Thinking of visiting the Negev desert?
Well, here is a list of your "MUST DO's" in the Israeli Negev desert.
Don't worry if you don't have the time to do it all, as you will understand that the Negev desert actually deserves a trip of its own. And with the low cost flight coming now to Eilat and Ovda airports - it's easier and cheaper than ever!!
1. Hike in Makhtesh Ramon (the Ramon crater) -
There are only 7 "Makhteshim" in the world and Ramon crater is the biggest of them all. There are many hiking trails in the crater and its surrounding, and the best thing about it is, that It's Free! Even though the crater is a nature reserve - you do not need to pay entrance. Hiking is easy and safe. The hiking trails are marked very well and at the Green Backpackers hostel - you will find many maps and very informed staff that will be happy to give you the best advice about hiking in the different seasons. They will fit the right trail for you according to how long you want to hike for, the season, the time of day and if you have a car or arrived to the area by bus. Which means that there is no need to pay a tour guide just to be able to explore the hiking in the desert. Super!
The best hike you could do if you are traveling by public transportation is defiantly Ramon's tooth trail, which you can find on the Negev Trails website. You could download the hiking description to your phone and just use that, but we do recommend getting a hiking map from the hostel..
The best hiking trails you could do if you arrive by car is either the Horseshoe & Wadi Ardon trail or Mount Ardon. Mount Ardon is a great trail (only in winter though) if you like challenges, but there is no doubt that Horseshoe & Wadi Ardon hill is the most diverse trail in the area.
2. Camel hill at the golden hour -
Came hill is the highest view point in town, and it is best to see the Ramon crater from there, an hour before the sunset. The sunset it amazing, but if you really want to enjoy the colorfulness that the crater has to offer, than make sure to go up there an hour before the sun actually sets. It only takes 3-4 minutes to climb up there from The green Backpackers hostel. Once you are there, you can either take a left and walk along the Herbert Samuel promenade till you get to the "hanging balcony" or even continue all the way past the "Beresheet" hotel to the sculpture garden.
If you would like to do a short hike, you can take a right at camel hill instead, and walk along the cliff to the field school trail. It takes about an hour or an hour and a half and is very pretty around those hours of the day. But make sure to start this an hour and a half before the sunsets, so that you don't find yourself walking in the dark.
It is always good to take a warm coat with you up to camel hill as it is always windy up there. Even in the middle of August. Mitzpe Ramon is very elevated and it is always cold. That is why this is one of the only places left in Israel that you do not need to use conditioners in the summer, and will be able to hike here even in July & August.
3.Desert Jeep tour -
A jeep tour is a great way to get to see all the nooks and crannies of the crater in a short time. There are a lot of unique geological phenomenon’s to explore in Makhtesh Ramon, and a lot of hidden jams, that you cannot get to with a car, or will need a few days of hiking in order to get to. So it is a lot easier with e Jeep, a lot more educational with a good tour guide, and a lot more enjoyable with other travelers like yourself.
The only company around that gives you the option of paying per seat instead of reserving the whole jeep for yourself (for hundreds of Shekels), is 4XDesert.
They have a 2.5 hour jeep tour every day at 10:00am and you can reserve it directly on their website. But don't wait too long as they fill out their tours pretty fast...
4. Thursday's free jam sessions at the Mitzpe Ramon Jazz club -
Yes, Mitzpe Ramon has its own Live music bar, if you would believe that... and don't be fooled by its name - you will hear a lot more than Jazz there.
The Jazz club is located in what is called "The Spice Quarter". The young "Hippie" part of town. This area use to be the industrial part of town and that is why it is all built out of old big hangers. They were all deserted a few years ago, and in the past few years, got occupied by young entrepreneurs who started theirs little unique businesses... You will be able to find some small art gallerias, a second hand clothing shop, the best bakery in Israel, a hip bar... etc. AND the Jazz club.
The Jazz club is closed during the week, and is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
On Fridays and Saturdays you will find live music shows and will have to pay a small entry fee. On Thursday you won't have to pay anything, and will get to see the best show in town, as apparently Mitzpe Ramon has some hidden talents here like you would never believe. This may seem like a very sleepy town, but this place will keep you up all night long as the good music normally only starts around 23:00...
5. Hiking in the Zin Valley -
Mitzpe Ramon is a good hiking base for hiking all around the central Negev area. Just 20 minutes north of Mitzpe' (short for Mitzpe Ramon as the locals say), you will find the Zin Valley area with many MANY hiking trails as well. And what is even more amazing - is that it looks nothing like the Makhtesh Ramon area. So if you make sure to have at least 2 full hiking days here, you will get to see two VERY different deserts in such a short time.
The two best hikes you can do there are Ein Avdat national park, and Ein Akev which is a much longer hike... You can do both, either with a rented car or with public transportation.
Ein Avdat by Car,
Ein Avdat By Bus,
Ein Akev by Car,
Ein Akev by Bus.
6. Try Katsra Beer -
Katsra beer is a local Negev Beer made in the Arava. There are not many places in Israel you can actually find this beer, and even though it makes it harder for us (who are hooked on this amazing beer) it just makes it even more special...
Katsra beer is sold all around town. At the Green Backpackers hostel, at the Jazz club, at the Bereh pub and at our favorite bar & restaurant in town - "Hahavit".
The cheapest Katsra beer you will find is at The Green Backpackers hostel, but for the best setting, we would have to recommend the young hippy bar (habereh) in the spice quarter, or at the Havit restaurant& bar on the side of there amazing hamburger and good music...
If you ask us - than the Green (Blond) Katsra is the best one for all of you "Stella beer lovers" or the Blue Katsra (Amber) beer for all of you Leff Blond lovers...
Or you can just pick the color you like more... they are both tasty as hell...