Mitzpe Ramon (מצפה רמון; ) is a small town in the Negev region of Israel, some 85 km south of Beer Sheva, overlooking the mighty Ramon Crater (Machtesh Ramon).
The Ramon Crater, as seen from the Visitors' Center
Founded in the 1950s as a military outpost and then as a waypoint station for local miners and road workers, Mitzpe evolved into a small town when newly arrived Moroccan immigrants were unceremoniously placed there and told that they would "be living an hour and half from Tel Aviv." Over time, various other groups like part of the "Black Hebrew" community and various strains of the most recent Russian immigration from the early 1990s, have also been placed in Mitzpe Ramon.
Mitzpe Ramon remains small and somewhat struggling, although recently a variety of new age hippies and eco entrepreneurs have succeeded in turning the ailing town into something of a hip eco leave-the-city-behind destination. At the same time, there continues to be dissonance between some of the town's original residents and the more recent arrivees.
Today, Mitzpe acts as a stopping point for travelers going from the North of Israel to Eilat as well as catering to soldiers stationed at the nearby military bases. The town has also developed into a unique eco-tourist destination as it boasts the highest air quality in Israel and a series of breathtaking landscapes. Mitzpe also provides a haven for various kinds of performance artists, new-age healers and desert enthusiasts.
Highway 40 passes through Mitzpe Ramon on its way from Beer Sheva to Eilat. The town is some 85 km south from Beer Sheva.
There are buses from Beer Sheva more than once an hour, and buses from Eilat several times a day. bus number 64,65,60,and 392 to Eilat.
The town is best covered on foot or by car. Within the crater, your choices are slowly and painstakingly on foot, bonejarringly by 4x4, or, oddly enough, by llama hired out from the Alpaca Farm.
Mitzpe Ramon's biggest sight is the Ramon Crater (Machtesh Ramon), 500 meters deep, 40 kilometers long, 10 kilometers at its widest, and claimed to be the largest in the world. This is not, however, an asteroid impact site: just a particularly large asymmetrical hole dug out of the ground by natural processes of erosion. The Ramon Crater is the largest of three Negev craters, containing geological formations unlike those you would see anywhere else in the world. Together with a magnificent panorama, it presents a fascinating story of geomorphologic evolution. The Ramon Nature Reserve which encompasses the crater and the Negev mountains surrounding is the largest nature reserve in Israel.
- Mitzpe Ramon Visitors Center. Located at the edge of the crater, this affords stunning views over the area and has a small and informative museum documenting the geological and natural history of the area - a large picture window in the centre affords visitors a breathtaking view of the crater itself.
- The Albert Promenade. A trail decorated with impressive environmental sculptures - starts from the Visitors Center and goes along the edge of the Ramon Crater. In the middle of the promenade there is a "bird balcony" which hangs above the crater and offers the best view around over the crater. Visitors can see birds flying under their feet rather than over their head. After the paved trail ends, a path continues along the crater edge and leads to a small observation platform installed atop of a rock resembling a camel.
- Bio Ramon. A museum showcasing the wildlife of the desert and the crater. The rich collection of desert plants and animals displayed is divided into two parts: an indoor interpretation centre and an outdoor area reconstructing the Negev desert landscape, with desert loess, hamada, sand, cliffs, riverbeds and even a small spring.
- Spice Quarter area or locally so called hangars - artistic, gentrified area of the town with interesting galleries, small local shops, bars, and restaurants. A must visit if you are interested in the local art scene. Faran factory shop is here, Nachum ceramics is here, Avital's wood works shop is here, InnSense restaurant, local popular pub Berech and so on... Pleasant walk around the area.
- Outdoor Desert Sculpture Park
- Succah in the Desert - A quiet farm to do retriets
- Alpacas Farm - the largest outside of South America
- Sde Boker - Ben Gurion's Tomb and Negev Residence
- The Lost City at Mitspor Eli - near Mash'abei Sade, an early Muslim archaeological site
- Avdat - world heritage Nabatean town
- Ein Avdat - a beautiful gorge at Zin river
- Amonite Wall - at the Ramon cirque, the site of multiple fossils
- The Carpentry - at the Ramon cirque, a unique geological formation
- The Negev Vineyard Route
Treks of various lengths can be arranged in and around the crater. There are many strange rock formations in odd colors to be seen, as well as desert animals including the nearly tame ibex who congregate around tourists, looking for handouts. However, please do NOT feed them as it leads to their dead. Be careful with the plastic bags you carry and dispose of all the litter in the bins available in the town. There have been cases when ibeces eat the plastic litter and die.
