Israel: best tips to visit Dead Sea and the surroundings
First published in august 2017. Last update in december 2019.
Visiting Dead Sea is on the travel bucket lists of many people. You can visit Dead Sea only if you visit 2 countries: Jordan and Israel. Personally I think it’s better to visit Dead Sea while you are in Israel. The beaches are easy to reach by public transport and by car. Also the beacher in Israel are cleaner than the ones I saw in Jordan. Besides that I felt more comfortable walking around in my bikini in Israel than in Jordan.
I’ve lived for a while in the Middle East and visited Dead Sea many times, all around the year. In this blog I will tell you everything you want to know for your visit to Dead Sea in Israel.
1. Visiting Dead Sea in Israel
It feels like gravity doesn’t exist. I’m floating around without any effort, like a spacewoman. It is hard to keep my legs under water though. Maybe gravity works the other way around in Dead Sea? It pushes everything up, instead of pulling everything down.. Normally my hands would look like grandma hands if I spend some time in the water. But not in Dead Sea. Not even one wrinkle.
A small kid next to me is splashing around. Not the best idea to do when you’re in Dead Sea. And he realizes that soon enough as well. I’m happy I have my sunglasses with me. Some people are floating around, like me. Others are using Dead Sea mud to get some nice, soft skin. The mountains on the Jordanian side of Dead Sea are breathtaking, especially during the sunset. It’s an experience you definitely wanna put on your travel bucket list.
So why visit Dead Sea in Israel?
1. First of all: this place is unique
Dead Sea is the lowest lake in the world: it’s over 400 meters under sea level. Dead Sea is in the middle of the border between Israel and Jordan, so you can visit this place from both sides. Because the salinity is really high it’s not possible for animals like fish to live in the water. And that’s why they call it Dead Sea.
2. Dead Sea water and mud is good for your skin
The mud and the water of Dead Sea contains a lot of minerals. These minerals are extremely good for your skin. It makes your skin SUPER soft, but it is also amazing when you have skin problems like excema and scars. Queen Cleopatra loved this place and used it as one of her favorite spas. Since she discovered the place people from all over the world come to Dead Sea to float around and use the mud for their skin. This is why you will find several spas around Dead Sea, for example in Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek.
3. Some day, this place will disappear
Because of several reasons (global warming, water extraction by Jordan and Israel) Dead Sea is shrinking. It’s sad to see how Dead Sea looked 30 years ago and how much it shrinked since then. I even saw a big difference between my first visit and my last visit 1,5 years later. They are checking out the options to save Dead Sea, but it’s fair to assume that Dead Sea will vanish in the future. So you should go now, while it’s still possible!
Best tips to visit Dead Sea in Israel
1. It’s gonna be hot as hell
If you’re unlucky it can be up to 50 degrees during your visit to Dead Sea in Israel. But even 40 degrees is a normal temperature in this area. Unfortunately the water of Dead Sea is not thát refreshing. In summer time it’s even quite warm (it feels like someone peed in it, blugh). Make sure you’ll bring enough water to stay hydrated and chill in the shadow as well. You don’t wanna leave this place with a sunstroke!
2. DON’T dive in the water of Dead Sea
Ever dived in the ocean? The water is quite salty, right? And that’s not amazing for your eyes. Well, remember that Dead Sea is A LOT saltier than any regular sea. The salty water of Dead Sea will hurt you a lot, so try to not get it in your eyes. Even a couple of drops can make you cry. If you see anyone trying to dive into the water, warn them as well. You don’t want to end up going to the hospital for a single, stupid dive.
3. The water is extremely salty
Like I said before: the water of Dead Sea is extremely salty. It’s important to rinse off after floating around in the water. All that salt is not only really bad for your swimming clothes (the colors can even change), but also for your skin. So try to not stay in the water for more than 30-45 minutes. Most (paid and unpaid) beaches have showers so you can rinse off instantly.
4. Don’t shave before going to Dead Sea
I know, you want your legs to look gorgeous of course. But please don’t shave your legs just a couple of hours before heading to Dead Sea. Of course the water has some healing effects on scars and small open wounds. But it hurts and you don’t wanna be in pain the whole time you’re in the water. I had a small cut in my finger and that was already unpleasant. So ladies, shave those legs after your visit – or at least 1 full day before going to Dead Sea.
5. Watch out for the sink holes in the mud
There are a couple of beaches where you can use Dead Sea mud. This mud is full of minerals that are good for your skin. But because everyone is graving holes to grab this mud you have to be a little careful. You don’t wanna fall because of a mud hole and get Dead Sea water in your face.. So please be careful while using the mud and walking into the water!
