Mitzpe Ramon translates to “Ramon lookout.” A fitting name for a small town perched on the cliffs of Ramon Crater (Ramon Mekhtesh). Founded less than 70 years ago as a camp for the workers building Route 40 between Beer Sheva (Be’er Sheba) and Eilat, the town is now home to a mixed community of artists and hippies along with Russian immigrants.
Today, most of the traffic from/to Eilat passes Route 90 along the Dead Sea. The new highway allowed Mitzpe Ramon to reinvent itself as a center of ecotourism and cultural tourism along the ancient Nabataean Spice Route. For a city with a population of less than 5,000, the cultural offerings are enormous: from restaurants serving traditional Israeli cuisine, pizza, and even sushi, to weekly Jazz concerts (jazzramon.wordpress.com, website in Hebrew), to a theater. Other notable attractions are Israel’s best stargazing (for tours check out astronomyisrael.com), the most expensive hotel in the country, and an alpaca farm.
Main attractions outside Mitzpe Ramon are:
- Hiking in/along the Ramon Crater (see photo story from my hike into the crater below)
- Avdad, an ancient Nabataean city on a hill top
- Sde Boker Kibbutz/Midreshet Ben Gurion: See where Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion lived (and is buried). He laid down a vision of “cultivating the Negev desert” and thereby was fundamental in making Israel a leader in water production (desalination) and desert agriculture.
- Springs with water all year long, small oases in the desert and great places for a splash in the hot weather: Ein Avdad and Ein Akev can be reached from Avdad or Sde Boker. Check in tomorrow for more on my hike from Avdad to Ein Akev.
Hiking Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) from Mitzpe Ramon
Though somewhat connected to volcanism, the Ramon Crater is not of volcanic origin. It is rather a very unusual geologic formation resulting from its edges eroding more and more. The Ramon Crater, locally also called Makhtesh Ramon, is the largest of its kind, 40 km long, up to 10 km wide, up to 500 m deep.
Mitzpe Ramon is the only settlement in and around the crater. Views from the edge here are particularly marvelous for sunrise (look to the left) and sunset (climb onto Camel Rock and look right for the sun).
Hiking routes are well-marked and take you either along the crater edge or on several routes in/through the crater.
I went for a 15 km hike into the crater, combining different color-coded routes. We started from Mitspe Ramon and reentered civilization when we hit Route 40 about 6 hours later. With public transport being extremely sparse down there we hitchhiked back into town.
When you go hiking in Ramon Crater, make sure you bring enough water (2 l or more) and a hat. I hate hats, but after 20 minutes in the sun, I was glad I had brought mine. Also, for the many climbs into the crater and along the hiking routes in the crater, bring hiking poles if you have them. Finally, let somebody know which route you are planning to take so that they can alert officials if you don’t return by nightfall.
Click on the photos to open a slide show with more details about my hike. Scroll down for info on transport and accommodation.
- If you have a car, access is straightforward. Mitzpe Ramon is at Route 40. Right behind the town, the road descends along a few serpentines into Ramon Crater. There are no settlements, restaurants or shops, petrol stations, etc. in the crater. Mitzpe is your last chance to fill up on supplies.
- Public transport to Mitzpe Ramon:
- Direct bus from Tel Aviv: Egged buses #392 and #395 connect Eilat and Tel-Aviv along Routes 12 and 40. They not only pass Mitzpe Ramon but also Ovda Airport. Journey time from Tel-Aviv is roughly 3h. Tickets are NIS42.50 one-way. Click here to find the schedule and prices. Please note that the town is listed as Mitspe Ramon on the Egged website.
- Local bus from Beer Sheva: Metropoline buses# 160, 60, 64, or 65 leave from Beer Sheva every half hour or so and serve multiple stops in Mitzpe Ramon (as well as Avdad and Sde Boker). Simply let the driver know, where you need to go. Ticket price is NIS15 one-way. Unfortunately, the official Metropoline website is available only in Hebrew. Instead, you can check Bus.co.il. to see a list of all routes and schedules (ignore the fare info, though): https://www.bus.co.il/otobusimmvc/Metropoline_Lines.
- Getting to Beer Sheva:
- Metropoline bus Tel-Aviv to/from Beer Sheva: Metropoline bus #353 connects Tel-Aviv and Beersheba for as little as NIS15. Click here for schedules.
- Train: Though the train is a little more expensive (NIS27 one-way) it’s a convenient way to travel leaving every half hour from several stations throughout Tel-Aviv (not during Shabbat on Friday/Saturday!). The train station is right next to the bus station for connecting buses to Mitzpe Ramon.
- Moving around by local bus:
- Metropoline buses #160, #60, #64, and #65 serve major attractions along Route 40 such as Avdad and Sde Boker. The bus only stops at official stops and can’t be flagged down. Check here for a list of all routes and schedules (ignore the fare info, though): https://www.bus.co.il/otobusimmvc/Metropoline_Lines.
- The only bus stops in the crater are for Egged buses with buses (#392, #395) passing sparingly. Use hitchhiking instead (see below).
- Do not forget that there is no public transport between Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon because of Shabbat.
- Hitchhiking is very common in the desert and also works during Shabbat.
- Simply stop somewhere the cars can easily stop (wide shoulders or bus stops work fine) and point two fingers towards the road.
- Do not attempt to walk and hitchhike at the same time — you will be ignored.
- Split up groups of more than three people.
- There are several hostels in Mitzpe Ramon. I stayed at the small and chilled Green Backpackers only a few steps from the crater edge, which made it a great location for sunset/sunrise excursions to the crater. They offer dorms and private rooms.
- Beyond hostels, accommodation ranges from the Alpaca Farm to the super-luxurious Beresheet Hotel (Israel’s most expensive hotel).
- Feel free to use the search box below to find your accommodation.