Eerily desolate, blindingly hot and strangely spellbinding, the Dead Sea is the world’s deepest hyper-saline lake. Two million years ago the land between the Mediterranean Sea and Rift Valley rose to permanently cut off the Jezreel Valley.
Since then, as the crusty watermarks highlight, Dead Sea levels have ebbed and flowed, leaving mineral-rich soils and healthy waters. Long ago it attracted the health-conscious Aristotle and Cleopatra, among others, and continues to appeal to curious tourists and spa patients today.
Even though I first took a Dead Sea plunge thirty years ago, when travelling down the Palestine-Israel west coast, I was just as enthralled this week when I re-visited it from the Jordanian side.
It is, after all, fascinating.
Its high viscosity draws travellers in to experience swimming with an astronaut-style feeling of weightlessness. I recommend the experience of bobbing like balsa-wood at least once. Snatching a photo reading a newspaper, mid-float, remains on any self-righteous international traveller’s ‘must-haves’. Certainly in today’s selfie-world any social media savvy snapper cannot resist it. Furthermore, despite the (let’s face it) pretty unpleasant feeling of uber-salty water zapping any cuts or bites you were relatively unaware of, a swim in the Dead Sea is great fun. For about a minute. Oh… and unless you enjoy torture, make sure you don’t splash or rub your eyes before your post plunge shower.
I do recommend a trip, as thankfully, in addition to the surreal scenery, there is a pleasant selection of coastal hotels in place to offer weary travellers a chance to sample the healing powers of the local environment, to a backdrop of refreshingly saline-free swimming pools and relaxing spas. With almost guaranteed year-round summer sunshine weather, we at Nomadic Thoughts often suggest a blast of Dead Sea R&R between trips to, from and around the Kings Highway with its array of jaw-dropping Jordanian historical sites and landscapes.
As my photos taken this week show, the translucent blue coastal waters with inviting white surf are deceptive. Closer analysis shows that far from powdery white sand, the salt-caked rocks and beaches that make up the Dead Sea shore are difficult to navigate.
So when choosing where to cast off, be careful. Wear shoes and prepare for a pretty quick ‘in and out’. For my part I wouldn’t call it a refreshing swim. More of an experience, than a cooling splash about.
It is well worth it though, not least as you will certainly appreciate where you are. At the lowest point on earth, 429m below sea level, sandwiched between the African and Arabian tectonic plates. Surrounded by salt and scenery created by the Dead Sea’s location in the Judaean Mountains‘ rain-shadow. It’s dryer than the most parched desert, receiving barely 10cm of annual rainfall, experiencing temperatures of up to 46°c in June/July.
Shore side, as you experience the daily temperature rise, it is very easy to understand how seven million tons of water evaporate every 24 hours, leaving a viscous sea with salinity capacity from 26% to 35%, which is 9.6 times saltier than the world’s oceans.
A coating of warm sunshine, along with life-enhancing, mineral-blessed seawater, low atmospheric pressure, minimal pollen allergies, respiratory enhancing saline-based air and the legendary powers of the Sea’s mud – all this will put a stride into your holiday step.