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Revision as of 14:16, 23 January 2009
The Dead Sea (Hebrew: ים המלח, Hebrew transliteration:Yam HaMelach; Arabic: البحر الميت, Arabic transliteration: al-Bahir al-Mayyit), shares borders with Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. It is the lowest point in the world at 394.6 m (1269 ft) below sea level. Currently, 25 km of Dead Sea coastline lie within Palestinian Authority territory, including Qumran and Ein Feshka.
From Israel and the West Bank
The Israeli side of the Dead Sea is a possible day trip from Jerusalem (39km from Northern Dead Sea), Eilat (220km from Southern Dead Sea), or, at a stretch Tel Aviv (98km from Northern Dead Sea). There are three main road entry routes into the Dead Sea area. The first is via Highway 1 and Highway 90, through the West Bank, from the Jerusalem area. Alternatively, you could access the area from Eilat via Highway 90 from the south, or from the road from Beersheva via Arad.
The main access points are the oases of Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek, both accessible via Egged bus from Jerusalem (lines 486 and 487), Tel Aviv (421, starts once a day from Arlozorov Station at 8.36 am ), Eilat (444), Beersheva and Arad (384). Both Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek have public access beaches, but Ein Bokek's beach is the better of the two. Population services are infrequent, so check schedules before heading out.
Taxi services can also serve the Dead Sea.
On the Jordanian side, the Dead Sea is possible as a day trip from Amman. Tourist areas are accessible from a main road that runs along the eastern side of the body of water and connects to Jordan's Desert Highway running to Amman. Highways leading to the Dead Sea are clearly marked by brown tourist signs. It is an ambitious 3-hour drive from Aqaba in southern Jordan.
Taxi services for travel to the Dead Sea can be purchased for the day. Many of the local hotels and resorts have shuttles that travel from Amman to the Dead Sea for a small fee. There are a handful of bus lines that also run from Amman on a daily basis.
The cost to enter the public beach varies from 10 Jordanian Dinar (JD) in the summer months to 5 JD in off peak months. Many hotels also sell day passes that include full use of hotel facilities as well as their Dead Sea beachfronts; at the Mövenpick Resort, day passes cost 20 JD per person.
The water in the Dead Sea is extremely salty, and has been estimated to be the saltiest major body of water in the world. Its name is derived from the fact that the water is far too salinated for marine inhabitation.
The Dead Sea is naturally endorheic (no outlet streams) with the Jordan River being its only major source. The northern part of the Dead Sea receives scarcely 100 mm (4 inches) of rain a year; the southern section receives barely 50 mm (2 inches). Due to the man-made reduction of the Jordan River (the river waters are 70-90 % used for human purposes) and the high evaporation rate of the Dead Sea, the sea is shrinking. All the shallow waters of the southern end of the sea have been drained and are now salt flats.
Although the Dead Sea would never entirely disappear (because evaporation slows down as surface area decreases and saltiness increases), measures are currently being proposed to siphon water from the Red Sea through a series of tunnels or canals in order to replentish the rapidly shrinking waters and provide water and electrical solutions to the surrounding countries.
The climate at the Dead Sea varies depending on the season. Temperatures during the tourist season can become extremely warm, ranging from 30°C (86°F) in the spring to upwards of 40°C (104°F) in the summer. The area receives an average of 330 days of sunshine per year, with rainy days occurring only during winter (if at all).
Although the Dead Sea is very sunny the low altitude and extra atmosphere makes the sunlight weaker. It is therefore said that sunbathing here carries a lower risk of sunburn, but it is still advisable to take normal precautions using sunblock and adapt gradually. This quality of the Dead Sea sunlight is the real secret behind its mythological curing ability for several diseases, especially skin diseases. This is, in fact, natural phototherapy.
During winter and spring there is a danger of floods on rainy days. The Dead Sea basin receives rainwater from relatively far-off areas like the Jerusalem Mountains. This means that sometimes during a sunny day a flood will suddenly and unexpectedly occur. Therefore, be careful when hiking to distant narrow places during these seasons and stay tuned to the weather news. The weather forecast always gives warnings if there is a possibility of flooding. Always do as national reserves staff order - they know the terrain very well. In 2007, several Israelis who had been "snappling" (rappelling) were killed by a flood because they did not obey national reserve staff orders.
The hypersalinated water of the Dead Sea itself is its own attraction. There are several nearby attractions that are worth attention:
Israel and the West Bank
- Masada - Mountaintop Fortress, Massada National Park is 18 km southern of Ein Gedi, or 12 km from Ein Bokek to the cable train on the east (Dead Sea), ☎ +972-8-658-4207/8 (fax: +972-8-6584464), . Open 7 Days a Week. First cable car - 8am. October to March - 4pm, April to September - 5pm. Masada is a mountaintop fortress which King Herod transformed in 35 BC into a 3 tiered winter home. Easily accessible via a quick cable car ride or by hiking up the serpentine path. Located only 18 km north of the Ein Bokek hotel area. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Masada Sound and Light Show, ☎ +972-8-9959333, . April to October - Tuesday and Thursday (excluding holiday eves). Running time: 40 minutes. Spectacular light show recounts the dramatic history of Masada with special pyrotechnic effects. Spectators sit in a natural amphitheater on the west side of the mountain, reachable only via Arad, 20km away.
