Mitzpe Ramon has managed to become a lodestone for travellers seeking to enjoy the peace of the desert, far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. On the one hand it is distant from any population center and offers magnificent views of the Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon מכתש רמון), while on the other it's got a variety of lodgings ranging from luxury hotels to desert tents, as well as various eco-tourism options, new-age style activities and numerous trails for hikers, bike riders and Jeep drivers.
Founded in the 1950s as a military outpost and then as a waypoint station for local miners and road workers, Mitzpe evolved into a small town when newly arrived Moroccan immigrants were unceremoniously placed there and told that they would "be living an hour and half from Tel Aviv." Over time, various other groups, such as strains of the 1990s Russian immigration, have also been placed in Mitzpe Ramon.
The town remains small and somewhat struggling, although in the 2000s a variety of new age hippies and eco entrepreneurs have succeeded in turning the ailing town into something of a hip eco leave-the-city-behind destination. At the same time, there continues to be dissonance between some of the town's original residents and the more recent arrivals.
Today, Mitzpe acts as a stopping point for travellers going from the North of Israel to Eilat as well as catering to soldiers stationed at the nearby military bases. The town has also developed into a unique eco-tourist destination as it boasts the highest air quality in Israel and a series of breathtaking landscapes. Mitzpe also provides a haven for various kinds of performance artists, new-age healers, desert enthusiasts and the like.
The town's name, literally meaning "Ramon Lookout", refers of course to the Ramon crater stretching beneath it. The crater's name, in turn, derives from the Roman caravans passing through it on the Incense Route.
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The Israeli Negev is hot and dry, especially in the summer. However, the Negev Highland – whose southern edge is Mitzpe Ramon – has occasional cool breezes that make the weather more bearable, although this is less common inside the crater. Additionally, the low humidity is a big advantage of these areas, making them feel sometimes no hotter than central Israel.
Rains are few in the area and occur only during winter. However, when they do, they can create flash floods in some of the streams, so travellers should be wary of them. The rest of the time, no water flows in the streams, and there aren't any natural sources of water inside the crater. The only exception is the Saharonim spring, and even there, the water doesn't show above the ground, and only feeds a single, large moonseed shrub.
Additionally, almost every year there's a little snow in Mitzpe Ramon, though usually not enough to actually pile up. This is a huge attraction for the locals and sometimes even for visitors from the rest of Israel, a country with only few snows that don't always spread beyond Mount Hermon in the far north, and even that only at the peak of winter. As a rule of thumb, snow usually falls at Mitzpe Ramon only when it also snows in the Upper Galilee mountains, and only if the storm clouds also spread to the central Negev.
Makhtesh Ramon is one of the only seven Erosion Craters in the world – the others also being in the Israeli Negev as well as Sinai – and the largest of them at that. The formation of such craters begins with layering of rocks, with the bottom layer being soft (sandstone, in this case) and the topmost hard (limestone). Later, tectonic movements create ripples in the landscape, forming mountainous crests separated by valleys. The mountaintops, covered in hard limestone, are eroded away in time, revealing the soft rock beneath. Rainwater gradually washes the sandstone away, creating valleys that break out through the tough perimeter of the crest. In this process, the mountain is gradually emptied from within, leaving only the cliffs on its sides (made of hard limestone) while its entire content has been washed away.
The sandstone inside the crater displays in some regions in beautiful colors. Additionally, the formation of the crater has unearthed some more ancient volcanic rocks in some places, creating dark, sharp hills that stand in beautiful contrast with the surrounding soft, yellowish ground. Also, the Ramon Mountain at the western edge of the crater, being 1033m above sea level, is the highest point in the Negev.
Flora and fauna in the area is of the common species of the Israeli deserts. Animals include many ibexes (who frequent the town edges looking for food) and rock hyraxes, as well as the more rare foxes, jackals, wolves and hyenas. Some larger wildlife include the Asian and African wild asses; a very small number of leopards used to live in the area, but they have not been sighted in years. Several types of ravens are fairly common, as well as Tristram's starling (an invasive species that came from the Judaean Desert). More rare birds include a few types of vultures, found mainly in the northern cliffs.
