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Travel: The Dead Sea, Jordan

The Dead Sea | Jordan

The Dead Sea sits on the central-western border of Jordan, more than 1,250 feet below sea level.

Considering the wealth of outdoor activities throughout Jordan—rock climbing, hiking, scuba diving, canyoneering—it seems fitting that the country also boasts one of the most decidedly curative locales on the planet. This salt-dense water has attracted visitors for centuries, but today’s Dead Sea is far more modern than when it became one of the world’s first health resorts for Herod the Great.

Here, Western and Middle Eastern cultures intermingle. Contemporary bathing suits are as common as burkas, and the coast is lined with a variety of high-end spa/resorts like the expansive Marriot Jordan Valley Dead Sea Hotel, which boasts a variety of restaurants, a massive spa, and a series of terraced pools that lead to the famed coastline.

The heavily salinized water here is the prime draw, long reputed to have curative elements.  Most hotels offer easy access to the coast, where you can ease yourself into the water and float, a truly singular experience. But expect it to be slightly unpleasant; the high concentration of salt will sting every minor scrape you might’ve acquired over the last few days, but bobbing in the slightly viscous water is both calming and slightly disorienting. Then smear yourself with mud, another famed ritual in the holistic process, and mug for a few photos.

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As there really isn’t a central town, you won’t find a market like you might find in other Jordanian cities. But the nearby landscape does offer a few cool canyoneering hikes like the Siq Trail at Wadi Mujib. And Jerusalem is less than 30 minutes away, glittering in the distance.

But in some ways the most inviting aspect of the Dead Sea is the otherworldliness of the region, the columns of white salt coating the rocky coastline and the muted, perpetual haze that dominates the horizon. Here, the sun doesn’t glitter off the water so much as look half-absorbed by it. Envision the muted colors of the French Impressionist rather than a photo-realistic rendering of some Caribbean beach resort.

To best appreciate this utterly ethereal landscape, retreat to the Dead Sea Panorama Restaurant for dinner. As its name indicates, the restaurant delivers staggering views of the undulating coastline and expansive horizon, especially at sunset.

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