A little out of order; but for my writing class, I had to write a travel guide in 700 words or less. I chose to share some information about our weekend trips to the Israeli Negev desert:
The Negev desert in Israel covers more than half the country’s land area and is my favorite destination in the country. During a recent, four months stay, we spent several weekends in the desert and received recommendations for more trips.
Here are three weekend-trips:
1. Bedouin Hospitality in the Judean Desert
We stayed in a Sukhah, half-way between a tent and a cabin, at Kfar Hanokdim, a Bedouin hospitality center in the Judean desert. We enjoyed a buffet meal at low tables, a camel ride, and a talk about the Bedouin way of life. Did you know that, if Bedouins want you to leave, they will silently serve half a cup of coffee? We climbed the historic fort of Masada, fifteen minutes away, via the same ramp the Romans built to conquer the site. From the top, you see the remains of the Roman camps below. Lastly, we floated in the Dead Sea at Ein Bokek. For less than $5, we bought Dead Sea mud to rub each other.
2. Luxury or adventure in Mitzpeh Ramon
We stopped at Mitzpeh Ramon, on our way to Eilat. If we weren’t traveling with kids, we might have stayed at the luxury Beresheet Hotel. It overlooks the four hundred meters deep, Ramon crater. Instead, we just visited the “saw mill”, a hill with thousands of prism-like rocks, and we filled empty bottles with different colors of sand in the “sand park”, as a souvenir to take home. We also toured the new visitor’s center, which tells the geological story of the crater and of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut who died in the Shuttle Columbia. We didn’t have time for a jeep tour, a horseback ride, or a visit to the alpaca farm, and we chickened out on rappeling down to the crater.
3. Desert Hikes in the Southern Negev
We stayed for a weekend in Kibbutz Eilot, near the resort town of Eilat. The kibbutz is just five minutes from town. Our family apartment had two bedrooms and a kitchen. While the kids slept, we sipped Macabi beers under the olive trees in the park, next to our room. Our plan was to hike Timna Park, an old copper mine with tall sandstone pillars, the giant rocks of the Red Canyon, or the springs at Ein Avdat a bit further afield. Instead, we lingered at the large outdoor pool and we took a dip in the surprisingly cold Red Sea, where you best wear water shoes to avoid the sea urchins. Shabbat dinner at the kibbutz was a buffet, where my carnivore son tasted twelve different lamb, chicken and beef dishes. Next time, we might stay longer, or try a different desert location at a permanent tent camp in Kahn Be’erotayim, Zait HaMitbar, or Shvilim BaMidbar.
Visit in spring or fall, when temperatures are neither too cold or too hot. To get there, fly to Tel Aviv or Eilat. Low-cost airlines, including Ryan Air, EasyJet and Transavia, now service both airports. From there, rent a car and you are in the desert within two hours.