- Ein Gedi Oasis and Kibbutz. Ein Gedi is a real oasis with lush vegetation, nestled between two streams, amidst the arid landscape. Today, fresh spring water from Ein Gedi is bottled here.
- Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is on Route 90 (Dead Sea road) about 1 kilometer north of Kibbutz Ein Gedi, ☎ +972-7-658-4285 (fax: +972-7-652-0228), . April-September: 8:00-17:00, October-March: 8:00-16:00. Situated near the Kibbutz, visitors have access to the adjacent nature reserve for viewing bird sanctuaries and wildlife of the desert, including the Nubian ibex. Hikers have the choice of following two riverbeds and can follow trails past waterfalls, springs, caves, canyons and an early Bronze Age temple.
- Qumran - The Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran National Park is off of Route 90 near Kibbutz Kalia, north of the Dead Sea. The park is about a 40-minute drive from Jerusalem in the West Bank, ☎ +972-2-994-2235. Open seven days a week from 8am. Closing hours: October to March - 4pm, April to September - 5pm. Closes one hour earlier on Fridays and eve of Jewish holidays. The ancient caves and settlement at Qumran on the northern shores of the Dead Sea where the oldest biblical documents ever found trace the history and daily lives of the mystical Essenes, a Jewish sect that fled Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
- Historic Mount Nebo provides a panorama of the Holy Land, and to the north, a more limited one of the Jordan River valley. The excavated remains of a church and a monument commemorating the biblical story of Moses and the bronze serpent stand atop the mountain. Mount Nebo is a short 15 minute drive from the Dead Sea. Visitors can plan to spend around an hour at the site at a cost of 2 JD per person.
- The nearby town of Madaba known as the 'City of Mosaics' is famous for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Palestine and the Nile delta at St. George Church.
- The Baptism Site at the Jordan River, the location archaeologists are claiming is the baptism site of Jesus by John the Baptist, is a short 10 minute drive from the Dead Sea resort area. The cost to enter the Baptism Site is 5 JD per person. Buses transport visitors down to the river basin, and guided tours include visits to a Jordan River overlook, the excavated remains of the Baptismal Site, John the Baptist Church, and down to the River bank.
- The Dead Sea Panoramaic Complex/Dead Sea Museum is a new complex of regional museum about the Dead Sea, panorama lookout, restaurant and conference hall on a steep cliff high above the Dead Sea near Hammamet Ma'in it is accessible from both the Dead Sea and Madaba by car, however it is difficult to reach by public transport. The museum is run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and has some fascinating information about the geology and the geological history of the Dead Sea and surrounding area. As the name suggests it has a magnificent view of the Dead Sea and the hills beyond it. Watching the sunset from here is a wonderful experience.
- The Mujib Reserve of Wadi Mujib is the lowest nature reserve in the world, located in the mountainous landscape to the east of the Dead Sea, approximately 90km south of Amman. The 220 square kilometers reserve was created in 1987 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and is regionally and internationally important, particularly for the bird life that the reserve supports. The Mujib valley is being developed for adventure tourism, and a number of facilities have been established including a Visitors' Centre and a beach area on the Dead Sea. Experiencing Jordan’s Grand Canyon involves swimming, jumping, abseiling and floating. Its red walls are filled with running water that plunges through a 15 m waterfall.
- Hammamat Ma'in are a remarkable series of natural hot springs and waterfalls, some of which have been channeled into pools and baths. A spa resort is located in the vicinity of the waterfalls 
On the Israeli part of the Sea, Hebrew and English are the most widely spoken languages. All resort and tourism staff will be able to speak both. In Ein Bokek, there is a large percentage of those who speak Russian in the plaza/mini mall by the Sea. Arabic might also be spoken by some staff, whilst French will be spoken by a sizeable minority. In the West Bank, both Arabic and Hebrew are widely spoken. On the Jordanian side, both Arabic and English are spoken.
It is nearly impossible to sink in the hypersalinated waters
Many visitors cover their bodies with theraputic mud
- Due to the hypersalination of the water, one can float with ease in the Dead Sea; in fact, it's nearly impossible to sink! A popular fad by visitors is to have their picture taken while reading a newspaper and floating on the surface of the water.
- The mud along the shore of the Dead Sea contains many minerals and is believe to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits. It is not uncommon for visitors to cover their bodies with the dark mud.
- There are many salt deposits and crystals scattered along the shoreline. Many visitors walk the beach in search of large pieces as souvenirs.
- The water of the Dead Sea has a greasy feel to it.
- Wear waterproof sandals. The salt is very jagged and can easily cut your feet.
- Beware! Several people drown every year in the Dead Sea because they do not obey the rule: Only float on your back. Accidents happens when someone tries to swim normally (stomach first) in the water - the legs will float better than usual and the head will be submerged. Also, the salt in the water stings cuts and causes great pain if it comes in contact with the eyes, adding to the panic if one's head is under water.
in Israel and the West Bank
- Ein Bokek Public Beach, ☎ +972-8-6594433.
