I'M covered in mud, from head to toe, posing rather awkwardly for a group selfie on the beach.

Muddy selfies are obligatory along this stretch of beach at the lowest point on earth, where the deepest, saltiest lake divides Israel and Jordan.

The water is flat and calm, and nothing lives in it, which I guess is why they call it the Dead Sea. Within minutes of wading into the warm, buoyant water, my skin starts to tingle. The salt content is so high it gets into every tiny cut and blemish, my skin feels oily but great. You have to sit back into the Dead Sea, then you can't help but float. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it's a lovely experience and leaves my skin silky and glowing.

The surface and shores of the Dead Sea are 429 metres below sea level. People have bathed here since Biblical times; it was a place of refuge for King David, was one of the world's first 'health resorts' (for Herod the Great), and has supplied a variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to 21st century cosmetics.

The Dead Sea contains a rich source of minerals which, combined with its high salt content, has various health benefits, not least for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Don't let anyone tell you that the filtered sunlight means you won't burn though - I still needed sun cream. The black mineral mud on the shores soothes and repairs skin, and can be purchased in sachets at the spa and hotel complex overlooking the Dead Sea.

I'm staying at the elegant Daniel Dead Sea Hotel, which has outdoor and indoor pools and the Shizen Spa, where I enjoy a relaxing mud treatment. It feels like having hot chocolate smeared over me, which can't be a bad thing.

Later, we head to the nearby Taj Mahal restaurant for a Bedouin-style feast. Sitting on cushions, we tuck into a tapas-style array of delicious dishes. Israeli cuisine incorporates Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes; from street food to restaurant fare you'll find falafel, hummus, shakshouka, couscous and tahini, with an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, including sticky dates and juicy pomegranates. There's nothing quite like starting the day with an Israeli buffet breakfast; salads, pickles, fried aubergine, meatballs and pastries among other kosher delights.

Next morning I'm at Kfar Hanokdim in the Judean desert. An oasis shaded by palm trees, it has a Bedouin camp for holidaymakers, but the main attraction is camel-riding. Having never ridden a camel before, I nervously climb onto the gentle beast taking a breather on the sand. As it stands I lunge forward, clinging to the saddle, but once we're up and off, a camel trail is a great way to see the desert.

Nearby is Masada, King Herod's mountaintop fortress, which we reach by cable car. Herod fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE, and the palace became a symbol of Jewish heroism in the revolt against the Romans. A siege by Roman troops ended in the mass suicide of 960 resistance rebels and their families there in AD73. Our friendly guide, Motti Saar, revealed he was an extra in the 1981 mini-series Masada, starring Peter O'Toole.

Today Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising the remains of ancient buildings, including bathhouses, a synagogue, barracks and a Byzantine church. A Roman attack ramp can be climbed on foot. The dramatic clifftop offers panoramic views of the desert and the Dead Sea.

Later we take a jeep tour to Mount Sodom, where mounds of salt lie among the mountains, and visit Qumran national park where, in 1947, a Bedouin shepherd found seven ancient scrolls in a cave. It felt moving to be immersed in Biblical history, looking out at the caves, dotted along the mountains, where hundreds of additional Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, including books of the Old Testament, written on goat skin, hidden in jars for 2,000 years.

On the eastern edge of the Judean Desert is Ein Gedi nature reserve, home to over 900 species of trees and flowers, and a kibbutz. A group of people set up home in the desert in the 1960s, and now the kibbutz has 230 members and a hotel. One of the founders, originally from Vancouver, shows us around the site and offers us a plateful of dates, freshly grown in her little garden. Papaya, figs, mangos and bananas all grow on the kibbutz, watered by mountain springs.

With the Dead Sea below us and the Judean mountains above, there are centuries of history ingrained in this earth, at its lowest point on the planet.

Emma Clayton flew to Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, with Easyjet. Visit easyjet.com

Daniel Dead Sea Hotel (tamareshotels.com/daniel-dead-sea-hotel) offers rooms from £118 per room, per night.

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