10 Attractions near the Dead Sea

When you’ve had enough of sunning yourself on the Dead Sea beaches; being pampered in spas and floating in the salty water then here are a few more ideas of what to see and do in the Dead Sea area.

1. Masada

masadaMasada is a rock plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. The mount rises about 400 meters from the Judean Desert and the flat top of the plateau was the site of Herod the Great’s fortified palaces built in 37-31BC. Years later during the First Jewish-Roman War in c.73BC a group of Jewish zealots made this remote mountain top their last outpost against the Romans. They survived under a long siege before the Romans broke through the fortified walls only to find that the 960 Jews had chosen to commit suicide rather than be captured. Today visitors can take a cable car to the top of the plateau and see the perfectly preserved excavated remains of Herod’s palaces, storage rooms, dovecotes, bathhouses and dwellings.

2. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Ein Gedi is an oasis near the Dead Sea which has been turned into an amazing nature reserve. The reserve covers 14000 dunam and includes two spring-fed streams, Nahal David and Nahal Arugot as well as two smaller streams Shulamit and Ein Gedi Spring. The springs produce a large quantity of water which flows year-round. Visitors can see many types of plants, animals and birds as they walk along routes through the reserve. Along the way you can see agile ibex scaling the cliff sides and cute rock hyrax. Visitors can enter the water at certain points and even stand under gorgeous waterfalls surrounded by the oasis greenery.

3. Qumran Caves

You can see the Qumran caves as you drive along route 90 parallel to the Dead Sea. In 1947 a Bedouin shepherdqumran-caves came across ancient parchment and papyrus documents from the 1st century BC and 1st century AD hidden in the caves. The pages where stored in clay jars and are the oldest surviving copies of the Bible including the entire Old Testament except for the Book of Esther. Other texts in the Qumran caves described life in the 1st century. The manuscripts are believed to have been written by members of the Jewish Essenes sect which established a settlement at Qumran. In 68AD their community was destroyed by the Romans but they managed to hide their manuscripts in the caves where they remained until discovery. Visitors can admire the caves from the road side or take a guide tour and hike all the way to several of the caves. Today the scrolls are kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is possible to visit the archaeological site of the ancient Qumran settlement and see the remains of a kitchen, aqueduct, refectory, two cisterns and a scriptorium can be seen.

4. Jericho

The ancient city of Jericho is thought to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. More than 20 layers of settlements have been uncovered by archaeologists at Jericho. Today it is located within the Palestinian West Bank and is still a thriving city. Jericho, the City of Palms is mentioned in the Old Testament in Joshua 6 where the city walls of Jericho fall. In the New Testament we read of Zacchaeus climbing a sycamore tree in Jericho in order to get a better look at Jesus as he entered the city surrounded by town’s people who came out to greet him. Today visitors to Jericho can see the famous sycamore tree; the Spring of Elisha and the site of old Jericho called Tel es-Sultan, a UNESCO archaeological excavation site. Jericho is not far from St. George’s Monastery and the Mount of Temptation, two more great Dead Sea region attractions.

5. Qasr al-yahud

This is the traditional site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17). The site is on the Jordan River in the Palestinian West Bank northeast of the Dead Sea. Christian pilgrims have been coming to this site for hundreds of years as you can see by the ancient graffiti scratched into the marble stairs which lead down into the water. Today the site has been made accessible to visitors with a Visitor Center, gift shop and café. There are also railings to help people get in and out of the water. It is possible to get baptized here just as Jesus was.

6. Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve

einot-tzukim-nature-reserveEinot Tzukim encompasses the natural spring of Ein Fashkna. It is accessed from route 90 about 3km south of Qumran. The reserve is at the bottom of an escarpment and is home to 150 natural springs, some fresh water and others saline. The reserve is visited by thousands of birds each year and is inhabited by many desert animals and insects. There are many palm trees, reeds and bulrushes all of which have been left in their natural state. Within the reserve are the ruins of an ancient Second Temple settlement and dwellings have been found as well as  structures used to produce balsm perfume. Visitors can explore the section of the reserve which is open to the public or take a guided tour through the Hidden Reserve which can only be seen with a guide for conservation reasons.

7. AHAVA Visitor Center

AHAVA is a world famous brand of Dead Sea health and beauty products. The products use Dead Sea mud, salts and minerals taken from the Dead Sea. The Visitor Center is located in Mitzpe Shalem just across the road from Mineral Beach on the shore of the Dead Sea. Here you can buy Dead Sea product at the cheapest prices and also see an explanatory film about the production process. There is also a snack bar and souvenir store. Professional consultants are on hand to tell you about the AHAVA products and recommend these special cosmetics, creams, soaps and other products. It is possible to take a free tour of the AHAVA factory.

8. Dead Sea Works

On the edge of the southern end of the Dead Sea, near Sedom is a large factory used to produce potash, magnesium, bromine, chloride and other minerals from the Dead Sea. The company began as the Palestine Potash Company in 1930 but today is called the Dead Sea Works. It is the world’s 7th largest supplier of potash which is used in fertilizers and other products. The potash is not actually taken from the Dead Sea but rather from a method of solar evaporation in two meter deep evaporation ponds on the water. It is possible to arrange a tour of the factory by contacting Dead Sea Works through their website.

9. Neve Zohar

Visit this settlement at the junction of route 31 and route 90 on the shore of the Dead Sea. It has fewer than 100 neve-zoharinhabitants and is the lowest village in the world. Neve Zohar was established in the 1960s to accommodate the workers of the Dead Sea factory. The settlement gets its name from the Zohar stream which runs through a valley into the Dead Sea. You can visit the settlement museum Beit HaYotser or the House of the Potter where items relating to the Dead Sea are on display. Also at this location there is a restaurant, spa and several hot mineral springs. Take the 3km hike up Mezad Zohar for great views and to visit the remains of a Nabataean fortress.

10. Wadi Boqeq

There are many hiking opportunities in the Dead Sea region as well as companies which will take you into the desert on jeep excursions, overnight stays in a Bedouin tent, snappling or exploring the natural wonder of the region’s flora and fauna. Wadi Boqeq is one of three wadis (gorges/small canyons) on the shore of the Dead Sea which is fed by year-round springs. Sometimes the water barely manages to flow all the way to the western shore of the Dead Sea and other times there can even be flooding. You can go hiking in Wadi Boqeq (or Wadi Bokek) and follow the natural spring enjoying the rich green vegetation growing on the sides of the wadi. Find the hike trail by crossing through a tunnel beneath route 90 from Ein Bokek where most of the Dead Sea hotels are located. At the end of an hour’s hike you can cool off in the waterfall and pool of fresh water.