The Dead Sea region is saturated with big luxury hotel chains – Movenpick, Hilton, Mariott – with very few budget options or alternatives. The big advantage to staying in these hotels is that they have their own access to the Dead Sea, with no entrance fees or travelling to get there. If you aren’t staying in one of the big hotels, you either have to pay a really pricey day fee to use their access or use the public beach which can be slightly intimidating as it is mostly men and I had been warned not to go on the public beach in my bikini as I would offend the more traditional locals. Therefore although we rarely choose to book chains (both because they are more pricey and tend to lack character), we really wanted a little bit of luxury for our last few days and the instant access to the Dead Sea, so we went ahead and booked three nights in the Movenpick.
Although the hotel itself was very cool with an Arabian-style village and multiple pools and bars to chose from, I would not recommend it to anyone visiting for a number of reasons. We had a terrible experience on check-in – they couldn’t find our booking, they kept us waiting over an hour then when they finally found it (their error not ours) they weren’t apologetic. The customer service was appalling (and this continued throughout our stay) and when we finally found our room in the rabbit warren of winding paths, we waited for another hour until they brought our bags (as they had insisted that we didn’t take them ourselves). Cue RBJ and I’s first argument of the holiday. For the amount of money we had paid for this “luxury” hotel, I was pretty peeved. When our bags finally arrived, we donned our swimmers and without a second thought headed down to the pool to get a glimpse of the infamous Dead Sea (and a large, very expensive beer!!)
Nestled between Israel and Palestinian Territories to the west and Jordan to the east, the Dead Sea is in fact not a sea but a big lake. If you look closely it looks quite oily, with a layer of sheen on top of the water that glistens in the sunlight. It is called the Dead Sea because it has such high levels of salt and minerals (it is almost ten times saltier than the sea) that it is unable to sustain any marine life. Something I didn’t know before we went is that its surface and shores are the lowest point on Earth at 420m below sea level. Pretty awesome considering exactly a year earlier, we were in Nepal and had climbed Kala Patthar which at its peak is 5640m above sea level, looking up at Mt Everest, the tallest peak in the world at 8848m:
Now everyone has heard of the Dead Sea – the sea that you supposedly float in. However RBJ was very sceptical about this as due to a serious lack of body fat, he doesn’t float in water (I on the other hand have no problem!) As you approach the waters edge, there is a sign saying not to spend more than 20 minutes in the water which instantly made me a little nervous: We walked down the steps until we reached the gravelly shore, surrounded on either side by large stones and then big vats of mud which people were liberally applying to their bodies. At this stage we avoided the mud, and instead made our way straight into the water to experience the Dead Sea ourselves for the first time. I walked in and felt the buoyancy immediately: my legs instantly started lifting from underneath me and when I tried to kick them down so I was upright in the water, my entire shoulders lifted out of the water. It was the most bizarre feeling!There was absolutely no need to paddle to stay afloat and when I looked over at RBJ, much to his surprise, he too was bobbing along on the surface: We had a lot of fun playing with the buoyancy and the different positions you could lie in without sinking. And then it began. After 20 minutes or so I could feel my skin start to tingle from the high levels of salt in the water. Then slowly the tingling turned to stinging! Before I knew it my entire body felt like it was having an allergic reaction and I rapidly exited and rinsed off under the nearby fresh water showers. Lesson learnt: read and do as the sign says!! As soon as I was showered, much to my relief my skin stopped tingling and felt lovely and soft.
We gave it 24 hours and then went in a second time the day before we flew home. This time we followed suit and took big handfuls of the thick mud, trying to avoid the odd gritty bit with stones, and covered each other in the mineral rich mud:After we were fully lathered up, we basked in the sun for a few minutes to let the mud dry before we went back in the water and this time just relaxed and enjoyed the extraordinary feeling of floating in the Dead Sea.
Overall my experience of the Dead Sea was incredible! My advice is to read the signs and not to stay in for too long. Also I would recommend avoiding shaving before you go in (trust me, you will thank me!)
Jordan was one of the most amazing holidays I have ever had and the Dead Sea is an absolute must for anyone visiting. However if you are travelling on a budget, you might find yourself slightly limited in options – our three days in the Dead Sea cost almost the same as our first week in Jordan. But it is a once in a lifetime experience that can’t be missed.
IN 3 WORDS: BEAUTIFUL, BIZARRE, EXPENSIVE