THE PERFECT VACATION IN THE LOWEST PLACE ON EARTH
Well, it's official, the Dead Sea is without a doubt one of my favorite areas in Israel to visit. The combination of the desert landscapes with the turquoise color of the seawater and the green vegetation in the streams is perfect and unique to every tourist and Israeli.
A vacation at the Dead Sea is suitable for everyone. From those who just want to lie on the beach, get smeared in the mud, and float in the water, through those who are looking for easy hikes in breathtaking landscapes, and to those who like long and challenging routes. I belong to the first type, so these will also be most of my recommendations, but you will know that there is something here for everyone.
To enjoy the area of the Dead Sea and take advantage of everything it has to offer, I recommend devoting at least two full days to it. let's begin!
WHEN SHOULD YOU TOUR THE DEAD SEA?
Although the winter months are the most pleasant to hike, there is also the danger of floods. In the summer months, it is possible to hike the easy routes that include streams and springs that can be refreshed, but in my experience, at 40 degrees, it is not the best option.
The optimal months for a trip in the area are October - December, and April - June. The months when the heat is not extreme and there is still almost no fear of floods.
ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN THE DEAD SEA AREA
Although I liked the views of the Dead Sea a lot, I was very disappointed with the accommodations of the desert. It is hard for me to understand how in such a touristy area there are no proper and boutique accommodations to complete the vacation experience.
Although the Ein Bokek area is full of hotels, unfortunately, these are mainly large chains with hotels with a standard to boring design and their scores on the booking are low (barely scratching the 8). I can only recommend the Isrotel, Milos, and Herods hotels to spend the night on this amazing resort.
SO WHERE IS IT STILL RECOMMENDED TO SLEEP IN THE DEAD SEA AREA?
First of all, it is important to emphasize that this is a large area. The journey from the northern part to the southern part of the Dead Sea takes about an hour, so it is worthwhile to understand which of the areas it is important for you to be close to.
If you want to be close to the southern part, then Arad is your best option, and it was also our choice. Arad is located about a half-hour drive from Ein Bokek and has a variety of guest apartments and B & Bs.
Marvin’s Place - A cute accommodation unit in Arad that includes a bedroom, a fully equipped kitchenette, and a large thin balcony.
Dead Sea Desert’s Edge - A guest house featuring simple and cozy accommodation with a fully equipped kitchenette. Some face the desert landscape.
Desert Calling - A charming accommodation, the accommodation units include an indoor Jacuzzi and a large terrace facing the view.
Unger's B&B - a cute little housing unit with a kitchenette and a cozy sitting area outside.
More places that get a few reviews (so this is a qualified recommendation), but look great and the existing reviews are great:
Adela Boutique B&B - probably the most luxurious option you will find in the area. A beautiful B&B with an indoor Jacuzzi, a huge shower, a balcony, and a private pool with a view of the desert.
New The Luxe Suite in Arad - A 3-bedroom villa suitable for up to 8 people and features a private pool and garden-facing garden.
Desert Horizon - a charming accommodation unit that includes two bedrooms, a living room, a dining area, a kitchen, and a garden.
Sabag’s Ein Gedi Oasis - a stunning apartment in Kibbutz Ein Gedi, in a modern design with a bedroom, living room, fully equipped kitchen, and a large balcony.
Dragot Cliffs - a holiday village that offers several types of accommodation, the pampering of which include private rooms with breathtaking views of the shoreline of the Dead Sea.
Zehava's B&B - a B&B with a unique and colorful design with a fully equipped kitchenette and a large balcony with lots of seating areas.
Dead Sea B&B - located in Neot HaKikar at the southern end of the Dead Sea. B&B in a wooden cabin with a fully equipped kitchenette, a Jacuzzi, and a balcony.
Ein Gedi Khan - Not the kind of place I usually recommend because it is a khan with shared toilets and showers, but they have a cool accommodation option of a van with a double bed and outside it a thin shade with a hammock and seating area. Recommends reading the reviews from the recent period in depth and deciding if it is right for you.
For those who value accommodation more than the location, I recommend considering staying in Jerusalem or Tzukim.
Jerusalem is about an hour's drive from the northern part of the Dead Sea, and naturally has a very large variety of accommodations (you can read my recommendations in this article. By the way, there are culinary recommendations for the Jerusalem area that you will need as well, So on a culinary level the situation is even worse).
The settlement of Tzukim is located in the Arava and is located about an hour's drive from the southern part of the Dead Sea. The cliffs have some excellent accommodation options and you can read about them in an article about special accommodation in the Negev.
WHERE TO EAT IN THE DEAD SEA?
Although I like to recommend restaurants, this time I do not have much to contribute, especially because I traveled in the area during the weekend and during the Corona period, so many places were closed.
In general, do not come with culinary expectations for this area. There are mostly very simple restaurants or chains like McDonald's and Aroma, so an apartment with a fully equipped kitchen is an advantage because you can cook for yourself.
You will be happy to know that in the center of Arad there is a supermarket that is also open on Saturdays called Deli market, so if you choose to sleep there, you will know that there is a place to stock up on weekends as well.
