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Dead Sea: The Complete Guide for First-Time Visitors
Located about 430 m (1,404 ft) below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. It’s famous for its hypersalinity which provides visitors the unique experience of floating on the water surface.
The Dead Sea is one of the most popular places to visit in Jordan, and that for a good reason. In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know to plan a trip to the Dead Sea, written by a local expert.
What Makes the Dead Sea so Special
Visiting the Dead Sea isn’t a temporary trend. In fact, the mineral composition of Dead Sea salts has been used for centuries! With an average salinity of 30%, the Dead Sea is about ten times saltier than regular seawater.
For the same reason, swimming in the Dead Sea is impossible. You’ll get the unique experience of floating on the water surface.
Today, people from all over the world visit the Dead Sea to get the floating experience, benefit from healing salts or simply to relax as part of a roundtrip through Jordan.
Things to Do at the Dead Sea
Being one of the highlights in Jordan, there are multiple reasons why you should visit this unique place.
- Floating experience (lying back on the water surface)
- Curing skin diseases
- Relaxation / wellness
- Salt formations
By the way, even if you’re not planning on having a wellness vacation or spending much time at the beach, a stop at the Dead Sea is worthwhile. More on this later.
Let’s have a closer look at the things to do at the Dead Sea in Jordan.
Floating on the water surface is one of the main reasons why Jordan travelers stop at the Dead Sea. While floating on regular seawater is mostly impossible, it is possible in the Dead Sea!
People who have never had this experience wonder how floating works. You will see that it is pretty easy. While the first few meters are still possible to walk, you will feel a natural pressure that pushes your body up to the surface. Lay down on your back and relax while you enjoy this unique experience. You can even read a newspaper or simply put your arms or legs up while you float on your back, you won’t drown in the Dead Sea.
Due to its hypersalinity, it’s advised that you limit your bathing time to 10-15 minutes. Take a shower after your bath to wash off the salty water and any remains of Dead Sea mud.
If you’d like to know more on the floating experience, check out my full article on Dead Sea floating. I’ve compiled a handy list of things to take into consideration.
Dead Sea Mud Mask
In addition to your floating experience, make sure to complete your experience with a mud mask.
Dead Sea mud masks are proven to have a healing effect for people suffering from skin diseases such as acne, neurodermatitis or psoriasis. However, even if you’re not suffering from any skin disease, you won’t want to miss out on a mud mask. Dead Sea mud is rich in salt and minerals and has a cleaning effect on your skin. It removes impurities and dead skin cells, making the skin smoother and fresher.
The mud is a natural product extracted from the sea. Make sure to apply it generously to all of your body and your face. As with any face mask, leave out the area around your eyes. Don’t apply it on your lips either.
Most people opt to get in the water first (to get the floating experience), and then apply a mud mask. You can do it either way. If you can’t wait to get floating, you can go for a quick bath first, and then for the mud mask. It’s important to let the mud dry for a bit instead of washing it off instantly.
Once you’ve completed your floating and mud mask experience, make sure to have a good shower.
Wellness and Relaxation
Wellness is another reason to visit the Dead Sea. There are various luxury resorts along the Dead Sea shore of Jordan. In addition to a beach with access to the Dead Sea waters, these resorts offer gorgeous swimming pools as well as massages and other treatments.
Whether you’re looking for a wellness getaway at the Dead Sea or just planning a stopover, a day at one of the resorts offers a wonderful moment of relaxation on an adventurous vacation. Who doesn’t enjoy getting in a pool or having a foot massage after full days of sightseeing and exploring?
One of the things that you won’t find anywhere near the resorts or private beaches are the stunning salt formations. While the resorts are located on the northern part of the Dead Sea, the salt formations are located further south.
Beaches at Dead Sea Jordan
The Dead Sea runs along the Western border of Jordan for about 50 km. However, a major part of the Dead Sea shore isn’t used for bathing. In fact, bathing is prohibited in most parts of the Dead Sea shore for safety reasons.
There are multiple reasons for that, one of which is the rocky landscape along the shore.
You’ll find various public and private beaches along the Dead Sea shore. Basically, there are 3 types of Dead Sea beaches:
- Resort-owned beaches
- Private beaches for day use (without accommodation)
- Public beaches
Each of these beaches has some benefits and drawbacks, depending on what you’re looking for. Let me explain to you what to expect at each of them.
In my opinion, the best option are the Dead Sea resorts. These are inevitable if you’re looking for accommodation at the Dead Sea, but also the most comfortable option if you’re heading off the same day. You can purchase a day-pass at one of the resorts (e.g. Movenpick or HolidayInn, price approx. JOD 35).
