Mitzpe Ramon is a small town in the middle of the desert of around 5000 people and is one of the isolated towns around this small country. It is a very interesting place from the aspect of the beautiful nature around, and from the people who live there.
Mitzpe Ramon in Hebrew means "Ramon Lookout", it is called like that because The town lays at the edge of Makthesh Ramon. What is a makhtesh you are asking?
A makhtesh is a geological phenomenon which is unique to Israel and Sinai peninsula. Literally in Hebrew, a makhtesh means a creator. There are 3 creators like that in the Israeli Negev and 2 small ones in Sinai. What is special about these creators? What makes those creators so special is the fact that they are created by erosion and not by impact or volcanic activity. You can read more here.
There are 2 more Makhtesh in Israel, Ramon is the biggest one and actually, because it is so big ( 40km wide) it is hard to see and understand the phenomenon. If you are really interested, I will recommend visiting the small creator or the big creator which are small than Ramon and allows you to see the phenomenon better.
The area is a starting point for many amazing desert hikes and trails.
The Town of Mitzpe Ramon
The town started as a camp for construction workers who were building the road to Eilat in the 50's. In 1956 a group of pioneers moved to the location in order to establish a town. The conditions were hard and it was hard to supply the isolated spot.
In the 60's Jewish refugees from North Africa settled in the town. In 1967, Road 90 to Eilat was completed and most of the traffic to Eilat shifted to road 90. Mitzpe Ramon which was on the main road to Eilat before road 90 was complete, got a big economic blow which made it even more neglected in a way.
With the years the town had a bad reputation of an isolated neglected place, but with a core of people who really love the town.
In the recent years, many young people who decided to choose a more relaxed chilled way of life moved to Mitzpe. You may find here artists and people who live alternative way of life
In this clip you can see some locals do acro yoga and sing about how they won't replace the quite life in the desert for nothing in the world:
Climate in Mitzpe Ramon
Mitzpe Ramon is high above sea level, 900+ to be exact. It means that in winter it can be very cold, in harsh winters it might even snow a little!
The huge advantage of this trait comes in summer, when in other areas of the Negev the temperature can cross above 40 degrees, in Mitzpe is stays just a little above 30 degrees Celsius. It's hot, but not inferno hot compared to the Judean Desert of Eilat area.
Where to stay in Mitzpe Ramon?
In Hebrew, the name of the place if a cool pun. The place is not really a hostel, but more of a desert compound with a great atmosphere, basic facilities.
So basic, the place doesn't have electricity, you are here to connect to the desert remember?
To get the atmosphere and see the facility just watch this short clip:
This place is not just a hostel, it is an artistic compound in which the hostel is just one part of it. As they state on their website:
"What do we do? We produce and host The best and most alternative creative content - through festivals, events, live shows and workshops.who are we? A group of Staff members and volunteers from all around the world, sharing life here in the desert and creating together day by day".
I think you got the atmosphere....
Oh, and they have electricity.
Another simple good hostel in case the others are fully booked. Yes, they have electricity.
You might be surprised, but Israel most luxuries hotel is not located in Jerusalem or Eilat, it is located tight here in Mitzpe Ramon. Their swimming pool is right at the edge of the Makhtesh cliff and has a beautiful view, almost as good as the workers walking around giving you fruit popsicles. despite the high standards, the hotel tries to blend as much as possible in the desert atmosphere and environment. Go ave a look even if you don't plan to stay there.
Points of Interest in Mitzpe Ramon:
The visitor center
The visitor center is dedicated to the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in 2003 on the fatal mission of the Columbia space shuttle.
The center vision was to connect between Earth and sapce, Makhtesh Ramon and Ilan Ramon. The part dedicated to the Makhtesh will describe the geological phenomenon and terms. The geology is explained with videos, photos and mechanical models which will help you understand why this is a unique phenomenon in the world. Also info about the wildlife of the desert.
Ilan Ramon Part
Dedicated to the First Israeli astronaut who died on STS-107 NASA space mission. The museum tells the story of Ilan's private life from being a fighter pilot in the IDF to a NASA astronaut. Model of the Columbia space shuttle, Ilan astronaut suit model and details about his final mission.
The Alpaca Farm
On the map.
Yes, it is not a mistake, an Alpaca farm in the middle of the Negev. A young Israeli couple was traveling the Andes and fell in love with the weird looking animals. They decided they want to have a farm with llamas and alpacas in Israel. The high arid desert suited for their vision and they established the farm in 1987.
Today you can visit the farm and enjoy many of the activities around. Hearing the stories of the farm, feeding the animals, horseback riding and much more.
The farm also produces high-quality products from the alpaca and llamas wool. They actually had to build a small workshop to be able to process it. All and more on their website.
Because of its isolation, the light pollution in Mitzpe Ramon is very low. So low, it is nominated to be a star gazing reserve which means that the sky here looks like how sky should look like at night. Seeing all the stars, milky way and more.
Combine the low light pollution with the fact that in the desert most of the year the sky is clear with no clouds and you will get a perfect spot for an observatory. The biggest Observatory in Israel is located in Mitzpe Ramon, 5 km from the town. You can check their website here.
Hiking in Mitzpe Ramon
Probably one of the main reasons you arrived here, no? from a day hike, to multi-day hikes. The Israel Trail is passing through the town so you can walk all the way to Eilat.
During summer multi-day hikes are not recommended because of the heat.