I’m happiest in the desert. Always have been. Mitzpe Ramon, a town of 5,000 people in the Negev, carries the magical, spiritual thread that is felt through all of Israel paired with a landscape that feels mythical and other worldly. The town is built around the ridge of a crater that is always present. I remember a few years ago when I was in Guatemala thinking that the volcanoes there are always with you, no matter where you go, it’s the same in Mitzpe Ramon with the crater. It’s one of those places that you know will be inundated with tourism a decade from now, but until then remains mostly unspoiled.
STAY: There’s two must stays in Mitzpe Ramon- a Bedouin Tent and Beresheet. Stay the night in the crater in a Bedouin Tent, meet Sami who is the unofficial mayor of Mitzpe Ramon, he set up the camping situation for us and really everything we did while in town. I think you can catch him on email at firstname.lastname@example.org says his card (I’ve never emailed him). I usually would not post someone’s info on the interwebs but Sami would actually be so so so happy to hear from you. Spending the night in the crater, under the most intense set of stars I’ve ever seen, with endless food and wine and singing around a fire is my version of heaven- do it!
Ya know what’s even better than rising with the sun in a crater in Israel? Rising with the sun in a crater in Israel and then heading directly to a luxury hotel just 10 minutes away. I stayed at Beresheet a couple of months ago and have been thinking about it ever since, counting down the days until I could get back there. It’s definitely the first sign that Mitzpe Ramon is on the radar. It sits on the edge of the crater, has amazing views, and everything you want (bomb spa, beautiful pool, THE FOOD) and the rooms are perfect. It feels simple but special and lux but local. Do all the guilty pleasure things- spa services and lots of laying.
EAT: There is NO food like the food in Israel. That’s a firm statement. I’ve been places, I’ve eaten everything, its the best there is. It doesn’t even matter where you eat- a gas station, food stalls, world renowned restos, never a piece of bread, dip, salad, or meat that I did not think to myself “this is the best thing I have ever eaten”. Also, why are we not all still drinking frozen coffees all day every day like they are in Israel? Sami has a restaurant that is next to the Mitzpe Ramon visitors center called Tzokim, eat there, best meal with the best view.
DO: When in the desert, ride camels. We did not ride far or for long, but getting on camels and riding with friends is just pure fun and not to be missed. It’s peaceful and playful and gives you some time to take it all in. I think we saddled up at the Yahala Desert Camp and rode for about an hour. Happy riders!
We also hit Avdat National Park. When we were paying the entrance fee, the lovely women in the gift shop asked “how long are you in Israel for?” and we said, “two more days”, her response: “WOW, and you came here? We’re SO happy to have you!” Just the sweetest people. Avdat is a site of ruins (I think Roman?) and was originally a city way way way back when on the incense route between Petra and Gaza. It’s now a fun historic hike, nothing better than a solid history lesson as you climb. #LeisureHike
People told me about multi day treks through the desert, from Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat which I am set on doing next time I am there with a tad more time.
KNOW: Rent a car in Tel Aviv and head on out to Route 40. If heading out on a Saturday rent at the airport, all rental car companies are closed in the city for Shabbat. The gas stations on your way out have really good frozen coffee 🙂 Use WAZE to navigate. I typically use Google Maps and it got me lost multiple times in the desert.