“Swimming” in the Dead Sea (more like floating!)
We have done some amazing things on our Road Warrior travels and probably near the top of our list is our experience of floating in the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea, also known as the “Sea of Salt” and the “Sea of Death”, is a salt lake that is lies between Israel and the West Bank (to the west) and Jordan (to the east). It is quite a large body of water, spanning 55 km long and 18km wide (at its widest point). It is over 370 meters deep (which is around 1,200 feet).
In addition to the high salt content of the Dead Sea, what actually makes this an even more unique attraction to visit is that the banks of the Dead Sea lie at around 400 meters below sea level. This makes it the lowest elevation on land in the world!!
Location of the Dead Sea (from geology.c0m)
Although the Dead Sea does not have the highest salt content in the world, it has a 33.7 percent salinity, and a density of 1.24 kg/L, which makes swimming in the lake more like the act of floating! To give you a point of reference, the Atlantic Ocean only has a salinity of about 3.7 percent. The highest salinity in any body of water in the world occurs in Antarctica, in a pond called the Don Juan Pond, which has a salt content of over 44 percent!
Because of the high salt content of the Dead Sea, no animal life, such as fish, or plant life is able to live in this body of water…hence the name “Dead Sea”. However, traces of bacteria and microbial fungus are present in the waters.
On the way to the Dead Sea (still 400 meters too high!)
We visited the Dead Sea while we were traveling through Israel. Although there are a variety of ways to get to the Dead Sea from parts of Israel, including public bus, tour bus, etc., we decided that it would be easiest to rent a car and drive from Jerusalem. Renting a car was easy and the trip from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea was quick, with the drive taking only about an hour.
Ein Gedi Public Swimming Area – Dead Sea
We stopped at a public swimming spot called Ein Gedi which had public showers, umbrellas and chairs that could be rented and a “mud” bath area, where there is plenty of Dead Sea mud. It is pretty fascinating to literally float on top of the water when you enter the Dead Sea. But beware…any scratch or open wound that you may have on your skin will be felt as you enter into the water! (Women who shave their legs may not wish to do this on the morning of your visit! Ouch!)
Yes, that’s right — we’re 400 meters below sea level! The lowest elevation on land in the world…crazy!
If it’s summertime, the temperatures can get quite hot in the area, often over 30C. So, after your swim/float in the Dead Sea, cool off by covering your entire body in mineral-rich Dead Sea mud. This is the same mud that has been marketed around the world as having therapeutic treatment qualities. It was certainly soothing…if anything, just to get a bit of reprieve from the hot sun.
View of the ruins at Masada, Judean Desert
If you’re looking to stay in the area, there are a few hotels in the vicinity as well as some small communities. We opted to make an afternoon of our visit and we did not stay here overnight. At Ein Gedi, there is also a nature reserve which is home to many birds and animals. Although we did not visit the nature reserve, we heard that it was an excellent stop.
We did, however, stop in the Judean Desert to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Masada. This classical Roman-style fortress overlooks the Dead Sea. It was built in 37 BC by the King of Judea and was destroyed later that century, with its remnants excavated only in the mid-1960s. The site is high up on a cliff and is accessible by taking a cable car up to the top of the ruins. The view is as spectacular as the amazing history of this fortification, and it made for a very well-rounded afternoon visit to the Dead Sea and surrounding area.
Visiting the lowest point on earth and floating without any effort in one of the saltiest bodies of water are definite musts if you ever find yourself in this part of the world! Until the next time, Happy (floating!) Travels from the Road Warrior!