Getting to the Dead Sea is fairly easy – in fact it is quite easy and you can approach from a number of directions in Israel.
- From Jerusalem (39km from Northern Dead Sea)
- From Eilat (220km from Southern Dead Sea)
- From Tel Aviv (98km from Northern Dead Sea).
Since, I was situated in Tel Aviv, then it meant taking a tour from Tel Aviv will also subject you to the mandatory tour bus shopping experience. This is always my main pet peeve about these organized tours. I have no desire to eat at the sponsored restaurant and I have no desire to shop for anything. However, if you want convenience, then this is the price to pay, in addition to your valuable shekhels.
Of course, one doesn’t really need to figure out that it is an awesome tourist attraction with facilities to match. As the lowest point in the world at 394.6 m (1269 ft) below sea level. That being said this area is saturated with pricey resorts, day spas (many people believe that the mud of the Dead Sea has special healing and cosmetic uses), and admission fee-only beaches ready to gouge as much as possible out of visitors.
The Dead Sea is about as much of a surreal experience as you’ve been lead to believe. Normally, I don’t really subscribe to hype but once you wade into the “waters”, you’re hit with a myriad of sensations. Before explaining, one has to understand that the salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5%. It’s about 8.6 times as salty as the ocean—and anyone can float easily because of the natural buoyancy. Think about that … almost 1/3 of the brine is solid salt.
A rock could float here, so no matter how terrible a swimmer/floater you are, floating is beyond effortless. Your main mission here is to avoid the liquid touching your face and head. instead, all of your energy and attention is diverted to keeping the salty brine from entering your eyes, nose or mouth. The water is very gritty and noticeably thicker than any other type of ocean water I’ve ever encountered.
Of course, me wanting to “experience” this nonsense … I just had to dip my head in the brine. I’ve tasted some foul, bowel retching things during my travels, but I’d be happy if I went the rest of my days without such an experience again.
- Think about putting a pound of salt into a glass of water and then trying some of that.
- After that, take some epsom salts and then put it in that glass and try to mix that. Now try that.
- After that, take some rotten eggs shells, break them up and toss them into the glass. Now try that.
Combine the smells and taste from that mixture and you’re just starting to approach what my tastebuds had to endure. In sampling the Dead Sea, there is an instant inescapable convulsion of spitting and gagging that leaves your mouth in misery long after you’ve guzzled the last of your water.
Now after tasting this nonsense … there are other things to worry about, in that the salt immediately crystallizes on your eyes – hence opening them becomes almost impossible unless you like the burning sensation in your eyes. Then all your skins starts pickling – note that I took a shave 3 days before going to Masada/Dead Sea. It felt like someone was taking a cheese grater to my skin. Every little nick and cut on your body instantly starts screaming, while your body pickles at an alarming rate.
Additionally, in walking through the mud, the solid salt deposits will scratch your legs and back, if you fall in. Prepare for pain, as each scratch will feel like a sword in your chest.
That being said … would I do it again? Hell yes! Floating was awesome, free facial and body scrub … good for my skin. Next time, I’ll know better than to dip my head into the brine.
Lessons learned for next time:
- Wear Sandals
- Don’t dip head into brine
- Don’t taste brine
- Before using a towel … use the showers. They’re there for a reason. Towelling before showering will require a new towel.