3 hotels in this place
Mitzpe Ramon , despite being a small town in the remote Negev of Israel, 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 the magnificent views of the Ramon Crater , 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. It's about an hour's drive south of Beer Sheva. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest
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Points of Interest in Mitzpe Ramon
- Alpaca Farm (Road-signed from the town center), ☎ +972 8 6588047, +972 52 8977010/1, fax: +972 8 6586067, 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).
- Bio Ramon (Facing the Visitor Center), ☎ +972 8 6588755. 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 centre 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.
- Illan Ramon Visitor Center (On route 40 at the southern edge of town, clearly signed), ☎ +972 8 6588691. 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 contain 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).
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Additional viewpoints outside of Mitzpe Ramon are described in section Lookout points.
- 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.
- 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.
About Mitzpe Ramon
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 travelers 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 Galilee mountains, and only if the storm clouds also spread to the central Negev.
- 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.
In the town
- Hangar Adama, Har Boker st. 4 (Incense Routes quarter), ☎ +972 8 6595190, e-mail: email@example.com. A large industrial hangar, renovated into a large dance studio by the Liat Dror & Nir Ben-Gal Dance Group, with the intention of creating a cultural center even in places far from the demographic centers. The establishment, whose name Adama means Earth, contains a dance school operated by the group, but also houses festivals, shows and other events, detailed in their website. Their largest event is the Israeli Annual Acrobalance Convention on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (around June).
- HadaSaar Natural Living, Har Boker st. 10 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ +972 8 9408473, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- Mitzpe Ramon Jazz Club, Har Boker st. 8/2 (Spice Routes Quarter), ☎ +972 50 5265628. Tu-Sa 21:00-02:00. A performance house with a pretty busy schedule. Unfortunately their website is only in Hebrew, 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 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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- 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.
- Deep Desert Israel, ☎ +972 52 2201776, e-mail: email@example.com. Unique desert activities in the Negev: Camping journies, 4x4 Jeep tours, Rappelling, outdoor Yoga and more.
- Desert Archery, ☎ +972 50 5344598, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bow-and-arrow activities for the whole family taking place on a desert tour.
- Desert Eco Tours, P.O. Box 4113, Zofit center, Eilat, ☎ +972 52 5394469, +972 8 6326477, +972 52 3051919, fax: +972 8 6371598, e-mail: email@example.com. 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), ☎ +972 8 6595333, +972 52 3690805, fax: +972 8 6595317, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Field activities such as treks, jeep tours and camping. Also operates accommodation and spa.
- Karkom – Jeep Tours in the Negev, Sde Boker, Israel, ☎ +972 54 5343797, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, ☎ +972 52 4433286, fax: +972 8 6595041, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☎ +972 52 5449789, e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
- Made in Mitzpe, Har Boker St 21 (Spice Routes Quarter). Ceramics, Jewelry, Bags, Second Hand clothes and other handmade products
- Shopping center (Near the central traffic circle on highway 40). The town's central shopping center only has one supermarket and various small restaurants.
- 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.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Mitzpe Ramon on Wikivoyage.