- chocloate Desert Archery, .
- Karkom - Jeep Tours in the Negev, .
- Negev Jeep Tours, . Jeeptours with Dutch, Swiss-German, German and English speaking guides
- Astronomy - Tel Aviv University's Wise Observatory, . Tel Aviv University's Wise Observatory is here. The Negev has the darkest skies in Israel.
- Rappelling. You can rappel from the edge of the crater. Not a very long rappel, but great views.
- Outdoor adventures Experience the depths of the Negev desert including the Spice Route and Ramon Crater along the most picturesque routes by jeep, camel or hiking. Short negev tours depart daily.
- Hangar Evan Jeremy Kriker's Dance School, Har Boker st. 4 Mitzpe Ramon (Spice Route Quarter), ☎ 972-8-6595190, . Join the classes of the Dance School that is running 3 days a week (Sunday-Tuesday): the shishkabob dancing etc. Adama also organizes festivals on the main Jewish holidays.
- Desert-Prime, Mitzpe Ramon, . Premium jeep tours, rappelling and outdoor activities at Mitzpe Ramon, Makhtesh Ramon and the area.
- The Alpaca Farm
- The Wine Route of the Negev
The Ramon Crater is an amazing place to go hiking, there are many one-day hikes and some multiple-day hikes.
Before starting a hike please go to the visitor center in Mitzpe Ramon and inform a ranger about your hike and route.
Official hiking trails are well marked. Each hiking trail has its own color. The markings are as fallowed: a white stripe then a stripe in the color of the trail and then a white stripe again, for example, white, blue, white. It forbidden to hike off the trails and to hike after sun down. These hiking rules apply for the rest of Israel.
A nice short hike starts at the Minsara and is marked in green. The Minsara is interesting for geologists. Their are two options for this hike, option one is a hike that goes up the Minsara hill and comes back down it is approximately 1km and is an easy hike. Option two is a hike that goes up to Mitzpe Ramon. It is approximately 6km long and is moderate to hard.
The Har Ardon trail is very beautiful, it is moderate to hard. One can start form the Be'erot camping site or on the black trail this will connect to the blue trail that will finish at the Givat Charut parking, from there follow the black trail back to the Be'erot camping site. This trail is approximately 11km long. One can also start directly from the Givat Charut parking and finishes at the parking on bottom of Har Ardon this trail is approximately 5km long.
For any multi day hikes please consult a ranger in the Mitzpe Ramon visitor center.
In Israel one is only allowed to camp in designated camping areas, all of the camping sites in Israel are on a first come first serve bases. Most of the designated camping sites in nature reserves in Israel have no facilities such as running water, toilets, etc. In most cases camp fires are allowed, use only wood from outside the nature reserve as burning trees or plants that grow in the reserve is prohibited even if they are dead.
The Be'erot camping site has most of the facilities that one would need, it has an open Bedouin tent where one can order food or drink a cup of Bedouin tea or coffee for a fee. It also has running water, and reasonable toilets. If you are planing on camping in Be'erot take in to consideration that you will have to pay a fee, for more information about this fee ask at the Mitzpe Ramon visitor center. This site is open for cars.
The camping site in Bikat Machmal is comfortable but has no facilities, fee in not required for this camp site. This site is also open for cars but please respect the environment and the wildlife keep the camp site clean and quiet.
- An alpaca farm sells all sorts of Alpaca-based products
- Sammys Scent on Jenns Sweater, (Spice Route Quarter). Enviromentally friendly soaps, beauty- and bathproducts.
