The Dead Sea (Hebrew: ים המלח, Hebrew transliteration:Yam HaMelach; Arabic: البحر الميت, Arabic transliteration: al-Bahir al-Mayyit) has its western coast in Israel and the West Bank. 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.
The Israeli side of the Dead Sea is a possible day trip from Jerusalem (39km from Northern Dead Sea via the West Bank), Eilat (220km from Southern Dead Sea), or 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, Hwy 90 is a long relatively easy scenic downhill on a bicycle with two moderate uphill climbs although summer construction might close the breakdown lane leaving very tight passage on the otherwise modern highway. 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.
The water in the Dead Sea is extremely salty, and has been estimated to be the second 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 replenish 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:
- Masada - Mountaintop Fortress, Masada National Park is 18 km south 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.
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. German Speakers may be able to use Yiddish with some local punters. 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.
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 happen when someone tries to swim normally (stomach first) in the water - the legs will float better than usual and the head will be submerged. Note that this applies to weaker swimmers, and specifically to attempts to swim breaststroke. Breaststroke is also made difficult by the fact that the legs are raised too high in the water to provide normal forward motion when kicking. Moreover, 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. A strong swimmer can easily swim freestyle; if you plan to try this, goggles are essential and should be tightly fitted. Although safe for a strong swimmer, and an unusual sensation because of the buoyancy of the water, it is not an undertaking most people are likely to sustain for long. Even with the eyes protected by goggles, water will get into the nose and sting, and onto the lips and inevitably into the mouth. It tastes disgusting.
Short of actual drowning, inhalation of the water can cause specific, sometimes lifethreatening medical problems not seen with other bodies of water, because of the water's very high electrolyte content so be sure of your swimming abilities and confidence in the water before deciding to swim on your front.
- Tip if in a resort: Wash the salt off in the beach showers before you use your towel. Otherwise the towel will get salty and leave salt on your skin when you use it after your shower (the salt can cause an itch).
- 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. The Ahava Factory is located at Kibbutz Shalem, directly across Route 90 from Mineral Beach.
Eat & Drink
The restaurant options near the Dead Sea are sparse.
The town of Ein Bokek 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 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. dorm 118 NIS.
- 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.
- Shkedi's Camplodge, South of the Dead Sea. Located in Neot Hakikar, Sodom area, 20 minutes from the Dead Sea shoreline, ☎ +972-52-2317371 ([email protected]), . A beautiful hostel with uniquely built large bungalows and wooden cabins, all shaded by acacia trees, a bonfire inside a geodesic dome and a desert bar. Dorms from 85NIS, private from 250NIS.
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.
- Royal Hotel, Ein Bokek-Dead Sea, ☎ +972-08-6688555 (fax: +972-8-658-4503), . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. At the lowest spot on earth , on the shores of the Dead Sea located the Royal Hotel Dead Sea. The hotel offers 400n guest rooms and exclusive suites which all offer an enchanting view of the Dead Sea, the Judean Desert and the Moab Mountains. Additional hotel facilities: a fenced beach for hotel's guests, Solarium, outdoor fresh water pool, children's pool and private parking.
- Prima Oasis, Ein Bokek-Dead Sea, ☎ +972-08-6688666 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-658-4503), . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. Our Oasis Dead Sea Resort – nestled between the Judean hills and the shore of the Dead Sea – offers a new grand entrance pavilion and reception, contemporary accommodations and beautiful spacious grounds.
- Magic Nirvana Club, ☎ +972-08-6689444 (fax: +972-8-6689400), . Newly renamed as Leonardo Club hotel.
- 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 Dead Sea Hotel, Dead Sea Road #90, Ein Bokek, ☎ +972-08-6689200, . checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 11:00 AM. One of the oldest hotels in the area, with 199 rooms. Freshwater pool, heated Dead Sea pool (36°), 2 sulfur pools, Jacuzzi, sauna, large fitness room and treatment rooms.
- Tsell Harim Hotel, ☎ +972-08-6688111, . 3 Stars
- Prima Spa Club, Ein Bokek-Dead sea, ☎ +972-08-6688000 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-658-4503), . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 11:00. The Spa Club hotel is the first spa hotel of its kind in the entire Dead Sea region. Situated on the shores of the Dead Sea, the hotel is the first choice for business guests wishing to relax and unwind in an unbelievably calm and soothing atmosphere
- Daniel Dead Sea Hotel, Ein Bokek, Dead Sea Mobile Post, ☎ +972-8-6689999 (fax: +972-8-6689900), . checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. The Hotel caters for everyone, with swimming pools, a conference center and a health club where a gym, sauna, whirlpool and steam room all await you. And all of this with a stunning desert view across the waters of the Dead Sea.
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.
- Mount Sodom, the region's only salt desert and home to the biblical towns of Sodom and Gommorah, affords breathtaking scenery within a couple of miles of the Dead Sea.
- The Negev and Judean deserts are also close to the Dead Sea and feature amazing desert landscapes, including the Ramon Crater and two other craters.
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