Covering over half of Israel, the famous Negev Desert is a vast, fantastic desert landscape that is far from empty. And scattered across the vast plains, picturesque valleys and mountains are a growing number of guesthouses, farms, and outdoor activities that allow both locals and visitors to get better acquainted with the people and the land of desert. For many decades, the Negev region was regarded as nothing but a desolate dry land. However, the area has become a giant greenhouse for varying development projects. It features outstanding spa resorts, eco-villages, and even wineries. Travelers from all over the world pay thousands of dollars to spend some time here. If you just booked an Israel flight or you have been planning to visit this country, there are surprising ways to experience the Negev Desert.
1 Savor and stargaze the awe of the landscape at Ramon Crater
At nightfall, the sky just outside the town of Mitzpe Ramon is one of the best things you can see due to the town’s remote location. Consider making your way to the edges of Israel’s Grand Canyon, also known as the Ramon Crater, and you will feel like you are enveloped in a sea of stars.
2 Capture the essence of the desert at Desert Daughter
While inside a simple metal building off a single bumpy road are amazing tables covered with handmade soaps and various jars of body lotion. These products are made using camel milk and local desert herbs. Generations of Bedouin have been relying on these products for their healing properties. Besides, Desert Daughter offers lotion-making and soap-making workshops and pita-baking classes. If you visit here in the morning, you will get a chance to be treated to an outstanding Bedouin breakfast. This breakfast covers the table in a spread of goat yogurts, freshly baked pita, and different types of cheese, along with vegetables and olive oil.
3 Visit the ancient villages
The ancient ruins of the Shivta village rising on the desert horizon look the same as they looked over a century ago when explorers traversed the Negev Desert. Besides, in Shvta National Park, both locals and tourists can walk among the shells of a mosque and church naves and down alleyways that are lined with some amazing stone houses and water-collection pools. It’s interesting to learn that this was a lively place more than a century ago, despite the hard weather condition and the isolated location. The park is UNESCO-protected along with other nearby villages such as Nitzana and Avdat. However, it continues to be an active archeology site. Scholars and scientists have been trying to find out why this once flouring place was abandoned centuries ago.
In between the Nitzana and Shivta ruins emerge a perfect place to surf the desert’s most amazing features – dunes. Anyone can successfully make their way up the dunes clutching a sand-board and slowly slide down on your belly, standing up, or back. You can do this solo or tandem. While the ride down is thrilling and fun, climbing up the dune again will remind you of how challenging it can be to travel across such terrain as thousands of ancient explorers have over the years. You can also learn how to build sand sculptures.
5 The rejuvenating option: The famous Fountain of Youth
If relaxation and tranquility are the two things you have been looking for, then, the famous Fountain of Youth ranch is a great option for you. This is a family ranch founded by the Klingers in 2004. Klingers were the former city dwellers who shifted to the Negev Desert. You can consider renting one of the secluded cabins which are designed for couples. This will offer you a chance to enjoy a human-made lake, take a walk in the olive groves, pet the wild horses that often to roam the property, or even order private massage services in your cabin. Don’t be surprised that distinguished local celebrities such as the late Shimon Peres and writer Meir Shalev have stayed in these cabins to soak in the quiet environment and find the right inspiration. You can do the same too.
6 The Alpaca Farm: A great wildlife option
The Negev region offers just a few possibilities for animal lovers. However, the most original, amusing, and surprising is the Alpaca Farm located near Mitzpe Ramon. On their trip to the famous Andes Mountains in South America, the family of Dvir fell in love with the Ilamas and Alpacas, bought the entire herd, and brought it to their home in Israel. Then, they acquired a suitable place for the animals which happened to be in the Negev highlands. Besides, Alpacas and Llamas, the farm raises angora sheep, donkeys, horses, and other animals. They welcome visitors and also produce wool. The visitors are allowed to feed the animals, walk around, learn the details about the Alpaca’s journey to Israel, let their children ride the Ilamas, and more.
7 Nitzana Educational Community: The green option
Nitzana Educational Community was established in 1986 with the help of the Jewish Agency. It is a center for cooperation in various fields such as water conservation, ecology, desert agriculture, and solar energy. It is dedicated to promoting sustainability and environmental well-being. Most experts refer to it as a self-defined ‘oasis of life in a desert’ as it provides different types of accommodation including youth hostels, guest apartments, dining halls, and Bedouin tents. Visitors and tourists can stay at the center and probably explore the area. They can also avail themselves of one of the countless tours the place has to offer.
For about three millennia, history has successfully curved itself into what seems like a barren sand-scape of Negev Desert in Israel. Visiting this area will help you trace the legendary spice trail across the Negev to Jordan’s Petra, an ancient city. You will find the entire journey as enchanting as it was more than 2000 years ago.