Dead Sea (Israel and the West Bank)

The Dead Sea (Hebrew: ים המלח, Hebrew transliteration:Yam HaMelach; Arabic: البحر الميت, Arabic transliteration: al-Bahir al-Mayyit) has its western coast in Israel and the West Bank. It is the lowest point in the world at 394.6 m (1269 ft) below sea level. Currently, 25 km of Dead Sea coastline lie within Palestinian Authority territory, including Qumran and Ein Feshka.

Get in

By car

The Israeli side of the Dead Sea is a possible day trip from Jerusalem (39km from Northern Dead Sea via the West Bank), Eilat (220km from Southern Dead Sea), or Tel Aviv (98km from Northern Dead Sea). There are four main road entry routes into the Dead Sea area. The first is via Highway 1 and Highway 90, through the West Bank, from the Jerusalem area. Alternatively, you could access the area from Eilat via Highway 90 from the south, or from Beersheva, either on route 31 via Arad to Zohar junction, or on route 25 via Dimona to the Arava junction.

By bus

By bus, the easiest way to get into the area is from Jerusalem, from where buses are the most frequent. However, even from Jerusalem there aren't plenty of buses, so always check schedules in advance.

All bus lines to the Dead Sea get to the Ein Bokek hotel complex, and most of them also have a stop at Ein Gedi. Below are all bus lines that get to the Dead Sea (all are from main cities in Israel):

Taxi services can also serve the Dead Sea.

Once there, the Dead Sea Bus company also runs a route along popular sites on the Dead Sea.

By bicycle

Taking the almost all downhill ~1200m(3900ft) descent on Hwy 90 from Hebrew University area in Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea with the exception of two moderate hills is nearly like a motorcycle cruise for about two to three hours. There are some scenic overlooks and monuments on the way. The highway is modern and has a good paved breakdown lane unless there is construction(mostly in summer). A turn south or right at the Dead Sea leads to most of the hotels and tourist areas. An inexpensive ride back up by bus no longer requires a second ticket for your bicycle which must be placed in the under bus baggage area.

By plane

(Hebrew מנחת בר־יהודה, minḥat bar-yehuda; sometimes known as Masada Airfield) (IATA: MTZ, ICAO: LLMZ) There is a small airstrip called Bar Yehuda Airfield or Masada airport. If you are a foreign licensed pilot or student you can hire local aircraft with a certified instructor to ride along and count towards hours in your log book, though apparently you can fly in with your own airplane entering Israel and passing customs through Ben Gurion Airport. Airplanes can be chartered or an air-taxi can be hired at airports and heliports around Israel to fly passengers to the air strip. Taxi service can be called for ground transportation or many of the Dead Sea resorts are within a half hour bicycle ride. There is an airport manager operating out of a tent and shipping container FBO with radio communications, food, some services, and a VOR beacon but no fuel on site without special ordering a fuel truck. This is the lowest runway in the world and you will have the unique experience of seeing your altimeter read negative 1200ft.

Understand

The water in the Dead Sea is extremely salty, and has been estimated to be the second saltiest major body of water in the world. Its name is derived from the fact that it is far too saline for marine life to exist in its waters.

The Dead Sea is naturally endorheic (no outlet streams) with the Jordan River being its only major source. The northern part of the Dead Sea receives scarcely 100 mm (4 inches) of rain a year; the southern section receives barely 50 mm (2 inches). Due to the man-made reduction of the Jordan River (the river waters are 70-90% used for human purposes) and the high evaporation rate of the Dead Sea, the sea is shrinking. All the shallow waters of the southern end of the sea have been drained and are now salt flats.

Although the Dead Sea will never entirely disappear (because evaporation slows down as surface area decreases and saltiness increases), measures are currently being proposed to siphon water from the Red Sea through a series of tunnels or canals in order to replenish the rapidly shrinking waters and provide water and electrical solutions to the surrounding countries.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 20.5 21.7 24.8 29.9 34.1 37.6 39.7 39.0 36.5 32.4 26.9 21.7
Nightly lows (°C) 12.7 13.7 16.7 20.9 24.7 27.6 29.6 29.9 28.3 24.7 19.3 14.1
Precipitation (mm) 7.8 9.0 7.6 4.3 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 3.5 8.3

Data for Sedom from the Israeli Meteorological Service

Climate

The climate at the Dead Sea varies depending on the season. Temperatures during the tourist season can become extremely warm, ranging from 30°C (86°F) in the spring to upwards of 40°C (104°F) in the summer. The area receives an average of 330 days of sunshine per year, with rainy days occurring only during winter (if at all).

Although the Dead Sea is very sunny the low altitude and extra atmosphere makes the sunlight weaker. It is therefore said that sunbathing here carries a lower risk of sunburn, but it is still advisable to take normal precautions using sunblock and adapt gradually. This quality of the Dead Sea sunlight is the real secret behind its mythological curing ability for several diseases, especially skin diseases. This is, in fact, natural phototherapy.

Caution: During winter and spring there is a danger of floods on rainy days. The Dead Sea basin receives rainwater from relatively far-off areas like the Jerusalem Mountains. This means that sometimes during a sunny day a flood will suddenly and unexpectedly occur. Therefore, be careful when hiking to distant narrow places during these seasons and stay tuned to the weather news. The weather forecast always gives warnings if there is a possibility of flooding. Always do as national reserves staff order - they know the terrain very well. In 2007, several Israelis who had been "snappling" (rappelling) were killed by a flood because they did not obey national reserve staff orders.

See

Dead Sea salt buildup

The hypersalinated water of the Dead Sea itself is its own attraction. There are several nearby attractions that are worth attention:

Talk

On the Israeli part of the Sea, Hebrew and English are the most widely spoken languages. All resort and tourism staff will be able to speak both. In Ein Bokek, there is a large percentage of those who speak Russian in the plaza/mini mall by the Sea. German Speakers may be able to use Yiddish with some local punters. Arabic might also be spoken by some staff, whilst French will be spoken by a sizeable minority. In the West Bank, both Arabic and Hebrew are widely spoken.

Do

It is nearly impossible to sink in the hypersalinated waters
Many visitors cover their bodies with therapeutic mud

Buy

Visitors can purchase packets of the famous mud, as well as other cultural artifacts and handicrafts, from local gift shops. The Israeli side is home to the world famous Ahava Dead Sea Products. The Ahava Factory is located at Kibbutz Shalem, directly across Route 90 from Mineral Beach.

Eat & Drink

The restaurant options near the Dead Sea are sparse.

The town of Ein Bokek has two small shopping malls with a McDonald's, a number of Falafal Bars, a liquor store, and a few other stores selling everyday items and souvenirs. The shopping center has a large McDonald's sign on the roof. From the outside, it looks very out of place (and funny in a way) against the majestic background of desert mountains. Many people working there and in nearby hotels can speak Russian. There are also restaurants in each of the resort hotels on the Israeli side.

Sleep

Budget

Splurge

Northern Dead Sea
Ein Gedi
Ein Bokek

Camping

Camping is allowed for free on the Ein-Gedi coast (approx. 500m south of the kibbutz itself), toilets and showers are on site for a little fee. The ground is a bit stony so any kind of mattress is useful.

Stay safe

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.