Plants in the area are mostly limited to small shrubs such as saltbush and capparis. Thorn trees (acacia) can be found in the main streams, where water flows during rains. In the small ravines where garbage drains from the town and quarries, invasive species such as the tree tobacco have taken root.
The visitor center has exhibitions with detailed explanations of the geology and flora of the area, while the nearby Bio Ramon holds some individuals of the local wildlife species.
The western part of the crater, including Mount Ramon and the Lotz cisterns, can be reached by route 171 that splits off west from highway 40 on HaRukhot junction, about 5 km north of Mitzpe Ramon.
- Operated by Metropoline Transportation (website only in Hebrew):
- The most common way to reach Mitzpe Ramon: lines 60, 64, 65 depart from Be'er Sheva every 20-40 min 06:30-21:00 on weekdays, as well as Friday until about 16:00 and on Saturday evenings. These lines have several stops in the town. Line 65 is an express bus that does not stop at towns and facilities on the way.
- Line 55 from Dimona and Yerucham.
- Line 660 from Tel Aviv via Yerucham. Runs once a day each direction.
- Operated by Egg'ed:
- Line 395 going between Tel Aviv and Eilat, departs only a few times a week. It travels through the crater, but there are no bus stops in there.
- Lines 392, 382 going between Be'er Sheva and the Eilat area, departs only a few times a day. It also travels through the crater.
By foot, bicycle or Jeep
See map below.
All the following trails go through army firing zones. Entry is allowed only on Saturdays or when coordinated in advance except for all parts of the Israel National Trail (INT), which is accessible at all times.
- The INT goes through Mitzpe Ramon and the crater. Details can be found below.
- Hiking between Mitzpe Ramon and Sde Boker should take 2-3 days. The INT is one way to do it. The Khava Stream is a highly recommended addition to the trip.
- Hiking from the Arava (eastern Negev), the crater can be reached in 2-3 days through the Nekarot stream or the INT. Best to acquire a travel map. Standard maps by the Survey of Israel can be bought on-line but are available only in Hebrew; number 17 is the one you want, as it includes all of the area between the central Arava and the eastern part of the crater.
- From the Arava by Jeep or bicycle, the crater can be reached through the Nekarot stream (red-marked dirt road starting at highway 90 just in front of Ein Yahav) or the Incense Route (black dirt road departing from highway 90 about 2 km south of Tzofar). Each of them is about 70 km long (between highways 90 and 40).
The town is best covered by foot, car or bike. The long distance buses that come through make a small circuit round the town, so it's also possible to use them. Taxis are virtually non existent. However, crossing the entire town by foot takes no more than 30 minutes.
Within the crater, your choices are: slowly and painstakingly on foot, bone-jarringly by 4×4, or, oddly enough, by llama hired out from the Alpaca Farm. Consult the Do section below and the Guided Tours subsection.
- 1 Alpaca Farm (Road-signed from the town center), ☎ , (mobile), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The largest of its kind outside of South America, the farm houses llamas and alpacas the visitors can pet and even ride. The farm also offers bed & breakfast rooms, contains a souvenir shop selling alpaca-related products, and conducts paid tours riding alpaca. Entry and guided tour of the farm: ₪25 for ages 3 and above, ₪20 for students, senior citizen and disabled people (certificate required).
- 2 Ilan Ramon Visitor Center (On route 40 at the southern edge of town, clearly signed), ☎ . 08:00-16:00, during DST 08:00-17:00 on all weekdays, closes 1 hour earlier on Fridays. Renovated in memory of the first Israeli astronaut, whose surname happened to be Ramon, visitors to the center walk through several exhibition rooms. The first ones are dedicated to the memory of Illan Ramon and the crew of space shuttle Columbia, as well as to Ramon's son, Asaf, who died as a military pilot in a training accident. The following rooms are dedicated to the crater – its geology, wildlife and history – and contains an impressive 3D exhibition, showing very clearly the process by which the crater formed. ₪29 for adults, ₪15 for children and senior, ₪23 for students; discounts for large groups. Ticket includes Bio Ramon (see below).
