The Dead Sea is one of Jordan’s major natural highlights. And once you see the crystal clear, intense blue water up close, you’ll know why. Unfortunately the Dead Sea shrinks. Each year it retreats further from the shore, leaving behind a surreal landscape of stones coated with a thick crust of salt crystals. And while the result of this natural phenomenon is undoubtedly a pretty and really photogenic one. Nevertheless it makes it harder and harder to actually reach the shore of the Dead Sea.
Surprisingly enough it’s not too easy to visit and explore the Dead Sea on a backpackers budget. I mean of course, you can just go to the Dead Sea and have a look at it from a parking lot next to the Dead Sea Highway. It is also possible to find a place where you can make your way down to the salty water to take a stroll along the shoreline and snap some photos. But in the end, a visit to the Dead Sea isn’t complete without this typical “lying-on-your-back-in-the-water-reading-a-book-photo” right? That means finding a suitable place for swimming. And here it gets a little more complicated for the budget conscious traveler.
So you might find yourself googling for the best place to take a dip in the Dead Sea … and you end up … with resorts and expensive spa treatments and still expansive and dirty public beaches.
Dead Sea Resorts
Names like Mövenpick, Kempinski and Marriot already suggest, that these places don’t really cater to backpacker’s needs. The resorts might offer the full package and I’m sure it’s great to get pampered for a day or two. But one night in one of the resorts would eat up our budget for a whole week. So unfortunately this wasn’t an option.
Dead Sea Public Beach
The next thing you might stumble upon is the so-called public beaches. Most notably the Amman Tourist Beach. Located towards the northern end of the Dead Sea Highway, this place provides everything necessary for a dip in the Dead Sea. There’s fresh water showers (don’t expect warm water), towels (for 2.5 JD per piece) and of course mud from the Dead Sea (3 JD). This supposedly poor-man’s version of a Dead Sea Spa still comes with a hefty price tag of 20 JD per person (for one day).
But don’t despair. There is a way to enjoy the full Dead Sea experience like a local. And the best thing is, the entrance is completely free, you don’t have to pay for the mud and the hot fresh water comes from a natural spring.
The Dead Sea on a budget
Exploring Jordan’s side of the Dead Sea for free
Experiencing the Dead Sea like a local
There are a few necessary ingredients for an enjoyable swim in the Dead Sea with a subsequent mud bath:
- a place where you can make it to the shoreline without falling off a cliff
- a tiny little bit of privacy to change clothes
- a mud pool for self-catering
- fresh water to wash off all that salt and mud
So where to find such a place? Well, if you’ve got a rental car, it’s quite easy. Only a few kilometers north of the entrance to the canyon of Wadi Mujib there’s a police checkpoint and a small parking lot (just a sandy area). Here you can park your car (of course for free).
If you haven’t already done so before, I’d suggest to use the privacy of your car to change into swimwear. Cover yourself with a towel and bring only the stuff you really need and leave the rest in the car. On the opposite side of the road, a small trail winds its way down to the shoreline. It’s best to wear sneakers, since the rocks are sharp and spiky. Better don’t try it in flip-flops or even barefoot. The last thing you want is to sprain an ankle or any kind of open wound before swimming in extremely salty water.
Once you made it down, turn right, and follow the shoreline for maybe 100 meters. There’s a small natural pool, spring-fed with fresh water coming from the Ma’in hot springs. And yes, the water is still warm :).
Mud Bath and Hot Springs
Now you can enjoy a nice swim or float in the Dead Sea before helping yourself to a therapeutic mud bath. There’s a small mud pit where the trail meets the shoreline. Or you dig some mud from the aforementioned hot water pool. After self-administering a full body mud-pack, leave it in place to bake in under the sun for 10-15 minutes and then wash it off in the sea or in the pool. Make sure to wash off all the mud and all the salt in the fresh water pool afterwards.
So if you’re traveling Jordan on a budget, or if spas and luxury hotels just aren’t your thing and you prefer the local way, then this spot is perfect. Just be aware, that the beach is far from being clean and pristine. There’s a lot of plastic and litter. But if this doesn’t put you off, then it’s a great way to experience this natural phenomenon like the locals do. And who knows, maybe you even make some new friends.
I hope this travel guide helps you to experience the Dead Sea and all it has to offer, without breaking the bank. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.
Did you visit Jordan and the Dead Sea or do you plan to do so? I’d really like to know what you would recommend and hear about your experiences. Just drop me a comment below. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
And if you like what you see and want explore more of Jordan then feel free to check out Top 10 Things to do in Jordan or connect on Instagram for more photos from Jordan, the Dead Sea and around the world.