Tour Israel: Gems of the Dead Sea

This time of year, just before temperatures begin to soar, is the best time to visit the Dead Sea area.

Neveh Midbar Beach (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Neveh Midbar Beach
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
It’s hard to describe the feeling of freedom you get when you turn onto Highway 90 toward the northern Dead Sea area, far from the hustle and bustle of the hotels and promenade located farther south.
In my opinion the northern Dead Sea region, which also boasts interesting archaeological discoveries, is one of the most awesome, pristine places in the world.
This time of year, just before temperatures begin to soar, is the best time to visit the Dead Sea area. Moreover, if you go there on Election Day (March 23), you will be lucky enough to participate in the Fifth Annual Dead Sea March.
During these special days, visitors are invited to tour an area of the northern Dead Sea closed for IDF military use the rest of the year. The march passes Qasr el-Yahud, a baptism site on the banks of the Jordan River, the mouth of the Jordan River and “Land of the Monasteries,” which will be open to the public especially for the Dead Sea March.
Apart from walking the path and enjoying the spectacular scenery, there will also be stations with kids activities along the way. In keeping with pandemic restrictions, participants must sign up ahead of time for a specific day and time.
Visitors can choose from three different tracks to participate in the march. The first track, called “Land of the Monasteries,” begins in Qasr el-Yahud and continues on past a number of abandoned monasteries built on the banks of the Jordan River. The path reaches all the way to Wadi Kelt and then returns to the starting point.
The monasteries, which were run by a number of different Christian denominations, were closed to the public in 1968. The walk is 4 km. in total, and entrance to the monasteries is not allowed.
The second track, called “Land of the Monasteries, the Historic Arava House,” is suitable for walking aficionados. The path passes by the monasteries, the King Abdullah Bridge and the historic cemetery in Kibbutz Beit Ha’arava.
The walk is 6.5 km. in length, and entrance to the monasteries is not allowed. You will need two cars for this hike, unless you are there on a Friday, at which time there will be bicycles available for rent to ride back to the parking lot where you left your car.
The third track, called “The mouth of the Jordan River,” will lead you alongside the river and through a hidden canyon that perished in the Dead Sea. The 4.5-km. walk passes near the old potash evaporation ponds, which is closed to the public most of the year.
As stated above, two of the tracks begin at Qasr el-Yahud, located about 10 km. north of the Dead Sea. It is a baptism site on the banks of the Jordan River where Christians believe Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
Jews believe that the Children of Israel crossed over the Jordan River into the Land of Israel there, after spending 40 years wandering in the desert.
YOU CAN also check out these fun family-friendly activities while you’re in the region.
Neveh Midbar Beach
Among the amazing beaches at the lowest place on earth is Neveh Midbar. The site includes a well-kept beach, two pools, a grassy relaxation area, a restaurant, a lively bar, toilets, showers, dressing rooms, a campground, and private huts for couples who want to feel as though they’re on vacation in the Sinai Peninsula.
Visitors are welcome to come spend the day there and enjoy the Dead Sea’s salty water, rinse off in the showers and then rub Dead Sea mud all over their bodies.
If you don’t feel like driving home at the end of the long day, you are welcome to spend the night in one of the huts, or you can set up your own tent in the camping site.
Entrance: NIS 85 for adults, NIS 40 for children.
Hut rental: NIS 280 per couple. Huts include mattresses and an electrical outlet to charge phones. Minibars and sheets are also available for rental.
All Dead Sea March participants will receive a 10% discount.
Details: (02) 994-2781.
Micha and Atalia’s Studio
In Kibbutz Kalia, you will find a quaint studio where artists Micha and Atalia work on their ceramic art.
The couple also holds 90-minute workshops for visitors in which every participant gets to create a work of art with their very own two hands. Your ceramic work of art will be fired in a kiln and then sent to you at home.
There is, of course, artwork for sale made by the gallery owners.
Visitors can participate in Shabbat candlestick workshops on the Dead Sea March weekends.
Dates: Fridays at 3 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m.
Price: NIS 100 (NIS 90 for Dead Sea March participants).
Details: 054-487-6326.
The AHAVA visitors center in Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem will conduct special tours for visitors on the Dead Sea March weekends.
AHAVA was founded 30 years ago by kibbutz members and manufactures skincare products based on minerals and mud dug out of the Dead Sea.
Guides from the Ein Gedi Field School will lead hour-long family-friendly tours that focus on the interaction between environment, industry and community. Participants will learn about vegetation in the area, how mud is extracted from the water and how the green basins help purify water for the region. Children will be invited to prepare a salt bath from remnants left over from the production process.
Time: Tours will begin on the hour, every hour during the Dead Sea March, on Hol Hamoed Passover, Election Day and Independence Day.
Price of tour: NIS 15 (or NIS 5 with coupon from website).
Details: [email protected], (02) 994-5117.
Nahal Hatzatzon
Just a few minutes from Mitzpe Shalem you’ll find Nahal Hatzatzon, which flows into the Dead Sea.
In this spot that is surrounded by green vegetation and gorgeous open views of the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea, licensed massage therapist Anat Margolin Kleiderman offers her clients treatments.
Kleiderman fell in love with the desert and decided to raise her kids there, too. Receiving a personalized treatment from Kleiderman in the heart of the desert is beneficial for your body and soul.
Price: NIS 300 per hour.
Details: 052-385-2346.
Me Casa
In the northern Dead Sea area, near Vered Yeriho junction, you will find Me Casa, a family-friendly restaurant that serves Italian cuisine.
Me Casa, which is like an oasis in the middle of the desert, was started by Orly Hartig and Gal Hatzor as a place where people could get together.
The two of them serve delicious food at extremely reasonable prices. You can order breakfast foods or order a pizza, pasta, salad, hamburger or steak. Everything is fresh, delicious and served with a smile.
Me Casa uses locally grown produce in many dishes.
There are camping grounds adjacent to the restaurant, right next to a big date palm grove.
Time: Open all week long, 11 a.m-11 p.m.
Details: (02) 970-7078, 050-653-3336.
BBQ sets
If yo love the idea of doing a BBQ out in the middle of the desert, but don’t want to be bothered with bringing all of the equipment and food from home, all you have to do is contact Reut Cohen Gonzales, a resident of Mitzpe Shalem, and she will prepare for you an incredible feast.
Gonzales, who owns a successful restaurant in Jerusalem, will provide you with an entire BBQ package, including fresh meat that she has seasoned and aged herself, a disposable BBQ, firelighters and spices. You can also order pitot, salads and other picnic items.
All you need to do is put the meat on the BBQ and enjoy your meal. BBQ sets begin at NIS 150. Gonzales also prepares breakfast baskets for two to four people, starting at NIS 270.
Details: 050-646-8210.
The Dead Sea March will take place over the next two weekends, March 12-13 and March 19-20, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 noon, with a new group starting at the top of each hour.
Price: NIS 50 adults; NIS 40 children.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.