Jordan, a small country in the Middle East existing between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia (!), recently reopened for travel, and Dan and I spent almost two weeks in Jordan in May 2021 right when it opened up post-COVID lockdown! While I will write more about our trip as a whole, we started our trip with a weekend on the Dead Sea, which was lovely and a great way to start a trip! And yes, while visiting the Dead Sea from Israel is well-known, you can also visit the Dead Sea from Jordan!
WHAT IS THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea is actually a salt lake – not a proper Sea – sandwiched between Jordan and Israel and the West Bank. The Dead Sea is in the Jordan Rift Valley and its main tributary is the Jordan River, of biblical fame. The Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea because of its salinity (i.e. saltiness); it’s so salty that nothing can live in the Dead Sea for any extended period of time.
More importantly for tourists, the Dead Sea is a super popular holiday destination and for good reason! The Dead Sea is said to have healing properties (due to the salinity), and travelers have been coming to the Dead Sea to experience same for a really long time, with the Dead Sea even being referenced in the Bible! The Dead Sea is further the lowest point of dry land on Earth!
WHERE IS THE DEAD SEA IN JORDAN
The Dead Sea is located in central Jordan and Israel and the border between Jordan and Israel is right down the middle of the Dead Sea.
For tourist purposes however, the resort area of the Dead Sea in Jordan, where tourists in Jordan visit the Dead Sea, is located in the Northern part of the Dead Sea, about one hour west of Jordan’s main international airport in Amman (the other being in the south in Aqaba). Due to the Dead Sea’s proximity to the airport, it’s just as easy to travel to/from the airport from the Dead Sea as it is from Amman, Jordan’s capital city and “home” of said airport. We did this, transferring directly via car service to the Dead Sea from the Amman airport, and it was super easy.
Most of the tourist hotels are located in to the North of the Dead Sea in a cluster. We saw a mall and several restaurants near the cluster of resorts, but it seems that most tourists stick to the resort when visiting the Dead Sea. Further, as the Dead Sea is the lowest point of dry land on the planet, the tourist resorts are located just off the highway and there is a steep walk down to the Dead Sea from the highway. Our hotel had an elevator for ease of access. Make sure your hotel has the same if this is an issue; the path to the sea is a steep walk!
WHAT TO DO AT THE DEAD SEA
The main thing to do at the Dead Sea is experience the Dead Sea! On our trip, we made our way down from the hotel to the Dead Sea, which is flanked by a beach with beach chairs and umbrellas. We immediately went into the Dead Sea for about 30 minutes, which was SO WILD! In short, you really float without any effort and we just bobbed around. Lots of people brought in books or took photographs. It’s recommended that you don’t stay in too long due to the salinity; we stayed for about 30 minutes at a time and were fine. Also pro, the water is very warm!
In addition to floating in the Dead Sea, its very popular to cover oneself in Dead Sea “mud” for a spa experience. Dead sea “mud” is this very dark mud at the shores of the dead sea that people cake on themselves until it drys hard (about 10 mins) and then wash it off in the Dead Sea. You can do this yourself (the mud is located just past the shore), but many hotels have spas that will offer some sort of spa experience with said mud. Our hotel, the Hilton, offer a complimentary service where a staff member put the mud you on, giving a little massage in connection with same. After it washed off, we also received a Dead Sea salt scrub. I really enjoyed this, but Dan did not (he is not a massage fan!). While free, we tipped 20 JOR (about $25 USD) between the two of us.
Aside from getting in the Dead Sea, many tourists just hung out in the pool enjoying the nice weather. It was a bit of a party atmosphere with people swimming in everything from bikinis to very conservative swim costumes. There is also a pool bar that was hopping.
If you are not staying at a fancy resort or just going for a stop off at the Dead Sea, there is a public beach open to the public that apparently has some facilities that you can use for pay. We did not stop off, but our driver seems to enjoy it.
