People come to the Dead Sea to engage with the sea and its mineral properties, either by taking a dip or by wallowing in a spa. About the only other activity on offer is a chance to ride on a camel or a horse (around JD2).
Although technically you can take a dip anywhere along the Dead Sea coast, unless you are staying at one of the resorts it can be surprisingly difficult to reach the sea. This is especially the case as each year the sea retreats further from the shore, making it less and less accessible from the cliffs. Second, after a dip in the Dead Sea, you’ll find yourself coated in uncomfortable encrustations of salt that are best washed off as soon as possible. Third, there’s the utter lack of privacy to consider: the road follows the shoreline closely, and so do the border police. For these reasons, it’s better to reserve your swim for the comfort of the Dead Sea resorts or private day beaches where freshwater showers are available and where access to the sea is generally cleared of sharp and potentially lethal slippery rocks.
As well as the hotel resorts, there are two day beaches with paid facilities.
Most beaches have mud pots by the sea’s edge where you can self-administer a full-body mud pack. Leave it in place to bake under the sun for five to 10 minutes and then wash it off in the sea. It tightens the skin and leaves it feeling smooth, tingly and refreshed.
Many people go to the Dead Sea area for the therapeutic treatments on offer in the spas. The low levels of UV rays and high oxygen levels are good for the health, and Dead Sea mud contains high concentrations of minerals. These include calcium and magnesium, helpful remedies against allergies and bronchial infections; pungent bromine, which promotes relaxation; iodine, which alleviates certain glandular ailments; and bitumen, which has skin-rejuvenating properties. Many of these Dead Sea minerals are made into easy-to-use preparations such as soaps, shampoos and lotions, and are sold at the Dead Sea spas and in tourist shops throughout Jordan.
Of course, you don’t need to be under-the-weather to enjoy the benefits of a spa treatment. If you feel like a scrub or a massage, or just a bit of pampering, it’s easy to book in for an hour or two.
Braving Luxury in a Dead Sea Spa
You can’t come to the Dead Sea and not try a spa. Even if you’re a die-hard, old-school traveller who feels that sleeping on a bed with a soft mattress is a sign of weakness, there’s a certain gratification to succumbing to the spa experience. You’ll be in good company: Herod the Great and Cleopatra, neither noted as wimpy types, both dipped a toe in spa waters.
The spa experience (from around JD30 to JD40) usually begins with a mint tea and a spa bag to stow your worldly goods – this isn’t going to be a chlorinated swim in the municipal pool back home. You’ll then be shown to the mirrored changing rooms, with Dead Sea soaps and shampoos and more towels than you’ll have body to dry off. This marks the point of no return: the silent-padding assistants waft you from here along marble corridors to the opulent bathhouses.
All the spas offer a range of cradling Dead Sea waters with different levels of salinity. There’s usually a foot spa and a float in a Damascene-tiled Jacuzzi. Outside pools assault visitors with a variety of bullying jet sprays. Best of all are the little Jacuzzis that bubble when you sit in them and ought to be X-rated.
Luxury of this kind is an extreme sport, and by the time you reach the spa’s private infinity pool you’ll be so seduced by the ambience you won’t have the energy to try the saunas, steam rooms or tropical sprays, let alone the gym. Lie instead under an oleander by the pool, sip a chilled carrot juice and wonder why you resisted the spa experience for so long.