israel.
The assumed health benefits of the Dead Sea are hardly new. For thousands of years, its water and minerals have been in demand. For example, Dead Sea water and salt were exported to Italy by Romans, while plants growing near the Dead Sea, especially the balsam tree, produced in-demand cosmetics, perfumes and medicinal goods. Their economic importance was such that wars were fought over them, including Mark Anthony’s conquest of the area for Cleopatra.
Is the Dead Sea really that salty?
Yes! In fact, it’s some 8.6 times more saltier than the Mediterranean and is the world’s saltiest body of water (33% salinity). Which means that you should be careful about wading in with any open wounds because they will burn like crazy. Even shaving or waxing on the same day isn’t recommended as the salt will find its way into those exposed pores. From personal experience, give shaving a miss on the day you decide to try out the water. Another tip – don’t get the water in your eyes. But do float on your back; you’ll find the natural bouyancy of the Dead Sea will bring your legs up to the surface almost automatically. It really is a strange yet amazing feeling.
Our tip: spend a couple of days at the Dead Sea, more if you can, plus a day or so to see the sights, especially those at Masada, or the caves at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, plus Mount Sdom and its salt mountains, and the Flour Cave. If you’re looking to get your batteries totally recharged, then spend a whole lot longer. You won’t regret it.