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Visiting The Dead Sea In Jordan

Taken with A Pinch of Salt

The Dead Sea is one of the strangest places on the planet. It is a salt lake located in a depression at the lowest place on earth, over 400m below sea level, which is bordered by Israel and the West Bank to the west and Jordan to the East. Visiting the Dead Sea in Jordan was an essential part of our itinerary on our journey through this fascinating country.

The area has an odd microclimate – it’s 10⁰C warmer at the coast than in the rest of the country. And the Dead Sea really is dead. At around 35% salinity it can’t support any life. Any unfortunate fish that happens to swim in there from the river Jordan lasts but moments. There is no activity on the water either – you don’t see any boats or water sports. The water is so saline it basically destroys machinery. The only thing you can really do there is bathe. And bathing in the Dead Sea is undoubtedly an experience.

The north end of the sea is mainly comprised of resort hotels of varying degrees of poshness, which have private beaches where you can do all sorts of spa type stuff, and the rest is rather beautiful coastline. We travelled along the shore on the Jordanian side on our way to the rose red city of Petra.

Visiting Dead Sea Jordan

There is a pillar of salt, considered by locals to be Lot’s wife from the biblical story.

We decided to stay at a resort for just one night. The hotels on the north coast in Jordan are fairly self-contained and you are pretty much tied to the activities and restaurants there. For example, it was difficult for us to find somewhere to eat at establishments outside the resort and outside restaurants are more likely to cater to tourists. Our hotel had its own beach located about a two minute drive via a free shuttle bus (if you were lazy) or a ten minute walk from the swimming pools. Initially we wondered why there were pools when the purpose of our visit was to swim in the sea but it became clear later when we bathed.

Eternal Youth and Beauty?

Dead Sea mud apparently contains all sorts of minerals that are supposed to do wonders for your skin. And, like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, you can buy a plethora of products containing miraculous mud at hugely inflated prices that are guaranteed to help you achieve eternal beauty. Or something. We headed down to the beach and caked ourselves in free mud from a bucket by the water’s edge before heading into the sea.

Bizarre Bathing

When visiting the Dead Sea in Jordan we absolutely had to bathe. It is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. You walk in and keep walking. And then, when the water is about at chest height, you take another step and realise that you should be able to touch the sandy floor, but you can’t, yet the water is still at chest height.

It is also impossible to swim in the Dead Sea. When trying to do a simple breast-stroke you are so buoyant that your bottom kind of flips up, pushing your face into the water, which is a really bad idea because if you get any water in your eyes it stings like crazy. You know that feeling when you’ve been chopping chillies and forget to wash your hands and then brush your eye? That burning agony? Well, it’s ten times worse if you splash Dead Sea water in your eye. The water feels oily and hurts like hell.

The easiest way to bathe is simply to float in a sitting position. It’s very comfortable. If you want to move around, sculling gently seemed to produce the required propulsion. We didn’t take pictures of ourselves reading books or anything but it really would be perfectly possible.

When you emerge from the sea you really need to shower off quickly and get all the salt off your skin and bathing suits. Any fabric splashed with water becomes stiff as a board and encrusted with salt. Fresh water showers are located on the beaches, not far from the shore, so that you can clean up quickly.

We’re not convinced that the mud did endow us with eternal beauty but bathing was an most definitely an interesting experience.

Natural Beauty of the Dead Sea

What was truly beautiful was the salt-encrusted shoreline.

We did wonder whether Dead Sea salt was edible as most sea salt can be used for seasoning and preserving. However, the merest (accidental) taste of Dead Sea salty water will confirm beyond any doubt that in its basic form it tastes revolting. The mineral composition is very different to standard sea salt, and tastes extremely bitter, so processing is needed to remove these in order to ensure safe – and tastier – use for human consumption.

Visiting Dead Sea Jordan
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  1. I had to chuckle to myself as I experienced exactly what you did here and it is all so true – no- one believes it is possible until they experience it for themselves.
    I visited the dead Sea from the Israeli side however, when I was in my twenties (many, many years ago!). I still vividly remember floating in the water on my back so easily and it actually being difficult to push against the buoyancy to get my legs back down the the sea bed to walk.
    I never got to use the mud baths on the Israeli side and from your descriptions I missed some fun there.

    • It really is the most strange place – a unique experience. You’re absolutely right about struggling to move about in the water, we found that too. You didn’t miss too much with the mud baths – we largely threw mud over ourselves before entering the water. It dried very quickly and then washed off. Definitely an experience though! Thank you for your kind comment.

    • Thank you. Yes, it was an experience that was definitely “interesting”! I’m really glad to have bathed in the Dead Sea – not entirely sure I feel the need to do it again though!

  2. That’s fascinating how machinery can’t even work there. Now that you mention that, I do realize how every picture I’ve seen of the Dead Sea is oddly devoid of anything but people. How long can you stay in the water for? I imagine you must start feeling dehydrated after so long.

    • You know what? We had the exact same realisation! It’s so odd, it’s not something you think about but then you realise that the Dead Sea really is totally dead and you won’t even see a boat on it. We were in the water for around an hour. It was quite pleasant just sculling around but really painful if we got water in our eyes! We had to wash off as soon as we left the sea. Our bathing suits would have been totally encrusted and stiff as a board otherwise.

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