The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and is ten times saltier than that of the ocean which allows you to float in it.
The Romans were the first to call it the Dead Sea because it’s too salty for anything to live in it.
However, in Hebrew and in the Bible, it is called either the Salt Sea or the Eastern Sea.
It is actually not a sea but a remnant of the ancient waters of Lake Lisan, and 10,000 years ago, the sea was 200 meters higher than it is today.
Most of the water evaporated concentrating the salt and 26 minerals into an almost oily water.
Some historians believe that Cleopatra created the first beauty spa by building relaxing palace here and that she was the one who Dead Sea mud world renowned.
She also reportedly made various attempts to purchase the Dead Sea to acquire the it for Egypt.
Just a one-hour drive from Jerusalem, I find it to be an amazing and surreal place because it is in a valley surrounded by tall red-orange cliffs.
The Dead Sea is Dying
Ever since the 1950s, Israel has dammed up the southern part of the Sea of Galilee, meaning that the Jordan River, the main supplier of water to the Dead Sea, has almost dried up.
In recent years, it loses a a meter in height every year which is one of the gravest ecological problems in Israel today.
One of the results of the dropping sea level are the sinkholes rip through the beaches of the Dead Sea.
You can see the enormous holes by the side of the road as you drive north of Ein Gedi.
With the falling sea level, land in which the salt percentage is especially high is exposed.
The fresh water from rain and underground springs washes the salt from the earth until it collapses upon itself, forming a sinkhole.
The sea water is pumped from the natural northern half into the man made southern half, where it is spread out in evaporation pools where they harvest the minerals.
Recently, the Dead Sea factories have drawn public attention as a result of the damage they are causing.
Recently, a number of suggestions regarding how the Dead Sea may be saved have been put forward.
One suggestion is to construction a channel from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea in order to bring in water.
The main problem is that it isn’t clear how an influx of regular sea water might affect the Dead Sea.
Another idea, is to let nature take its course and simply release the dam from the Sea of Galilee and bringing water to the Dead Sea.
Right now, its only water source is the Jordan River, running from the top of the Golan Heights all the way to the Dead Sea, where it culminates.
There have been attempts in recent years to enlist it as a world heritage site, which would protect it.
However, there has been no luck and its condition continues deteriorate as sea levels continue to drop.
Still, is an incredibly beautiful place and unique travel destination.
Travel to the Dead Sea
The best way to get to the here is by car. However, by bus is also an option.
Egged Bus 486 travels from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station (platform 5) direct to the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi and Masada.
However, keep in mind that there are no busses from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening.
There is a public beach at the Dead Sea accessible to all about one hour from Jerusalem.
However, these beaches aren’t free, the entrance fee isn’t cheap, and you aren’t close to Masada which is something to consider.
The beaches in the south not far from the hotels are free and closer to other popular destinations.
Make sure to only visit actual beaches because at other sections you are at risk of sink holes.
- Do no drink the water, it is toxic when ingested and could be fatal.
- Goggles aren’t sexy but they will protect your eyes from the salt water which burns and doesn’t dry up. If you do get water in your eyes you’ll have to walk with your eyes back to the shore to wash them off – luckily it does wash off easily.
- The salt at the shore is sharp so bringing water shoes is a good idea.
- Remove all jewelry before entering the water because they will turn black unless it is 24 carat gold. If you forget the jewelry can be cleaned but it is best to avoid it.
- Any cuts and freshly shaved legs can burn. Avoid shaving for at least a day before you go in.
- Despite being able to float, it is still possible to drown in the Dead Sea.
Where to Stay
The Dead Sea area has the a number of choices from hotels to kibbutz guest houses.
Needless to say, the guest houses and hostels are the more affordable option for people on a budget.
Also, it is worth noting that if you keep kosher you should find out of the hotel and guest houses have kosher dining.