Posted by Gil Travel on Nov 14, 2019 8:45:00 PM
When many people think of deserts, they think of scorching, yellowish wastelands. But truth be told, they are far from it. Though quite different from what an average city dweller is used to, deserts are full of life. They have their own ecosystem, nature, plants, animal life, and a great number of different settlements, towns, and cities even. Israeli deserts have over and over again proven to be historically, culturally and strategically relevant. They are homes to a great variety of sites and sights, of adventurous and relaxing activities, and they capture many-centuries-old history, tradition, and culture – from ancient to contemporary times. On top of all that, visitors get to meet the welcoming locals and hear directly from them the stories of the area, its people, and its animals. We’ll focus here on the Negev and the Arava – amazing places of night safaris, clear starry skies, captivating archeology, and so much more.
Two words: Timna Valley. Just half an hour drive from Eilat and the Red Sea, we’ll find ourselves in a veritable desert wonder, standing on its mesmerizing multi-colored sand. This is home to the famous sandstone columns called Solomon’s Pillars, which wind and water have shaped into many interesting forms, one of the most famous being ‘the Mushroom’. While in the Timna Valley, we’ll also explore the 14th-12th centuries BCE copper mines, then move to a recreation park that has an auditorium, a boating lake, bike paths, zip-line, and rappelling. Plus, if we come in October, we’ll see the amazing Timna Park Balloon Festival. We can also visit the nearby Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve and its numerous amazing animals.
World’s Largest Erosion Crater
Our next natural wonder is no less special: the famous Ramon Crater. This is a vast erosion crater, known as makhtesh – a geological phenomenon found only in the Negev Desert and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve, is located here, as well as the Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Centre with interactive exhibits about the makhtesh and the area’s flora and fauna. We can enjoy the modern facilities here, rent a hut, then go to the lookout point for remarkable views, or go hiking to see the lovely ibex, while the night is reserved for stargazing.
King Herod’s Monumental Fortress
Next up – the celebrated Masada. Though Mother Nature created our two first stops, this one was largely made by King Herod around 30 BCE, on top of a rock plateau. His great fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s accompanied by a number of other fascinating structures, such as the palace and the Roman-style bathhouse. We’ll see the archeological exhibition in the Masada Museum, then enjoy the sunset – or sunrise if you prefer – which is a truly unique experience when standing so high, immersed in history. Now, here’s a twist: one cable car drive down, and you’re at the Dead Sea. A drive away, you’re in Qumran’s Caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, or in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve among waterfalls, botanical gardens, and wonderful animals.
Bedouin Tribes and Camel Rides
For sightseeing, you might enjoy a camel ride. These beautiful, gentle animals will take you to see the scenery as found nowhere else on the planet. To top that experience, we get to meet the local Bedouin tribes who’ve inhabited the area for many centuries, but also experience their famed hospitality and entertainment, their culture, see how they live, taste their delicious home-made food, and listen to the age-old stories of their lives and traditions.
Oasis in the Desert
Now we’ll go to Ein Avdat – a remarkable desert valley and a National Park of Israel situated near the city of Avdat. This breathtaking canyon is located south of Kibbutz Sde Boker, and the archaeological evidence found in the area shows that it was once inhabited by Nabateans and by Catholic monks. There are many awe-inspiring and relaxing springs here that turn into waterfalls dropping into the pools, decorated with charming saltbush.
People have been building cities in deserts for many centuries. One of the most famous cities to visit in Israel’s deserts is Beersheba – the largest city in the Negev, also called the Capital of the Negev. The archaeological site of the biblical town is the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also four historic cities and Heritage Sites we can see here, once inhabited by the Nabataeans: Avdat, Haluza, Mampsis and Shivta. These were major towns on the Negev Incense Route that connected Arabia to the Mediterranean in the Hellenistic-Roman period, each with a very special tale of its own to tell its visitors.
These are just some of a myriad of places, sights, experiences, and activities that await in the deserts of Israel. They are both relaxing and entertaining, captivating and educational, and no matter what type of vacation you’re dreaming of, the deserts always find a way to make it a reality.
Topics: Israel Travel