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Floating Dead Sea Style
I’ve floated in the Dead Sea in Israel at night. I’ve floated in the day. I’ve baked myself in Dead Sea mud and washed it off in the sea. I’ve had Dead Sea spa treatments and soaked in salty sulfur pools.
However you choose to ‘take the waters’, floating in the Dead Sea is an unforgettable experience.
What You Need to Know About the Dead Sea
As a seasoned spa expert who has dipped into the wonders of the Dead Sea more than once, I’m excited to share my tips on how to make the most of your adventure in the salty mineral-rich waters.
Here’s a guide with everything you need to know about floating Dead Sea style, including where to stay, what to do there and what to watch out for.
And trust me, the Dead Sea is a place like no other and there are some things you need to know.
How to Float in the Dead Sea – A Day Trip or Longer Stay?
The Dead Sea makes a great day trip, and that’s how most tourists visit.
Personally, I like to go for a week, get truly waterlogged and call it a wellness vacation.
There are many luxury hotels and spas in the Dead Sea location of Ein Bokek if you want to stay overnight.
Most resorts are upscale and staying in a hotel often gives you access to a private beach and spa amenities.
It doesn’t matter how you visit. As long as you can squeeze in a bit of time for floating on the Dead Sea, any trip to one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth is an adventure.
Why Do You Float in the Dead Sea?
You float on the Dead Sea because of its high salt content. The water is a whopping 32% to 34% salt. That makes it 10 times saltier than regular seawater.
The reason you float is that the buoyancy created by this high salt concentration makes the water dense and heavy, heavier than you.
That pushes you up and makes you float on the surface.
Why Should You Float in the Dead Sea?
Because It’s a One-of-a-Kind Experience
The incredible feeling of weightlessness when you’re in the ‘Salt Sea’ is almost otherworldly, like being an astronaut in space.
(Not that I’ve ever been an astronaut in space. I’m just saying.)
You are probably packing a lot of sightseeing into your Israel itinerary. The history alone can get overwhelming.
Stopping for a bit of Dead Sea floating helps you unwind while experiencing a bizarrely beautiful place on earth.
🌿 Did you know? The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth.
The Scenery Is Worth the Trip
The stark desert surroundings, the pinky beige of the Judaean Mountains, and the pearly turquoise water is both exotic and extraordinary.
For the Health Benefits
Studies have shown that the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea helps with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, making it a sought-after destination for people seeking natural remedies.
Minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium promote relaxation, and provide relief for joint and muscle discomfort.
It’s not just the water that makes the Dead Sea a healthy place. The climate helps, too. Because of high barometric pressure, there is 5% more oxygen in the air than at sea level.
🌿 UV rays are lower at the Dead Sea, too.
I met a number people in the resort towns of Ein Bokek and Neve Zohar who come here year after year for the health benefits alone.
Dead Sea Floating – Is It Boring?
Soaking in the Dead Sea is a thrill. It can also get boring.
Yes, Dead Sea floating may be the dullest most amazing adventure you can have in the Middle East.
I mean, what do you do after the big surprise of going into the water and shouting, “Hey, I can’t sink!” and then spending the next 15 minutes not sinking.
The thing is, it’s beneficial to soak for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, and you can go into the water many times during the day, so you have to get creative about floating.
How to Float in the Dead Sea
A lot of people stand around chatting. You’ll find groups who pull chairs up and sit with their feet in the water. The Dead Sea is a social place.
On my last trip I was travelling alone so I had to entertain myself.
That’s why, on the fifth day of my last week-long visit, I was amusing myself by attempting different floaty positions.
First I tried sitting in the water as if I were on a kitchen chair, paddling furiously like a duck underwater to keep upright.
Then I lay on my stomach like a star fish, with my head above water, and pretended I was going to drift over to Jordan.
A small wave lapped up, slapped me in the face and I got water in my eyes. Yeow!
I stood up, dancing from foot to foot, desperately wanting to rub my eyes.
