Negev – Eilat
The Negev is a desert like no other, with minimal rainfall, we have harnessed the little water available and have made the desert bloom. The Negev has become a giant greenhouse of growth, with eco-villages, farms, spa resorts, Bedouin hospitality and wineries. Let’s hike the machteshim, Ein Avdat, Timna, and the miles and miles of trails and experience the breathtaking scenes of nature that surround you.
Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, believed that the future of Israel was in the Negev. When the State was just four years old, Ben-Gurion passed a small Kibbutz in the Negev called Sde Boker which had just one hut and a few tents. Ben-Gurion felt drawn to that simple way of life and the following year, he and his wife, Paula, moved into that hut and lived there off and on for 20 years. Ben Gurion's Desert Home is now a museum that we can visit, as we discover Ben-Gurion’s vision to make the desert bloom.
South of Sde Boker is Ein Avdat National Park, a stream surrounded by hiking trails, springs, groves and wildlife. Within the Avdat National Park we can visit the reconstruction of an ancient Nabatean city on the Spice Route, also a UNESCO World Heritage site and a great place to see awesome rock formations.
And then we’ll take in the breathtaking Tzin Valley, facing the magnificent Negev landscape.
You may be tempted to think of Beer Sheva, as a dusty Biblical town with camels and traders. Modern Beer Sheva is the fastest growing city in Israel. Now connected by rail and upgraded roads, the capitol of the Negev, Beer Sheva is fast becoming a center for hi-tech and cyber technology. With Soroka University Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University and other schools of higher education, Beer Sheva is on the map!
But like everything else in Israel the old and the new flow into each other almost effortlessly! If you are lucky enough to visit Beer Sheva on a Thursday, you can take a tour of the fabulous old-fashioned open air Bedouin market held regularly since 1905, with its spices, old and new clothes and almost-antiques. Don’t forget to bargain with the stall keepers!
Other exciting places to visit include art galleries, vast green parks, Beer Sheva Theatre and The Museum of Bedouin Culture.
If you want to learn about how your veggies grow and how they taste straight out of the ground, head out to the Salad Trail for an unforgettable experience where you will learn how Israel is rolling back the desert in the Negev.
There are a number of fascinating activities for the whole family at Khan Beerotayim, a desert inn (Khan) made of natural and recycled items. Here you can shut out the outside world, turn off your modern devices and enjoy the vast expanse and quiet of the desert. You can choose to go on a camel caravan ride, bike tour or just relax and recharge your body and soul.
Next we can choose one of three machteshim (erosion cirques, mistakenly called craters); simply called the Small, the Large or Ramon machtesh. We can take a short outing on the edges of a machtesh and take in the awesome geological phenomenon or trek through along the numerous trail options, designed for different levels of difficulty exertion. The visitor's center at Mitzpe Ramon provides a state-of-the-art demonstration of how machteshim were formed, together with a memorial to Ilan Ramon (he was not connected to the Machtesh), the first Israeli astronaut to go into space, only to die on his maiden voyage to space when the Columbian shuttle disintegrated on reentry back to earth.
Timna Park is the site of one the oldest copper mines in the world, fondly called Solomon's mines and including Solomon's pillars (even though Solomon was never 'here'). This stunning desert reserve has many fascinating formations and colored rocks due to various minerals imbedded in the stones. With hiking and biking routes, you can cover some of the 15,000 acres of the park. Take a paddle boat ride in the small lake, or fill bottles with local natural-colored sand.
The Hebrew word Negev means south and also dry or wipe. Next time you have some pita and hummous, make sure to break off a piece of pita and swipe it in the hummous before stuffing it into your mouth. This is called 'lenagayv”, or wipe.
Eilat is a special city where the desert meets the Red sea; a sea-side resort town with a multitude of water sports, a variety of activities and attractions, and luxury beach hotels. The Eilat region is blessed with a variety of mountains for us to climb, including Shchoret, Uzia, Yehoshafat, and Shlomo (Solomon). We'll visit Amram Pillars which were formed by natural erosion. You can see Jordan, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia from atop the mountains of Eilat.
We can’t miss a visit to the Eilat Underwater Observatory Marine Park, a member of Coral World International; it has an unusual aquarium and underwater observatory set into a reef. Here you will discover the undersea world, gaze into the shark pool and see the rare fish aquarium, and aquatic life in the dark display. Take an unforgettable ride in a glass bottom boat over the corals of the Red Sea.
At the dolphin reef you will snorkel or dive with the dolphins after a brief lesson.
The weather in Eilat is perfect for sun-lovers. Winter time in Eilat is warm and wonderful with low humidity and minimal rain. You have an amazing choice of snorkeling, diving, boating, windsurfing and just swimming in the clear and calm waters of the Red Sea.
Millions of birds fly over Israel during the migration seasons and Eilat is THE most dazzling place to see hundreds of bird species, from eagles, buzzards to kites, falcons and more, spotted in the skies over Eilat.
The most beautiful place in the area is the Red Canyon (Canyon Ha'adom) with different colored stones and minerals and great climbing and hiking.
And don't forget shopping! Eilat is a tax free zone!
Other sites in the Eilat area include the Yotvata Hai Bar Nature Reserve, Eilat Bird Watching Park, Flamingos at Evrona, Kibbutz Neot Smadar, and the Antelope Farm.
The northernmost Doum Palm trees on earth are 12 kilometers outside of Eilat. Palm trees have male and female trees and at Evrona you can see both sets of trees, then crawl through the Fugarot wells built in the 9th century during the early Muslim period.