How to Swim in the Dead Sea

A dip in the deepest and lowest hypersaline lake on earth is well worth the sting as long as you come prepared.

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You may have heard that you should avoid a dip in the Dead Sea, because it will make you feel like you're afloat in a bowl of your grandmother's chicken soup. But it's not true. There are no overcooked carrots!

Humor aside, no visit to Israel is complete without wading into the lowest lake on earth, touted by Israel's Tourism Ministry as the "largest outdoor spa in the world." There are 21 different minerals in the water, some with healing qualities, and the experience is bound to relax you, as well. Your skin will feel silky smooth. And after inhaling the bromine, a natural tranquilizer, in the air, you'll be prepped for a nice long snooze.

The water is as buoyant as legend has it. Even if you've never been able to flaunt your floating before, you'll pop right up and bounce on the surface here.
To prepare for a dip in the Dead Sea, here are some tips to salt away until you're ready to take the plunge:

1. Don't actually plunge

Don’t dive, don’t put your face in the water and avoid getting it in your eyes – because anything wet with over 30 percent salt and minerals (about 10 times more than most of the world’s oceans) is going to sting. As for swallowing the stuff –imagine an unwanted gulp of seawater and multiply it by ten.
The commercial beaches all have open-air showers not far from the water’s edge, so if you do get water in your eyes, just come right out and wash it away.

2. It's not exactly swimming

We use the word “swimming” loosely when it comes to the Dead Sea. What you should do is carefully wade into the water (it’s not always easy to keep your balance) and when you are about knee deep, pretend you have a chair beneath you and just “have a seat.” It works! You’ll pop up, stretch out and be ready for your relaxing float.

How easy it is to keep your balance when you enter the water will depend on the lake bed where you’ve chosen to swim – pebbly, muddy, or in between, either of which will challenge your verticality. Plastic sandals that buckle securely to your feet will help. These are for sale at most of the commercial beaches on the shore.

3: Pre-dip: Don’t shave – anything – for a couple of days beforehand.

You’ve heard of rubbing salt into a wound? ‘Nuf said.

4. Silver jewelry can tarnish in the water – even the air down there can do it – but you can polish it up afterwards if you forget.

5. Choose an official bathing beach with a lifeguard on duty, not just an inviting stretch of water. Even with the aforementioned ease of floating, people sometimes drown in the Dead Sea when they take in that viscous water, so if you can’t swim, don’t put anything but your feet in.

You can choose from the public beach Ein Gedi, or three or four commercial beaches on the northern shore with facilities like a snack bar, towel and locker rental and the luxury hotels on the south shore.

Chris Noth, best known for playing Mr. Big on 'Sex and the City,' finds that the Dead Sea really floats his boat.Credit: AP

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