It’s not easy compiling a list of things to see and do in the Dead Sea area, but we’ve done our best to give you the absolute must see things to try. They’re good for every budget and every type of traveler, whether you’re a flash-packer or on the road with your kids and family.
The Dead Sea is a truly amazing place to visit (undoubtedly one of Israel’s must-sees), and almost all of the items on the list below can be done independently if that’s what you’re after. If you’re after somebody to help guide you through some of the true wonders at The Lowest Place On Earth, we’ve also supplied you with some info where relevant (including a great little map at the bottom of this post).
SEE ALSO: Where to stay in the Dead Sea!
Marvel at the beauty of a Masada sunrise
There’s nothing quite like the wow factor of seeing the sun rise over the Jordanian mountains and Dead Sea, while perched on the majestic top of the mountain top fortress of Masada. It might be an early start (if you’re coming from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, you’re looking at hitting the road at 4am (3am in the summer months)), but that lack of a good night’s sleep will soon be forgotten when you see the sun peek over the mountain tops in Jordan.
Masada is easily reachable from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by car, and will probably take you between 60-120 minutes (Jerusalem is a bit closer). There is no public transportation that early in the morning, so we’d highly recommend taking a budget-friendly tour from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv if you don’t have your own transport. Another great option to consider is the Roman Rampart entrance to Masada, which is only really accessible from the town of Arad; this entrance to Masada is a much shorter trek, and much easier for kids and those less mobile. From Arad, this entrance is a fairly quick 20-minute drive, so yes, a better option if you fancy a bit of a lie-in!
Of course, you can always visit Masada during the day (see our full guide to Masada), but we’d highly recommend a sunrise tour for the ultimate Masada experience.
Float in the Dead Sea
You’ve seen it in the promos about Israel, and you’ve probably envisaged yourself floating away while reading the paper – am I right or am I right? – but floating in the Dead Sea is one of those must dos when visiting Israel. It doesn’t matter how touristy it feels, this is a mind-blowing experience for many! And it’s also one of the healthiest things you can do on a visit to the Dead Sea – splash on some of that famous Dead Sea mud on your skin and feel the vitamins and minerals seep through every pore!
With the Dead Sea facing a bit of an environmental crisis right now (read more here), options to actually float in the Dead Sea are becoming more and more limited. The main FREE option is at the tourist strip at Ein Bokek (the main hotel area in the Dead Sea); it’s probably also the easiest to get to, so we’d recommend there (we could take you on a hardcore jeep trip to the edge of the Dead Sea but it’s not very legal and probably not very safe…).
You can also take a budget-friendly tour that will include a dip in the Dead Sea; try this tour from Jerusalem. If you’re a bit limited on time and just looking for a quick taste, this Dead Sea Chillout Tour is a great option – we did it with our kids from Jerusalem as part of our Summer Adventure and were very impressed!
Go on a Judean Desert Jeep Tour
Well, if you’re after a completely unique experience, how about an amazing jeep tour through the Judean desert? This is a great little jeep tour, and is actually tremendous value, as you’re practically getting a whole day trip for the price of a standard 2-3 hour tour! This tour might just blow your socks off, and is one of the very best ways to really explore the area overlooking the Dead Sea and the stunning landscapes of the desert that surrounds the area! This tour is a budget-friendly wonder, led by a great team! For more information, click here.
Visit the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
In our opinion, one of the most stunning nature reserves in Israel has to be the one at Ein Gedi. With the beach at Ein Gedi no longer accessible due to the ongoing problems with sink-holes, one of the best places to cool off in the Dead Sea region is this amazing park. With a number of hidden waterfalls as part of two main trails (Nahal David, the easier trail, and Nahal Arugot, a more challenging trail), and plenty of lush green scenery – plus a backdrop of the majestic Judean mountains – this is one not to miss. For more information and ticket prices, click here.
Try Stargazing in the Hot Springs of the Dead Sea
If you want a completely off-the-beaten-track experience, then how about stargazing into the sky-filled stars above the naturally hot waters of the Dead Sea springs (close to Ein Gedi). This is probably only suitable for those of you sleeping in the area (whether that be at the Dead Sea Adventure Hostel, the Khan Ein Gedi, Shkedi’s Camplodge, or at one of the many Dead Sea hotels at the nearby hotel strip of Ein Bokek), but is a great evening out – this budget-friendly tour lets you enjoy the wonders of a star-filled sky complete with a free local beer AND transportation!
Go Salt Caving
With so much salt in the neighborhood, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that there are many salt caves to explore. What you probably won’t be ready for is a one-of-a-kind experience that really will stay with you forever!
Salt caving is definitely for the more adventurous of you, and not for those who struggle in small, confined spaces. However, to ensure you have the safest adventure – bear in mind that some salt caves have been known to collapse – we highly recommend taking a salt caving tour with local experts. In fact, this has to be one of the absolute best tours in Israel – we did it with the iGoogledIsrael kids and a year later they are bugging me rotten for a re-run!
Take a Segway at the Lowest Point on Earth
Another one-of-a-kind experience can be enjoyed at the fairly new boardwalk on the Dead Sea promenade (at the main hotel strip of Ein Bokek) – take a Segway tour! This unique mode of transport is also available at the lowest spot on Earth, and what with the stunning Dead Sea views, and the lowest boardwalk on Earth, take yourselves on a gliding, riding experience to remember!
The tour actually takes place next to the main hotel strip at Ein Bokek, so is perfect for those of you staying there. And don’t worry if you’re not sure how the heck to ride a Segway, a guide will put you through some training before you hit that boardwalk! For more information, click here. If you prefer something a little more urban, check out the Segway tour of the nearby desert town of Arad, it’s another great little option!
Go Hiking and Canyoning in the Dead Sea area
With some amazing landscapes to explore, there are some truly amazing hikes in the region. Places like Mount Sodom are legendary Biblical sites that can now be explored, as well as hikes to hidden gems like Birkhat Tzifara and the Qumran Canyon. If you’re a seasoned hiker you may be OK, but we’d highly recommend an expert guide to help you on your route – you really don’t want to get lost in the middle of a desert hike…for some of the best canyoning and hiking options in the Dead Sea region, click here.
Explore the caves at Qumran
You might not realize it, but the Qumran Caves in the northern region of the Dead Sea are one of the most significant in terms of recent archaeological finds – notably the 700 scriptures of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contained evidence of speeches by Jesus and ancient Jewish prayers, among others, and which also affirmed the foundations of Judeo-Christianity. The park hosting these amazing caves – discovered by a lost Bedouin shepherd boy in 1946 – is open throughout the year, see here for more information.
However, in our opinion, for the ultimate Qumran experience you really need to get on your hands and knees and crawl through ancient aqueducts and hike through the canyon that is part of Qumran. This is an amazing desert experience, and can be done as part of truly unique canyon tour.
Meet the Bedouins
Last – but most certainly not least – on our list of the best things to do in the Dead Sea region is meeting the true local inhabitants of the area, the Bedouins. Of course, one of the best ways of getting to really know a country is to meet the locals, and meeting these desert nomads is a truly unique experience, as you get to see their views and way of life, much of which has remained unchanged over hundreds of years.
For some, this unfiltered encounter can be a bit of a culture shock, but for others, a true eye-opener. To experience a real Bedouin camp, completely unfiltered and without the mass-tourism aspect that some other Bedouin camps are accepting (busing the tourists in for a quick coffee and picture with a camel), we’d highly recommend taking this budget-friendly tour. Note that you cannot simply turn up at a Bedouin camp independently and expect to be wined and dined!