- Ein Gedi Public beach, ☎ +972-8-6594433.
- Hamai Zohar Public Beach, ☎ +972-8-6594433. Alternative to Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi beaches with separate bathing for men and women.
- Ein Gedi Spa Beach, ☎ +972-8-6594413. The signature element of the Dead Sea - black mud, has both cosmetic and therapeutic benefits known to cleanse and stimulate the skin. Relieve muscle and emotional tension; improve blood circulation and ease rheumatic pain at Ein Geidi Spa beach.
- Mineral Beach, ☎ +972-2-9944888. Visit Mineral Beach, which also includes a fresh water beach and public pool.
- * Atraktzia Water Park, near Kalia, ☎ +972-2-9942391. Water park with h water pools and slides.
Visitors can purchase packets of the famous mud, as well as other cultural artifacts and handicrafts, from local gift shops. The Israeli side is home to the world famous Ahava Dead Sea Products, as well as many other Treatments which can be purchased from outlet stores at heavily discouted prices.
Eat & Drink
The restaurant options near the Dead Sea are sparse.
in Israel and the West Bank
The town of Ein Bokek on the Israeli side has two small shopping malls with a McDonald's, a number of Falafal Bars, a liquor store, and a few other stores selling everyday items and souvenirs. The shopping center has a large McDonald's sign on the roof. From the outside, it looks very out of place (and funny in a way) against the majestic background of desert mountains. Many people working there and in nearby hotels can speak Russian. There are also restaurants in each of the resort hotels on the Israeli side.
The Jordanian public beach contains an over-priced buffet-style restaurant and a small beach-side snack bar. It is recommended that visitors planning to visit the public beaches bring their own food and drinks. There are many resorts that can be found in Jordan to cater to tourists.
Israel and the West Bank
- The Ein Gedi Beit Sarah Guest House, Near the Dead Sea road (# 90) at the entrance to the Nahal David reservation, ☎ +972-08-6584165 ([email protected], fax: +972-08-6584445), . A guest house in the oasis of Ein Gedi with 51 rooms, some of which with balconies.
- Massada Guest House, South of the Massada site, ☎ +972-08-9953222 ([email protected], fax: +972-08-6584650), . A guest house on the slopes of Massada with 88 rooms and a private swimming pool.
There are several 4 stars hotels like Movenpick, Marriot and others
- The Dead Sea Resthouse is a 2-star hotel (phone: 962 5 3560110).
Israel and the West Bank
- The Dead Sea Spa  is a 4-star hotel with many amenities (phone: 962 5 3561000). The minibus to get here from Amman (including visits to Jordan river and Mt. Nebo by the way) costs 50 JD.
Israel and the West Bank
Northern Dead Sea
- Almog Hotel, ☎ +972-02-9945201, .
- Ein Gedi Country Hotel, ☎ +972-8-6594222 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-6584328), . Kibbutz Hotel
- Le Meridien Dead Sea, ☎ +972-08-6591234 (fax: +972-8-659-1235), . checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 PM.
- Magic Nirvana Club, ☎ +972-08-6689444 (fax: +972-8-6689400), .
- Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, ☎ +972-8-6591919 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-6591911), . checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 11:00 AM.
- Daniel Dead Sea, ☎ +972-8-6684666 (fax: +972-8-6684668), .
- Caesar Premier, ☎ +972-8-6689666 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-6520301), .
- Novotel Thalassa, ☎ +972-8-9553333 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-9553344), .
- Sheraton Moriah Dead Sea, ☎ +972-03-6213333 (fax: +972-8-6584238). checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 PM.
- Hod Hamidbar Resort and Spa, ☎ +972-8-6688222 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-6584606), .
- Dead Sea Gardens, ☎ +972-08-6689090 (fax: +972-8-6584383), .
- Lot Spa Hotel, ☎ +972-08-6689200, .
- Tsell Harim Hotel, ☎ +972-08-6688111, . 3 Stars
- Prima Oasis Dead Sea, ☎ +972-08-6688666, .
- Prima Spa Club Dead Sea, ☎ +972-08-6688000, .
- The Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa  is a 5-star luxury hotel (phone: 962 5 3560400).
- The Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea  is a 5-star luxury hotel (phone: 962 5 3561111, email).
- The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar  is a 5 star luxury hotel and spa (phone: +962 5 356 8888).
Israel and the West Bank
Camping is allowed for free on the Ein-Gedi coast (aprox. 500m south of the kibbutz itself), toilets and showers are on site for a little fee. The ground is a bit stony so any kind of mattress is useful.
in Israel and the West Bank
- Mount Sodom. Mount Sodom, the region's only salt desert and home to the biblical towns of Sodom and Gommorah, afford breathtaking scenery within a couple of miles of the Dead Sea.
- Negev and Judean Deserts. The Negev and Judean deserts are also within close radius of the Dead Sea with amazing desert landscapes. Perhaps some must-see landscapes are the three craters including the Ramon Crater.
|This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!