- 3 Bio Ramon (Facing the Visitor Center), ☎ . 08:00-16:00, during DST 08:00-17:00 on all weekdays, closes 1 hour earlier on Fridays. A museum showcasing the wildlife of the desert and the crater. The rich collection of desert plants and animals displayed is divided into two parts: an indoor interpretation center and an outdoor area reconstructing the Negev desert landscape, with desert loess, hamada, sand, cliffs, riverbeds and even a small spring. Entry included in the Visitor Center ticket.
- 4 Ramon Crater. Mitzpe Ramon's biggest sight, Machtesh Ramon is 500 m deep, 40 km long and 10 km at its widest. The geological erosion that formed it created geological formations unlike any others. Complete with a magnificent panorama, it presents a fascinating story of geomorphologic evolution. Prominent viewpoints from Mitzpe Ramon include:
- 5 The Albert Promenade. A trail decorated with impressive environmental sculptures, starting from the Visitor Center and going along the edge of the crater. In its middle is a "bird balcony" which hangs over the crater and offers the best view around. The paved trail is fairly accessible for the disabled, and beyond it a dirt path goes on along the edge to Har Gamal (Mount Camel) – a small observation platform atop a rock resembling a camel.
- 6 View point from highway 40. On a small lay-by just where the road passes the town and starts descending into the crater. Offers a great view. Also, it very conveniently faces towards the east, making it a great spot to watch the sunrise.
- 7 Har Gamal Viewpoint (Sunset Point) (very west of town). Great for sunset if you, for example, stay in The Green Backpackers. Best time is 17:30 in March (Golden Hour).
- Additional viewpoints outside of Mitzpe Ramon are described in section Lookout points.
- 8 Outdoor Desert Sculpture Park. The park contains several large sculptures erected near the crater's edge. The park is on the trail leaving from the small JNF grove; turn to the grove from the central traffic circle of the town, then go on past it on the dirt road (accessible to any vehicle) until you see the sculptures on your right. The dirt road itself goes on along the cliff for about 20 km after that, and is fit for bicycles and jeeps.
- 9 Astronomical Observatory (Drive towards the Alpaca farm, then go on along the road instead of turning to the farm). The Wise Observatory, far enough from the town to avoid light pollution, is remotely-operated by the Tel Aviv University. The facility is unmanned so really there isn't much to see or do, except watch the structure from the outside.
- Treks, bicycle trips and jeep tours of various lengths can be arranged in and around the crater. There are many strange rock formations in odd colors to be seen, as well as desert animals including the nearly tame ibexes who congregate around tourists, looking for handouts. Note that feeding them is prohibited as it threatens the already-endangered species.
- Star gazing and meteor showers – The Mitzpe Ramon vicinity is considered one of the best areas in Israel for watching the night sky, and is even a candidate for nomination as an UNESCO Starlight Reserve. A great place to watch meteor showers, while local tourist businesses conduct special astronomy activities.
- Desert Archery, ☎ . A golf-like game where you shoot arrows towards targets while hiking through desert terrain. Lots of fun!
In the town
- 1 HadaSaar Natural Living, Har Boker st. 10 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Hadas & Saar's vegetarian restaurant, which also contains a small store for hippie clothing and accessories, every now and then holds lectures, movie nights, performances and the like.
- 2 Mitzpe Ramon Jazz Club, Har Boker st. 8/2 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ . Tu-Sa 21:00-02:00. A performance house with a pretty busy schedule. Unfortunately their website is only in Hebrew (although Google will translate the page), but you can try contacting them and ask about upcoming performances, or simply show up and enjoy whatever you get.
- April – the Passover Holiday: Tourism businesses in Mitzpe Ramon are well prepared for the peak Israeli tourist season and will offer all sorts of guided tours, festivals, performances and the like. Best to check with the Jazz Club as well as Hangar Adama for festivals and culture events, and at the Field School for guided hikes into the crater. Also consult the various tour guide businesses. Additionally, this is one of the few times in the year that entry is permitted to the wilderness areas of Mount Ariff and Mount Karkom, just south of the crater, for the benefit of hikers and travelers.
