The Dead Sea is one of the most beguiling and unique places we’ve visited– not merely a neat place to swim, but a truly marvelous natural phenomenon with a storied history and otherworldly landscape.
As cool as the Dead Sea is, you really only need to spend a day there. It’s easy to check it out from Amman by bus or car, a mere 45 minutes away. You can also visit from the nearby Israeli side. If you don’t have much time in Jordan, a day trip to the Dead Sea is eminently doable, especially to rest those feet after a big day in Petra!
Quick Facts + History:
The Dead Sea is the 2nd-saltiest body of water on Earth, with the distinction of “1st-saltiest” going to the Don Juan Lake in Antarctica. So… for argument’s sake, perhaps it can be considered the saltiest body of water on Earth where you would actually want to take a swim? Either way, it has a whopping salinity level of 35%, which is more than 3 times saltier than the average ocean!
It also has the distinction of being the lowest-altitude place on Earth, at 423 meters below sea level. Sadly, it is receding rapidly, an issue that is currently being tackled in earnest by Jordan and its neighbors.
While it has been known by many names throughout history, it is known as the “Dead” Sea today due to the fact that its intense saltiness prevents life from thriving, even at the microbial or fungal level! You’ll quickly notice there are no fish, no plants, and no boats– the water is so salty that nothing can survive. During Biblical times, the sea was referred to as the Salt Sea, and it has also been known as the Sea of Sodom and the Stinking Sea, due to the strong sulphuric odor. You’ll definitely notice the smell when you visit!
Getting There + Know-Before-You-Go
If you’re visiting from Amman, it’s a quick ~45 minute trip to the Dead Sea. It’s easiest to get there by car, just heading southwest out of the city until you reach Route 65, the “Dead Sea Highway.” You can book a taxi service or transfer, or rent a car for the day. As big of proponents of public transit, our readers know we seldom recommend traveling by car if we can avoid it! However, in this case, a car is your best option for this day trip.
There are also a few bus options, like the JETT bus (that also goes to other day trip destinations, like Petra and Ajloun/Jerash.) The JETT bus is fantastic– it has really comfortable seats, AC, and is prompt and convenient. For this particular route, it picks up at 7th Circle and drops off at Amman Public Beach (which, for clarity, is not located in Amman and has an entry fee, but more on that later!) Keep in mind that the bus doesn’t run every day, so this entails some planning ahead. If you don’t want to go to Amman Public Beach or have a specific day you’re planning to visit when the bus isn’t running, the JETT bus may not be the best option for you.
There is also a public transit option, a minibus that drops off in Rame. Given that you need to take a taxi from Rame to the beach/resort of your choice anyway, this isn’t a great option, as it will cost almost as much as driving or a transfer.
Something to know right from the outset– most of the Dead Sea has been partitioned into resorts, government-managed beaches, and private areas. You will almost certainly have to pay to visit. While we did research some free options, many of them involved some sort of fence-jumping or sneaking in, which wasn’t a risk we wanted to take.
That leads us to your options for your visit.
The easiest option for most tourists visiting for the day is to book a day pass at one of the hotels. While this may sound really strange and fancy, it’s actually quite commonplace– and often the cheapest option, in addition to the easiest.
We chose to go to the Ramada Hotel, as it offered the cheapest day pass. Our pass cost 25 JOD and included an access pass to the Dead Sea beach and the hotel’s pools, as well as lunch, towels, and parking. Most of the other, more popular hotels (like Marriott and Mövenpick) were much more expensive, ranging between 45-65 JOD for the day pass. While their pools and buffet are arguably much more beautiful and luxurious, we were mainly interested in having a way to visit the Dead Sea for the day, so the cheapest way to do so was right up our alley.
A non-hotel option is to check out Amman Public Beach. However, “Public” is definitely a misnomer– it costs 20 JOD purely to enter, you have to pay extra for towels, mud, and anything else you would be interested in, and lunch is not included. For 5 JOD more, we thought it was absolutely worth it to go to the Ramada and enjoy the pool, buffet-style lunch, and other amenities. And of course, if you want to splurge a bit more, there is plenty of opportunity to do so at other resorts.
How To Spend Your Day:
Keep in mind that due to the intense saltiness of the water, you likely won’t be able to stay in it too long. You’ll definitely know when it’s your time to get out, but generically, if your skin starts burning, you’ve probably had enough, at least for a bit. This seems to be the case for all skin types, as the saltiness is really dehydrating, leading to a tight, itchy, burning sensation. There’s a quick fix, though– just run up to a mud pit, slather yourself in the rich, nutrient-dense mud, and hop back in when it’s dry to rinse off! It’s also good to have lots of bottled water on hand.
This next tip likely goes without saying, but in the interest of full disclosure… do not swallow the water! It’s so salty that it’s dangerous to imbibe, and a mere few mouthfuls can actually cause your organs to fail. Yikes!
More pleasantly, the saltiness of the water is what leads to that amazing weightless floating. The pictures you’ve seen of people reading while floating along aren’t staged– it’s actually harder to stay under the water than float atop it! Try it, you’ll see! As you can see in the photos above, floating with my hands and feet above the water was totally effortless. It truly is such an odd feeling– you feel like a buoy, being forced up to the surface.
Another note about the mud– all its healing properties aside, it’s very, very messy and tends to leave permanent stains, so this is not an activity for your cutest high-waisted bikini or most-treasured pair of swim trunks. It’s definitely best to wear an older swimsuit that you’re not attached to, so you can really revel in getting as muddy as you want without worrying about ruining your swimsuit. This advice includes black swimsuits!
You can’t miss the mud experience, though. The Dead Sea mud is filled with nutrients like iron, magnesium, and potassium, which all work wonders on your skin and feel so lovely and cool to the touch. You can rinse most of the mud off back in the Dead Sea when you’re ready, but we definitely recommend rinsing any mud you put on your face with non-salt water… remember that “3-times-saltier-than-most-oceans” water? Really, really not fun to get in your eyes!
The entrance to the water, as well as the sea floor is very rocky, so it’s best to have a pair of flip-flops or water shoes to protect your feet. As always, I had my trusty Chacos on, and just left them on the whole day. If you have any cuts or blisters, they will definitely sting, and it’s best not to shave before your visit for the same reason.
Surprisingly, even though I visited in January, the water temperature was quite pleasant, so I imagine this would be the case year-round! Certainly a bit cold at first, but quite warm and cozy under the surface. We visited on a sunny day, so the mud was quite warm, too. The low UV rays make for a pleasant visit as well, with less of a chance for sunburn.
Once you’ve had enough of the Dead Sea, take advantage of your hotel pass to spend some time lounging by the pool, and be sure to check out what’s on offer for the included lunch. You can also ask them for some complimentary toiletries if you want to take a quick shower at the pool showers and change back into real clothes prior to heading back to Amman.
If you do decide to stay overnight, there are a few sites you can explore the next day. The Dead Sea is located very close to the “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” pilgrimage site, where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus. You can also explore the wider Wadi Mujib biosphere reserve to the east of the Dead Sea, a UNESCO-protected area especially popular with bird lovers.
We hope this day trip guide was helpful in planning your Dead Sea trip! If you have further questions, feel free to ask us in the comments!
Have you visited the Dead Sea? Did you have a similar experience? We’d love to hear about it!