Desert adventures at Mitzpe Ramon

Hiking in Mitzpe Ramon (photo credit: EDEN SHARON)
Hiking in Mitzpe Ramon
(photo credit: EDEN SHARON)
Mitzpe Ramon is located on the northern edge of Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater). Beyond having a fantastic view of the crater, there are many hiking paths and activities, such as off-road trips, rappelling, mountain biking, stargazing, agricultural and culinary attractions.
Mitzpe Ramon is the home of about 5,500 residents and many ibexes that roam freely around this small, sleepy town. The main attraction here is the promenade – “the desert’s balcony” – where the magnificent view of the crater stretches to the horizon!
The average stay here is two nights, although there is so much to do here that one needs a week to cover it all. This is our second stay here recently and we enjoyed it so much that we already plan to come back and catch up with everything that we did not have time to do. We stayed at Isrotel’s Ramon Inn, an all-suite hotel with a heated swimming pool, which is an excellent base for trips.
Isrotel Ramon Inn
“Pundak Ramon”
Ramon Inn a small and cozy hotel built on two existing apartment blocks, whose apartments were converted into studios and suites. The lower level is where the reception, lobby, dining room, swimming pool and spa are, and where the rest of the hotel facilities were built. The hotel has one drawback, there are no elevators and it is not handicap accessible.
Ramon Inn is an all-suite hotel with three types of rooms: studio, one- and two-bedroom suite with kitchen and dining room. We stayed in a two-bedroom suite. One room had a queen bed and the other twin beds. The sofa in the living room can be opened to accommodate one more adult or children. The suite has a bath with bathtub and separate toilet, very comfortable. The kitchen is equipped with a small oven, microwave, kettle and tableware. There is a safe deposit box, free WIFI and full climate control. We were very comfortable there!
In addition to the option to cook, the stay includes breakfast and there is an option for dinner and dairy lobby bar. The meals at the dining room are buffet style. The food is served aesthetically in locally made clay serving bowls. The buffet is compact; we did not have to run around from side to side to fill our plates, yet the selection was broad and included many salads and heated options, including vegan and children-oriented food. The cuisine is local with a Moroccan touch; we had couscous, Moroccan fish and okra, although some of it was a bit spicy. Shabbat dinner was fancier, featuring excellent Assado.
The dining room is rather small and surprisingly calm considering that it was a holiday and the hotel was full of children. Yossi Levi, the hotel manager, was always around, smiling at everyone, greeting returning guests who remembered him and making everyone comfortable, as if this were a family inn, making this hotel especially warm and friendly.
After dinner, we sat in the lobby. There is a Moroccan corner there with cushions and a round fireplace, which we especially enjoyed in the cold nights here.
During the afternoons, when we returned from the trips and activities, we enjoyed the hotel’s nice midsize heated pool to cool down from the local summer heat, but it is suitable for the winter as well. There is also a tiny gym and dry and wet-saunas.
In addition, there is a kiddy club, table tennis, pool table and mountain bike rental. The hotel offers a drop-off service for cyclers.
Most of the attractions we went to were less than a 10-minute drive from the hotel.
The average price for a family of four at Isrotel Ramon Inn is NIS 600.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 08-658-8822
Rappelling and off-road trips
If the steep cliffs of Ramon Crater stir your curiosity to go out and explore, the combined adventure package of rappelling and an off-road trip that we took.
Near the visitors center there are a number of rappelling options offered, ranging from 15 to 42 meters in height. An experienced guide welcomed us and we got helmets and harnesses. The almost vertical drop is a lot of fun! We walked back up via a marked path.
A 4x4 vehicle with a driver/guide picked up us there and took us on a two-hour tour to explore the crater’s inner secrets. As we went off the road, our first stop was at Ramon Stream. Our guide, Hen Yannay, explained to us how the Ramon crater was created.
This land was part of Tethys Ocean during the Mesozoic era. Layers of minerals, each containing different minerals sunk in the water, formed different colored layers, including iron, copper, sulfur, magma, etc., which were exposed when the water withdrew and the wind and water tunneled in the rock, shaping it in the form of a crater. The spot at Ramon stream we stopped at gives a good view of the soils from a profile, showing the different colors of layers that sunk here – both beautiful and educational!
Our next destination was Mount Gvanim (Shades). The somewhat steep and bumpy drive there was lot of fun. Mt. Gvanim is located on a strategic spot in the middle of the crater, ideal for a panoramic lookout over the crater’s topography. At the top of the mountain there are orientation panels. In the summer, the most popular tours are at sunrise and sunset.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 050-530-8272
Ramon Vineyard
Ramon Vineyard is the first and biggest vineyard in the area, established by Negev Rising, a Torah and environment consortium of families that support local welfare and education in Mitzpe Ramon.
The group realized about 10 years ago that the climate is perfect for raising grapes because the day heat generates sugar in the grapes and the cold nights lock it inside them. Despite facing many bureaucratic obstacles, they started planting the vineyards in 2010 at an elevation of 800 meters and since then it has been growing steadily with significant demand for their grapes from Israeli wineries. They also make their own wine at the Bazelet Hagolan Winery.
The vineyard is open for tasting. We headed to see the vineyard, although the best time here is in the spring and summer, when the vines are green. They grow many types of grapes here. The visitor’s center is a serene place with grass, fruit trees and a wading pool. We sat in the shade of a hut and tasted the wines; I especially loved the refreshing Chardonnay.
Beyond a tour of the vineyards and wine tasting, during the summer there are family activities around the vineyard and pool. The place can be rented for events.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 055-667-3460
Nightly Stargazing
Sparsely populated, the area of Makhtesh Ramon is ideal for stargazing. There is not much ambient light and the air is dry. Stargazing here is a popular and fascinating activity that nightly combines fun and learning.
We travelled a few kilometers from Mitzpe Ramon on Road 40 into the crater where Nadav Silbert awaited us on a dark path that took us to the observation point. As we got there, a bonfire circled by mats and mattresses awaited us near a set of four different telescopes.
We started sitting around the bonfire. Nadav gave us an overview of the stars, galaxies and our solar system, while we had tea and coffee. He used a laser-pointer to highlight the different stars. This was a great opportunity for us to get a grip on what’s going on around our planet. We learned the relative size of sun and its distance from earth, what makes it shine so bright, how stars are born and what a galaxy cluster, nebula and meteors are. This was interesting to both the adults and the teenagers among us.
The second part was more active as we observed the moon, stars, a galaxy cluster and a nebula, as well as other phenomena through the different telescopes. This was exciting! Nadav tells us that each night and hour is different and no stargazing is like another. In each one, the conditions are different and what is seen changes, but it is always worthwhile!
Nadav has 16 different mobile telescopes, which makes him the owner of the biggest mobile stargazing fleet around here!
Group prices start from NIS 1,250.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (08) 868-0742
What else?
There are many hiking trails here, the Ramon Visitor Center and desert zoo, Alpaca farm and more. In the evening, there’s an active jazz club.
The author was a guest of Isrotel Ramon Inn and the sites mentioned in the article.