One of the must-do experiences in Israel is a bath in the Dead Sea. You can book a tour from Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem. But you can also organize a visit yourself. This guide tells you all you need to know about this big old lake, how to get here, what to bring, and most importantly: How to really bathe in the Dead Sea.
50 km long and at its widest 15 km wide, the lake was formed by the drifting apart of the African and the Arabian tectonic plates. Once it was part of the Mediterranean. But about two million years ago, the land had risen too much for the sea waters to still reach what is now the Jordan Valley.
Today, the Dead Sea is a natural wonder and global record setter:
Most of the water flowing into the Dead Sea comes from the Jordan River. It is, therefore, no big surprise that Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, the three countries sharing both the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, are diverting the fresh water to their fields and cities before it gets lost in the brine. This reduced flow into the lake plus water extraction for salt production and other industries have led to a dramatic decrease in water levels in the past years. As a result, access to the water has become more difficult and dangerous.
I was fortunate enough, to spend a morning on Qerim beach with a local. Mohamad, the head chef at the HI Hostel Ein Gedi, took me to his favorite beach and showed how to make the most of the mineral qualities of Dead Sea water and the mud from the Qerim hot springs.
(scroll down for Dead Sea beaches and practical info)
While Route 90 runs along the length of the Dead Sea, bathing is not possible everywhere. Some spots are blocked because access from the cliff is almost impossible. In recent years, sinkholes caused by draining of the lake for salt productions and other industrial uses have made walking on the shores increasingly dangerous. The number of signs warning you from going any closer is steadily growing. Here is a selection of four beaches I either visited myself or talked to locals about:
Ein Bokek: The resort village has a free beach that can be easily reached by bus from Jerusalem/Eilat (see below). There are showers and changing cabins available as well as snacks and dining options. However, you will share the beach with elderly people in bathrobes and you won’t find any mud here.
Ein Gedi: Unfortunately, the free beach in Ein Gedi was shut after sink holes opened up and threatened to swallow the bathers and the adjacent campsite. Now, you have to pay about $20 entrance fee for the Ein Gedi Spa. Included in the price are not only facilities to shower and change but also a mini-train that takes you to the water and back. Additional services such as mud packs can be bought at the spa.
Qerim: This beach is a local favorite, about 6 km North of Ein Gedi (look out for the small parking and sign). There are no facilities and access includes climbing down steep graveled hills. Even though the beach is by the main road, the buses do not stop here (closest stop is Ein Gedi). However, this beach has lovely hot springs with pools and water flowing straight into the Dead Sea allowing you to float between cooler lake water and warm spring water.
Metsoke Dragot: This beach with cold springs is a hippie hangout and a favorite escape for young Jerusalemites in the summer. From Jerusalem, the journey takes less than an hour and Egged buses stop nearby. Though there are no facilities here, the spring water is freshwater, allowing you to hang out a little longer.
This is not just a day at the beach. Therefore, you need to adapt your packing list beyond a good book, sunscreen, and a towel.
This looks so interesting! I’ll definitely use this post if I go to Israel. Thanks for sharing!
I did a study abroad in Jerusalem and one of the highlights of our sightseeing was floating in the Dead Sea. I wish I would have know about the mud baths. This is a great resource!
What a fantastic guide, I never would’ve thought about the mud staining…duh!! 🙂
Wow I had no idea about this whole mud bath ritual! I thought the Dead Sea was just for floating around haha But your tips were definitely useful to learn more about it!
Great tips! Thanks fro sharing them. I would love to go there one day…
ahhh i love the dead sea so much. i was recently there too. it was a very spiritual excerience, the energy is powerful. i hope you enjoyed your time there
This looks really cool. I would definitely want to do this. I will keep this guide in mind.
Great tips! The dead sea seems amazing, like a natural spa! I would love to visit.
This is definitely on my bucket list! It’s so cool that you basically are getting a spa treatment with mud. Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂
So which beaches have the mud baths ? It isn’t clear in article ? Please let me know 🙂
Nice post & thanks for sharing. I have a trip to Israel booked. My trip will start on August. I have already planned to go for a bath to dead sea & I will definitely go through your points which you have shared here on the paragraph “How to bathe in the Dead Sea like a local”.
Thank you for sharing this.