Southern Israel is a land rich in natural beauty, from the spectacular Ramon Crater to Eilat’s Red Sea beaches. Often referred to as Israel’s “Grand Canyon,” Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) in the Negev Desert boasts jaw-dropping views that have long inspired artists and those seeking an infusion of natural grandeur. At 40 kilometers in length and ranging from 2 to 10 kilometers in width, the crater forms Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve. This unique geological landform – called a makhtesh – is an important wildlife habitat, home to snakes, rodents, porcupines, lizards, scorpions and turtles. Nearby Mitzpe Ramon is an energetic and welcoming desert haven.
With a resort-city feel, stopover in Eilat for a dip in the stunning Red Sea – home to some of the world’s most sought-after coral reef snorkeling and scuba diving. Then, ascend the Eilat Mountains, for hiking through Red Canyon. There are trails for all levels through breathtaking red, yellow and brown sandstone. Head out into the Negev desert with a guide after dark and learn about the Bedouins while making a traditional meal. Families with children will find ample activity in the city, from nature reserves to an up-close look at the Red Sea’s marine life at the Underwater Observatory Marine Park.
Home to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, the kibbutz of Sde Boker, in the center of the Negev Desert, is popular with Israeli schoolchildren making the pilgrimage to Ben Gurion’s home. Visit the hut where Ben Gurion resided with his wife and welcomed many world leaders and dignitaries. Mull over his modest library in the Ben Gurion archive. And learn about his passion for preserving Israel’s deserts. There’s much to learn here, and in the neighboring Wadi Tzin and En Avdat National Park, about desert ecology and agriculture on arid lands.