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at the Hilton Resort and Conference Dead Sea due to our Hilton Diamond status, which provides us with an upgrade if available, access to the Executive Lounge, and a few other perks. The Hilton Dead Sea is one of several Western hotel chains offering a resort experience on the Dead Sea, meaning that guests shouldn’t really need to leave the resort to have a great time. Other resorts in the area that we looked at were the Marriott, Kempinski, Holiday Inn (IHG), and Crowne Plaza (and I’m sure there are others we missed).
The Hilton Dead Sea is a HUGE property spread out on the cliffs above the Dead Sea. The Hilton Dead Sea is home to several restaurants and bars, several pools, Dead Sea access, a large children’s play area, a spa, and nightlife venue’s among other things. From what we could tell, guests came to the Hilton to hang out at the Hilton and not really leave. The Hilton was quite nice and we enjoyed our stay.
Our room was a double room with a Dead Sea view and a small balcony overlooking the Dead Sea. We really loved our balcony and watched the sunset each night.
One bummer was that on our visit, the Executive Lounge was still closed due to COVID. We complained (i.e. slightly mentioned that it was a bummer LOL, we’re fine if they are actually closing due to COVID, but Jordan is highly vaccinated) to the front desk, and they gave us coupons for two drinks and “snacks” each evening, which ended up being a ton of food! Not expecting anything, we were happy with this freebie! Also, the Executive Lounge did end up opening to members for breakfast on busy days.
WHAT WE ATE AND DRANK
As mentioned, the Hilton Dead Sea is home to a number of restaurants and bars, some of which were closed when we visited due to COVID protocols. The main restaurant that we ate at three times is Lebanese restaurant 1312; this is also the “best” restaurant at the Hilton. This is further the only place we could use our food and drink coupons! 1312 serves Lebanese food and alcohol and honestly, the food was really good! Since we had our coupons and a “snack” equated to an appetizer, we tried a lot of food. My favorite was the chicken shawarma dish (I actually ordered it three times over our stay!), but we also enjoyed the Fattoush salad, fried feta cheese balls, and olives and nuts! Like most (if not all) restaurants at the Hilton, 1312 serves alcohol. We tried a couple cocktails and the local Jordan River wine, which is one of two vineyards in Jordan and surprisingly decent!
The other restaurant that we frequently visited is the breakfast restaurant, which is where breakfast is served each morning as a buffet. During our visit, the buffet was closed due to COVID, but there was a generous menu and guests can order whatever they want, including multiple dishes. We tried a bit of everything during our stay. We both agreed that the dinner menu was better, but we were pleased with the breakfast offered. I posed a picture of the menu for reference.
GETTING OUT AND DAY TRIPS
As mentioned, I got the feel that most people come to the Dead Sea to have a relaxing beach experience and don’t really leave the hotel. That being said, we did a day trip to the Jesus Baptism site, which is only 20 minutes away by car. I will do a short post on this visit, but its very easy from any Dead Sea resort. The visit took about 2 hours and it was interesting, though not a must see.
It is also feasible to do a day trip to Amman, Jerash, or even Petra or Wadi Rum, though those two are far for a day trip IMO.
DANGERS AND DIFFICULTIES
The Dead Sea area of Jordan, as well as the entire country of Jordan, is currently safe. We never felt uncomfortable and people in tourism spoke fluent English. In terms of the Dead Sea, the biggest risks are sun burn, so be sure to bring lots of sun block, and getting the salty water in cuts on your body or your eyes. That being said, neither getting the water in a cut or your eyes will do any real damage (speaking from personal experience), but it will sting for a few minutes.
I would also note that while the Dead Sea resorts sell alcohol all day, there are no alcohol stores in the Dead Sea area. The closets is in Amman.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Hilton Dead Sea: Dead Sea Rd., Sweimeh 11953, Jordan. T; +962 5 349 3000. Swanky Hilton hotel and conference center on the Dead Sea. Multiple pools, spa, restaurants, and Executive Lounge available. I called in advance to ask some questions about the property and staff, who all speak English, were very helpful.