A beach at the Dead Sea.
(photo credit: ARIK BAREL)
Bedouins must have found the Jordan plains to be a distinct disappointment. Picture the scene: heat-weary and exhausted, ancient travelers traipsed through miles of mountains and craggy rock in search of nourishment. They finally found water… only to discover salinity so deathly, it’s stripped of life and inspired the lake’s name.
Nestled more than 420 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea sits at the lowest point on Earth. Its western coast is bordered by the Judean Desert in Israel and the West Bank, and the Jordanian Rift Valley’s imposing mountain crests to the east.
Temperatures soar here: it routinely reaches above 40°C through seven months of the year. The air is hot and hazy, the ground is dry and bakes, and the water is slick with salt. The dense atmosphere disperses harmful UV rays creating “safe” sunlight, and the average oxygen concentration is 6% higher than at sea level.
The Jordan river is the lakes largest tributary. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water gush into the giant lake every day, yet the water level is falling: the high temperatures cause water to evaporate quicker than it can arrive, leaving a dense mineral deposit behind.
These minerals make the Dead Sea’s water 9.6 times saltier than ocean water, and over millennia, the surrounding silt has absorbed tonnes of mineral salt to create the iconic Dead Sea mud. Sea water’s salt is primarily sodium chloride: as well as this, the Dead Sea contains a complex mix of mineral salts and ions, including magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and sulfate and bromide ions.
The Dead Sea’s low topography and unique chemistry isn’t a new revelation: Herod and Cleopatra are both rumored to have journeyed to the salt lake to bathe in its therapeutic waters. Essentially the world’s first health spa, the world’s deepest salt lake is a popular spot for medical tourism. The clean air, warm water, and peaceful environment have been proven to offer relief from different kinds of arthritis and various skin conditions like psoriasis.
It’s not just good medicinally, though. The nourishing minerals and clean air can do wonders for your skin and overall wellbeing, as the millions who have flocked to the sea’s glittering waters can attest to!
Baking underneath a layer of thick, black mud from the lake floor increases blood and oxygen flow around your body and draws out toxins; the rich minerals absorb deep into the skin, nourishing and replenishing skin cells. Increased vasodilation and heat encourage gentle sweating, pulling all the bad stuff out of your skin leaving it clean and fresh.
The dense lake water lets you float effortlessly: rich minerals penetrate and heal skin while you relax and bask in restorative, low-UV sunlight and high-oxygen air. A day spent at the Dead Sea is a delicious way to reset your tired body and treat yourself; two to four weeks is long enough for innovative medical therapies using the unique natural resources to relieve arthritic pains and chronic skin conditions.
Beautiful, calm, and restorative, the Dead Sea is one of the natural world’s true miracles. Unfortunately, most of us can’t regularly partake in the cleansing, healing rituals that take place on the giant lake’s shores. Thankfully, Israel has a solution.
Inventive Israeli skincare companies like AHAVA and Edom have used the Dead Sea’s incredible minerals to create a range of extraordinary Dead Sea cosmetics and skincare products. Including everything from acne soaps and shower gels to body lotions and men’s grooming products, these amazing products mean you can indulge in the Dead Sea’s restorative powers from afar.
Whether you’ve already experienced the world’s natural spas like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and Slovakia’s mineral springs, or you’re a total outdoors newbie, the Dead Sea has to be on your bucket list. Its quiet waters, healing mud, and clean air make it a unique spot you don’t want to miss!
This article is co-produced with JWG.