- June – the Israeli Acrobalance Convention at Hangar Adama, taking place on the Jewish holiday of Shavuoth.
- August and December – Meteor Showers: Mitzpe Ramon, being in one of the least light-polluted areas in Israel, accommodates hundreds or sometimes thousands of visitors at the peaks of the Perseid and Leonid meteor showers. The Field School, operated by the Israeli Society for Nature, always offers astronomy related activities at these times.
- October and December – the Sukkot and Hanukkah Holidays: Being popular vacation times for the Israelis, during the holidays the tourism businesses of the city will also offer various activities.
In the wild
The Ramon Crater is an amazing place to go hiking. It offers many one-day hikes and some multiple-day hikes. Other forms of wilderness travelling are also common, such as Jeep rides and bicycle trips.
Before starting a hike, you should go to the visitor center in Mitzpe Ramon and inform a ranger about your hike and route. Do review the regulations and recommendations regarding hiking and backpacking in Israel, and keep in mind the crater and most surrounding area are a nature reserve, and therefore you must use only marked trails and permitted campgrounds (most of which are free-of-charge). Consult the nearby Field School for travel information.
Lookout points at the town itself and the nearby Mount Gamal were mentioned above. Other recommended viewpoints on the surrounding cliffs are:
- 3 Ga'ash Lookout. From the JNF grove at Mitzpe departs a dirt road, fit for bikes and 4×4 vehicles, going east along the ridge. It's marked in black and is also a part of the INT . The trail first passes through the outdoor Desert Sculpture Park, then continues above the cliff, offering a great view. About 10 km from Mitzpe Ramon, a "transparent marking" turns right and leads to an observation point directly overlooking Ga'ash Hill (Ga'ash means Volcanic) − a small, black basalt hill outstanding against the yellowish crater ground.
- 4 Ramon Tooth (Shen Ramon). A tall conical hill, part of the southern cliff of the crater, just opposite Mitzpe Ramon. The INT goes there from Mitzpe on a 3 hour hike. You can also reach its bottom by a 4×4 vehicle.
- 5 Mount Ramon. Standing tall over the westernmost edge of the crater, this peak is highest point remaining from the massive mountain that turned into the Ramon crater. It can be reached by route 171 from HaRukhot junction (see the above map). The entire crater is well visible from here, as well as the tall, pointy Mount Ariff in the south.
- 6 Mount Ardon. Bordering the crater on the east, this place offer a marvelous view of the crater. The Ardon Basin just south of it, full of colorful sandstone, makes this one of the most fantastic viewpoints in the Negev. The mountain can only be scaled by foot (blue trail ), and it's highly recommended to reach the topmost point of the trail. It can be reached from Mitzpe Ramon on a full-day hike each way. Variably, you can reach the Be'erot campground (2) by any car, following the signs from route 40 to a dirt road, from where the mountain can be reached by a few hours' hike. Using 4×4 vehicle, you can reach right to the bottom of the mountain, from which the ascent is of moderate difficulty and takes less than an hour.
Additional points of interest
- 7 "The Carpentry" (1). An interesting geological phenomenon, the "Carpentry" (Minsara in Hebrew) is in fact a hill of black volcanic rock, covered with natural, flat stone slabs that look like man-made planks. The slabs are formed because of a property of basalt rock that causes it to form in sharp geometric shapes. It's nearby highway 40, from where a roadsign leads, and a green hiking trail takes a 15 minute walk around it.
- 8 Saharonim Spring and Outpost (3). The Saharonim spring doesn't hold any water above the ground for most of the year. It is, however, remarkable because of the large moonseed plant the grows above it (Saharon, literally meaning Crescent, is the Hebrew name of moonseed, given because of the shape of the plant's leaves). Nearby are the ancient remains of a small Roman outpost guarding the Incense Route – just four low walls made of piled rocks, creating a fairly small square, with several inside walls as well. This is the starting point of the Nekarot Curve circular trail. The spring and outpost can be reached by dirt road, accessible to any car: departing from highway 40 on a red dirt road following the signs to Khan Be'erot paid campsite; then turn left on a black road and shortly afterwards turn right to another red road , driving for 3 km until you reach a crossroads just near the site.
