Ever since I visited Wadi Rum in Jordan, I’ve had a slight fascination with the desert. Maybe it’s something to do with the incredible darkness as Giulia points out in her post about stargazing in the Middle East. Or maybe it’s the extreme quiet, the vast emptiness and loneliness that comes with being in a wide open space. I don’t know. But I do know I love the sensation.
My one-night stay in Israel’s southern desert, the Negev, was short but sweet. Staying at the backpacker-friendly Green Backpackers Hostel, I only had time for a single hike in the desert. The weather in Mitzpe Ramon was piss poor (wet and grey, there was even hail and snow!) so I wasn’t able to take a few of the easier hikes to some of the lookouts. Instead, I chilled out in the quiet desert town my first afternoon and evening, and then left for a hike through the Negev the next morning.
Mitzpe Ramon is a unique town. It sits on the edge of a 40km crater, or makhtesh. The crater is an abnormal geological formation—unique to this part of the world, and even more specifically, this part of Israel. There are only a handful of makhteshim. A makhtesh is a crater formed by steep walls surrounding a deep valley. I found Makhtesh Ramon to be surprisingly colorful on the inside, but I’m not sure if they’re all like that.
Leaving from my hostel around 9am, the two other backpackers and I opted for a medium difficulty hike, a one-way trail to the bottom of the Makhtesh. Following the trail markers, we walked down the limestone cliffs, which at the bottom, turned to sandstone hills and colorful rock formations. Geothermal activity left remnants of rock shards and what looked like volcanic rocks near the end of the trail. We even stumbled on some green plants and shrubs along the 3-hour hike. In the end, we ended up standing along a highway, hitchhiking our way back to town—picked up by a pepper farmer.
What you need for the hike:
This Israel hiking path wasn’t so difficult. I went in my Converse sneakers and no one else had much serious walking gear. I brought some water and that was about it. The hike was only 3-hours and the only map/guide we brought, was a photo of the path’s information sheet from the hostel. At the Green Backpackers, they also sold guides and hiking trail maps across Israel, but seeing as how we were doing a simple hike, we felt comfortable going it alone. There’s also an information tourist center in Mitzpe Ramon with even more suggested hikes and trails across the Negev Desert.