Israel’s Negev is no ordinary desert. The Negev has dunes, camels, geological sites, and breathtaking landscapes. It is home to luxurious hotel experiences, bustling hi-tech cities, and flourishing Israeli agriculture. The Negev is one of the world’s most accessible deserts, only a few hours from Israel’s center. It’s full of hidden gems for visitors to explore and a great addition to your Israel itinerary.
If you’re looking for an authentic desert experience, you must check out some of Negev’s secret spots. These off-the-beaten-track sites are less mainstream but can offer you an opportunity to experience Negev’s natural beauty. Here are our top 5 picks of activities you need to plan for your next trip to the Negev.
1) Timna Park, the desert oasis minutes away from Eilat
You’ve probably heard of Eilat, the Negev’s major attraction. Eilat’s beaches are frequented by tourists and residents alike who come from all over to enjoy the hotels, attractions, and some of the country’s best beaches. The best reason to add Eilat to your Israel itinerary is because just a few short miles from the center, you’ll find incredible views and natural phenomena of the Negev’s Arava region at Timna Park. Read up on the 10 best things to do in Eilat to find the perfect activity for you.
There, you’ll make your way around the copper-hued cliffs of Mount Timna, the world’s oldest copper mine. Then you can go through the Timna Valley, covered with glistening rainbow sand. Natural landscapes like Solomon’s sandstones will mesmerize you with nature’s articulacy, and the park even has a lake in the desert! You can pedal board around the lake or sit by the water and enjoy the view.
Though it’s close to Eilat, transport in the southern region is sparse. The best way to see Timna Park is on a guided tour. Our Timna Park tour leaves every day from Eilat, and it’s definitely one of the most unique things you can do in Israel.
2) 5-star experience in Israel’s Desert
Desert and luxury are not the first two things you’d pair together, but the visionary Beresheet Hotel is here to prove you wrong. Nestled in the region of Mitzpe Ramon, Beresheet offers visitors a luxurious spa and hotel experience like no other with panoramic views of desert sands. The hotel is built only from stone and blends into the mountainous site. This makes it a true Genesis (Beresheet in Hebrew) of the desert.
The hotel has beautiful pools, a wellness center, and tasty buffets and restaurants overlooking the exquisite and vast Ramon Crater. You can easily get to the crater with jeep and day tours from Mitzpe Ramon. A night or two at Beresheet will have you dreaming of desert days for weeks after as this hotel is truly an incredible experience, a great addition to your Israel itinerary.
3) Camp under the starlit desert sky
If hotel beds aren’t your thing or you’re more for a complete authentic desert experience, then camping at Mitzpe Ramon (Ramon Crater) is an unforgettable stargazing experience. Mitzpe Ramon is a geological wonder. It’s the first International Dark Sky Park in the Middle East. This means it has little to no light pollution leaving only the stars to light up the night. You can take a night sky tour and learn about the great galaxy and more about the crater from an astronomer. You’ll get lost in the Milky Way while sleeping under the starlit sky. There are almost always clear skies, and you just might catch a shooting star or two.
4) Snag an iconic Negev sandboard experience
While the Negev is primarily a rocky desert, there’s an area between Mitzpe Ramon and Beer Sheva with sweeping sand dunes. This makes it an especially perfect site for sandboarding. If you’ve never tried sandboarding, here’s your sign to go! It’s a fun and adventurous activity that can be enjoyed by everyone. Sandboarding tours will help you to get to the hidden, remote spots in the desert, perfect for the activity. You can rent sandboards or toboggan-like boards (made for kids) and take lessons before heading up to the slopes. Once on top, you’ll catch incredible views of the surrounding desert slopes, before pushing yourself downhill for a thrilling and totally unique experience. Your South Israel itinerary will not be complete without exploring this rugged terrain.
5) Explore different walks of desert life
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, made the Negev his home in the kibbutz of Sde Boker. A trip to the kibbutz to see the Ben Gurion burial site and the original house as a museum are two places you can’t miss. The kibbutz is surrounded by the Zin Valley. Take a desert safari jeep tour at night through the moonlike landscapes of the valley. See wildlife like owls, bats, foxes, hares, ibex, hyenas, and wolves. The canyons are carved magnificently through water erosion. They lead to the turquoise natural springs of Ein Avdat and Ein Zaka that peak between the cliffs. If you’re looking for a refreshing swim, take a day trip to Ein Akev. Here you’ll be met by a waterfall and pool deep enough to swim all year round.
How to get to the Negev
The Negev is quite large, considering its rocky land makes up more than half of Israel. It’s northern border begins at the major city of Beer Sheva and stretches to Israel’s most southern town, Eilat (and expands into Egypt and Jordan, too!). There are trains from Tel Aviv to Beer Sheva. If you’re not quite ready to face Israeli public transport, we recommend booking a shuttle from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to Eilat instead. The most efficient way to get around the Negev is by car. Even better and more cost-efficient for travelers is a guided tour. As the Negev is a not-so-ordinary desert, it deserves a not-so-ordinary guide to give you the most out of your visit.
The Negev is waiting for you
The Negev is genuinely a mystical region, and you can find yourself lost in all its wonder. It offers a diverse experience and can be enjoyed from any personal perspective. For an off the beaten track Israel Experience, consider these Negev tours. On a trip in Israel’s desert, you can delve deep into the magical landscapes, get lost in the oasis, and travel by jeep, sandboard or foot to discover all the Negev has to offer.