It was the best decision ever.
The day of my tour it was cold and miserable in Jerusalem all day long. – seriously crap weather. Comparatively, just a short drive away in the Dead Sea it was all clear blue skies, warm temperatures and gorgeous sunshine. I could not have asked for more. Apparently this scenario is quite common with locals telling me there have been days when it is snowing in Jerusalem but still warm enough to swim in the Dead Sea.
I chose to go on a tour with United Tours (although there are loads of tour companies to choose from) based on a recommendation and I found my guide to be really informative and helpful. After being picked up from my hotel, we drove out of the city, past the bedouin shanti towns – poor, nomadic people – through the stunning Judean desert. The mountains rose up around us higher and higher the closer we got to the lowest place on Earth – The Dead Sea.
I can’t even describe the scenery adequately, but if you imagine a vast desert landscape that morphs into something reminiscent of the Grand Canyon with a gorgeous turquoise ocean you would be getting close. Across that ocean you can see Jordan.
It really is surreal.
Our first stop of the day was Masada. Built by Herod the Great ‘King of the jews’ it is a former mountaintop fortress, supposedly impenetrable…until the Romans came along.
Masada was the last stronghold of the zealots and it is a truly amazing place.
It has of course been rebuilt for tourists but that in no way takes away from the experience. Wandering the site – which boasts Kind Herod’s Palace, a Byzantine Church, the oldest synagogue in the world (that still operates) and stunning views is something very special.
Our guide explained the history of the region, and Masada itself in superb detail. HE pointed out where the roman camp had been set up, explained how the Fortress had collected and stored its water and had answers for every question that was asked – in both Spanish and English!
The second part of our day was spent at the Dead Sea. We were dropped off at Ein Gedi Spa and given free time. Here you could enjoy thermal baths and cover yourself in the popular Dead Sea mud but I chose to make the 3km trip to the sea itself (Ein Gedi used to be at the water front the water has receded about 3km in the last 30 years).
Walking into the Dead Sea is almost indescribable. Instead of sand, salt covers the ground and it feels no dissimilar to hard coral. They advise you to wear flip flops or reef shoes in the water if you don’t want to cut your feet up but there were plenty of people swimming without these.
Stepping into the water is similar to immersing yourself in a warm oil bath….you lie down and then all of a sudden you’re afloat!
It is a rather strange sensation but absolutely amazing.
I spent a good few hours bobbing about, enjoying the afternoon peace and quiet and sunning myself in one of the many beach chairs that line the shoreline.
Throughout the day I enjoyed some surprisingly delicious Israeli Bamia (Okra Stew) and some dates grown in the salty soil of the Dead Sea region, which were funnily enough – superbly sweet.
Overall my trip to the Dead Sea was an unforgettable experience. If you ever have an opportunity to visit this incredible part of the world do it. You won’t regret it.