- 9 Ammonite Wall (4). A rock face inlaid with numerous ammonite fossils. A sign leads to it from route 40, from where it can be reached by an easy 20 minute walk.
Also see above – Get In by foot, bicycle or Jeep.
- Israel National Trail. From the north, the trail gets to Mitzpe 2-3 days after passing by Sde Boker. For those departing from Mitzpe northwards on the INT, mind that the current route deviates from the old one, and the change wasn't marked clearly; you have to follow the black dirt road along the ridge almost to its northeastern end (about 25 km), instead of turning north just a few km from the town (the old INT markings go along highway 40). Hikers walking the trail from the south enter the crater near the Saharonim spring (3), then pass through the Gvanim Stream Campground. You can deviate from the trail and walk 4 km north from the campground on a black dirt road to get to Be'erot Campground (2) where you'll find drinking water (camping there requires payment).
- The Incense Route. The ancient Incense Route, by which myrrh, frankincense and other expensive herbs were exported from the Arabian Peninsula to western Asia and Europe, passed through the eastern parts of the crater on its way towards the ports at Gaza and Ashkelon. It enters near the Saharonim spring (3) on the southeast and exits by the Mahmal Ascent on the northeastern cliff. The current trail following it goes north from the spring on a red dirt road , then leaves it and goes north on a black hiking trail , becomes blue towards the north and finally green as it ascends the cliffs. Roman milestones can be seen along the way. Parallel dirt roads exist for 4×4 vehicles, passing through the Be'erot campground (2). It's also possible to go east and out of the crater from the Saharonim spring and follow the route towards the Arava (eastern Negev), or go north from Mahmal ascent to the Zin Valley basin near Sde Boker. In both ways you'll find the remains of ancient inns and stations, similar to the outpost near the Saharonim spring, spaced about 20 km in-between.
- 10 "Nekarot Curve" (Parsat Nekarot). From near the Saharonim spring (3) departs a 6 km hiking trail of the Nekarot Curve – a deep, dramatic canyon of the Nekarot stream. From the spring, go south along the blue trail that would curve east and then back north. After exiting the canyon, go left on a red dirt road that will take you back to the starting point at the spring.
- 11 Khava Stream. Outside the crater and to the north is the Khava stream, offering two main attractions: a small canyon that's filled with deep, cool (and somewhat murky) water all year round, and the "cracks" – trails that climb in narrow crevices in the cliffsides of the stream, which you have to see to believe. It's a difficult 5-hour round-trail hike. The access dirt-road goes through army firing zones so it's only accessible on Saturdays or with prior coordination. If you arrive by car, drive on highway 40 a few km to the north of the Nafha prison (15 minutes north of Mitzpe Ramon), then turn right on a black dirt road (perfectly accessible for normal cars). After about 25 km you'll get to the Khava Stream campground, indicated by Hebrew writing sprayed in black on a big rock. Park your car there and continue by foot, descending into the stream. There, turn left to a blue trail descending into the canyon. Once at the bottom, you can turn left on a "transparent trail mark" to get to the one water source in the area (mentioned above), a 5-minute walk each way; while the blue trail itself goes right inside the canyon. After a few kilometers inside the stream, the trail will take you climbing out through the cracks to the highland, from which you'll get a breathtaking view of Makhtesh Ramon on your south and the Zin valley to the north. The blue trail eventually encounters a red one near a small, unimpressive, ancient stone building, where you should take left to cover the last 1-2 km back to the campground.
Furthermore, check out the nearby trails listed under Negev.
Note, being in a nature reserve like the Ramon Crater after dark (except for marked campground) can cost you a fine of ₪700.