- Made in Mitzpe, Har Boker St 21 (Spice Route Quarter). Ceramics, Jewelry, Bags, Second Hand clothes and other handmade products
- Spice Route Quarter has all sorts of small galleries, cosmetics shops, vintage clothes shops etc. In short -- everything you could think of made by local artists. Buy Faran cosmetics, Michal's soaps, herbal cosmetics by herbalist Irus (InnSense restaurant has a display), local ceramics, insanely beautiful wood items (from cutting boards to furniture) in Avital's shop and so on. Also, there is Ethno center, which seem to sell Persian style rugs made by Jewish immigrants from Caucasus area (as a way of preserving their traditions).
- A small cafe/restaurant exists near the Visitors' Center.
- Inn Sense restaurant. Offers delicious food made from fresh, local ingredients at low prices (everything from bread to ice cream is made in their kitchen, not bought). Their strong point is the dishes with a connection to the history and the location. You can find things like kuć muć, a dessert inspired by Paula Ben Gurion! Just ask the waitress for details of each dish. The visit is unforgettable, like nowhere else. Do not forget to try their lavender ice cream!
- The Ramon Inn restaurant. Offers a variety of Israeli and non-Israeli foods
- Hahavit. The local bar/restaurant provides a diverse menu
- Mis'edet aKatze. Various homemade food, at reasonable prices.
- Cafeneto. A small café located by the cliff and near Har Gamal ("mount camel"), offers a variety of breakfasts, salads and sandwiches, and also the best coffee in town.
- Pangea. Offering delicious fare, such as Kebabs, Grilled Chicken, and the ubiquitous Entrecote Steak. The level of English spoken by the waitstaff is limited, however. As of Dec 2005, their menu was only printed in Hebrew.
- Hahavit. Hahavit, near the Visitors Center has everything you need to quench your thirst.
- Silent Arrow, ☎ +972-(0)52-6611561 ([email protected]), . An alternative hostel experience of tents in the silent, starry desert at a moderate price. Moderate.
- Isrotel Ramon Inn, 1 Ein Akev St. Mitzpe Ramon, ☎ +972-8-6588822 (fax: +972-8-6588151), . The local luxury hotel. High.
- Club Ramon, ☎ +972-8-6586168 ([email protected], fax: +972-8-6586107), . A decent place to stay at moderate prices. Five floors of rooms. Moderate.
- Camp sites within the Crater.
- Hangar Adama, Har Boker st. 4 Mitzpe Ramon (Spice Route Quarter), ☎ 972-8-6595190, . A Dance Company and a Dance School which offers a variety of accomodation: camping, a funky dormitory and luxury mudhouses.
- Mati and Roni's DeserTent Guest House, Nahal Arava (Across from the town centre), ☎ 050-590-3661, . A warm, relaxing stay in the cold desert nights. In the tent you can find mattresses, clean sheets, warm blanket and pillows for the price of 70 NIS (the cheapest price in the area). You can also order hot meals (made by a cheff, but as a home cooked food) for 60 NIS, or a desert breakfast for 50 NIS. In here you can get information and advises of places to visit, local attractions (camel rides, Jeep tours, rappelling and more), and most importantly safety and security tips for your time in the desert. 70 shekels.
- The Green Backpackers Hostel, 10/6 Nahal Sirpad P.O. Box 827 Mitzpe Ramon 80600, ☎ +972 8 653 2319, . Mixed dorms and double rooms. Amenities such as Wi-Fi, kitchen, etc. included. Run by 2 experienced tour guides. Welcoming, fun environment. 80 NIS (~$23).
- Beresheet, Derech Beresheet 1, Mitzpe Ramon, Zip: 80600, ☎ 972-8-6387797, . The Beresheet hotel, part of the Isrotel Exclusive Collection, is located amid a breathtakingly beautiful primeval landscape, on the edge of the towering cliffs that slope down into the Ramon Crater.
- Derech Eretz Farm and Camping, ("5km), ([email protected] or [email protected]), . checkin: flexible; checkout: “flexible". Set up with 3 large tents for groups. Other fitted tents for couples and families as well as for individuals. Can accommodate over 100 guests. All tents are set up with mats and mattresses. Offers hot water for showers, bathrooms, fully equipped outdoor kitchen and shaded dining area. 80₪ per night/per guest. (30.668512,34.806031)
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