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Travel Myth Busters: Israel’s Symbol – the Dead Sea – is a Rapidly Subsiding Lake with no Infrastructure

Woman applying dead sea mud
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Woman applying dead sea mud

The Dead Sea is one of the most advertised health wellsprings in the world. The Earth’s lowest elevation on land, healing waters and vacationers floating on its surface while reading newspapers – these are only a few facts and images that come to mind whenever someone mentions Israel or the Dead Sea. However, just like its slowly evaporating waters, any sense of romance quickly dissipates as one arrives at this rapidly subsiding briny reservoir.

Health Benefits

The healing properties of the Dead Sea have been known for the past two thousand years. This is one of the world’s very first health resorts, a place that was even mentioned in the Bible. While the concentration of salts in regular sea water is around 3%, the Dead Sea has about 27%. Magnesium, potassium, calcium chloride and different types of bromide make one’s skin appear younger, improves the functioning of the nervous system, accelerates blood circulation, strengthens bones and nails, and relaxes muscles, while at the same time providing the body with strength and energy, and improving immune function. With all of that in consideration, it’s certainly worthwhile to soak in these waters at least once in a lifetime.

People rub with mud on the beach of the dead sea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  People rub with mud on the beach of the dead sea

Dead Sea water is one of the major therapeutic interventions for people with osteoarthritis. For many patients, these mineral-rich waters that look more like oil are very effective at decreasing or even completely eliminating bone and joint pain. Studies have shown that Dead Sea water can also significantly decrease symptoms of psoriasis in just four weeks. People who often get colds and viral infections would also benefit from coming here.

Lowest Elevation on Earth

Even though, thanks to its salty waters, unsuitable to most fish and aquatic plants, this body was called the Dead Sea, in geographic terms it’s really just a lake, situated in a deep trough. For many centuries, its waters were supplemented by the River Jordan, although due to agricultural activity and irrigation systems, the Dead Sea is now reached by only a small fraction of it.

Early morning on the Dead Sea resorts
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Early morning on the Dead Sea resorts

As the decades rolled by, the sea subsided by several dozen metres and “split” into two water bodies, connected by a canal. Today, this briny lake recedes by as much as one metre every year, setting off projects to supplement the Dead Sea with fresh water. Arguably, the most realistic one involves building a 180 km-long tunnel that would begin at the Red Sea, desalinate its waters and supply them to its cousin.

Dead Sea landscape
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Dead Sea landscape

Meanwhile, however, the beaches of the Dead Sea look more like the bottom of a large bowl, where hot rays of the sun, reaching as many as 45-50 degrees during summer, vaporise whatever’s left of the water. The coastline here, located 430 m below sea level, makes visitors feel as if they’re standing at the bottom of an ocean that’s long-gone.

Plenty of Advertising, not Enough Infrastructure

Although the phenomenon that is the Dead Sea has been very well-advertised all around the world, arriving at the shores of this briny lake can be quite disappointing for a lot of people. Every year, the sea slowly recedes from the coastal roads, while the local hotels, sanatoriums and previously-abundant green resorts are being replaced by weather-beaten wastelands.

Israel has only a handful of spots that have beaches appropriate for swimming. The Ein Bokek hotel district is the most popular of these. However, prices here are fairly steep. Also, there’s only a few catering establishments, and all of them are quite keen on shaking down tourists.

Hotel complex on the coastline of the Dead Sea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Hotel complex on the coastline of the Dead Sea

On the other hand, the beaches, all equipped with dressing cabins, showers and other amenities, are free of charge. Straying a little further from the beaches, you can also find some healing mud.

If you’re looking for affordable accommodation on the coast of the Dead Sea, you can find it in Neve Zohar – a town with only a handful of houses. Unfortunately, even here everything is starting to look like an accommodation services monopoly, meaning that the host will likely ask you to pay some additional fees. Furthermore, the Dead Sea is divided into separate pools here, which prevent the water from leaving the hotels, and make the place look like an industrial reservoir.

Vacationers and tourists bathe in the Dead Sea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Vacationers and tourists bathe in the Dead Sea

Driving past the solitary creek, flowing through the desert, that used to be the bottom of the sea, you’ll reach the main body of the briny water. Here you’ll see gentle lapping waves that make for a view that looks like a lagoon, if not a sea. However, even here there’s only one oasis – Ein Gedi, where most tourists go.

The SPA with Beaches on the Run

Entrance to the Ein Gedi SPA, located near an oasis, is 20 Euros, and 5 more for each of the other services, such as luggage storage, towels and so on.

The SPA itself consists of a small beach and a fresh water pool for recreation. Just recently, the main building was located right by the sea, but today, its visitors are ferried to the beach, now a good kilometre away, on a small train, pulled by a tractor.

People are taking a shower after they floated in the water of the dead sea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  People are taking a shower after they floated in the water of the dead sea

The beach has a wooden bathroom, eight showers, hung on a metal pole, a few sheds on the sand and in the water, and lots of plastic chairs. It would seem that most lake shores in the Baltic States are better-equipped than this Dead Sea SPA. On the other hand, knowing that the water can recede by dozens of metres in a single year, building too many amenities does seem unwarranted.

All we can do now is wait for the Red Sea canals, expected to stabilise the water level of the Dead Sea. Only then would be the time to build settlements and health resorts here, safe in the knowledge that the sea will remain stable.

Some Tips for Travellers:                                                                  

Man reads a book floating in the waters of the Dead Sea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Man reads a book floating in the waters of the Dead Sea
  • If you haven’t yet bought your ticket to one of the resorts in Ein Bokek, and all you want is a swim in the Dead Sea, we recommend you rent a car or travel by bus. Spend your nights a bit further from the sea and use Israel’s excellent transportation system. If travelling by car from the Red Sea resort Eilat, you can reach the briny lake in a little more than two hours. This could even be a great single day trip or an intermediate stop on your way to Jerusalem or the West Bank.
  • You can also choose free beaches (the best one are located in Ein Bokek), as the healing properties of the water are the same everywhere, and you won’t get any spectacular amenities even if you pay for a SPA.
  • The best time to visit the Dead Sea is during the cold season, when the climate becomes quite pleasant here.

Comments (1)

Linda PetersS   1 year ago  Edited
Hi, I am Linda Peters. The Dead Sea is one of the most advertised health wellsprings in the world. The healing properties of the Dead Sea have been known for the past two thousand years. This is one of the world’s very first health resorts, a place that was even mentioned in the Bible. Although, thanks to its alkaline water, most of the fish and aquatic plants are inappropriate, this body is called Dead Sea, geographically it is actually located in a deep hole in a lake.I like this post. This post is important newsly post.