- Deep Desert Israel, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Unique desert activities in the Negev: Mitzpe Ramon 4x4 Jeep tours, Rappelling, Stargazing, Israeli desert helicopter tours, outdoor Yoga and more.
- Desert Archery, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Bow-and-arrow activities for the whole family taking place on a desert tour.
- Desert Eco Tours, P.O. Box 4113, Zofit center, Eilat, ☎ , , , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Experience the depths of the Negev desert including the Spice Route and Ramon Crater along the most picturesque routes by jeep, camel or hiking. Short Negev tours depart daily.
- Guide Horizon, Har Boker st. 27 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Field activities such as treks, jeep tours and camping. Also operates accommodation and spa.
- Karkom – Jeep Tours in the Negev, Sde Boker, Israel, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeep tour prices per vehicle (8 person): c. ₪1,000 / 2-3 hours − c. ₪2,000 whole day.
- Sahar Special Tours (Eyal Korin ,certified tour guide), Mitzpe Ramon, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily guided jeep tours to Makhtesh ramon, 4x4 desert tours to Mt. Karkom, the Nabatean spice route, Zin valley springs, Petra (in Jordan) and other beautiful Negev desert sites .
- Star Tours – Astronomy Israel, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Every night except Fridays and holidays. Guided tours of the starry night sky from Mitzpe Ramon by Ira Machefsky with the naked eye as well as telescopes. Offering personalized nightly astronomy tours for beginner to advanced.
- In the Spice Routes Quarter you'll find all sorts of local-made souvenirs and other items. Roadsigns will lead you there from the town's entrance.
- 1 Made in Mitzpe, Har Boker St 21 (Spice Routes Quarter). Ceramics, jewelry, bags, second hand clothes and other handmade products.
- 2 Shopping center (Near the central traffic circle on highway 40). The town's central shopping center only has one supermarket and various small restaurants.
- 3 Open-air market (turn right at the town's central traffic circle). Held once a week during morning and noon hours. Clothing, toys, local products and all sorts of stuff are available on the various stands operated by the townsfolk as well as Bedouins from the nearby area.
Eat and Drink
- A small café-restaurant exists near the Visitor Center.
- 1 CafeNeto, Nahal Zia st. 5 (Enter the town by the central roundabout, then turn left on the first roundabout), ☎ . Su-Th 08:00-23:00, F 08:00-18:00, Sa 09:00-23:00. A small café located not far from the town center, offers a variety of breakfasts, salads and sandwiches, and also the best coffee in town. ₪13 mid-size latte coffee, c. ₪56 main course.
- HadaSaar Natural Living (vegetarian restaurant) – See above
- 2 HaKatze Restaurant, Har Ardon st. 2 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ . W-M 12:00-20:00; Closed Tu. Various homemade foods. ₪50.
- 3 HaKhavit – Pub & Restaurant, Nahal Zia st. 10 (Enter the town by the central roundabout, then turn left on the first roundabout), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Su-Th 10:00-23:59, Saturday evening (about 1 hour after sundown) until midnight. The local pub which also offers a wide variety of foods. c. ₪50 salads & sandwiches, ₪35 pizza, ₪60+ meats.
- 4 Pangea, Har Oded St (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-Th 08:00-02:00, F 08:00-16:00, Sa 17:00-02:00. Offering delicious fare, such as kebabs, grilled chicken, and the ubiquitous entrecote steak. The level of English spoken by the waitstaff is limited, however. As of Dec 2005, their menu was only printed in Hebrew. The place also operates a small clothing store, focusing mainly on the hippie style. ₪30-50 a meal.
Camping is prohibited inside the crater except at permitted campsites. These are the rules for all nature reserves in Israel (and indeed, most parts of the Negev are a reserve). Following is a list of all permitted campsites. None, except Khan Be'erot, have running water or any facilities at all; but they are free of charge.
- 1 The JNF Grove (Just beside the town center's traffic circle). Has taps for drinking water, but the toilets are permanently out of order.
