There are few sensations quite so strange as the one you'll experience when you take a dip in the Dead Sea. The waters of this vast lake, on the border between Jordan and Israel, 400 metres below sea level, are almost ten times saltier than the sea, resulting in a buoyancy that leaves you bobbing like a cork and means that trying to swim even a few strokes is like engaging in a battle with the elements. The up-side is that the combination of mineral-rich water and oxygen-rich atmosphere here are a perfect cocktail for indulging your skin.
The water and mud are rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, bromide, sodium chloride and other mineral salts, and the evaporation caused by the hot, dry climate filters out ultraviolet B rays, lowering the risk of sunburn. Unsurprisingly, then, the Dead Sea has become a favourite destination among thousands of people suffering with skin problems as well as with others who simply want to enjoy a few days at one of the luxury spas on the shores of the desert lake.
From a therapeutic standpoint, the Dead Sea treatments can be beneficial for problems as wide ranging as psoriasis, dermatitis, arthritis, rheumatism, stress, fatigue, allergies and muscle aches. Some of these treatments take from two to four weeks at one of the specialist centres, such as the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, a four-star hotel complex complete with full medical centre on the Jordan side of the lake.
For those just interested in smoother, moisturised skin, it's probably enough to spend a few hours bathing in the salty water, applying the dark mud found along the bank and letting it dry like a skin-mask in the sunshine. Of course, this amateur approach can be complemented by a wide range of relaxation and beauty therapies available at the many high-class spas set along the banks of the inland sea.
The most exclusive of these is the Anantara Spa at the five-star Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea: here you can indulge in a Thai massage, an Ayurvedic treatment or a comprehensive two or four day programme of beauty, slimming, detoxification and cellulite treatments.
Just a few steps away, The Spa at the Jordan Valley Marriott, offers a range of day-long treatments where it would be a sin to miss out on the body scrub with Dead Sea salts combined with mud and essential oils. Here, you can also treat yourself to a romantic spa session with your partner.
Close by, too, is the five-star Movenpick Dead Sea, whose award-winning 6,000 square metre Zara Spa facility offers relaxation and beauty packages lasting from one to ten days, as well as a therapy centre, with multilingual medical personnel specialised in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, particularly of skin and bone disorders.
And when you're done, don't forget to bring back some of the carefully prepared and packaged lotions and potions, muds and salts for yourself and as gifts: your skin will thank you and so will your friends!
Take a flight to Amman, Jordan, and the Dead Sea is around an hour's drive away.
Jordan Tourism Board