Hammamat Ma’in – Visitors to the Dead Sea should also take advantage of another nearby wonder, Hammamat Ma’in (Ma’in Hot Springs). The hot springs and baths of Hammamat Ma’in have been enjoyed for therapeutic and leisure pursuits for thousands of years.
In the Bible: King Herod frequented the healing springs at Ma’in (when these waters were known as Baaras) and built a villa at nearby Mukawer. According to tradition, it was at that villa that Salome danced and John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14: 1-12).
Popular with both locals and tourists alike, the springs are located 264 m below sea level in one of the most breathtaking desert oases in the world. Thousands of visiting bathers come each year to enjoy the mineral-rich waters of these hyper-thermal waterfalls. These falls originate from winter rainfalls in the highland plains of Jordan and eventually feed the 109 hot and cold springs in the valley. This water is heated to temperatures of up to 63° Celsius by underground lava fissures as it makes its way through the valley before emptying into the Zarqa River.
The springs, located on the edge of Wadi Mujib, feed the Dead Sea.
This site now is home to a modern spa resort, which provides a full range of spa services. For non-guests, there is an day-use fee to enter the complex. The main waterfall, which gushes over a cliff beneath the resort, ranges in temperature from 40° to 60° C (104-140° F). This is the most popular spot and is often full of families and young people enjoying the waters. There are hot pools and several smaller falls nearby as well.
Though its salutary effects aren’t as world-famous as those of the Dead Sea, Jordanians have long used the water bubbling and gushing throughout the Hamamat Ma’in (Ma’in Hot Springs) as a natural remedy for all manner of joint pain and skin conditions. Back when access to these thermal falls was unrestricted and free, locals used to brave the tortuous road from the cities to celebrate holidays with soaking and picnicking.
Surrounded by palm trees and dramatic travertine formations resulting from the interaction of spring water and the atmosphere, Ma’in Hot Springs is a lush canyon paradise in otherwise dry environs. The entire complex is comprised of 16 springs, which, due to their proximity to a large fault and consequent exposure to subterranean lava fissures, are some of the hottest in Jordan, hovering between 140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is what is known as “fossil groundwater,” and is rich in minerals. After gurgling up from the ground and crashing over escarpments, the flow eventually joins the Zarqa River, which itself is a tributary of the Jordan River.
While a substantial swath of the hot springs has been cordoned off for guests of a fancy resort built on the premises, everyone can access the public section for an entrance fee. A number of terraced pools are situated flush against the cliffside and are continuously filled by the waterfalls and springs. Most people relax and steam in the pools, but it’s also not uncommon to see matriarchs congregated directly under the falls, chatting and laughing as the warm water washes over their heads and shoulders.
These springs have been a revered part of the landscape for millennia. The entire mountainous stretch of land between the Dead Sea and Aqaba was referred to as “the land of Seir,” and the Bible includes references to the hot springs—of which there are approximately 109—founded therein. Many people believe that King Herod the Great himself enjoyed lounging in the therapeutic waters of the Ma’in Hot Springs, though this is difficult to verify. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that these thermal springs have been important to many groups over the years.