It’s always special to see a desert and next to it a big water reservoir, like seeing fire and water at the same place. Imagine the feeling of the ancients who were wandering in the hot desert finally finding this huge water source just to discover that its salty as hell, saltier even than sea water. The salinity of seawater is around 3.5%, the Dead Sea is around 34.2%.
See what Conan had to say about it:
Lowest place on Earth?
Yea because the area is a side effect of a Geological open boundary. What is an open boundary you ask?
In short, it means that it is a border between 2 tectonic plates which are moving apart from each other. Because of that, the area is getting lower with time. One day the Dead Sea will connect to the red sea, and between Israel and Jordan, there will be an ocean. Meanwhile, it means that its shores are the lowest place on earth.
The water level is decreasing each year
Because of natural and man-made reasons, the water level of the Dead Sea is decreasing with the time. Each year it’s decreasing by 1 meterAnd it’s correctly around 430 meters below sea level. On both sides of the sea, there is a mountain ridge with the highest point of 270 meters above sea level, it creates this big desert cliff that with 670-meter differences create a very impressive sight.
The PEF Rock
n 1900 a delegation of British researchers from the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) marked the water level of that time on one of the rocks to the shores of the Dead Sea. As you might notice this rock is high above the main road, back at those times the sea spread all the way to the cliffs and the only way to move from the Northern part to the South was by using boats.
It is located a bit south of Ein Tzukim nature reserve to the west of road 90.
You can stop by only if you are moving along with a car, there are no bus stations around. As you drive south of Ein Tzukim drive slowly and pay attention to the right side of the road until you will see the sign.
The sea is the border between Israel and Jordan
The border runs in the middle of the sea. If you plan to swim too far, take your passport with you.
Because of the decreasing water level of the Dead Sea, fresh groundwater flows from the Judean Mountains through ancient salt layers which weren’t exposed to those fresh water before. The freshwater dissolves the salt and creates a void under the surface. As the surface layer can’t hold the pressure anymore, it collapses into this void creating sinkholes.
Most the area East of Road 90 has sinkholes and sinkholes potential. The old salt layer has been mapped and it is known which areas have a risk potential and you’ll have warning signs in those areas.
As you pass by Ein Gedi you will notice that the road is doing a bypass instead of continuing straight, It’s due to a big sinkhole which opened in the middle of road 90. Because of this sinkhole, the beach of Ein Gedi is closed.
Mineral Beach which used to be the best beach of the Dead Sea, is now closed due to a huge sinkhole.
The Dead Sea Beaches
In my opinion, most of the authorized beaches are not worth it. It’s expensive, crowded and most of the time are not in a beautiful spot (maybe it used to be, but the retreating water line ruined it). Just something they could improvise while chasing the retreating water line.
The only authorized place I can recommend is:
Ein Bokek, A touristic compound with a lot of fancy hotels South of the Dead Sea. On the map
Actually, it USED to be the Dead Sea…
Because of the decreasing water line, this area is mainly man-made pools which are used for the hotels and by the Dead Sea factories. The water to the pools is pumped from the Dead Sea and it’s one of the reasons for its decreasing water line. Have a look at the map to see the pools.
-The beaches here have facilities like fresh water showers and it’s for free.
-They don’t like people camping in the compound but you can go a little outside…
The best beach of the Dead Sea
A bit north of Ein Gedi there is a military checkpoint on road 90. This place is a beginning of a nice hike in the mountains but it is also an access point for a nice special beach.
This beach is not an official declared beach but it is very famous among the locals. It is more wild and natural than the authorized beaches with a lot of desert vegetation around, as you walk near the water line you might find cubic salt crystals and other interesting salt formations in the mud. you will also see small colorful pools around.
This beach is known for the hippie community that lives there during the winter. If you will walk 10 min south of the checkpoint, you will see huts and tents. During the winter when the area is still relatively warm some nomads and hippies come to live here as a community.
There is one guy who lives in this spot for 15 years without living the place for 13 years.
How do I get to this Awesome beach?
By car – around 200 meter south of the checkpoint to your right there is a parking space.
By public transport– right next to the checkpoint itself there is a bus stop. Each bus that goes along road 90 will stop there. Easiest will be buses 486 or 487 from the central bus station of Jerusalem.
Hitchhiking– very common in this area.
A photo of the checkpoint from the parking space. The arrow points to the path
5 Tips For Bathing in the Dead Sea:
You all probably saw the photos of people floating while reading a newspaper. Here are some things you need to know to help you do it:
- Don’t let the water touch your eyes, it’s not pleasant at all. From someone who slipped and got his whole head underwater.
- The water is very salty, you’ll feel any cut you have on your body. The bigger the worse.
It refers even to shaving. It’s not that bad but it will reduce the enjoyment of the experience.
- The water feels greasy and weird.
- You’ll really feel like showering after. If you are having a swim and then go camping around notice that your skin will start scratching and itching the whole night. Make sure you wash before sleeping.
- it’s easy to float. It just happens.