Israel is a small country but still, within its 22,000 square km, it has different regions and landscapes. The Golan Heights the Galilee and Haifa in the North, Tel Aviv, Bat Yam and Rishon Le’ Zion in the center, and Eilat in the South.
The Negev region covers more than half of Israel, over 13,000 square km. It’s a rocky desert with dusty mountains and deep craters. Its eastern side runs 180 km along the Jordanian border from Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, to the tip of the Dead Sea.
Although a desert usually sounds hot and gloomy, the Negev is bursting with activities, beautiful landscapes and, varied climates. Luckily Israel’s size allows for day trips from Tel Aviv or short weekend getaways. You can choose whatever works for you – a long stay to wind down or short visit to take it in but still get back in time to the central coast climate.
So, what is there to do in the Negev? What you really should be asking is ‘What isn’t there to do in the Negev?’ With blue skies on our side, let’s explore:
The Ramon Crater. This is the world’s largest ‘erosion cirque’, a formation that is 40 km long and 2-10 km wide running 500 meters deep. The area of the crater forms Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve. Here you can hike, drive on marked trails by ATV and camp to see the night sky with very little light pollution. Due to the dry and usually warm weather, you will find a variety of marathons and races here during the year.
Maktesh Ramon is also popular for spotting wild animals native to the region. Plan a long weekend to drive down, set up a tent in a camping spot, and explore the area safely. You won’t regret it!
This is the ultimate desert experience. Explore the desert at a desert-inn built of mud and all-natural material. The hospitality at the Khan welcomes you to sleep in one large communal tent or private huts and wake up to the beautiful colors and sounds of the tranquil desert. From camel rides to jeep trips on the hills, you can get a guide or venture on your own. Here you will truly feel like a local.
Historically, Khan Beerotayim is a grove of giant Date trees and two ancient wells going back to biblical times.
Yes, this is actually a thing. Just like snowboarding, but much less of a hassle. No need for special clothing or venturing out in extremely cold temperatures. Here, in shorts and a t-shirt, you get on a sand-board, ride down the golden dunes, and then chill out in the shade with herbal-spiced tea and snacks to unwind. This does not require any overhead or prep work. Call to reserve, rent a car or take public transportation and you’re all set.
Interested in archaeology and history Shivta is a great opportunity to see both an ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This classic Nabataean town on the ancient spice route was once a way-station for pilgrims on the way to the Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula. Roman ruins have been unearthed here and an intricate water system is displayed in the dry desert surroundings.
If you are interested in history and archaeology you should definitely make your way here and see how in ancient times innovation sprouted in Israel.
Put on a hat and sandals, take a couple of bottles of water and explore Israel’s Negev desert! You’ll experience history, enjoy the tranquillity, and participate in activities out of the ordinary.