The Dead Sea (Hebrew: Yam HaMelach) has its western coast in Israel and the West Bank. It is the lowest point in the world at 394.6 m below sea level. Currently, 25 km of Dead Sea coastline lie within Palestinian Authority territory, including Qumran and Ein Feshka.
How to get there
You can take day trips to the Israeli side of the Dead Sea from Jerusalem (39km from Northern Dead Sea via the West Bank). There are three 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, Hwy 90 is a long relatively easy scenic downhill on a bicycle with two moderate uphill climbs although summer construction might close the breakdown lane leaving very tight passage on the otherwise modern highway. Also there are taxi services that can take you to the Dead Sea.
Climate and water
The water in the Dead Sea is extremely salty, which makes it the second saltiest major body of water in the world. Its name is derived from the fact that the water is far too salinated for marine in habitation. 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 of rain a year. 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. The climate at the Dead Sea varies. Temperatures during the tourist season are ranging from 30°C in the spring to upwards of 40°C in the summer. The area receives an average of 330 days of sunshine per year, with rainy days occurring only during winter (and sometimes it doesn’t rain at all).
What to see
Masada National Park is 18 km south of Ein Gedi, or 12 km from Ein It is open 7 Days a Week. You can take cable car and the first takes off at – 8am. Masada is a mountaintop fortress which King Herod transformed in 35 BC into a 3 tiered winter home. You can also hike up the serpentine path. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Masada Sound and Light Show runs April to October on Tuesday and Thursday. Running time: 40 minutes. This is a spectacular light show that recounts the dramatic history of Masada with special pyrotechnic effects. Spectators sit in a natural amphitheater on the west side of the mountain, reachable only via Arad, 20km away.
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is on Route 90 (Dead Sea road) about 1 kilometer north of Kibbutz Ein Gedi. Here visitors have access to the adjacent nature reserve for viewing bird sanctuaries and wildlife of the desert, including the Nubian ibex. Hikers can follow two riverbeds and can follow trails past waterfalls, springs, caves, canyons, ancient synagogue and an early Bronze Age temple.
Mount Sodom is a mountain near the Dead Sea that has a significant caves including the largest in Israel (5.5km).
What to do
Due to the hyper salination of the water, you can float with ease in the Dead Sea. Actually, it is nearly impossible to sink! Tourists often love getting their picture taken while reading a newspaper and floating on the surface of the water. The mud along the shore of the Dead Sea contains many minerals and is believe to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits. It is not uncommon for visitors to cover their bodies with the dark mud. Don’t forget to get waterproof sandals because the salt is very jagged and can easily cut your feet. Be very careful and only float on your back (several people drown every year in the Dead Sea because they do not obey the rule for back floating. Lots of accidents happen when people try to swim with their stomach first (the legs will float better than usual and the head will be submerged).
There are some quality hotels for on-budget travelers (The Ein Gedi Beit Sarah Guest House, Near the Dead Sea road, Massada Guest House, South of the Massada site, Shkedi’s Camplodge, South of the Dead Sea. Located in Neot Hakikar, Sodom area). Camping is also allowed for free on the Ein-Gedi coast.