The Dead Sea has become one of the most sought-after destinations in the country and for several reasons.
First, it has a combination of recreational activities, spas and hiking routes, and secondly, it is a year-round destination, season-wise. The area that changes at each season constantly reinvents itself with new attractions.
This time we explored the northern coast with a sinkhole tour and a stay at the spa hotel Herods.
Herod's Dead Sea Hotel is situated at the Hamei Zohar beach and offers everything one can think of – direct access to the beach, a heated seasonal pool, a Vitalis Spa that offers a heated Dead Sea pool, sulfur pools, a hammam, sauna, Jacuzzi and a full menu of spa treatments.
The 223 hotel rooms have a spectacular view of the Dead Sea but the most appealing rooms in my opinion are the Executive Garden rooms, which have a balcony and private access to an adjoining pool surrounded by a garden with cabanas and hammocks. Please note, however, that while the entire hotel is accessible, access to these rooms is via a staircase.
We arrived at noon. The hotel’s décor corresponds with the area’s colors and landscapes in sunset – shades of turquoise, green, blue, brown and gold with embedded mosaics and marble stones.
Pretty soon we got our room. It did not take long and we changed into the hotel’s uniform – bathrobes and spa slippers and went for a swim.
The hotel’s main pool is spacious; it’s semi-Olympic, which allows for sports, swimming and games. My husband and son even found a ping pong table equipped for light play by the pool.
The garden rooms are executive category rooms, which grant access to the hotel’s VIP lounge. The lounge has a pool and sea view and is open from 12-6 p.m. It offers coffee, wine, soft drinks and light meals.
It starts with light dairy snacks that alternate with a hot pasta buffet and an evening of cakes and fruit. This way you can save lunch for those who settle for a dairy meal, enjoy an afternoon coffee and cake and take half-board.
In addition, next to the lounge there is a library room open for sitting to all hotel guests, and of course, the lobby, where the hotel’s à la carte dairy restaurant is located.
Vitalis Spa, the swimming pool and access to the sea are located on the lower level of the hotel, right next to the garden rooms, where we also spent most of the day. We had a morning dip in the Dead Sea, swimming in the outdoor pool and a spa treatment.
Although I have stayed at Herods in the past, this is the first time I entered the spa itself (beyond the Dead Sea pool, Jacuzzi and sauna). The spa is large, calm and quiet; its design is like the rest of the hotel with sea colors. It has high-temperature sulfur pools whose advantage is that the concentration is monitored and there is no sulfur odor in the air.
Nearby, there is a hammam. The spa has a variety of treatments and also unique Dead-Sea treatments such as hydrotherapy, mud wraps and grooming. I recommend a mixed massage with hot stones.
The excellent therapist Alan combined a medical massage with the use of hot stones for a meticulous massage that went through all the muscles, including those I did not remember existed.
When I returned from the spa in the evening, the pool and grounds were illuminated with romantic lights. That’s a perfect time for a night bath in the garden room’s pool and for a shower to get ready for dinner.
The meal at the hotel’s dining room is meat and very rich. On one side, a row of salads and entrées including small-sized chef plates, on the other side, a row of buffets with active stands and food from all ethnicities and styles. Couscous with vegetables and chicken, roast beef, steaks made to order, stuffed chicken, ara’yes, fish, stir-fries and much more.
A children’s menu, which had items such as fresh schnitzel and fries, was offered each evening. It was so well made that we all ate from it. And finally, desserts with a full sweet buffet, pareve ice cream and other sweet treats.
The food is not pretentious or extravagant – the selection is very wide and the food tasty. After dinner, there was lobby entertainment – that night it was a Blues performer.
Breakfast was very good as well, with a wide selection including fresh pizza. The dining room staff led by Yosef went all out to provide supreme service.
I saw one of the staff personally accompanying a senior guest and helping her carry the food so she could sit and enjoy breakfast on the hotel terrace with a view. The service of the hotel staff was excellent in every aspect.
The hotel provides a variety of leisure options. The Dead Sea and its coast are at the top of the attractions here. Direct access to the sea allows you to enjoy its view and also reach it several times a day for a dip or a leisurely stroll on the beach.
Beyond the pools and spa there are bicycles, a gym, a kids club and varied activities. There is free parking and, of course, the Dead Sea and its unique hiking opportunities.
Sinkhole tour with Shlomi ‘Hevel Eretz’
The northern Dead Sea is an area rich with interesting sites. While it is sad to see the abandoned facilities and retreating sea, this has created a spectacular and fascinating dynamic area.
The area has extensive leisure and extreme activities that include sinkhole tours, Dead Sea cruises, kayaking, abseiling and more. This time we joined a “springs and sinkholes” tour with Shlomi Lubaton.
We started the hike near Dragot Cliffs and from there we went down to the Dead Sea coast. The cliff landscape was quickly replaced by a diligent muddy landscape with narrow, sinking water channels.
After initial explanations, we set out to the surrounding sinkholes and were photographed against the backdrop of the greenish-blue water of the first and most impressive sinkhole, in my opinion.
Next we crossed “streams” that flow from sinkholes and springs on a mobile bridge that Shlomi brought. We could feel the mud and minerals, and the smell of sulfur.
Shlomi led us through it, explaining and showing phenomena like salt diamonds. The northern Dead Sea region is a region of constant change: the ground moves and sinks, springs emerge and disappear and sinkholes form and collapse.
It is worth knowing that the trip starts near the Metzoke Dragot and is a tour that requires walking at a comfortable pace, and is suitable for the entire family.
It is a fascinating tour of about 3.5 hours including a hike and explanations, optional swimming and a coffee break. Shlomi has a variety of special and interesting tours in the country. He specializes in rappelling, cave tours and sinkholes.
Hevel Eretz , hevel-eretz.co.il, Shlomi Lubaton +972-54-459-5948
Herod's Dead Sea, www.fattal-hotels.com, +972-3-511-0000
Disclosure: the writer was a guest of Herod's and Hevel Eretz.