Beaches at Dead Sea in Israel where you have to pay an entrance fee
There are several beaches around Dead Sea in Israel where you can swim and float around. A nice one is Kalia Beach, in the northern part of Dead Sea. This one is the nearest beach if you’re coming from Jerusalem. The entrance fee for the beach is 59 shekel for adults (about €15 euros). You can stay the whole day, although you probably just stay for a couple of hours. It’s a popular beach for tours to stop as well, so sometimes it can be a little crowded (especially after lunch time).
Next to Kalia Beach you’ll find Biankini Beach. Here you will pay 40 shekel for the entrance fee. This place is mainly visited by Israeli families.
If you wanna visit a beach nearby Masada, more in the southern part of Dead Sea, you can go to Neve Midbar Beach. I like this place because it’s not only possible to swim in Dead Sea, but also in fresh water pools.
Don’t stop at random places to visit Dead Sea!
Although it can be interesting for budget travellers to stop the car and visit Dead Sea at a random place, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s even quite dangerous to do that! Especially in the northern part of Dead Sea there are a lot of sink holes. Dead Sea is shrinking, so more and more sink holes appear. Some spas, hotels and beaches even had to close because of these sink holes! For example the public beach at Ein Gedi. Besides that it’s dangerous it’s also annoying to go out of the water without rinsing off with fresh water. And that’s simply not possible if there are no showers around.
So where can you visit Dead Sea for free?
Ein Bokek is one of the only places where you can visit Dead Sea for free. There is a public beach in Ein Bokek and you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to visit this beach. It’s perfect for budget travellers! The beach is not super big, but it’s perfect to spend the day – or even a couple of hours. Surprisingly enough this place is not crowded at all. Only a couple of hotel guests will float around with you, but with some luck you even have the water all for yourself.
The public beach of Ein Bokek has showers and toilets as well. And even a tap point for some fresh water!
You won’t have the mud experience in Ein Bokek, simply because there is no mud in this part of Dead Sea. That’s because this part of Dead Sea is even more salty than the northern part. If you really wanna experience this, you can buy some bags with Dead Sea mud in the shop. They are 10 shekel (€2,50 euros).
Because this place is SO salty, you will find some ‘salt balls’ in the water. This is because the salty parts are pulled together and create a ball made of salt crystals. There are at the bottom of the water, so watch out if you’re walking in the water at the shore.
You can reach the public beach of Ein Bokek by public transport (several busses) or with a rental car. Parking is 5 shekel per hour or 25 shekel per day.
Eating in Ein Bokek at Dead Sea
So let’s be honest: the food in Ein Bokek is not really great. There are not even a lot of restaurants in Ein Bokek. Most people have an all-inclusive package, so they will eat in the hotels. I once had a gigantic pizza at the pizza place Beefpoint on the boulevard for 50 shekel (€12 euros). It was enough for 2 persons (for my sister and me). But it wasn’t the best pizza I have ever eaten – not even close. Besides some places at the boulevard there is a McDonalds in Ein Bokek. Those restaurants are fucking everywhere, even in the middle of nowhere.
Extra tip: eating and sleeping in Arad
If you have a car I would suggest to visit the beach in Ein Bokek, but eat and sleep in Arad. This is a small village in the mountains, not too far from Ein Bokek and Dead Sea. You can’t really get lost while driving to this place, since it’s only one long road you have to follow. A restaurant in Arad with DELICIOUS pizza is Kaparuchka. Really: I would only go back to Arad only for the pizzas. I had an amazing pizza with gorgonzola and apple, but they have many different flavours.
And if you’re looking for a nice place to stay I would recommend the Dead Sea Adventure Hostel in Arad. It’s a small but adorable hostel with friendly people and a relaxed atmosphere. This place is perfect for backpackers, but also for couples or small groups that are making a road trip. The hostel arranges free tours to Masada as well (you still have to pay the entrance fee though), from ‘the other entrance side of Masada’. It’s perfect if you don’t have your own car to drive to this place!
2. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve in Israel
Maybe you would not expect it, but around Dead Sea you can visit several waterfalls! You can visit these waterfalls in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. This is a oasis and a perfect place for hiking or simply enjoying nature. The entrance fee is 28 shekel for adults (like €7 euros).
There are several routes you can walk. If you don’t have a lot of time you can walk to David’s Waterfall. This walk is quite easy and you don’t really have to climb. You will see several waterfalls along the road. If you have more time I would recommend to also walk to the Ein Gedi Spring. You have to climb and it’s not the easiest road, but the view is amazing! If you wanna hike a full day you can for example start at the Youth Hostel next to the entrance and walk all the way to Kibbutz Ein Gedi.