I knew I couldn’t because my hands were wet and I’d get more water in my eyes. I’ve been through this before.
I waited it out and two minutes later I was okay.
I was reminded, however, of a few practical rules for safe Dead Sea floating.
Floating Dead Sea Tips – What You Need to Know
Protect Your Skin
If you have any cuts, abrasions or blisters stay out of the water or at least use a waterproof bandaid.
Don’t shave for a couple of days before you go in the water. Freshly-shaved skin stings.
Keep your mouth shut. The water tastes horrid.
Is Swimming in the Dead Sea Allowed?
Not if you’re splashing. You can harm yourself or others around you.
I like to slowly paddle around a bit, but that’s about it.
Lifeguards will call you out if you’re misbehaving, and you will suffer grave embarrassment as they shout at you over a loudspeaker.
Do Not Dive or Put Your Head Under Water
You’re going to get salt in your eyes and possibly up your nose. I can feel your pain already.
Be Careful Where You Enter the Water
Salt crystals that form on the sea floor are razor sharp. I’ve given myself a few nasty scrapes. Stick to groomed beaches or wear water shoes. And watch what you touch.
Watch Your Balance
While I was busy with my starfish impersonation, I heard a commotion nearer the shore.
An elderly man was in the standard Dead Sea floating position, on his back with his knees and head raised, when he rolled over.
The water is so buoyant he couldn’t right himself and two people had to rush to his aid. He was in some distress and had to be helped out by his friends.
Many older people come to the Dead Sea for its healing properties, and I’ve seen people tip over more than once.
No matter what your age, when floating in the Dead Sea, be cautious.
Don’t Leave Children Unattended
If you’re visiting the Dead Sea with kids, make sure they don’t splash. And, as I said above, it’s easy to get off balance with the high salinity and unusual buoyancy so keep an eye out.
Also, remember any little cuts will bring TEARS.
If you’re visiting the Dead Sea with kids overnight, it might be a good idea to get a hotel with a kid’s club.
Be Prepared to Get Oily
You’d think all that salt would dry out your skin, but nope, you’ll come out feeling like an oily canned herring.
All those salts like magnesium, sodium and potassium cause a greasy feel. Use the outdoor showers to rinse off.
How to Spa at the Dead Sea – From Mud Baths to Hot Springs
In addition to standard massages and facials, the Dead Sea offers some unique spa therapies.
Spa treatments are a great way to transform your Dead Sea floating adventure into a wellness vacation. Here are some treatments to try:
Don’t Miss a Dead Sea Mud Bath
Slather me with mud and call me a happy pig.
Dead Sea mud is famous worldwide. Said to help with everything from arthritis to acne, it may seem like a snake-oil myth that it’s healing, but scientific studies have shown it does contain antibacterial properties.
There are several ways to indulge in mud treatments.
1. Get a Mud Wrap at the Spa
Almost every hotel at the Dead Sea has a spa. A heated mud wrap can soothe joint pain and help you relax.
2. Have a Mud Bath on the Beach
Having a mud bath on the beach is one of the most fun things you can do at the Dead Sea.
Many hotels offer free buckets of mud on the beach on certain days. Scoop it out, slather it on your body, let it dry and then soak it off in the water.
You can also buy packets of mud at just about any gift shop or spa in the area. For less than $10, you have yourself a DIY spa treatment.
No one will think you’re strange if you rip open a packet of mud and coat your body while you’re on the beach. You’ll see others doing it too.
Even if a mud bath doesn’t cure every ailment you have, it’s guaranteed to make you grin as you walk around looking like a cracked brown twig.
Soak in a Sulfur Pool
A lesser known fact about the Dead Sea is that there are sulphur springs there.
For a fee, many hotel spas give you access to an indoor sulfur pool. Afterwards, you wrap up in a sheet and relax on a lounge bed to let the minerals soak in.
It’s supposed to ease pain and loosen muscles. That said, for real benefits you would need to do a series of swims.
