Floating in the Dead Sea has been on my must-do travel experiences and bucket list for a LONG time. So when we arrived in Israel we knew that this was going to be one of our top things to do. When planning our Dead Sea day trip we didn’t realize that there were so many interesting stops along the way that you could tie into your day.
We decided to rent a car and hit all these spots in one day. We have provided a guide on how to plan the best DIY Dead Sea day trip in Israel.
During the trip you will get to see the incredible Judean desert landscape, the beautiful turquoise and blue waters of the dead sea and the interesting salt deposits, stunning views of Jordan across the Dead Sea, a waterfall, and even where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
Stop 1: Masada
This is the furthest point away and about a 1.5-hour drive from Jerusalem. If you’re wanting to fit everything on this list in then we recommend coming to Masada to enjoy the magnificent sunrise from the top and overlooking the Dead Sea, views of Jordan, and to the back the Judean Desert.
Since you’re arriving so early the only option to the top of the plateau where this ancient fortress rests is by foot on the snake path. Signs will point you in the right direction and the walk is 45 minutes and mostly stairs. If you’re not in the most excellent shape then come a bit earlier to make sure you have enough time to witness the sunrise.
*There is a cable car that can take you quickly to the top that opens at 8 am.
Check what time the sunrise is and plan backward. We made the mistake of showing up right before the sunrise and didn’t make it to the top! Oops!
Be sure to bring good walking shoes, snacks, water, and sunscreen!
Wear layers as it will be chilly in the morning and it gets hot fast when the sun comes up.
Admission: 33 shekels
Read all about the sunrise at Masada here.
Stop 2: The Dead Sea
We recommend checking out Ein Gedi for floating in the incredible Dead Sea.
Ein Gedi Spa is more than just floating in the Dead Sea. It offers complete spa services, changing rooms, showers, towels, shopping, and a natural pool to swim in and spend an entire day here.
Had we not wanted to see the other stops we would have just spent all day here. You can’t really swim in the dead sea all day, you’ll need breaks as the salt is a bit too much after about 10 minutes. You can take the shuttle back and forth from the beach to the spa for snacks, sun bathing, the swimming pool, a break from the sun, and a shower.
To enjoy the Dead Sea mud you can either lather yourself directly from the beach, there’s a little spot on the right that has tons of mud, or come back to the spa where there’s an outdoor area with showers and mud.
The price for just access to the changing rooms, showers, pool, and beach: 95 shekels
To get the full spa experience prices vary depending on what services you want.
We accidently went to the spa thinking it was Ein Gedi Beach and paid just to float in the Dead Sea. It turns out Ein Gedi Beach is actually closed due to sink holes in the mud and salt, make sure you show up to Ein Gedi Spa for your own safety.
The Dead Sea ended up being our favorite spot of the day and would go back for an entire day at Ein Gedi Spa if we had an extra day. Floating in the water is honestly such a cool experience, you really are amazed at the buoyancy of the water. You can actually feel the salt!
The water was an incredible turquoise color and clear except don’t be fooled by the photos, that’s not sand at the beach it’s hardened salt! The surface is actually quite sharp so be sure to wear shoes or sandals.
The views are also amazing because to one side you have the amazing Judean desert backdrop and the other side across the Dead Sea is Jordan. You’re so close that you actually feel like you could just float right across.
After about 10 minutes in the Dead Sea, my psoriasis on my scalp did start tingling and burning, I also started feeling my lady parts stinging a bit. Sorry for the guys who had to read that. You will not want to stay in the water too long, make sure you use the fresh water showers near the shore to rinse off everytime you come out.
Also, don’t get your face in the water as the salt will sting the crap out of your eyes and make your vision really blurry. This happened to Scott but luckily with the fresh water at shore, he was able to wash his face and eyes until he was fine again.
Be sure to also rub the Dead Sea mud allover your body and wash off after a few minutes. It’s incredible how soft your skin feels after and makes you realize why dead sea minerals are such a popular ingredient in luxury skincare items.