- 2 Khan Be'erot Paid Campsite (Take highway 40 towards Eilat into the crater, until you see a sign pointing left towards the campsite; it's a dirt road from there), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. A large campsite with some large, fixed tents, operated by The Israel Nature and Parks Authority. There are toilets and showers. Prior coordination is sometimes required. Camping permit: ₪16; tent with mattresses: adult ₪75, child ₪65; lodging (6 person): ₪350; discounts for large groups, members and students.
- 3 Mt. Ardon campsite (Below the mountain to the north). Accessible only by 4×4 vehicle or by foot. From Khan Be'erot, go north on a black dirt road , then right on a green one until you reach it.
- 4 Permitted campsite by highway 40 (A little south of the crater between kilometre posts 82-83).
- 5 Gvanim Stream campsite (From highway 40, between kilometer posts 85-86, turn east on a green dirt road following the sign to Gvanim stream). Identified by a sign and accessible to any car.
- 6 Lotz Cisterns campsite (At HaRukhot junction, few kilometers north of Mitzpe Ramon, turn to route 171 and drive past the crater's northern cliff until you reach it). West of the crater itself and not far from the Egyptian border. The campsite sometimes has running water and even a night guard; check with the nearby Field School.
- Khan Be'erot Paid Campsite (see above) also has shared tents with mattresses.
- 7 Mati and Roni's DeserTent Guest House, Nahal Arava St 3 (Across from the town center), ☎ , e-mail: Mati_ronis@walla.com. A warm, relaxing stay in the cold desert nights. In the tent you can find mattresses, clean sheets, warm blanket and pillows. You can also order hot meals (made by a chef, but as a home cooked food) for ₪60, or a desert breakfast for ₪50. They can also advise you on places to visit and give you safety tips on desert travel. ₪70.
- 8 Derech Eretz Farm and Camping (5 km south of Nafha prison and 2 km north of junction 171, turn east following the Boulder painted in blue), ☎ , , e-mail: Matianad2@gmail.com. Set up with 3 large tents for groups. Other fitted tents for couples and families as well as for individuals. Can accommodate over 100 guests. All tents are set up with mats and mattresses. Offers hot water for showers, bathrooms, fully equipped outdoor kitchen and shaded dining area. Alternative email: firstname.lastname@example.org ₪80 per night/per guest.
- 9 Silent Arrow (Going out of town east, the place comes up after 500 m), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This is a great outdoor camp. No electricity, but light, warm water, a fully equipped kitchen and warm community tent. In winter make sure to bring a sleeping bag - there are blankets but not enough to keep you warm if the place is fully booked. Member of ILH. Mattress in a dorm tent from ₪90, Private tent 1-2 person from ₪120 pP.
- The Alpaca Farm mentioned above.
- 10 The Green BackPackers (At the southwest end of town), ☎ . Great staff and great people. They fill up quickly and sometimes use a nearby apartment (4-bed dorm only), which can be a little cold, but there is AC. Nevertheless, the apartment is also very noise due to the electrical door and the open kitchen, so better not to let yourself be put there (for ₪100!), and if necessary rather stay with Me'ever. Member of ILH. ₪88 six-bed dorm, ₪100 four-bed dorm.
- 11 Me'ever Hostel, Har Boker St. (in the spice quarter). Another great budget alternative. Dorm beds from ₪72.
- 13 Har HaNegev Field School (Negev and the Arava plain) (Follow signs to the Alpaca Farm, then to Field School), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfortable, inexpensive inn rooms. The school also provides tourist information and can conduct guided tours (must be ordered in advance). For large groups, contact: email@example.com / +972 52 368-9353, +972 3 638-8734
- 15 Desert Shade Eco Lodge (Following the signs from the town's northern entrance), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 16 Karmey Har HaNegev (The Negev Highland Vineyards) (2-3 km north of Mitzpe, turn west following the sign to the farm), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. An agricultural and touristic farm containing lodges for couples and families as well as large tents for groups. You can also ask for a guided tour of the farm, as well as order rappelling trips and bicycle rentals.
- 17 Breeze Hospitality – Desert Loft (Wind and Spirit Lodge), Har Ardon st. 8/12 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A large space fit for families and large groups.
