Israel’s Desert Delight

Israel’s Desert Delight

cropped-img_82131.jpgA recent New York Times article highlights how Israel has managed to overcome one of its many challenges—drought—through sophisticated desalination methods and country-wide curbs on water consumption, enabling this country to thrive despite the fact that the Negev Desert takes up 60% of its land mass. (California, take note!)

The article also serves as the perfect travel promotion with its accompanying photo of the Beresheet Hotel’s glistening sky blue pool overlooking sprawling Makhtesh Crater!

Photo credit: Uriel Sinai, NY Times

Makhtesh Crater, photo credit: Uriel Sinai, NY Times

A visit to Israel will most likely include stops in the Golan Heights (its mountainous northern region); Jerusalem (its religious and historical heart), and Tel Aviv (its entertainment and cultural hub). But, for something entirely different, you might want to include a stay in the desert.

The Makhtesh Crater is one of Israel’s often over-looked natural attractions. Located in Mitzpe Ramon, (a two-hour drive south of Tel Aviv, and a one-hour 45 minute trip north from Eilat), this 25-mile long, five-mile wide crater, is the world’s largest erosion cirque (valley) and features fossil, rock, and volcanic formations that date back 220 million years. With a depth of 1,650 feet, it was formed not from the impact of a meteorite, but from water and climatic forces. Stop at the newly opened Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center for interactive exhibits and a quick geology lesson. (There is also a touching memorial to Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who lost his life in 2003 when the Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering the earth’s atmosphere).

Beresheet Hotel, Mitzpe Ramon, Israel

View of the crater, photo credit: Isrotel

Perched on the edge of the towering cliffs that slope down into Makhtesh Ramon, is the Beresheet Hotel. It provides guests with an exceptional view into this dramatic landscape and ancient dwelling place, with enough amenities – spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, movie theatre and children’s club—to make this trip a complete pampered adventure.

Beresheet Hotel, Mitzpe Ramon, Israel

Beresheet Hotel, Mitzpe Ramon. Photo credit: Isrotel

Rough it during the day with guided Jeep tours of the crater and its environs to learn about the geological history of the crater, the Negev Desert’s diverse wildlife and the ancient civilization that called it home. Plenty of other diverse activities in the area will keep you busy: cycling tours, hot air balloon flights, nighttime safaris, desert photography classes, alpaca farms, and wine tasting. At the end of the day, cool off in the hotel’s pool, perfectly perched on the cliffs above the heart-shaped Makhtesh Crater and take in the wondrous sights of this geological gem.

[Header photo credit: Isrotels]

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On your way home from Israel, why not make a stop in Istanbul — it’s only a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv. Click here to read my recent article: Istanbul: Where East Meets West.