'Glamping' in the Negev

Tour the South at night to avoid the hot summer days.

Negev (photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
(photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
I’m a big believer in not taking trips to the Negev in the summer if at all possible. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love spending evenings there.
When you drive down south from the smoggy center of the country in the evening, you can feel the temperature dropping drastically – it’s even advisable to bring along warm clothing.
After driving south for 90 minutes, we decided to stop and visit the Eshkol National Park, an enormous green reserve, just before the sun set. (Turn west at the Gilat Intersection onto Route 241. Eshkol is 15 minutes west of Ofakim.) The Eshkol National Park is a perfect place to stop for a picnic, a quick splash in the water and an overnight camp-out. Khirbat Shelala, which sits in the northernmost part of the reserve, offers an amazing view of the nature park. Ruins from Ein Habesor were found inside a small hill in the center of the park that has undergone excavations, and at the foot of this hill, water from the Besor Spring flows freely. The spring water is not too cold, but there’s only enough to get your feet a little wet.
From there, we continued on our journey south for another 30 minutes, at which point we stopped for a light dinner at the Chan Hashayarot camping site near Sde Boker. The camping site, located on the Nabatean Spice Route, is named for the caravans of camels and merchants that used to pass through this area many years ago.
To reach the campsite, we turned left off the main road onto a dirt path that runs parallel to the main road. All of a sudden we found ourselves in a world completely disconnected from modernity. The grounds are large, and the site offers various sleeping arrangements, including in a huge Beduin-style tent or luxurious guest houses. This is the perfect place to spend the night before going on day trips, but we just stopped to picnic and enjoy a little bit of Beduin hospitality.
After we finished eating and warmed up around the bonfire, we set out on our first evening adventure – a search for scorpions with an organized group from the Sde Boker Field School. Many scorpions live in the desert, but they are usually hard to see. With the help of ultraviolet flashlights, we were able to see the shiny colors of their protective skin. This tour – which includes explanations about how scorpions and other crawling creatures live – is recommended for families with children and lasts for about 90 minutes.
After the tour, we drove even further south toward our final destination: a view of the stars and a lesson on astronomy at a camping site in the heart of the desert. Since this was my first time going camping, and the idea of sleeping outside with all sorts of insects and foxes running around never really excited me, I was happy to come upon a fantastic alternative: “glamping,” or glamorous camping.
Glamping is an upgraded way to camp, in which you don’t have to worry about failing to construct a tent properly or digging a hole to use as a bathroom.
The Easy Camping staff, the first group to provide this type of service, arrived on the scene to put together our tent and lighting, and set up everything we would need for the night: mattresses and sheets, a coffee area, ecological bathrooms and even a shower with hot water. It was a terrific experience, though not cheap (NIS 270 per person).
After we were all settled in, we set out for the stargazing, which was led by the director of the Har Hanegev Field School, Efi Peri. We were able to see Saturn, various constellations and the moon in all their glory through a telescope, but you don’t need really need any technology to enjoy the open skies and the sparkling stars of the beautiful nighttime desert. We were so happy there that we decided to sit outside under the stars all night until the sun came up.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.