Standing on the edge
The ultimate travel guide to Mitzpe Ramon
Collaboration with Christine Aya from Tales of Visuals
Hi! I'm Christine Aya, a content creative from Amsterdam, but happily living in Tel Aviv. I have a masters degree in International Relations and Diplomacy and have worked as a researcher and book editor - until I decided to follow my dream and started a blog about my life and travels in Israel.
Through Tales of Visuals (@hertalesofvisuals) I uncover hidden – and not so hidden – gems in Israel. The blog has been growing continuously, and I've collaborated with many brands over the past year, like Isrotel, Yanga fashion, Time Out, RTB Style, Sabon, etc.
When you stand on the edge of Mitzpe Ramon – a little town deep in the Negev desert – it feels like you are on the edge of the world. Stretched out in front of you, there is nothing but miles and miles of desert-moon landscape. It is so serene. The first time I stood there it took my breath away. This 9 km wide and 40 km long crater is the world’s largest erosion crater – unbelievable that this seemingly desolate desert landscape was once an ocean filled with life! If you are visiting Israel, and planning to spend some time in the desert, make sure Mitzpe Ramon is on your list. Just look at the photos, isn’t that worth the drive south?
About three hours south of Tel Aviv lies Mitzpe Ramon, from which you can explore the makhtesh (crater in Hebrew). This little desert town was created while building the road to Eilat in the 1950’s, but has become a bohemian hub since then, like many desert towns in Israel. The town itself is not exactly a tourist attraction, but it’s a great starting point for all the activities in the crater. Because the drive to Tel Aviv is quite long, I do not recommend driving here for a day trip. On the way itself you will find many interesting viewpoints and sights. You would most likely want to make a stopover, so it is quite impossible to do it all in one day. Mitzpe Ramon is also the astronomical hot spot of Israel with the least air pollution. At night there are stargazing tours available that are well worth staying for. Moreover, the sunset and sunrise over the crater is a once in a lifetime magical experience!
Getting to Mitzpe Ramon
By far the most comfortable way to get there is by car. Not that public transport is uncomfortable, but on a bus you do not have the liberty to pull over and enjoy the scenery on the way south. If you are driving, I definitely recommend to stop for a bite at the Kornmehl farm. This is an organic goat farm with a restaurant, where they serve homemade delicious dishes, all made with goat cheese. You will also pass by the famous canyon of Ein Avdat, which I have also written about on my site. I recommend to visit the Ein Avdat viewpoint (higher entrance) right after Sde Boker – this is a short walk from the car (you have to pay entrance fee though), and you will have a magnificent view of the canyon.
If you cannot get there by car, the bus is a very good alternative. From Beer Sheva, the main hub in the Negev desert, buses to Mitzpe Ramon run regularly and are quite comfortable. The driver will drop you off right in the middle of town, from which a variety of accommodation options are within easy walking distance. From Tel Aviv the whole journey will take approximately 3,5 hours.
Where to stay
What I really like about Mitzpe Ramon is that though it is a little town, there is a place to sleep for all kinds of travelers, from high end to eco lodgings underneath the stars. By far the most special place to stay is the famous Beresheet Hotel that lies right on the edge of the crater. It is Israel’s most famous hotel from the Isrotel exclusive collection. With its infinity pool overlooking the crater, it is now a world-renowned hotel. The desert inspired decor is impeccable, the food is delicious, and your stay will truly be a five-star experience. Prices don’t come cheap though, and the hotel is sold out most nights of the week, so in advance booking is a must. There is a cheaper Isrotel in town also, the Ramon Inn, with very reasonable prices. I found it a very comfortable option!
Mitzpe Ramon is also filled with Airbnb apartments, several of which are right on the edge of the crater. There you will have not only the best views, but also the best location, right at the start of hiking trails with all the tourist attractions at your doorstep. I found the prices very reasonable. This is definitely a good option, if you prefer not to stay in a hotel.
For budget travelers there is an amazing hostel on the edge of the crater called Green Backpackers Hostel. It is cozy, clean and very comfortable. The atmosphere is great, and the crowd mostly consists of hikers. Another low budget option is the Silent Arrow Lodge, also located on the edge of the crater though a bit further out of town. This is an eco-lodge with lots of character, great prices, clean and comfortable beds and a friendly vibe!
What to do
First of all, if you stay overnight, I highly recommend to go outside at night and look up at the sky. On a clear night, the milky way and countless stars are more visible than anywhere in Israel. To be honest, more visible than in most places I’ve visited in the world. If you truly want a special experience, do a stargazing tour with Astronomy Israel. He is an astronomer, who organizes an evening in the desert with telescopes, and explains everything you want to know about our amazing galaxy!
In the town itself there are a few attractions that I’ve tried and recommend. First of all there is a desert sculpture park to the left of the Beresheet hotel with very beautiful sculptures spread out on a hiking trail at the edge of the crater. It is very photogenic and usually very quiet. A perfect place to soak up the wide views. You can easily walk there from the roundabout near the gas station on the main street. Another sight you cannot miss is the most obvious one. The visitors’ center with a boulevard that snakes along the edge of the crater towards the Camel Hill. This camel shaped viewpoint is the highest point to watch the crater and is perfect to watch the sunset. Keep in mind though that this is a very popular sunset spot, so it can get crowded. For a more local experience, visit the Spices quarter at the north entrance of the town. This is an old industrial area, but after the road to Eilat was finished and industry had slowly disappeared, it became the bohemian hub of town with little boutiques, cafes and B&Bs. It is a nice little area to walk around and chat with the locals.
Obviously, the biggest attraction is the crater, and there are many ways to explore it. From Mitzpe Ramon, the main road leads into the crater with viewpoints and many different hiking trails along the way. They are all well marked, though it is important to know that in the crater there are no gas stations or any facilities. For many kilometers you will not be able to get any food or water, so always bring supplies! In the summer it gets really HOT, and there is barely any shade. There is a great hiking trail leading downwards that starts at the edge of the crater in Mitzpe Ramon, at the end of the ‘boulevard’. You cannot miss it while walking from the visitors’ center. Another great way to explore the crater is by jeep. Deep Desert tours in Mitzpe Ramon organizes jeep tours and even – for those looking for a bird perspective – helicopter tours.
Overall, I recommend spending one or two nights in Mitzpe Ramon, depending on how much sightseeing in the crater you are planning.