Israel is a place full of memorable bucket list experiences, but perhaps the most talked about is floating in the Dead Sea, which is located at the lowest point on Earth below sea level. It was one of the things I was most intrigued to do during my trip to Israel three years ago. Because let’s be honest–if you’ve ever had to tread water for an ungodly amount of time for a swim test or at sleepaway camp (I might be slightly scarred), the thought of floating in water sounds too good to be true. Until you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s hard to imagine bobbing in a body of water, no dog paddling or panicked leg-scissoring required.
There had to be a catch.
Well I’m here to tell you that the tales are true. Weightlessness does exist outside of outer space (poor swimmers rejoice)! But before you get too excited, you may want to know a few key tips before you go–tips that no one warned me about. Tips that could turn your Dead Sea experience from incredible to incredibly painful if you don’t take them seriously. Here we go.
This is rule numero uno of the Dead Sea and the most commonly shared. But it’s no joke. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the Dead Sea super pumped only to feel like your entire body is burning upon submersion, due to the water’s high salt content (33%). Shaving will leave your skin raw and ripe for the stinging, so letting your hair grow at least two days (if not more) is highly recommended.
Take it Slow
Ever heard the term “slow and steady wins the race”? Well, it applies here. Save the cannonballs for the hotel pool. This is not the place to do it unless you want to go temporarily blind and simultaneously receive dirty looks from all other Dead Sea-goers. Find the easiest point of entry and slowly wade your way in to allow your body to acclimate with minimal splashing.
Know That Things Will Burn
If you have scrapes or cuts, they will burn. If you get even a drop of water in your eyes, it will burn (like hell). It will burn in other places that I will not name, but you get the idea. Where possible, take precautions and bandage up, but know that a little stinging is pretty much inevitable.
Don’t Go Under
Let me paint a more vivid picture for you. A couple friends in my travel group mistakenly dunked their head under and found themselves 1) crying out in pain, 2) immediately blinded by the salt density and fearful that sight may never return, 3) attempting to make their way aimlessly to the shore, arms flailing and eyes pinched shut in pain. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? Let me reiterate once again: don’t go under. Just don’t.
Do Partake in the Mud
Many Dead Sea entry facilities will charge an arm and a leg for packets of mineral mud, but the photo opps are so worth it. My rec is to go splitsies with your group and give yourself a head-to-toe mud mask before getting in the water. Get ready for your skin to feel like a baby’s bottom.
Choose Your Bikini Wisely
The water’s high concentration of salt can potentially fade the color of your swimsuit, which is why you’d be smart to wear an older bikini you’re OK with tossing if need be (note: it won’t get completely ruined, but I say use that as a rule of thumb to avoid any disappointment). Plus, if you should partake in slathering yourself with mud as well (which I recommend you do), your brand-new white swimsuit may not survive the escapade.
Protect Your Feet
The beach here isn’t the kind of sand you’ll want to sink your feet into. In fact, the rough salt rocks can cut you if you’re not careful, and as you’ve learned from the pointers above, a fresh cut going into the Dead Sea is not ideal. Bring some cheap rubber flip flops that you can throw off right before entering to avoid unnecessary scrapes.
Much like the props visitors bring to the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia to play with perspective, similar illusions can be achieved at the Dead Sea. A popular one is to lay back as if in a bed or armchair with the buoyant water acting as your support. Props I recommend? A newspaper, book or sleep mask will do the trick. Or get creative and come up with your own illusion. Years later, pictures might be some of the only memories you have, so take plenty of photos to capture the moment!
Keep it Short
The weightlessness of the Dead Sea is definitely a relaxing experience, but you may want to avoid staying in for too long. I can’t recommend an exact time that’s right for you, but you’ll start to notice things burning a bit more intensely which should be a pretty clear indication that it’s time to get out. If you’re not done with the experience, just rinse the salt off at one of the outdoor showers, wait 15 minutes and head back in for a second go-around.
One final note for visitors with kids: I don’t have kids and I of course don’t know yours, but it’s smart to be aware of the situation before you bring small children. If yours, like most kids I know, love to splash around and go diving for lost items under the surface, it may not be the best activity for you to enjoy together. You make the final call!
Have any other tips I missed? Please share the love in the comments below.