Dead Sea - Al-Azraq Castle
Jordan,  Middle East

Dead Sea, Jordan: What is it really like?

We’ve all see the TV footage. A presenter floats, feet pointing skyward, on a vivid blue sea. Cold drink in hand, barren hills in the background, they deliver a perfectly composed piece to camera while the buoyancy of the Dead Sea holds them steady on the surface of the water. It seems exotic and exciting, but what is swimming in the Dead Sea really like?

It’s possible to visit the Dead Sea from two countries. Israel has half the coastline and many places to bathe, but my Dead Sea experience took place on the exotic slopes of the opposite shore, in the kingdom of Jordan.

The approach to the Dead Sea from Amman takes you through bare, rocky mountains before you start your descent to sea level – and beyond. A signpost marks the point where you cross the dividing line and enter the bowels of the earth. Every metre you descend from this spot is a vivid reminder of how far below sea level the Dead Sea really is.

swimming in the dead sea 1

There are multitudes of plush resorts strung out along the shoreline, but we headed for one of the public spots, Amman Beach. Here, anyone who can pay the entrance fee can access swimming pools, changing rooms, showers, and steps down to the beach itself. The first thing that’s noticeable is the dark golden sand and blue sea; the second is the ring of white along the shoreline. Salt crystals cling to the wet sand, unlike anything I had ever seen before, and a vivid reminder of why this place is special.

swimming in the dead sea 3
The Dead Sea at Amman Beach, Jordan. The steps down to the shore show just how much the sea level has dropped

We were warned before our visit that we shouldn’t swim in the sea if we had any cuts on our bodies, and shaving that morning was not advised. Of course, we all ignored the instructions, but we soon found out why we had been warned. Obvious though it sounds, the Dead Sea is REALLY salty. Although I thought I was fine, I soon found every single scratch as the salt stung my skin. If you have serious cuts, you will really know about it.

The buoyancy of the sea is not a myth. It’s a strange feeling, like swimming in water which is thicker than usual, a little bit more treacly than you were expecting. Swimming requires more effort as the water holds you back, and floating, while easy, is an odd sensation as the buoyancy holds you further out of the water than you are used to. We floated on our backs, ankles crossed and hands behind our heads as though we were lounging on a sofa; but we also floated vertically, arms stretched out in a T position like avenging angels, and felt ourselves lift out of the water almost to our waists. It was one of the strangest feelings I can ever remember.

swimming in the dead sea 4

One of our group decided to taste the water, and quickly spluttered and spat it out with a look of horror on her face. Taking a tiny drop on my finger and licking it off, my reaction was not much more restrained – it tasted almost like pure salt. The taste burned on my tongue for quite some time, and made me much more cautious about splashing anyone or getting water anywhere near my eyes.

We spent quite some time playing around in the water and enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Finally, we dragged ourselves back up the beach for a shower and a dip in the clean water of the swimming pool, before heading off for a shower and a change. Afterwards, heading south along the main road, we stopped at one of the many shops selling products made from the Dead Sea salt and mud and bought souvenirs to take home. It was an experience that completely lived up to my imagination.

swimming in the dead sea
Floating in the Dead Sea is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

The Dead Sea’s level is rapidly falling – the sea has already divided into two, and you can clearly see the old shoreline compared to the new. It would be a tragedy if it were to shrink further, but need for water further up the Jordan valley is limiting the supply of water feeding the sea. Let’s hope that this destruction stops before it’s too late, as this is still a magical location, and definitely worthy of a place on any bucket list.

swimming in the dead sea 6
The shoreline shows just how salty the sea is

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I'm Jill, and I'm a British blogger who has been travelling for two decades, visiting more than 70 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!


  • Josie

    Fantastic post! I was also at the Dead Sea recently and agree with how strange it is to float in that water! We stayed overnight at one of the fancy resorts, and I was curious what the beach would be like when doing a day trip.. You have now shown me. Thank you.

  • Cristina

    Great post! You’re the first one I encounter who writes exactly how it feels like, especiallhy the thick oilish water – that was strange but I really liked the feeling of it.
    I always heard that the Israeli side is more beautiful than the Jordanian side (probably because Jordan has higher mountains so it creates a nice view) but after seeing your pics, I’m not so sure about that! Guess I’ll have to find it out myself, I’d love to visit Jordan. *-*

    • Jill Bowdery

      Thanks so much! I saw the Dead Sea from both sides – I also drove up the Israeli side – and there’s not really much in it. Yes, the Jordanian side has the mountains, but you can still see them from the shoreline and especially when you are in the water! You just get a different angle…

  • Sheree

    Yes! Floating in the Dead Sea was one of my absolute favourite experiences when I honeymooned in Israel earlier this year – there really is nothing else like it! I likened it to floating like a cork in the water, it was the closest similie I could come up with 🙂 Would love to experience it from the other side (Jordan) – I’m with you in crossing my fingers that the Dead Sea doesn’t disappear completely before I get the chance! Thank you for sharing x

  • Eva

    This is awesome, I’ve been intrigued by the Dead Sea ever since I was a little girl. Especially because I learned to swim much later in life, so for a long time I thought this would be the only sea where I’d dare to swim as it’s guaranteed you don’t sink there! 😀

  • Teja

    Oh good grief! One of the places i want to visit for this super buoyancy phenomenon and I didn’t realise the clock is ticking!

    • Jill Bowdery

      It’s incredible the damage we can do as humans. I flew over the Aral Sea a few months ago and it was unbelievable how little is left. Just hope the Dead Sea doesn’t go the same way.

  • Kelly

    Wow, the best post I’ve read today.
    I could actually taste the salt when reading, so weird.
    I hope that if I eventually visit, the Sea will still be there and not retreated any further!
    Thanks for sharing :)!

    • Jill Bowdery

      Thank you so much, that’s so kind of you! I think it will be around for a while – but hopefully they can start to reverse the damage one day. It’s definitely an incredible place to visit.

    • Jill Bowdery

      Hahahaha, thanks! Not often I look cute in a swimming costume but I’ll take it! Definitely go to Jordan, it’s a great time at the moment because tourism is struggling with everything going on in Syria etc. They could use the revenue, and we get to visit without the crowds!

  • Marissa | Marissa's Teachable Moments

    This sounds like an amazing experience! Swimming (floating) in the Dead Sea is definitely on my bucket list!

  • Josué

    I drove from Jerusalem all the way to the bottom line of the Dead Sea. I had my two children withme , we all enjoyed the trip. My son did not like the water on his leg scratch, he screamed and screamed but eventually he got used too. The Dead Sea is at the lowest place on earth. It’s was very hot!
    No regrets at all.

  • John yenebere

    Hi it’s wonderful post as if I am in dead sea. Planed to enter in couple of weeks from now. I am from India.

  • Nabiha

    It must be an exciting experience. I need to visit the Dead Sea before it disappears (hopefully it never does) !

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