Mitzpe Ramon,Israel The city of... Mitzpe Ramon sits on the edge of the Ramon Crater, one of three unique erosion cirques to be found in Israel. It was established in 1956 as a camp for the laborers paving the road to Eilat, and even today it is a sleepy little town. But don't let that fool you, because there is much to see and do in the area. Whether you want to explore the crater, bask in the sunshine by day and gaze at the stars by night, visit Ben Gurion's grave or go on a jeep tour to Ein Ovdat, one thing's for sure: there's never a dull moment. Story of Mitzpe, as the locals call it, is about 80 km (50 mi) south of Beer Sheva and 150 km (70 mi) north of Eilat. The climate here is arid, due to the altitude. Summers are hot but not too oppressive, the winters can be bitter cold, and sometimes it even snows. Five Great Reasons to Visit Mitzpe Ramon: • 40 km long, the Ramon Crater is Israel's most impressive geological feature. Displaying stunning colors and patterns, the crater is also notable for containing 200 million year-old rocks! Originally believed to have been the result of a meteor striking earth, the crater was actually formed over many thousands of years, when oceans covered the land. There is a visitor center, and the crater walls soar to a height of 200-300 meters. The flora in the crater is typical of the warm desert areas of the Negev, and it is home to many animals, including the ibex and various reptiles, while vultures nest on its cliffs. There are interesting sites at the bottom of the crater, such as the Saw-Mill rock formation. • The Negev desert is the perfect place to experience Bedouin hospitality: you can ride on a camel, feast on Bedouin food and even stay overnight in a traditional tent. The Bedouins are nomadic tribes that have lived in the desert for centuries. Many Bedouins continue to preserve their traditional lifestyle, while more and more share their traditions with local and international tourists alike. • Join a Jeep tour, and learn all about the geology and history of this fascinating area - while enjoying the thrill of a 4X4 jeep ride. Crater tours take up to four hours and are suitable for all ages. Also available are tours through the nearby Zin Valley, to Mount Karkom, thought by some to be the true site of Mt Sinai, or over a segment of the ancient Spice Route. Continue the adventure by sleeping under the stars, smack in the middle of the crater. Campsites are available at Be'erot Campgrounds (tel. 08-686713). • The graves of David and Paula Ben-Gurion command a breathtaking view of the desert canyons and highlands. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was an outstanding figure. He dreamt of making the desert bloom, but more than that, he and Paula practiced what he preached and became members of Kibbutz Sde Boker in 1953. Ten years later, they retired to a modest house (called 'hut') on the kibbutz, where they led a simple and even austere life-style to the amazement of all the world leaders who visited Ben-Gurion over the years. The ‘hut’ on Kibbutz Sde Boker is now part of an institute, dedicated to preserving Ben-Gurion’s legacy. • If you're looking for the ultimate combination of luxury and desert, the Beresheet Hotel, part of the Isrotel Exclusive Collection, is the place for you. Its location is unparalleled, with a breathtaking view of the crater, close to the ancient Spice Route. The hotel prides itself on its attention to the finest details, as is reflected in its innovative architectural design. Attractions Also in the area, by the rim of the Ramon Crater, is an Alpaca Farm, one of few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with a herd of lamas and alpacas, originally from South America. You can join the farm activities, and even stay at one of the unique cabins onsite. Visit the deep canyon cut in the soft limestone by the waters of Ein Avdat, where a waterfall cascades from above. You can swim in the natural pools, or hike on a trail that runs through the park. Along the way, you'll pass some caves that were inhabited by monks in the Byzantine period. The complete hike is quite challenging, as you'll have to climb some iron rungs in the rock wall. A less strenuous walk along the streambed will bring you to the pools at the foot of the waterfall. Restaurants Chez Eugene is an upscale French restaurant in the middle of the hot Negev desert. The focus is on local produce, and the wine list includes local boutique wineries. The Ramon-Inn Restaurant is another oasis in the Mitzpe area. The menu features Middle Eastern style casseroles with a North African touch. At the end of an action-packed day in the desert, there's nothing better than sitting with family and friends and enjoying a delicious home-style cooking. HaHavit Restaurant and Bar has a varied menu of salads, pasta dishes, soups, sandwiches and hamburgers, and also a big bar with Israeli boutique beers, good music and great ambience. Best Shopping Naturescent/Faran is a factory for natural and organic cosmetics with ECOCERT certification. At the outlet, you can purchase some of the products and hear about how these natural desert products are made. Hadasaar natural life is a local deli and coffee shop, with a boutique for natural gifts, arts and crafts of the desert. The site is home to a sustainability awareness and workshop center, and welcomes groups for closed events or a tasting tour experience of some of the Negev delicacies. Tips and trips • Due to its location, at 800m above sea level, Mitzpe Ramon enjoys a cool and comfortable climate, in the middle of the desert. You are advised to bring warm clothing, even in the summer. • If you want to travel to Mitzpe in style, a breathtaking helicopter flight from Tel Aviv will get you there in one hour. The flights are operated by CN AIRWAYS of the Chim Nir Group, offering six different helicopters for flights in the area of Mitzpe Ramon and the South.