When you think of the Dead Sea, chances are you immediately picture someone floating on their back- maybe even with a book in hand.
Known as one of the saltiest bodies of water and the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea is a terminus for rain and surface water- meaning water flows in, but doesn’t flow back out, so it’s left there to evaporate. High temperatures in the region mean minerals left behind from evaporation become very concentrated, and no surprise- salt is prominent among them.
Geographically, you have Israel to the East and Jordan to the West. While floating in Israel on a clear day, you can even see Jordan.
Swimming in the Dead Sea has always been on the list of things I’d like to do someday, but it didn’t become a priority until I started thinking about a few days in Tel Aviv. I quickly realised I wanted to see Jerusalem as part of the trip, and decided to add in the Dead Sea as a ‘must do’ on the trip when I found a day tour that spent the morning/early afternoon in Jerusalem, and mid-afternoon at the Dead Sea.
Because I visited as part of an organised tour, we stopped at Kalia Beach, a popular tourism beach with bathrooms, changing areas, shower, a bar and lifeguards. If I’d had more time in Israel and drove around the region, I’d try to find a less touristy spot, but Kalia was great for the couple of hours spent there.
What’s it like to swim in the Dead Sea?
Well, first off- you’re not really swimming- the water is so concentrated with salt, it’s impossible to actually swim. Instead, you bob about. It’s a pretty cool sensation and a strange feeling all at once. At one point, I was even kind of sitting in the water with my ankles crossed. The buoyancy of the sea is bizarre, but also enjoyable. And, the water temperature was just warm enough to keep me in the sea for over an hour. I visited din early October- sunny and hot (41° C / 105° F), perfect for floating.
10 Things to Know Before Visiting the Dead Sea
Do not shave at least a few days before visiting, even micro cuts will sting when they come into contact with salt water.
Bring a towel, shampoo/soap and moisturiser: You’ll want the soap while showering post-swim, and although the Dead Sea water left my skin feeling super soft, I also felt like I needed lots of lotion.
Wear sunscreen and re-apply regularly, even on cloudy days.
Wear a dark bathing suit– trust me, mud will get all over it.
Do not put water on your face or anywhere near your eyes. At one point, I decided to taste the tiniest drop of water- I wanted to see just how salty it was. Cue a super pucker face, I couldn’t even have prepared myself for that level of salt.
Do not splash around or try to swim on your stomach– the stomach advice is for safety (it can be difficult to turn back over), and they ask you not to splash around because so many people are relaxing / floating.
Tread slowly getting in the water. No one told me this, and I fell, hitting my knee off a big rock on the way down. Luckily I was fine, just a cut that surprisingly didn’t hurt (maybe because it happened in salt water?). The easiest way to get in the Dead Sea is just sit down immediately, even if the water is shallow- sit down and start floating further out. Trust me on this one, after I fell, I watched so many other people fall too. It’s almost impossible to get steady footing- the mud shifts way too much.
Bring water shoes and/or flip flops to wear on the beach. Water shoes would be a nice to have, but not necessary for swimming (they wont’ give you better traction), but I really wished I had flip flops for the walk back up to the changing rooms. My feet were wet/muddy from the sea, and so I avoided putting my trainers on right away. The only unfortunate bit was the gravel- it was uncomfortable to walk on, and the ground was scalding hot.
Ask the guards to dig you up some mud. You can dig some yourself, but it’s better if they dig further down (less gravel, or so I’m told). Once you have the mud, rub it all over your body, but avoid your face (unless you have freshwater handy to wash it off with).
And finally, re-hydrate really well afterwards. I held off on drinking a lot of water because I knew I was getting back on a bus with a 2 hour ride to Tel Aviv. But, that meant I got back to Tel Aviv and felt extremely de-hydrated. Not advised.
Have you ever been to the Dead Sea? Is it on your list of places you’d like to visit someday?