Tips for the Dead Sea:
*Wear sandals or water shoes as the surface is hard and sharp from the salt
*Bring sunscreen, drinking water, and a towel
*Bring drinking water
*If you use a GoPro or underwater camera be sure to wash thoroughly with fresh water after so the salt doesn’t corrode your equipment!
*Arrive early in the morning and have the beach to yourself! We arrived at 9 am and had an hour and a half before loads of people showed up!
Stop 3: Nahal David
At the Ein Gedi Reserve, the Nahal David (aka David River) offers life in the middle of the Judean Desert. Once you enter you can do many of the different walking trails leading to waterfalls, mountains, desert plants, and even animals like wild mountain goats.
The most popular trek would be the lower falls which are the 30-minute trek and the one we recommend if you are planning on doing the whole Dead Sea day trip itinerary in this article.
This is also a great spot to eat for lunch since there is a small food stand here and one of the only places to get food throughout the day.
Admission: 29 shekels
Stop 4: Qumran National Park
Visit the place where the ancient religious writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and considered some of the most famous archeological finds of all time.
If you’re a history buff and intrigued by the religious meaning you will want to hire a guide or sneakily follow one of the many tour guides there!
After the entrance you can watch a short film about the Dead Sea Scrolls then walk around the ruins immediately outside the theater and view the caves nested high up in the mountains of the Judean desert.
It is possible to visit the caves but you will want to have a guide go with you, the path is long and there are loose rocks not to mention it gets very hot in the desert in the afternoon. Be prepared if you do plan on going to the actual sites.
Afterward, there is another place to eat here as well as a huge gift shop selling many beauty products including minerals from the Dead Sea.
Since this is your final stop you are now currently only about 30-minute drive from returning to Jerusalem and enough time to return the car rental before 6 pm if your day went accordingly.
Admission: 29 shekels
Renting a Car
We were able to rent a car for one day picking it up before 6 pm and returning it the next day before 6 pm. If you’re worried about time just rent the car another day and be prepared to pay for parking. This was actually the most inexpensive way to go, our car rental was $9 per day!
Parking in Jerusalem can be tricky if your hotel doesn’t already include it. We were staying near Mahane Yehuda Market at an Airbnb during this part of our trip and had to find street parking.
You will have to find the parking zones that are blue & white or a parking facility. Do not park anywhere else or you will be towed. In the blue & white zones, you can park free from 7 pm to 8 am which is perfect if you pick up your car around 6 pm.
DO NOT be even one minute after 6 pm to pick up or return your car. They will not serve you.
Scott cut it close picking up our car, which was prepaid for and was able to get our car at 5:59 pm. However, the family behind Scott getting their car to catch a flight to Tel Aviv were refused their prepaid rental because they were 2 minutes late. You don’t want to find yourself in this situation so come to pickup your car by 5:30.
This experience was at Sixt Car Rental.
You do not need an international driver’s license to rent a car in Israel, only a valid driver’s license from your home country as well as your passport and arrival card.
You can also take local buses, find their information here.
The directions are pretty easy once you get out of Jerusalem. You will be driving through West Bank and Palestinian territory. This area is safe and visited by tourists everyday without issue, no need to be worried.
MAP WITH DIRECTIONS
We preferred this way so we had the ability to improvise the trip if we liked a place we could stay longer or move on quicker if we weren’t interested. We also were able to stop and take cool photos.
Tips for your Dead Sea Day Trip:
*Bring your passports with you just in case you need to prove your citizenship
*bring plenty of water and snacks
*Wear layers and bring extra clothes. The sunrise at Masada will be chilly then it warms up quickly.
*You can get snacks at Ein Gedi Spa, Nahal David, and Qumran National Park
*Have good walking shoes if you plan on going up the Snake Path at Masada
*Have water shoes or sandals to wear in the Dead Sea
*Get a local SIM card if you’re terribly worried about getting lost or do not know how to use preloaded google maps.
If all this planning seems too much and overwhelming then we consider taking a tour. Abraham Tours offer both the sunrise tour and a day tour to most of these sites. The only site you will not be able to visit on these tours would be Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
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