Try a Salt Scrub
If you’re at the salt source, you may as well indulge in a salt-based treatment. Salt scrubs are meant to exfoliate and revitalize the skin.
Where to Float in the Dead Sea? Best Locations
The Dead Sea lies between Jordan and Israel and you can soak in both countries. There are luxury hotels on both sides as well as day resorts if you want a quick visit.
Best Dead Sea Beach Closest to Jerusalem
If you’re after a Dead Sea day trip from Jerusalem the closest place to float is Kalia Beach.
It’s a popular Dead Sea Beach for day trippers and is located in the West Bank at the northern part of the sea.
There is a restaurant, sun loungers, showers and a free shuttle to the beach (with the Dead Sea shrinking, it’s a farther walk to the shore).
🌿 Travel Tip: Kalia Beach has an entrance fee.
You can get to Kalia Beach on bus 486 from Jerusalem Central Bus Station. It’s supposed to take about 35 minutes (although I’ve had traffic delays between the Dead Sea and Jerusalem.)
🌿 Travel Tip: You will have to walk from the bus stop on the highway. Maybe 20 minutes.
Dead Sea Day Tours in Israel
If you want to do a day trip to the Dead Sea from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, it’s probably easier to do a tour that brings you to a private beach.
If you don’t have much time, try a Dead Sea Chill Out Half-Day Trip from Jerusalem.
There is a lot to see in the area, though, so you might want to do a full day tour that includes the astonishing mountain fortress of Masada.
Best Dead Sea Resorts
By far the most popular Dead Sea location in Israel is Ein Bokek, a well-established beach resort lined with luxury hotels and palm trees.
Ein Bokek is 110 kilometres south of Jerusalem, so it’s a world away from the buzz and bustle of urban Israel – a true place to relax.
Overall, it’s my kind of resort with its laidback holiday atmosphere, mountainous desert scenery, upscale hotels, numerous spas and fabulous access to the water.
Most of the hotels have well-groomed beaches that are free for guests. Expect showers, lifeguards, beach umbrellas and sun beds.
Ein Bokek also has free public beach access, restaurants, a shopping mall and a waterfront promenade.
Is Ein Bokek Safe?
I’ve been to Ein Bokek alone and felt very safe.
It’s a resort town with a quiet atmosphere and several spas and luxury hotels. The beach is the main focus and there are a lot of tourists and wellness seekers.
That said, one should always use caution when traveling.
Dead Sea Hotels in Ein Bokek
On my most recent trip to Ein Bokek, I stayed at the David Dead Sea Spa and Resort. While it doesn’t compare with the absolute luxury of The Jaffa in Tel Aviv, it’s still one of the best hotels at the Israel side of the Dead Sea.
The David has an excellent location, three restaurants and topnotch facilities including a private beach, a full-service spa (that can get very busy), outdoor pools and sun beds.
The main restaurant serves huge buffet meals, and my room was clean and comfortable with a terrific view of the sea.
🌿 Not all rooms have sea views; some have views of the Edom Mountains behind.
🌿 Beach access is across the street, but it’s not a busy road.
The outdoor pool area was a best-selling point for me, with plenty of sun loungers and places to recline.
Another hotel to consider is the Vert Dead Sea Hotel. With a great location on the beach, it’s super handy for floating in the Dead Sea and one of the newer luxury properties in Ein Bokek.
While I like visiting Ein Bokek, for long stays I’ve always opted for the serenity of floating in the Dead Sea at Neve Zohar, a small resort area just south of Ein Bokek.
Granted, if you’re not staying at one of the few hotels here there’s not much to do other than soak, eat and spa, but I usually rent a bike and cycle to Ein Bokek for fun.
There is also a free shuttle to the shopping mall in Ein Bokek. Taxis are available as well.
Neve Zohar Hotels
Where to stay in Neve Zohar? Herods Hotel Dead Sea is my top choice.
