Swimming in the Dead Sea is, hands down, one of the top things to experience in Israel. Nowhere else in the world is there a body of water with such magical properties. Not only does the high concentration of salt make people effortlessly float in the water, but the water and the mud around it is said to be very beneficial for health and beauty.
When you visit Israel, no doubt you’ll want to make a trip to the Dead Sea and experience the magic for yourself. But before you go swimming in the Dead Sea, here’s what you should know.
The Dead Sea is actually below sea level!
Go before it’s too late
I hate to break it to you, but if you want to see and experience the Dead Sea, you may only have a few years left to do so! The Sea is drying up very quickly due to the lack of water flowing into it and the number of factories nearby using up the water and minerals. It’s reported that the shoreline has been decreasing by as much as 3 feet (1 meter) per year and that the whole sea could be dried up in as little as 20-50 years! It’s one of those things that just can’t wait. If you want to see it, go see it now, before it’s too late!
You can see where the shore has been over the years
Visit a reputable beach
Sure, there are places where you can just stop by and get in the water. However, it’s really important to visit a reputable beach, with the proper facilities. The main reason is safety. With the sea drying up, it’s leaving giant sinkholes in the ground, which can be dangerous. In addition, being at a reputable beach means having a lifeguard on duty. Just because you float in the water, doesn’t mean that it is impossible to drown. Weak swimmers may have trouble controlling their position in the water. It’s also really nice to have shower facilities onsite, where you have access to fresh water and where you can change out of your swim gear afterward.
To find a reputable beach, I highly recommend joining a tour. Tourist Israel is a fantastic company that offers many options for visiting the Dead Sea. You can opt to spend the whole day there, or you can pair it with tours in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, or Masada. And don’t worry about having to share the beach with dozens of other tourists- both times we visited there were only a handful of people, and it didn’t feel crowded at all!
You really do float
It’s one of the strangest, yet coolest things I’ve ever felt. Walking into the water initially, you have no idea that the Dead Sea is so much different than any other body of water. But when you get deep enough and kick up your legs to the surface, the weightlessness you feel is just incredible. It’s so easy to float, that when it’s time to put your legs back down you will have to struggle and fight for it. After swimming in the Dead Sea, you realize how hard you have to work to stay afloat in other lakes!
Look, Ma! No hands!
DO NOT shave your legs beforehand
Seriously. I can’t believe I didn’t even think this through. I shaved my legs the DAY BEFORE we visited the Dead Sea. It didn’t even dawn on me that the slight razor burn wouldn’t be healed in 24 hours. This fun little snafu resulted in stinging pain and red bumpily legs after swimming in the Dead Sea. Think: pouring very salty water over hundreds of tiny wounds on your legs. Good fun.
On this note, maybe it’s a good plan not to shave anywhere before swimming in the Dead Sea…
My poor, bumpily, mad legs…
Check yourself for wounds
Going off of the whole shaving dealio, it’s a good idea to check yourself for other wounds before entering the water. My hubby was quickly reminded of his stubbed toe while swimming in the Dead Sea. Again, open wound plus salt equals a not so enjoyable feeling
You may have an allergic reaction
Even if your legs are deliciously hairy and you have no open wounds, you may STILL have an allergic reaction to the salt and mud! Can I get a high-five from all my sensitive-skinned travelers out there?!
Yes, sometimes the concentration of salt and minerals in the Dead Sea can cause skin irritation. And you may, like me, leave the water with itchy pink patches on your face, arms, legs, and belly. Not to worry though- with a good lotion they’ll clear up quickly!
Don’t forget the mud
Coating yourself in the thick, dark mud is half the fun of swimming in the Dead Sea! The minerals in Dead Sea mud are said to help lots of skin and other health conditions like psoriasis, acne, and more. Rubbing the mud on your skin and rinsing in the salty water will make your skin feel crazy smooth and soft!
However, it is a good idea not to put the mud directly from the sea onto your face and neck, as this mud hasn’t been filtered, and it can irritate the more sensitive skin in these areas. You can buy filtered Dead Sea mud from lots of beauty shops in Israel, that is safer to use on your face. You’ll also want to make sure not to rub the mud too hard into your body. The mud is filled with small bits of salt and minerals, and rubbing too hard could cause small skin abrasions. And again, open wounds plus salty water…
Try not to put your face or hair in the water
Another reason it’s a good idea not to use the mud on your face while swimming in the Dead Sea is because that would require you to rinse your face off in the crazy salty water. It’s just not a good idea to get your eyes and mouth near the water, because if any were to get in, that would be the end of your time at the Dead Sea. In addition, you will want to pull your hair up and avoid getting it in the water. All the minerals will make your hair dry and rigid, and it will take several rounds of shampoo and conditioner to get it back to normal.
We know from experience…
Bikinis are fine to wear
Before visiting the Dead Sea, I was frantically googling the appropriate attire. I know that the Middle East is a more conservative area of the world, and I was worried that my two-piece suit might not be the best choice for the Dead Sea. After reading about it and going to the Dead Sea myself, I can confirm that it’s totally okay to wear a bikini. Israel tends to be a bit less conservative than its neighboring countries.
Bring a waterproof camera
Swimming in the Dead Sea is fun, but taking photos makes it more fun! How can you even prove to your friends and family that you floated in the Dead Sea if you don’t have pics to prove it?! Just make sure to rinse off the camera with fresh water when you’re done.
Goofing around in the Dead Sea
Protective footwear is a good idea
The shore of the sea is covered in chunks of salt, and the seafloor goes back and forth between squishy mud and sharp salt chunks. The visibility of the water is not good either, so you can’t see where you’re walking in the water. To prevent any hurt feet, I recommend wearing some kind of waterproof protective footwear. You can do it without, but be prepared to step gingerly!
Your skin and bathing suit will feel really weird
While in the Dead Sea, your skin will feel soft and oily. But when you’re out of the water it will begin to feel almost sticky and dry. It’s a really strange feeling. You’ll feel that same sticky dryness on your swimsuit, towel, and anything else that has come into contact with Dead Sea water. Washing will return everything to normal.
Shower and wash with soap when you’re done
When you’re finished swimming in the Dead Sea, it is a good idea to shower off with fresh water. Using soap will also help reduce that weird stickiness I mentioned. Washing will also help any stinging or irritation to your skin.
Re-hydrate really well afterward
Subjecting your body to highly concentrated salt water is a great way to dehydrate your body. You may not feel it right away, but an hour or two later you may feel tired, headachey and a bit grumpy. This is why it’s really important to re-hydrate your body after swimming in the Dead Sea.
Note: Thanks to Tourist Israel for hosting my tour to the Dead Sea. As always, all opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Are you ready to take on the Dead Sea?
Tell me in the comments below!