A day-pass gives you access to the resort’s private beach which is generally cleaner and safer. You’ll enjoy all the comfort and safety, such as Dead Sea mud, fresh showers and a lifeguard.
In addition to the floating experience, a day-pass will give you time to relax in one of the resort’s pools and enjoy a view of the sea.
A cheaper alternative to the resorts are the private beaches. Those are closed areas which incorporate private beaches, but no accommodation. The best one here is Amman Beach. This beach is relatively clean and equipped with showers, sun umbrellas and lockers.
Entrance is JOD 15 plus an additional JOD 3 for the mud and JOD 1 for the locker. Keep in mind that public beaches like Amman Beach are popular among locals and can get crowded, especially on weekends (Friday and Saturday).
Free beach at the Dead Sea? There are actually a few free beaches at the Dead Sea. However, I would not really recommend them to you.
First of all, they are not as well maintained as the private beaches. This basically means that there is no soft sand or paths to walk on, but rocks and remains of salt crusts. Secondly, there are no showers at public beaches. However, having access to fresh water is really important. You should absolutely take a shower after your bath and have plenty of freshwater in case you get salt water into your eyes. Last but not least, the public beaches are well frequented by locals. If you’re familiar with Arabic culture, you might know that bathing suits are rather uncommon among women. While you’ll be fine at the resorts and private beaches, expect some staring at the public beaches.
Travel Planning Information
Don’t come unprepared. Here are further resources and tips to plan your perfect vacation at the Dead Sea.
How to Get There
The most convenient way to get there is by car. Whether as a day trip or as part of a road trip through Jordan, a rental car allows flexibility. Public transportation in Jordan is quite unreliable. If you don’t want to self-drive, you can hire a driver or join a tour.
By the way, if you’re unsure whether driving in Jordan is for you, check out my full article on driving in Jordan.
Amman to Dead Sea
Most people visit the Dead Sea from Amman, the capital of Jordan. This is the fastest and most convenient way to get there. You can then either return to Amman or head further south, for example to Petra. The Dead Sea is just a one-hour-drive (50 km or 31 miles) from Amman.
Madaba to Dead Sea
Another option is to drive to the Dead Sea from Madaba, the famous mosaic-city in Jordan. You can also opt to make a stopover at Mount Nebo which is located between Madaba and the Dead Sea.
Ma’in to Dead Sea
People don’t usually combine Ma’in (hot springs) and the Dead Sea since both places offer wellness. But if you choose to do so, you’ll love the drive. You’ll drive through the hilly landscape all the way down to Dead Sea, with some unique panoramas included.
Where to Eat
Breakfast is included in the rate of most of the resorts. Lunch and dinner are available (for guests and daypass holders) at an additional cost.
Keep in mind that food and drinks are quite costly in (some) resorts. When I go to the Dead Sea, I prefer a light lunch (filling the tummy before swimming isn’t wise). I usually pack some crackers or anything light to eat at the pool or in my room. There’s a small mall (Samarah Mall) with a kiosk along the Dead Sea where you can buy snacks and drinks.
For dinner, you can choose to eat in the resorts’ restaurant (either in the one you’re staying at or in a different one). There are several good restaurants and cozy cafés along the Dead Sea which are worth visiting.
These are my favorite restaurants at the Dead Sea:
- Buffalo Wings & Rings (American)
- 1312 Restaurant (Middle Eastern)
- Burj Al Hamam (Middle Eastern)
- Il Terrazzo Restaurant (Italian)
The Dead Sea is a popular destination for wellness and relaxation both among local as well as international visitors. Accommodation at the Dead Sea in Jordan consists of various resorts, ranging from basic to luxury.
Over the past years, I’ve tested all of them, and these are my favorites:
- Best low-cost resort: Ramada resort
- Best mid-range resort: HolidayInn
- Best high-end resort: Movenpick
For a detailed review, check out my full article on the best Dead Sea resorts.
In the Area
About 30 minutes drive from the Dead Sea resorts is Bethany, the famous Baptism site of Jesus Christ. If you come from Amman, you can visit Bethany in the morning and then head south to the Dead Sea.
From Amman or the airport, you can also opt to visit Madaba, Mount Nebo or Ma’in on your way to the Dead Sea.
Driving southwards, you’ll see Lot’s statue and the Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth, which are located on the way towards Petra or Dana.
Get My Jordan Travel Guide
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