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Where is the Dead Sea?
With its salt-crystal-laced shore and desert surroundings, the Dead Sea looks otherworldly, a universe unto itself, but it’s actually easy to access from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Amman.
So where is the Dead Sea exactly?
Dead Sea Location
The Dead Sea, also known as the Salt Sea, is located in the Middle East.
Long and narrow, it slices down north to south, straddling Israel and the occupied West Bank on the west, and Jordan to the east.
West are the bone dry Hills of Judaea. East are the Transjordanian plateaus, and at its widest point it’s only 15 km across.
So if you’re in Ein Bokek, the most popular Dead Sea tourist destination in Israel, you can see the hotel lights from Jordan twinkling on the other side.
What is Special About the Dead Sea?
Known for its high salt concentration, which is almost 10 times saltier than regular seawater, and its unique health benefits, the Dead Sea has been on the horizon of rulers (and tourists) for centuries.
Dead Sea Location in Geographic Terms
The Dead Sea is located in the Jordan Rift Valley.
This is part of the larger Great Rift Valley that stretches from northern Syria to Mozambique.
How Was the Jordan Rift Valley Formed?
The valley was formed by shifting tectonic plates that caused the earth’s crust to stretch and thin.
This created a depression that is now filled with the Dead Sea and other bodies of water.
What Cities Are Near the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea is located about 55 km (34 miles) southeast of Jerusalem, and 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv.
Amman in Jordan is about 90 km (56 miles) northeast.
Is It Easy to Get To?
Yes. Depending on traffic and transportation options, travel times can vary, but it should take between 1-2 hours by car or bus.
(At least that’s what the travel guides say. Truthfully, buses can be slower than that. It took me more than 2 hours to get to Jerusalem from my hotel at Neve Zohar at the Dead Sea.)
Nearest Airports to the Dead Sea
You can fly into several airports in the region, usually Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, or Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan.
From there, you can rent a car or take a bus, taxi, or private car to one of the many hotels and resorts located along the Dead Sea shores.
Tips for Getting to the Dead Sea
Private cars with a driver are extremely expensive to hire while buses are absurdly cheap. Renting a car in Israel is a good option as the highways are excellent.
It is also possible to visit on a tour from other parts of Jordan or Israel, and many tourists do this as a day trip. It’s a great addition to any Israel itinerary.
I’ve travelled to the Dead Sea in Israel three different ways: by bus, on a guided tour and by hiring a private car and driver.
For the average visitor a tour is probably the easiest way to get there – especially if you don’t know where the Dead Sea is.
(Except after reading this article, you know its location in detail!)
Dead Sea Map
Where is the Dead Sea on the map? Check it out here.
How Long Is the Dead Sea?
Now that you’ve seen its location on a Dead Sea map, you might be curious to know how long it is. It’s about 76 km (50 miles) long.
At least it was. Sadly, it’s shrinking.
Why Is the Dead Sea Shrinking?
The Dead Sea is situated smack in the desert where water is both valuable and scarce. The Jordan River is the only source of fresh water feeding into it, but now much of that water is diverted for drinking water and irrigation.
Also contributing to its decline are the factories that extract valuable minerals, particularly potash, from the water on both the Israeli and Jordan sides of the water.
Climate change, which means less rainfall, as well as increased development, have also had a negative impact on the environment.
The truth is, the Dead Sea is shrinking at an alarming rate, losing an estimated one meter (3.3 feet) or more of water per year.
How Is the Dead Sea Location Changing?
Well, it’s not changing in a good way. While the Dead Sea covered some 1,000 square km (410 square miles) back in the 30s, now its surface area is about 600 square km (234 square miles).
So while the sea hasn’t moved, its shorelines certainly have.
Where Is It Heading?
There is hope for the future. Here are some possible paths forward.
The most promising solution lies in desalination plants that can replenish the Dead Sea with desalinated seawater. Proposals range from building a canal from the Red Sea to reviving the flow from the Jordan River.
Mining factories are unlikely to shut down completely, as potash and other minerals extracted from the water make fertilizer for crops and the world needs to eat, just as people need freshwater for drinking from the Jordan River.
However, industries that profit from Dead Sea resources are being called upon to help pay for its rehabilitation, because one thing is clear: There is no cheap fix.
Much of the Dead Sea’s future depends on the governments of Jordan and Israel working together.
One positive development is that in 2021 the two countries agreed to swap solar energy from Jordan for desalinated water from Israel.
While this deal, brokered by the United Arab Emirates, doesn’t affect the Dead Sea directly, it’s a sign of cooperation, which is vital for the future of the much-treasured Salt Sea.
What the Dead Sea has going for it is how beloved it is.
No one, from day-tripping tourists to politicians, wants to lose this precious resource and exquisite creation of nature – and awareness of its peril is growing.
In 2021, for example, the American photographer Spencer Tunick recruited some 300 volunteers to pose in nothing but white paint here to promote the need for conservation.
(The white was inspired by the story of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt.)
Progress moves slowly, however. A decade earlier he had 1,000 people pose (although that time they wore white robes).
In the Bible, Ezekiel said someday the Salt Sea would flow with fresh water from the Temple of Jerusalem. Let’s hope there will be at least enough flowing in to save it.
Dead Sea Facts
Is the Dead Sea Really a Sea?
No, it’ a lake – a landlocked lake. It’s located more than 430 meters (1,400 feet) below sea level, making it the lowest point on Earth.
It’s also the deepest hyper-saline (very salty) lake in the world, with a depth of 305 meters (1,000 feet).
Why Is It So Salty?
While water enters the Dead Sea from the Jordan River, it has no path to get out. This means that water can only leave the lake through evaporation.
As water evaporates, minerals and salts are left behind, which contributes to the high salt concentration of the lake.
Why Is It Called the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea’s salt concentration is so high it’s almost impossible for most organisms to survive in the water. Thus, it’s “dead.” But is it?
Does Anything Live in the Dead Sea?
Any fish that might (unfortunately for them) bob into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River won’t last long. But some microorganisms do survive here.
Let me introduce you to Haloferax volcanii, for example, a hardy feisty microbe that was discovered in 1930 and needs salt to survive.
Haloferax volcanii are Halophiles, microorganisms that can grow in salt water.
This might interest you (or not): Halophiles can play an important role in natural salt production since they “facilitate salt crystallization through the absorption of solar radiation using their carotenoid pigments.”
(Yes, I don’t really understand it either. The point is that the Dead Sea is not dead after all!)
Why Does it Matter Where the Dead Sea Is?
The Dead Sea location matters because this legendary lake has played an important role in the region for thousands of years, and because you might want to visit it someday.
Also, the more people know about it, the more they’ll want to save it.
Just think of its past: Cleopatra is said to have bathed here, Herod the Great built his famous fortress of Masada overlooking it, and David, fleeing from Saul, sought refuge at the oasis of Ein Gedi.
Today, you can have a serene luxury holiday here, but brimstone and drama are embedded into its core. The biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah rested on its shores – and some say their ruins now lie underneath it.
Should You Visit?
It’s easy to get to and the infrastructure is good, with plenty of 4 and 5 star hotels.
It’s a great wellness destination and it’s also fun. Floating Dead Sea style in water so buoyant you can’t sink is an experience not to be missed – although be careful not to shave first, the salt water can sting.
The Dead Sea may not harbour much life, but with its clean dry air, mineral-rich water and abundant spas and resorts, it’s a life affirming place to be.