State of Israel – the country of juxtapositions. It’s overflowing with historical sites of important religious significance, yet it plays host to one of the most well-known gay pride celebrations in the world. The Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea all touch its land, but deserts blanket well over half its surface. It’s home to the lowest point on Earth, The Dead Sea, that can be viewed from atop a mountainside fortress. Contemporary and ancient exist cohesively, each respecting the other. It’s small, roughly the size of the United States’ 5th smallest state, New Jersey, but within its borders, you can sunbathe, take a salty float, ski, hike, immerse yourself in history and well, just read on for more. We’ll tell you why this destination that may never have been on your family travel radar should actually top the list.

Take your floating game to the next level: The Dead Sea

It might be the lowest place on Earth at 422 meters below sea level, but you'll feel like you're metaphorically floating with your head in the clouds with a dip in the Dead Sea. There are several options when you're ready to take your salt bath. Ein Bokek, which is just over 2 hours southeast of Tel Aviv and 80 minutes southeast of Jerusalem, is a free beach located in the Dead Sea Hotel district that offers lifeguard services, beach chairs, bathrooms and showers. This is prime distance for a day trip or if you want to make a night of it, the Isrotel Dead Sea is a great destination because of their kids club where the littles can enjoy a variety of games and toys, story time, arts & crafts and puppet theaters, while you schedule a once-in-a-lifetime Dead Sea mud treatment in the spa. As a bonus, the buffet breakfasts and dinners served in the Zer Hazahav main dining hall are absolutely amazing.

Two other pay-to-play options are Neve Midbar and Kalia Beaches. Besides the salty immersion, Neve Midbar offers two pools, one olympic sized and one shallow, lifeguards, beach chairs, showers, a kosher meat restaurant and that famous black mud synonymous with the Dead Sea. If you want to be extra adventurous, you can even camp in Hushot Village's stone and wood tents that come equipped with double mattresses and electricity — it's practically glamping with those amenities! Kalia is less crowded than Ein Bokek and has a natural mud area, beach chairs, life guards on duty, a Bedouin tent that serves traditional Bedouin-style meals, a BBQ area, a large camping area to pitch a tent and the lowest bar in the world right on the beach.

Good to know:

  • The Dead Sea is a whopping 10 times saltier than normal ocean waters and is way too harsh for flora and fauna to survive. However, it contains more than 20 minerals known to be beneficial to humans, providing healing from the inside out for ailments like psoriasis and improves internal processes.
  • It's simple math: Salt + eyeballs = ouchy, so only take kids old enough to control the urge to rub their eyes with wet hands and can listen to the directive not to jump, splash, submerge the head or swan dive into the liquid salt.
  • Don't shave or wax the day of as those open pores will feel the burn.
  • Following the rule above, beware of open cuts, especially on the little ones, because they will not enjoy the sensation. Just remember, the saying "it's like pouring salt on a wound" exists for a reason.
  • Water shoes are recommended, especially those with sensitive piggies, as the sea floor is a bit rocky.
  • This one should hopefully go without saying, but still, don't drink the H2O.

photo: Dead Sea at Ein Bokek beach at sunset, with Jordan in the distance via Maria Chambers

Have you had the opportunity to visit Israel? We’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers

This trip, including hotel stays, food and activities, was paid for by Israel’s Ministry of Travel.