RECOMMENDED HIKING TRAILS AND PLACES IN THE DEAD SEA AREA
1. EINOT TZUKIM RESERVE - In the north of the Dead Sea is a magical gem called Einot Tzukim. This is a small reserve, with several springs that you can enter and wade through. There is a short walking trail, some of which is shaded, that passes between the various springs. There are lots of picnic tables throughout the reserve, and this place is highly recommended for anyone traveling with small children.
I visited the reserve on Saturday at 10 am and it was not busy at all. When we left at 11, the place started to fill up, so if it is important for you to arrive before the busy hours, you will mean the morning hours.
2. GALLERY MINUS 430 THE LOWEST GALLERY IN THE WORLD - A short drive from Einot Tzukim is this special gallery. It is a complex of abandoned buildings, once used as a Jordanian military camp, and various artists adorned them with colorful and impressive graffiti works.
It's a fun place to hang out and even has a small coffee cart called a cart, and they sell geraniums and pastries (I haven't tried them, but it's probably one of the best culinary options in the area).
The area is not shaded at all, so consider this if you are hiking at the height of summer.
3. NATURAL RESERVES - One of the most beautiful reserves I have been to in the country. It has two different hiking trails: Nahal Arugot and Nahal David. Both are beautiful and include a walk along the creek, paddling pools, and waterfalls. I hiked in Nahal Arugot at the height of summer, while in Nahal David I was in November, which made me enjoy Nahal David much more. Regardless of the weather I will try to be objective and explain which route is better.
As mentioned, the two routes are stunning and the views you see are quite similar, but in my opinion, the River of David is much more recommended for several reasons.
First of all, it is more diverse in terms of landscapes and also in terms of the level of difficulty of the route. Nahal David has a short and easy route of about an hour that is suitable for families with small children and for those who do not want to make an effort. There is even an accessible route to the first Mellon. The short route has many more wading pools and waterfalls than those at the beginning of the Nahal Arugot route.
The second, and essential difference between the two routes, is that Nahal Arugot is a linear route, meaning that it goes back and forth more or less the same way to its two main points of interest, which makes it more crowded especially on holidays and weekends. In Nahal David the short route is circular and in general, the reserve feels bigger, so even though we were there on a Saturday laden with hikers, the congestion was not felt along the way.
3. NAHAL DAVID - As mentioned in Nahal David there are several routes. Apart from the short route, there is also a longer route (which includes a 20-30 minute climb) to the Cave of David and the Ein Gedi Spring.
4. EIN GEDI - Ein Gedi spring is tiny and has shallow water, but charming shaded with clear water. On the way, there is a spectacular view of the shoreline of the Dead Sea. We were lucky and somehow we were completely alone in it on Saturday afternoon.
We did not enter the Cave of Uncles itself, but on the way to it there are some stunning turquoise pools between the rocks, and it is worth getting here for them. In the reserve, there is a route to the back of a window (which we did not manage to do), and it includes another climb from the area of Ein Gedi spring. You can read about this part of the track in this article.
5. NAHAL ARUGOT - Nahal Arugot has two main points of interest - the hidden waterfall and the upper pools. On the way to them, you walk along the stream (on some of the routes you can walk in the water along the stream, but there is also a dry route for those who prefer), and there are some small pools with waterfalls that you can stop on the way.
The walk to the hidden waterfall takes an hour and a half in each direction. Anyone who wants can continue to the upper pools - we did not provide, but I heard it is highly recommended. Keep in mind that if you want to get to them, you have to start the route by noon in wintertime or by 13:00 in the summertime.
6. SALT MUSHROOMS AND SALT PATHS - For those of you who can't finish a trip without a particularly photogenic image - salt mushrooms are a must-stop. Unfortunately, I had to give up photography there, because when I arrived the visibility was poor, and instead of the turquoise water, you see in the pictures I got gray water. Also, it was busy (at 8:00 on Saturday) and it was difficult to be photographed without other people in the background.
It is important to know that to get to the mushrooms, one has to walk a few dozen meters in the water. In summer the water is very hot and it is recommended to arrive early in the morning. It is also recommended to bring shoes and not come barefoot because the salt on the mushrooms is very scarce.
In the afternoon, just before sunset, I found another spot not far away from a long salt trail that went into the sea. We parked at the Ein Bokek Sonol gas station, and from there we walked down to the beach and started walking on the trail and taking pictures of it. There were a lot of people here too, but the trail is very long, so there is no problem finding places to take pictures.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TRIPS AND POINTS OF INTEREST IN THE DEAD SEA AREA
1. Ein Bokek - a short and easy route that passes through the stream and at the end of the river.
2. Hot Springs - Not far from Ein Gedi is a beach with natural hot springs. Highly recommended in the winter season.
3. Nahal Peretzim - a circular and light route that passes through a unique landscape of white marl walls.
4. Og River - a 3-hour route of moderate difficulty, which includes parts that require climbing pegs and ladders. Suitable for families and travelers who love challenges.
5. Birkat Tzafira - not a long, but challenging route that includes a steep descent with the help of pegs that end in a beautiful back.
6. Qumran - Amazing caves and exciting story, discover the place where the famous Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.
I hope you love the Dead Sea area at least as much as I loved it (despite the lack of luxurious accommodations and good restaurants) and most importantly, don't stop traveling! 2021 will be the new break threw of tourism so plan and begin your trip!