If you’re chasing some off-the-beaten-track awesomeness in Israel, then Machtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) at Mitzpe Ramon town is your place. Mitzpe Ramon, a jewel of the Negev desert, is really one of the hidden treasures of Israel. I have no doubt that the magnificent Ramon Crater that sits on the edge of the town will be world-famous someday, so get there before all the tourist crowds to really enjoy something unique. Makhtesh Ramon is an awesome 38 km long, 6 km wide and 450 meter deep crater, and it will blow your mind.

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What is Makhtesh Ramon?

Most of the world’s craters were either formed by a meteor’s impact or by a nearby volcanic eruption. However, a visit to Israel’s Negev region will introduce you to makhteshim, the most unique types of craters found on planet Earth. The distinct characteristic that sets makhteshim apart is that they were once filled with giant oceans. As these oceans slowly dried up and receded, rivers began making their way through the empty canyons, carving out what we now consider to be makhteshim.

Today, a makhtesh is a deep valley surrounded by high, steep walls of rock. Few plants can survive in makhteshim, and you’ll hardly ever find good soil in these vast desert valleys. The world’s largest makhtesh is Makhtesh Ramon, which is located right under the town of Mitzpe Ramon.

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1) How to get there?

It’s fairly easy to get to Mitzpe Ramon, which is some 85km south of Beer Sheva, and on the road to the Red Sea resort of Eilat. If you’re coming from the North (Jerusalem, Nazareth, Tel Aviv, etc), you need to take a bus to Beer Sheva, and then take bus number 60 or 64 another 80km south to Mitzpe Ramon. If you’re coming from the South, there are direct buses from Eliat throughout the day. Just keep in mind that during Shabbat public transport is not operating. See my Israel travel tips clicking this link.

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2) Where to stay?

I stayed at Ramon Hotel which I think was a good choice because of its proximity to the crater and the good value of accommodation. Just keep in mind if you are coming by bus to ask the driver beforehand for the right bus stop to get out. There is no bus station in Mitzpe Ramon and buses make a circle around the town, so make sure you get off close to your accommodation. There are also other hotels, B&Bs and hostels available, so the choice is yours.

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3) How to make the right choice for your hike?

When in Mitzpe Ramon, the operative word has to be “outdoors”. The massive Ramon Crater is best viewed by hiking. There are lots of one day hikes marked throughout the Crater. A hostel or a hotel in Mitzpe Ramon can give you a map and explain the merits of each route (as can the visitor centre). The shortest hike is about 2 hours, with the longest taking all day. I hiked around 4km, setting off around 10am, and I got back around 2pm. It was one of my best traveling mornings ever. I had the whole place to myself, not another hiker in sight except for the final part of the hike, true traveling again. Following the trail markers, I walked down the limestone cliffs, which at the bottom turned to sandstone hills and colorful rock formations and climbed back to the town in the end. Geothermal activity left remnants of rock shards and what looked like volcanic rocks near the end of the trail. I even stumbled on some green plants and shrubs along the 4-hour hike.

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4) What to bring?

Before setting out on any hike in the area, you should always check about the latest weather and accessibility issues (if any), and let know the hotel or the visitor centre of your route and planned time of departure. Accidents are rare, but it’s always best to be safe. Also take note that hiking after sundown is illegal, as is wandering off the marked trail. You must be aware that trails are like natural pathways with lots of small rolling stones on them, so they might be slippery. So wearing good walking shoes is a must. Another accessory is a hat protecting your head from direct sunlight. I also brought some water, and that was about it. As the hike was only 4 hours, the only guide I brought was a map of the crater with trails from the hotel. There’s also an information tourist center in Mitzpe Ramon with even more suggested hikes and trails across the Negev Desert. In summer months it’s better to hike in the early morning to avoid the strong desert sun.

5) Do not miss the sunrise and/or sunset!

The best place to view the sunrise is near to a visitor center from the lookout point. Just ask your hotel for directions. It is a sight not to be missed. There were animals including Nubian ibexes or desert goats and birds I saw just at sunrise, and later they disappeared. The Camel Hill lookout, a giant rock formation that had the shape of a camel, is the best spot in Mitzpe Ramon to view the sunset because it faces south over a bend in the crater.

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RamonCrater

  • Published by Anita on May 05, 2017

 

Author: Anita Sāne

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About the author
Anita is a part time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman
from Latvia, 
traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner
planning and executing her travels by herself. Follow Anita also on Instagram.

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Comments   

Stephanie
#15 Stephanie 2017-07-28 00:45
Incredible! That has to be the biggest crater I've ever seen. I'm from Arizona and I am always amazed that some place so far from home can look so familiar. Beautiful photos!
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Kim
#14 Kim 2017-07-07 21:53
You captured great photos during your hike. I bet it was very peaceful to not have many hikers during your hike.
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Kat
#13 Kat 2017-07-07 08:46
Wow, the landscape looks pretty dramatic and spectacular! Being a Malaysian passport holder, I'm prohibited to enter Israel, therefore a tour of such interesting places in Israel via travel blogs are good enough for me :-) I have visited Jordan and that's the closest I can get to Israel. The landscape that I see in your images looks similar to Jordan's.
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Brian - EatWorkTrave
#12 Brian - EatWorkTrave 2017-07-06 23:13
great tip on the sunrise and sunset! Although jet lag can be tough, it's important to try to catch those moments!
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Lena from fouronawor
#11 Lena from fouronawor 2017-05-14 14:46
It seems amazing that you can hike those areas without a guide.. it looks super desolate and lonely.. but must be great to experience those areas on your own and to get your own impressions.. I love the sunset pictures :)
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Sandy N Vyjay
#10 Sandy N Vyjay 2017-05-14 06:12
What a lovely crater it is in Israel. Your pics are simply stunning. We would love to hike to this place as it is very scenic and beautiful. It looks quite adventurous! The hotel looks neat and decent.
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Iza Abao
#9 Iza Abao 2017-05-12 11:21
This crater is beautiful. I assume that there are only a few who get the chance to visit this place because it is not easy to go there. Israel has so much to offer. The sunset looks wonderful. You are one of the few bloggers who has written articles about Israel. I'd look forward to reading more about your adventures in Israel.
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Chiara
#8 Chiara 2017-05-12 09:50
This place has been on my list for soo long, Thaks for this post, can't wait to go there one day :) The photos you took are really beautiful
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Taiss
#7 Taiss 2017-05-12 09:00
What an incredible sunrise! It looks like a postcard! I can imagine being their must have been awesome! I'm glad you explained the uniqueness to this crater. Incredible that oceans existed here! The terrain reminds me of our hike at Masada. Very epic! Next time I visit Israel, I must see this place!
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Adrenaline Romance
#6 Adrenaline Romance 2017-05-11 13:49
We have climbed mountains and dived underwater, but never have we experienced exploring a crater. You are very lucky! It is truly scenic, but the "heavenly" energy there must be fascinating. We would definitely visit Makhtesh Ramon if we have the chance.
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