Its beachfront location is superb, its spa is comprehensive, and not as busy as those I’ve visited in Ein Bokek.
Meals are served buffet style. At this luxury Neve Zohar resort I prefer to do an all inclusive stay as the choice of restaurants in Neve Zohar is slim to none.
Jordan Side of the Dead Sea
There are many luxury hotels in Sowayma, Jordan, and the town caters to tourism.
One of the most recommended hotels in Jordan is the Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea. It’s a 5-star resort with a private beach, full-service spa and outdoor pools.
What’s the Best time to visit the Dead Sea?
The best time to go to the Dead Sea is spring or fall. I was there in November and it was idyllic.
The coolest it gets is approximately 18 C (64 F) during the day in January, and the average temperature in August is about 34 C (93F).
The temperature in summer and winter isn’t as comfortable but you can float in the Dead Sea any time of year. Most hotels have indoor seawater pools.
Places to Visit Near the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is located near some incredible landmarks and there are centuries of history here.
Once you’ve done your Dead Sea floating for the day, you’ll want to do some sightseeing in the Judaean Desert and its surroundings.
Here are some of the top nearby attractions.
Sights on the Israel Side
Masada: This ancient fortress was built by Herod the Great and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s a wonder of architecture, a tragic trove of history and is the second most visited attraction in Israel. It sits high on a mountain plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.
Take the cable car up. (Or hike if you’re a keener in good shape, but not in the worst heat of the day).
Ein Gedi Nature Reserve: This nature reserve is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert and is home to several waterfalls and pools. It’s a refreshing place to hike.
Qumran National Park: This archaeological site is located near the northwest shore and is known for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Mount Sodom: The sheer sunbaked slopes of Mount Sodom (of Sodom and Gomorrah infamy) rise up from the Dead Sea’s salt-crystal-strewn shores.
There are hikes you can do up the Mount Sodom from Ein Bokek, but they’re not for the faint of heart. I contented myself with looking at it from the Dead Sea shore by the Moshe Novomeisky Visitors Center instead.
Visit the Ahava Factory: Ahava makes the best known skincare products from the Dead Sea.
You can tour the factory, see how the products are made using mud and minerals from the water, and shop, shop, shop to your salty heart’s content.
The Dead Sea Moshe Novomeisky Visitors Center: Opened in 2021, this vast interactive project tells the story of the Zionist pioneer, Moshe Novomeisky. He started the Palestine Potash Company to extract minerals from the Dead Sea back in 1911.
I learned a lot at the Moshe Novomeisky Visitors Center. It’s a fascinating story with some great sound and light effects.
But the tour is long and I would have liked to learn more about how the Dead Sea, which is shrinking, is going to be revived.
Sights on the Jordanian Side
I’ve always stayed on the Israel side of this amazing body of water, but there is plenty to see from the Jordan side, too.
Lot’s Cave: According to the Bible, this is the cave where Lot and his daughters sought refuge after fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah.
Hammamat Ma’in: These natural hot springs are located about 30 minutes from the Dead Sea and are known for their healing properties.
Wadi Mujib: This nature reserve is located near the Dead Sea and is known for its canyons and hiking trails.
Mount Nebo: This biblical site is located in Jordan and is believed to be the place where Moses saw the Promised Land before he died.
Dead Sea Floating Facts
The Dead Sea is so salty because it has no outlet, causing water to evaporate and leave concentrated minerals and salts behind.
No. It would be extremely difficult to sink in the Dead Sea. Its high salt concentration makes the water so dense and buoyant it allows you to effortlessly float on the water’s surface.
While you can technically float and move around in the water, swimming in the Dead Sea is challenging due to the high buoyancy and the water’s thick, oily texture. Splashing is not advised.
Is Floating in the Dead Sea Worth the Trip?
Dead Sea floating is so much more than a swim. It’s a journey into one of the most unique ecosystems on our planet.
It’s fun, healthy and relaxing … and the photo ops alone are worth the trip.