- 18 InnSense, Har Ardon st. 8 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 1 day regular room only, for couple: ₪970 weekdays, ₪1220 weekend.
- 19 Hotel Club Ramon, Nahal Grofit st. 1, ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A decent place to stay at moderate prices. Five floors of rooms. 1 day 2 person room, no breakfast: ₪380 weekdays, ₪520 weekend.
- 20 Isrotel Ramon Inn, Ein Akev st. 1 (Enter town by the central traffic circle, turn left at Ein Zik st., then left at Ein Akev st.), ☎ , fax: . The local luxury hotel. per person US$300 (c. ₪1,000).
- 21 Ramon Suites Hotel, Nahal Meishar st. 8, ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 1 night double room: off season USD150 (c. ₪500), tourist season US$199 (₪700).
The phone area code for Mitzpe Ramon (and the entire Negev) is 08. This means that, when dialing from a local phone to any number starting with +972 8, it's enough to dial the following 7 digits, omitting the country code 972 and area code 8. When dialing from elsewhere in Israel to Mitzpe Ramon, omit the country code 972 and dial 08 instead of just the last 7 digits. When dialing to numbers in any other area code, just replace the "+972" with "0"; for example, to call +972 50 1234567 (a cell phone number) from inside Israel, call 050 1234567. Of course, if you're using a mobile phone you can just dial the number exactly as it appears within our guides and complete with the "+972".
Connecting in Mitzpe Ramon shouldn't be much of a problem as it is a modern town with all the necessary communications infrastructure. There's cellular reception everywhere, and phone lines and internet connection are available. In some restaurants and hotels there'll be free or paid Wi-Fi or computers for surfing.
In surrounding farms which offer accommodation, there may not be telephone lines but only cellular reception.
Inside the crater and surrounding wilderness area, reception could be hard to come by. As a rule of thumb, most places which are in sight range of Mitzpe Ramon will have reception (though this is not always the case), and those there aren't – won't. Naturally, there won't be any internet access points in these areas, besides cellular data connection (which may be unstable).
Although the Israeli wilderness isn't particularly out to kill you, there are several safety guidelines which should be adhered to inside the crater:
- Read the guideline summary regarding dangers and legal issues while hiking in Israel.
- It's highly recommended to consult with Har HaNegev Field School to obtain up-to-date information regarding the crater and hiking trails.
- There aren't any water sources inside the crater except the Be'erot campsite, so make sure to take enough drinking water with you. For a full day in the desert, carry 5 litres, and even more on hot days.
- All areas surrounding the crater are military firing zones. If you intend to hike north of the crater, do it either on Saturdays or after coordination. If you intend to go south of it, you'll have to do it only on the Jewish holidays of Succoth (taking place at September or October) and Passover (April), after consulting the Field School. Note that the Israel National Trail is always open for hiking.
- It's highly recommended to use sunscreen and put on a hat. See sunburn and sun protection. Travelers from more northern countries may not be aware of the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun. For fair-skinned people, sunburns can begin after quite short exposure and hurt for several days. Exposure also increases the chance for getting skin diseases, including cancer. A hat alone is not enough to prevent these. Sunscreen lotions can be bought in pharmacies, and during the summer in all supermarkets. Choose one with an SPF (Skin Protection Factor) of at least 30.
Some destinations midway between Mitzpe Ramon and Be'er Sheva include:
- Sde Boker – Ben Gurion's tomb and Negev residence, as well as the nearby World Heritage Site Avdat and the beautiful Ein Avdat canyon/lake reserve
- The Lost City at Mitspor Eli – Near Mash'abei Sade, an early Muslim archaeological site
Further popular destinations apart include:
- Dead Sea – One of the most famous things to see/do in Israel and Jordan. Check out Ein Gedi, a Nature Reserve and oasis along the Dead Sea.
- Arad – Better alternative than Be'er Sheva, and a great starting point for trips to the Dead Sea, Masada and the Judaean Desert.
|Routes through Mitzpe Ramon|
|Be'er Sheva ← Sde Boker ←||N S||→ Eilat|