Travel down under this

spring Surprising sights and diversions make Mitzpe Ramon a popular and rewarding tourist destination this time of year.

A leap of faith at the rappelling station at the Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center (photo credit: ELI PECHTER)
A leap of faith at the rappelling station at the Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center
(photo credit: ELI PECHTER)
Mitzpe Ramon is home to some of the most amazing natural phenomena we have in our tiny country. This is the best time of year for both amateur and more seasoned hikers to head down south to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the abundance of incredible trails. In addition to all the short and long trails in the Ramon Crater that are much more enjoyable to walk along before the summer heat sets in, Mitzpe Ramon is developing as a city and there are now a number of activities available for couples, singles and families.
Alpaca Farm
One of the most veteran attractions in the area, the Alpaca Farm, still draws large numbers of visitors. On this secluded farm, which enjoys a great reputation for a good reason, you'll find a variety of alpacas, horses and goats.
For those of you who have not yet encountered an alpaca up close, they are a breed of small camels that originated in South America. However, in contrast to camels, which thrive in extreme heat, the smaller alpacas are covered in wool to protect them from the cold.
At the Alpaca Farm, in addition to walking around the farm or feeding the animals, visitors are also welcome to join a 90-minute guided riding tour with the beautiful crater in the background.
Price of guided tour: NIS 175 to NIS 195 per person.
Desert Archery World
Another activity that's not far from the Alpaca Farm will take you back to a time when the weapon of choice was the bow and arrow. At Desert Archery World in Mitzpe Ramon, owner Yaakov Everett offers guided tours for singles, couples and families in which participants get to shoot arrows at targets that are up to 120 meters away. The two-hour tour takes place over a concourse that is set up like a golf course with fixed stations. In addition, visitors can join sculpture workshops or fill bottles with colorful sand.
Price: For groups of 4 or 5 people, NIS 70 per person.
Details: 050-534-4598.
Constellations of the desert night sky
Have you ever looked up at the night sky while you're out in the middle of the desert? Effie Perry is offering guided tours of the desert night sky in which he shows participants with a laser beam and professional telescopes surprises they never could have dreamed of. Perry has a wealth of knowledge of astronomy and he loves to share stories about space with visitors.
The tour is appropriate for all ages and is split into two parts. Firstly, Perry talks about constellations, offers guests coffee and tea, and sometimes even prepares a bonfire. During the second half, guests get to look through the telescope and see craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, the colors of Jupiter, and stars in other galaxies.
Price: NIS 1,250 for 2 to 10 people.
Details: 050-667-9994 .
If you arrive at the Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center and see a crowd of curious people gathering together, you’ve most likely happened upon Alen Gafni's rappelling station. Gafni is a tour guide who helps people rappel on the cliff in one of Israel's most impressive nature reserves.
After a brief but thorough explanation, you can embark – harnessed and secured – on one of the most thrilling experiences you'll encounter in the entire region. The descent with the ropes is simple and easy, but you are still going to descend 15 meters, and so expect your heart rate to speed up a bit – especially if you're afraid of heights! Gafni is on site most weekends, but it's preferable to call ahead.
Price: NIS 50.
Details: 050-998-8144.
iBex Unique Desert Inn
The explosion of bicycle tourism in Israel in general and in Mitzpe Ramon in particular has led to the opening of a number of new hotels, such as the iBex Unique Desert Inn, which has made great efforts to cater to the cycling community. The colorful rooms and feel-athome atmosphere in the common areas is perfect for travelers who want to relax in the evening after a long day in the desert.
The staff are more than happy to help you plan a comprehensive tour with recommendations for activities, including walking tours, cycling trails, horseback riding and jeep tours. The hotel can accommodate up to 30 people, offers a nourishing breakfast and a free tea and coffee station.
Price: NIS 500 per couple on weekdays.
Location: 4 Har Ardon Street.
Details: 052-436-7878.
Neto Basarim
When you get hungry for lunch after all this activity, I recommend eating at Neto Basarim, an Israeli-style grill restaurant. Run by chef Michael Eshel, Neto is open seven days a week and offers all the classic meat dishes and fresh salads.
Open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily.
Details: 077-409-0620.
InnSense Bistro
If you're staying overnight in Mitzpe Ramon, then I must recommend eating dinner at InnSense, a fantastic bistro that opened in November 2015. Built on the remains of a welding shop that closed down, the building was completely renovated and now proffers gorgeous surroundings.
The cuisine is a fusion of Italian, Bedouin and general Israeli and also includes a number of tasty vegetarian options.
Location: 8 Har Ardon Street.
Details: 08-653-9595.
Holistic desert experience
If you're looking for a holistic desert experience, I recommend stopping for a session with Michal Ohr, who can take you on a journey with intuitive creation, watsu, relaxation therapy, and ThetaHealing. Spending time with Ohr is a gift to your body and soul. Hourlong sessions cost NIS 200 to NIS 300, with an option to have treatments performed in the open air.
Details: 050-821-1067.
■ Translated by Hannah Hochner.