Israel: discover the Dead Sea's healing waters
Tell your friends about your spa break in the Judean desert and you might meet with a few raised eyebrows. Even so, this sun-parched land has been a health tourism hotspot ever since the Queen of Sheba first discovered the healing properties of the black mud on the shores of the Dead Sea. Nowadays, thousands visit every year to bob in its mineral-rich waters, which have been claimed to soothe everything from psoriasis to premature wrinkles. Here are our suggestions on how to make the most of a Dead Sea excursion on your next trip to Israel.
What to do
Did you know that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the face of the planet? It’s so heavy with salts and minerals that it’s almost 10 times saltier than the ocean, and the water is so buoyant that you’ll bob like a cork if you try to swim. Slather on some black mud, head into the water and let the sea work its magic as you watch hazy mountains rise on the horizon and salt crystals wink in the sunlight.
Where to stay
A number of modern spas have opened on the banks of the Dead Sea to take advantage of these natural resources. You'll find them in spades in Ein Bokek (main picture), a resort district near the southern end of the lake, but we’d recommend heading north to Ein Gedi to experience the more unspoilt northern basin in its full otherworldly glory. Ein Gedi is one of Israel’s most beautiful desert oases, and as well as having a public beach with some very necessary showers, there’s also a high-end spa offering a variety of health and beauty treatments. An overnight stay is particularly magical — if you stay at the local Kibbutz Hotel, you might even see herds of Nubian ibex (below) wandering through the botanical gardens at night.
Egged Bus 486 travels from Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi on all days excluding Shabbat (Friday to Saturday). It takes around one hour and thirty minutes and costs 63.80 ILS (approximately £10.50), return.