Note: This post was written in 2014.
The hotel staff in Jordan make everything happen. Through them you can book tours, taxis, get restaurant suggestions, and even mail your postcards (for cheaper than the cost of a stamp…somehow.) The Mariam Hotel’s staff in Madaba organized a taxi to pick us up the following day for a half-day tour by taxi. This was a quasi guided tour in that the destinations and time spent at each stop were predetermined, but we were on our own once we got out of the taxi to explore. The tour we picked took us to the Dead Sea and included stops at La Storia Tourism Complex, Mount Nebo, and The Church of Saints Lot and Procopius. The tour cost around 40JD ($56) in 2014, entrance fees not included.
Stop 1: La Storia Tourism Complex
La Storia is a strange tourist trap. Part wax museum, part gift shop, but wholly worth skipping if your taxi/tour operator will let you. The displays range from Biblical scenes to daily Jordanian life from days past. The best part of this stop was that we were able to add a piece to “The Kings Way” mosaic which is set to be the world’s largest mosaic. I believe the mosaic has since been completed, and may or may not be on display – it’s difficult to tell from their website.
Stop 2: Mount Nebo & The Church of Saint Lot and Saint Procopius
Said to be the mountain Moses/Prophet Musa climbed to see the Promised Land, Mt Nebo is a sacred location for followers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. On a clear day this site provides amazing views of the Dead Sea and even as far as Jericho in the West Bank of Palestine. As such, it’s definitely worth the stop even for the non-religious. There are some lovely ancient mosaics to view in the newly reopened Basilica of Moses and in the Church of the Saints.
The entrance fee was 1JD ($1.41) and included a visit to the Church—which is 2km away—as well.
Stop 3: Dead Sea – Amman Tourist Beach
The last stop in our day trip took us to the Amman Tourist Beach, which is one of the most popular spots to experience the Dead Sea. Entrance fee was 20JD ($28) for adults, 10JD ($14) for children. Changing rooms, restrooms, and showers are provided and were reasonably clean. The restaurant and swimming pools were under renovation when we went, but should be open again. You’ll see people in all sorts of swim wear, from bikinis to full burkas. No one seemed to pay much attention to anyone else’s attire though.
The Dead Sea was unlike any body of water I’ve ever swam in. The water is so salty that while you float effortlessly swimming is actually rather difficult. It felt almost oily on my skin and after awhile was a bit itchy. I’d read a warning about shaving before I visited, and I’d definitely recommend not shaving for 24 hours before getting in the water if your skin is even a little sensitive. You can also slather on some Dead Sea mud provided in buckets scattered around the beach, but I abstained since my legs were feeling irritated already.
We only stayed a little over an hour, but my group felt that was plenty of time. Then we were back on the road to our hotel in Madaba.