From what I gathered by reading on google about Dead Sea swimming, the popular statement of 'You can never drown in in the Dead Sea' isn't technically true. Its dangerous trying to 'swim' normally and get your head under water. That's when the saline water of the sea enters your nose and eyes and it can be fatal.

My question is how dangerous is it really to put your head under water?

  1. Is putting your head under water an absolute no (accident is guaranteed in such a case)?
  2. Can your wear a swimming goggle and hold your breath to get around the risks and manage to occasionally pop your head underwater for brief periods?

Swimming without getting your head under doesn't seem to be much fun.

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    Most people who swim in the Dead Sea just enjoy the unique experience of floating around. If you want to swim normally, Israel has plenty of beaches where you can do that. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 13:20
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    salt water in your nose and eyes is not fatal. Salt water in your lungs is though :-( Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 17:35
  • to check how much it will sting, just put water in a large bowl, add a lot of salt and mix it for some minutes. If the salt dissolved, add more until you have solid salt on the bottom of the bowl. Now close (or don't, but try closed first) your eyes and put your face into that bowl. The dead sea won't sting more than that. If that's acceptable to you, and you're also a good enough swimmer to turn your face up when your butt and legs are pushed up, then you're good to dive in the dead sea (hint: you won't dive very deep).
    – Andrei
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 14:18

3 Answers 3


I think that ultimately it is up to you to do whatever you feel like is safer for you. Given a choice nobody, be it here on TSE or elsewhere, will (want to) make this decision for you. What I can do however is to give you a few pointers to help you make an informed decision.

Sinking Might Be Hard, Drowning Not so Much

First things first the Dead Sea is denser than fresh water and the sea water you might be used to, so objects will float easier than in the other two scenarios. This however also means that objects will have a stronger force acting on them pushing them towards the surface. It follows that putting your head underwater will be harder than what you are used to in less salty water. This however does not mean that you cannot, or won't, drown. It just means that sinking is harder.

Drowning indeed can happen because once turned stomach-down the head will be pushed in the water as the legs are pushed to the surface. Moreover turning back to stomach-up will be harder than in less salty water. This post on io9 puts it in simple, yet effective, words:

Floating on their backs, a person's face is lifted well clear of the water. If they turn over, or if they trip on their way into the sea and fall face down, then the entire back of their body is clear, but their face is pushed into the sea. Anyone who has been in a pool knows that, in regular water, the easiest way to lift the head up and out of the water is to force the feet and lower body down. Easy in fresh water, or in the relatively saltless ocean. Harder when the water keeps forcing every part of the body up. Because the water is dense, it's hard for a person to push an arm into it and turn their body over.

Still Thinking of Swimming?

Arguably the best piece of advice one can give is for you to consider your swimming skills. Are you a strong swimmer? Are you confident in your ability to spin around to a safer position when in trouble? Are you used to not panicking in and under the water? Once again only you can answer these questions. It is worthy to note that overconfidence in and around water tends to be quite dangerous. If you want to try this please do it with someone you deem capable of getting you out of whatever dangerous situation might arise supervising you closely.

Finally here is a quote from the Dead Sea WikiTravel wepage:



  • Beware! Several people drown every year in the Dead Sea because they do not obey the rule: Only float on your back. Accidents happen when someone tries to swim normally (stomach first) in the water - the legs will float better than usual and the head will be submerged. Note that this applies to weaker swimmers, and specifically to attempts to swim breaststroke. Breaststroke is also made difficult by the fact that the legs are raised too high in the water to provide normal forward motion when kicking. Moreover, the salt in the water stings cuts and causes great pain if it comes in contact with the eyes, adding to the panic if one's head is under water. A strong swimmer can easily swim freestyle; if you plan to try this, goggles are essential and should be tightly fitted. Although safe for a strong swimmer, and an unusual sensation because of the buoyancy of the water, it is not an undertaking most people are likely to sustain for long. Even with the eyes protected by goggles, water will get into the nose and sting, and onto the lips and inevitably into the mouth. It tastes disgusting.
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    I am not a bad swimmer but it seems if the water is gonna sting if it enters the nose then it is certainly a bad idea and pretty pointless to go under.
    – Gaurav
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 9:50
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    +1 very interesting but I am still left wondering about one aspect of the question. “The salt of the Dead Sea also contributes to drowning deaths because even a few swallows of it destroys the electrolyte balance in the body. People poison themselves with salt.” That seems a little hard to believe.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:30
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    @Relaxed Excessive ingestion of salt can indeed cause salt poisoning. For example here is a documented case of death by seawater ingestion during an exorcism session. Moreover, salt poisoning in infants is not uncommon. So I'm not saying that drinking the water from the Dead See will kill. Rather it can. I'll nevertheless remove that part of the quote since I feel it is misleading. Thanks for pointing it out.
    – JoErNanO
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 16:54
  • It seems that any adult with some swimming skills shouldn't have any problem. I don't see why all this worries. Of course I wouldn't free dive in it :) Commented Mar 5, 2020 at 8:47


My husband and I swam in the Dead Sea yesterday. We were very careful, but my husband while floating on his back got water splashed up his nose. He had headache pain that was so instant and intense I had to lead him over to the shower area and help him rinse off. He couldn’t walk for half an hour because the pain was so overwhelming. We went immediately back to the hotel. The headache subsided after about an hour, but he still has an on-and-off headache today, the day after.

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    Sorry about your experience. Hope he feels better now. This is an incredibly useful piece of advice. Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 15:48

I stupidly brought my knees up to my chest while floating on my back in the Dead Sea, resulting in a backward somersault underwater. I had to work to resurface and also to start breathing again. This was, to say the least, scary and dangerous. I'm pretty sure I got more water in my sinuses than anywhere else but it took a few showers and a few hours of sipping about two litres of fresh water before I lost the incredible headache and shakes this dunking left me. I was lucky my chemistry degree-holding boyfriend had some idea what to do as we were on the Jordan side and there were no lifeguards around.

  • This detours around answering the question well, imho.
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 14:20
  • How exactly did you manage to resurface?
    – Gaurav
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 4:39

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