The Negev Desert in Israel is a truly stunning place to visit and one of Israel’s absolute must-sees!
For many, especially those used to the city life, the stark desert landscapes of the Negev are fascinating to look at, and just the drive through this part of the world can leave you agog. Little wonder that the Negev was named as one of Lonely Planet’s top world regions to visit!
The Negev Desert covers over half of Israel’s total land area, and although vast areas of this desert are uninhabited, there are a number of gems that are well worth checking out, including wineries, various unique tours of the region, and of course, some amazing natural scenery.
We’ve compiled a list of TEN awesome things to see and do in the Negev – there are so many more, but these are a terrific start…
A jeep ride through some of the amazing Negev terrain is one of the ultimate ways to experience the Negev desert, up close and personal. There are a number of great tours available out there, from a variety of places.
Typically you can ask around at most accommodation options in the Negev, or just check out one of the jeep tours we have right here if you’re interested in something AWESOME!
The mountain top fortress of Masada
This unique fortress is one of Israel’s most visited sites and it’s not hard to see why. This ancient rock plateau at the southern end of the Dead Sea is famous for housing a mighty fortress largely built by King Herod the Great, and for the legendary tale of the Jewish rebels that committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. A sunrise visit here is HIGHLY recommended. Read more about Masada here.
Another great way to experience the Negev, but at a more leisurely pace, is by taking a camel ride. It might be a bit too touristy for some, but it’s a GREAT way to really savor the scenery. There are a number of places to catch a camel ride in the Negev, including Mamshit Camel Farm (08-6552829), near the ruins of Kurnub (or Mamshit), and Kfar Hanokdim (08-9950097), located between Arad and Masada. Don’t miss our complete guide to camel rides in Israel.
The Ramon Crater
The Ramon Crater, one of the many unique makhteshim (huge erosion craters) in the south of Israel, is one of the Negev sites that might just take your breath away. The best place to access the Ramon Crater is from the town of Mitzpeh Ramon, which includes a visitor’s center and an amazing observatory point that offers mind-blowing views of the crater. Read more here.
Kibbutz Sde Boker
Kibbutz Sde Boker is largely known as the home of the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, who moved there in 1953 because of his belief that the Negev could be cultivated into a blooming environment where the ever expanding Jewish population could thrive. His home (some might call it a hut!) is now a museum, and yes, you can see how modest a lifestyle he lived (that’s his living room in the pic above).
Timna Park is regarded by many leading geologists as one of the Middle East’s top attractions for sheer geological interest. Its gorgeous multicolored sand, combined with its towering sandstone pillars are a sight sure to amaze even the most jaded of tourists. There’s even a very popular annual hot air balloon festival held here. Read more here.
Ein Avdat is a stunning desert valley just south of Kibbutz Sde Boker. Off the beaten track a little for many tourists but with a rich history of ancient inhabitants, including Nabateans and Catholic monks, this beautiful hiking trail of springs and waterfalls is a great little oasis in the heart of the Negev. There are also some incredible views to enjoy, with many a beautiful vista to snap with your camera.
Cycling in the Desert
There are some great cycling routes in the Negev, suitable for those looking for a real terrain challenge, as well as for the more leisurely, family-friendly cyclist. Some popular routes to enjoy include around and in the Ramon Crater, the Yerucham Lake area, and Haluchim. Get in touch with us if you’re interested in an amazing cycling tour through some of that spectacular desert scenery!
Visit a local Bedouin tribe
If you really want the ultimate desert experience, then we can highly recommend meeting up with a local Bedouin tribe. You can’t just come in “off the street” and expect to be hosted graciously, so we’d suggest one of these budget-friendly tours. They provide an amazing insight into how the Bedouin people survive in these harsh desert conditions, as well as a look into the traditions and culture that has remain untouched by the modern world for centuries…definitely a unique desert experience to remember!
Visit a Negev Winery
There are some excellent boutique wines at the wineries on the Negev Wine Route, many of which have only recently been started, including at Neot Smadar (the southernmost winery in Israel), Sde Boker (next to the home of Ben Gurion, see above), Carmey Avdat (next to Mitzpe Ramon), and Yatir (next to the Dead Sea). Israeli wine has come on in leaps and bounds in recent times, and is well worth a taste!
BONUS!!! If you love hiking and want a true desert adventure, try the modular Negev Highlands Trail, which runs through some spectacular scenery! And if you have a few minutes to spare, make yourself a cuppa and watch this for an amazing insight into the beauty of the Negev, this is one superb movie (locally produced but in English!)…