Famously the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea has long been a popular destination with travellers who wish to bathe in its salty, mineral-laden waters. Straddling the border between Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, and fed by the River Jordan, at 434 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is mentioned in the bible and has long been a site of immense importance in the Middle East. The site of the Masada siege in 73AD and the location where the mysterious Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the most significant biblical finds of modern times, were uncovered, a holiday to the Dead Sea is much more than a relaxing getaway but also a journey through history. With a salinity of around 34%, if you swim in the Dead Sea you’ll find that you can float with minimal effort in its surprisingly buoyant waters. However, the hypersalinity of the Dead Sea comes at a price as fish and aquatic life cannot survive in this unusual environment, hence the name given to this landlocked sea.
Surrounded by the vast desert landscapes of the Jordan Rift Valley, the Dead Sea has been a popular spa resort for centuries. Today, you can still slather yourself with mineral-rich mud and envelop your weary muscles in the warm saline waters when you visit the Dead Sea. Jordan is home to the eastern shore of the Dead Sea where a number of spa resorts and hotels accommodate travellers visiting the Dead Sea. Whether you’re staying at a hotel with a private beach on the seashore or taking a day trip to the public beach, a trip to the Dead Sea is a highlight of any tour of Jordan.
Although the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea are the star attraction, the area around the sea has played host to countless historic events over the centuries, leaving behind many fascinating things to see at the Dead Sea. Standing high above the Jordan Rift Valley you’ll find Mount Nebo, believed to be the site where Moses was first granted a view of the Promised Land. This important biblical mountain provides amazing views across the Dead Sea and, on a clear day, as far as Jerusalem, if you conquer its 710 metre-high summit. Another of the Dead Sea’s most iconic biblical sites is the Al-Maghtas Baptism Site, a stone’s throw away from the laid-back beaches and bathing sites of the Dead Sea shore, on the banks of the River Jordan. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is believed to be the location of Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist and a visit to Al-Maghtas is sure to be a magical experience.
The landscapes surrounding the Dead Sea are also home to an array of unique natural spectacles. The Hammamat Ma’in Hot Springs is just one example of this. This popular leisure area is home to spa resorts, waterfalls and natural pools, the result of the emergence of underground thermal waters through natural springs. Here you can kick-back away from the sometimes crowded shores of the Dead Sea and enjoy the theraputic thermal waters in specially designed pools and natural lagoons. Since the days of Rome, visitors have enjoyed the mineral-rich waters here, most famously King Herod himself! If you’d rather explore off-the-beaten-path, Mujib Reserve, which borders the Dead Sea is the perfect destination for hiking and wildlife spotting amongst the sparse mountains of the Jordan Rift Valley. Here, you can enjoy the breathtaking scenery of valleys and mountains and rich biodiversity including rare cats and ibex. Although largely inaccessible during the winter due to high water levels, the summer months are the perfect time to hike and splash your way through Mujib’s canyons and rocky outcrops.
Finally, when it comes to swimming in the Dead Sea, visitors can choose between staying in a resort hotel, getting a day-pass to one of the private beaches or, instead, heading to Amman Tourist Beach, which provides easy access to the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea and good shower and changing-room facilities. Although lacking the luxury of some of the on-site resorts and hotels, Amman Tourist Beach is a good choice for daytrippers on a tour of Jordan.