Ein Gedi means ‘well of the goat’ in Hebrew. You will definitely see some mountain goats (the ibex) along your walk. Other animals you can spot are the rock hyrax, wolves, red foxes and some birds. Apparently there are even hyenas and mountains cats living in this area, although only a few people encountered them before.
Accommodation in Ein Gedi in Israel
It’s possible to spend the night near Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Nearby the entrance of the park is the budget option HI Ein Gedi Hostel. If you want to have some more luxury, you wanna stay in the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel.
3. Masada National Park in Israel
Masada is an UNESCO spot and definitely worth a visit while you are in Israel. It’s an ancient place on top of a mountain, overviewing Dead Sea. The ruins of the fortress of Masada are possible to visit. This fortress was built by king Herodes, around the year 40 before Christ. If you wanna know more about the history of this place I would recommend to bring a guide with you to Masada. It’s also possible to use an audioguide, but only after sunrise.
Visiting Masada for an incredible sunrise
You have to wake up a little early, but visiting Masada for the sunrise is one of my favorite things to do in Israel. It’s maybe the best place to enjoy an amazing sunrise. You can visit Masada by daytime as well, but I would recommend to go as early as possible.
If you wanna enjoy the sunrise from the top of Masada you have to wake up early. The entrance gate for the Snake Path opens around 5.15 in the morning. This is one hour before sunrise, so you have to walk to the top in the dark. The entrance fee for Masada by the Snake Path is 28 shekel for adults, 24 shekel for students.
The Snake Path is only 2 kilometers, but you have to go up up up… You’ll climb almost 400 meters for the viewpoint: the fortress ruins of Masada. It can be a tough walk if you’re not used to hiking. Besides that it can be uncomfortable to walk in the dark, since there is no light along the road. But if you bring your own flashlight you should be okay. Besides that you’re not walking all by yourself. Every morning there are 50-100 people doing this early morning walk to see the sunrise.
After checking out the amazing sunrise over Dead Sea you can visit the rest of the ruins of Masada. After that you can walk back via the Snake Path again. Or you can wait until the cable car runs, about an hour after the sunrise.
Visiting Masada by daytime
Like I said before: I would recommend to visit Masada for the sunrise. But if you’re not an earlybird and you don’t wanna hike this early you can also visit Masada by daytime. Keep in mind you can’t use the Snake Path at daytime, since it’s too warm. So the only way up and down to the ruins is the cable car. Because of this the entrance fee is higher: it’s 74 shekel (about €19 euros) for the entrance fee and the cable car (up and down again).
Accommodation near Masada in Israel
It’s possible to stay over near the entrance of Masada. An affordable option is Masada Hostel, right next to the entrance at the eastern side. If you’re travelling via Arad you can also use the entrance at the western side of Masada. The Dead Sea Adventure Hostel in Arad is a nice place to stay, but there is also a camping spot over there. You can even rent a tent, so you don’t have to bring a tent yourself.
Other things you can do while visiting Dead Sea in Israel
There’s a couple of other interesting places you can visit while you visit Dead Sea in Israel. A place with historical value is Qumran. In these caves they found the famous Dead Sea scrolls. The scrolls are now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, if you wanna see them.
And another interesting place to visit is Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world. Jericho is in the West Bank (Palestine territory), so keep in mind you can’t visit the place with a rental car.
How can I go to Dead Sea in Israel?
It’s quite easy to visit Dead Sea in Israel by public transport. From Jerusalem it’s only one hour to the northern beaches of Dead Sea and 1,5 hours to Masada and Ein Gedi. Bus 444 and bus 486 leave from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to Masada and Ein Gedi, a couple of times a day. The ride is about 40 shekels (€10 euros), depending where you wanna stop.
It’s also quite easy to rent a car and drive by yourself to some nice places. It’s a perfect way to have a lot of freedom to explore. You don’t have to think about the time table of the busses and when they will leave for the last time back to Jerusalem. It’s also one of the things that’s not super expensive in Israel. You can already rent a car for €25 euros a day. Keep in mind that most rental places will close early on friday (like betwen 12.00-14.00) for shabbat and are not open on saturdays. Prices for petrol are about the same as in Western Europe.
Do you already wanna visit Dead Sea in Israel?
If you don’t have a lot of time but you wanna visit several places around Dead Sea I would recommend to join the Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea Tour of Abraham Tours. They will bring you from place to place without any hassle and you have enough time to enjoy all of those places. Here is a short video I made to give you an impression of the tour, enjoy!
I love that more and more people visit this part of the world and I love to help you guys out with any questions. If you have anything you wanna ask about Dead Sea, please do in the comments or send me an email. Hope you will enjoy this place to the fullest!
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