Desert is nearly half of Israel’s territory and it’s often just sand and rocks. Not here though. Makhtesh Ramon – this strange place in the middle of the Negev is one of the most unique and original spots created by nature in all of Israel – and yet – it’s so unknown! It took us only a day to see, but no doubt –if you have time – you can stay much longer.
Where to find it?
In the middle of nowhere actually. Negev Desert to be precise. In between Egypt in the West and Jordan in the East. Some 140 km north of Eilat, and not even 200 km south of Tel Aviv – it’s basically around the corner – no matter where (in Israel 😉 ) you are.
So was there a volcano once upon a time?
‘Makhtesh’ means crater in Hebrew – although in this case – it’s not a volcanic crater but a geological feature that will bring you straight to the Star Wars like landscape (or maybe moonscape?😉) of Tatooine.
Take a look:
Makhtesh is considered to be unique for Israel and Egypt. There are 6 other makhteshim in Israel and another two in Egypt.
Where a hard outer layer of rock covers softer rocks, erosion removes the softer minerals relatively quickly, and they are washed away from under the harder rock. The harder rocks eventually collapse under their own weight and a crater-like valley structure is formed.(1)
And so it’s been there – eroding quietly – for some 200 million years now – drained by two rivers. Its multicolor sands, rock formations and fossils underneath your feet will just take your breath away.
Makhtesh Ramon is the largest of all the makteshim in the world – over 40km long, 2–10km wide and over 500m deep.
Grand Canyon of the Middle East
Some call it Grand Canyon of the Middle East and it’s not that much of an exaggeration. I was stunned by how magnificent it looked.
With its cycling, hiking or horse riding trails and of course the desert vibe this place will simply mesmerize you. It’s vast and empty and cold.
Well ok, it’s not ACTUALLY cold, but it is, in fact, one of the coldest places in Israel. (Which is really good to know:) ) Mostly due to its height above the sea level – ca 900m.
The key thing – not to get lost
In the city of Mitzpe Ramon – located on the very rim of the crater – you’ll find the Ramon Visitor Center. You can further learn all the information about the area and get the detailed maps you’ll need if you plan your hike around the place. Or a sleepover in the desert. Or some off-road route through this cosmic territory.
Another interesting spot to see is the Spice Route Quarter. It’s actually an artists’ quarter with the buildings that were once used by the military and now became home to the studios, cafes, and boutique hostels. Hippy vibes all around.
The tanks, the shots and the camels
No need to be too alarmed by those interesting signs on the road. Some will be informing you about the tanks that might cross and some about the shots that you might hear ahead by either side of the road. There are military areas all around and those guys just like to keep it straightforward 😉
Unlike the camels. They just wander – every day is the same.
You’ll also pas some other interesting buildings along the way. Just go straight – do not stray;)
Have you met an ibex? Those guys are regulars in the Negev Desert.
If you plan to stay here a little bit longer – there’s a nice hotel – Beresheet Hotel – some 3000 NIS/night and you’re good to go.
Wandering around this amazing place we came across this thing. It’s nothing fancy, but this sculpture just made an impression. It just stands there – not looking down;)
More practical information
you can download the map and all the essential info from HERE
there’s no fee to enter or to look around the crater,
you have to pay to enter the Visitor Center – 29 NIS/adult or 15 NIC/child