David Ben-Gurion, founder of the State of Israel, loved the vast desert covering the southern half of his country. Called the Negev, he made a point to be buried here (in Sde Boker, to be exact), and spending some time exploring this desert’s stunning scenery makes it easy to see why he loved it so!
On the recent Taglit-Birthright trip that I was on, we got up close in personal with one particularly stunning part…the geological wonder known as Makhtesh Ramon.
Just what is a Makhtesh? It’s an enormous formation similar to a crater, but its steep walls are created by erosion rather than an impact of meteorite or something. It’s also something that’s unique to the Negev. There are many of them, though Makhtesh Ramon is the most famous, with pricey resorts overlooking it in the town of Mitzpe Ramon (literally, “Ramon Overlook”). But we weren’t staying in no fancy resort…
A Night “Under the Stars”
Oh no, we camped…in the desert. And despite their daytime heat, deserts get very cold at night. And the sleeping bags we were provided with were nowhere near suitable for the frigid temperatures we’d experience. Mind you, this was the same day that we’d been up before dawn for a sunrise hike up Masada and floated in the Dead Sea, so we were beat! But few of us would sleep at all thanks to shivering the night away.
An Early Morning Hike
It was 6:00am when the wake up call came. And, by call, I mean shouts as there were no phones in out tents. Or electricity that wasn’t otherwise provided by the generator that allowed them to make us a light breakfast. We were groggy and all half-asleep and the concept of hiking after the sleepless night we’d just experienced was not a good one. But we were promised impressive scenery, which started materializing as we climbed the hill out of our campsite…
We wouldn’t stay on the well-trodden road for long for things were about to get a whole lot more interesting. We turned onto a section of the Israel National Trail, a hiking trail that runs the length of Israel, some 940km (580 miles). It was a trail that stretched along hilltop ridges, up and over boulders and offered some truly stunning vistas, making for the best hike we took the entire trip!
The Beauty of Makhtesh Ramon, in Photos
You can see why this was such an amazing hike!
After all these soaring vistas, we were bursting with energy. And as we arrived back on the base of the makhtesh, and the soaring peaks calmed down a bit, two abnormal signs of life in the desert stood out to me. A little pool of water…an oasis, perhaps? And a lone tree, a seeming anomaly among this barren landscape that really stood out to me!
10 replies on “A Photo Journey Through the Striking Makhtesh Ramon”
Wow, Aaron, this is like looking at photos of the surface of the moon. Wild. I loved your narration, too. Why wouldn’t they have the appropriate sleeping bags? Hope your brought your hat and mittens.
Don’t ask why they didn’t have appropriate sleeping bags. I haven’t got a clue. What we got were definitely not thermal. And I was wearing everything I brought with me that night and I was still freezing! And yes… I had a hat and gloves!
Wonderful article and photos. I’ve been to Israel only once, many years ago, and besides Eilat I didn’t have the chance to visit the country. Since then, it has remained a dream.
I’d love to see the Negev, do the same hike and sleep in the desert (did it in Algeria a few years ago), maybe with a better sleeping bag 🙂
Were you on a Blogtrip or on your own?
I was a actually on a Birthright trip. If you’re Jewish and between a certain age group you can go to Israel for free for 10 days. I stuck around in the Middle East for a month afterwards. And you should TOTALLY go back and explore more than just Eilat. I kind of hated Eilat…reminded me too much of Las Vegas!
Wow, these photos are incredible. I can’t even choose a favorite one. I do love the dessert and I think I will never get tired of exploring it.
Thanks Ruth! And deserts sure are beautiful, aren’t they? I think they have an unjustifiably bad rap in most people’s minds.
Wow, this looks so gorgeous Aaron!
Thanks Ali! It was a stunning place!
Awesome photos. I heard they use the same sleeping bags for the summer trips and it’s so hot everyone just sleeps on top of them. After a six hour delay (thanks, delta) and a flat tire on the plane, my daughter made it to JFK last night and is prepped for aerosvit.
Haha well I think that might be slightly more pleasant than that miserably freezing night we had! And yikes! A flat tire on a plane sounds scary… Did that happen while landing? Glad she’s off on her way! Hope she survived the AeroSvit flight!