We’ve said it before, but the Dead Sea is a whole lot more than just floating! Yes, you can go into the water and have the strange and glorious feeling of never sinking, but there is a lot more things to do here as well, including canyons, oases and epic hikes.
However, we recently found out about another unique and quirky attraction: the Dead Sea Tree. In the middle of the Israeli Dead Sea is a salt island with one lonely tree growing there. One look online and you can see that this is a pretty stunning place to visit, but it wasn’t too obvious exactly where to find it. We knew it was in Israel, that it was a long way from the shore, but there are hundreds of salt islands and a lot of misinformation out there.
With Cat’s love of swimming, the challenge was on.
Getting to the Dead Sea Tree
The Dead Sea Tree looks deceptively close. In any other body of water, it would be a straightforward swim and you’d be there relatively quickly.
However, the salinity (saltiness) of the Dead Sea makes it incredibly hard going. Your legs are always being thrown out of the water, making swimming on your front pretty hard. Swimming on your back isn’t easy either and you’ll find yourself doing a lot with your arms to compensate.
The wind can also really pick up, throwing you off course. It took Cat 20 minutes to swim over and she’s a pretty strong swimmer! Once there you can jump on the island and marvel at that iconic lonely tree.
Tips for swimming in the Dead Sea
I found that the easiest way to swim to the tree was to do a mix of on my front and back. I’d go on my back for a while pushing the water forwards, at first it seemed quite quick but after a while I realised the wind was pushing me in the other direction and it got tiring!
After attempting to swim on my front (as I normally do) I realised it was a recipe for disaster. I started to flip over, narrowly avoiding a face - and more importantly eye - full of the world’s saltiest water!
The trick for me was to sort of run along the water with my legs pointing downwards and just using my arms to move. Did it look ridiculous? Of course! But I got there so I didn’t care!
How to find the Dead Sea Tree
Where is the Dead Sea Tree?
In Israel, there are two main areas that the majority of people visit along the Dead Sea - Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi. We knew pretty early on that it would be Ein Bokek as there were huge hotels in the background of photographs we had seen. When we started looking, we realised it was near the Leonardo Plaza.
The way to get to the Dead Sea Tree is from the Segregated Beach, there’s a large concrete pier type area that leads into the sea and you can step off directly into the water. The location is on google maps below. You can see it from the shore and at first glance it doesn’t look too far. The hard part is getting to it in all that salty water!
There is paid parking in the beach car park, or if there are spaces along the main road, around five minutes walk away, they are free.
Best time to visit the Dead Sea Tree
As you can imagine, this tree is popular. As it is a public beach, going in the middle of the day will mean you’ll have to share it with a lot of people. We also advise not to fly your drone if there are people around. On our first attempt to get to the tree we gave up knowing it was way too busy to fly the drone, this was around 3pm.
After all that effort, no one wants to leave quickly. Expect anyone heading there to stick around for a while.
It’s best to visit on a weekday as it is predominantly popular with visiting Israelis. On our second visit we went in the late afternoon (around 5.30pm) and it was much, much quieter. There were still two people on the island which we decided was as good as we were going to get and luckily I was able to photoshop them out : )
If you have the opportunity we would recommend visiting in the early morning once the sun is above the mountains. It is unlikely anyone will be there before 9am, but we can’t guarantee it!
Read next: 10 things you must do in Jerusalem
Where to stay in the Dead Sea
The key thing when booking any hotel in the Dead Sea is to ensure that you are booking the correct country! Tripadvisor especially loves to recommend options in Jordan when you search Ein Bokek, so make sure you don’t accidentally book the wrong Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, otherwise you’ll find yourself having to make a trip to another country.
Booking a hotel that offers food is a good way to go in the Dead Sea. We loved Taj Mahal restaurant, but other than that there are very few places to eat (a McDonalds and Aroma - the coffee chain).
Crowne Plaza Dead Sea - Ein Bokek
Head and shoulders above the rest, the Crowne Plaza is the place to go when visiting the Dead Sea. The rooms here are plush, comfortable and come with stunning views of the sea itself. There is a beach literally in front of the hotel, so you won’t have to walk far to float or have a swim. Ask for a renovated room.
We also stayed in Neve Zohar but found that even though it was half the price, it was around a tenth as good and we wish we had just stayed the whole time in Ein Bokek.
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Are you planning a trip to the Dead Sea? What is your favourite thing to do in the South of Israel? Let us know in the comments below!