The Ramon Crater, or as it is known in Hebrew, Makhtesh Ramon, is a big crater in the Israeli desert.
When you think of craters you usually imagine a meteor hitting earth and creating a big hole in the ground. However, this is not the case with this place.
This beautiful desert site is a unique geological phenomenon caused by erosion. Without getting too technical... the explanation of how it formed lies millions of years ago when the whole place was covered by an ocean that receded. Climatic changes that followed the recession of this ocean created this big “crater” – about 25 miles (40 km) long, 1 to 6 miles wide and with walls of about 200-300 meters in height.
The Ramon crater has a number of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails, and you can even do cliff-rappelling if you want. There are also jeep or camel tours if you prefer a more relaxed foray into the desert.
Makhtesh Ramon (sometimes spelled Machtesh Ramon) is truly spectacular and if you like desert views you will find it breathtaking.
Note that there is a nice visitor's center located on the edge of the Ramon crater and you can not only get info about things to do in and around the area but also just get a great view from there. Their number is +972 (0)8-658-8691.
It's about a 2 hour drive from the center of Israel to Makhtesh Ramon, which is located just off the 40 highway (this takes one south to Eilat). Here is a satellite view of the crater from above and a map of the area. Zoom out to see the crater's location in Israel:
The closest town to Makhtesh Ramon is Mitzpe Ramon – Mitzpe actually means "lookout" or "observatory" in Hebrew. The town is located on the northern edge of the crater.
Mitzpe Ramon has some hotels and other decent places to stay. Our recommended hotel is the Isrotel chain's new 5-star Berayshit Hotel, opened in 2011, which is located close to the edge of the crater.
Each of the Berayshit Hotel's rooms have a gorgeous view of the crater. The hotel also includes an outdoor pool (also with a view of the crater), a movie theater, gym, indoor pool, spa, and even a children's club (like a big playroom). The hotel even has an option to arrive and depart the hotel by helicopter (to and from Tel Aviv) and to take a helicopter tour around the crater itself.
If you are looking for a cheaper option you can also find some nice guest houses (tzimmers) and smaller hotels in Mitzpe Ramon.
It's also possible to get a jeep, bicycle or camel tour of Makhtesh Ramon. The starting point for any of the tours around the crater is Mitzpe Ramon itself.
Other than the above and an alpaca-llama farm on the western part of the town, there is not too much to do in Mitzpe Ramon. Except... one of Israel's best-kept secrets nearby that I would highly recommend checking out...
Mitzpe Ramon has some of the clearest, darkest skies in Israel, and as a result, has become the home of the Middle East's largest working research telescope and observatory (the Wise Observatory, operated by the Tel Aviv University).
The Wise Observatory is not open to the public, but if you're curious about the universe and stars and want a totally out-of-this-world nighttime experience, then I would highly recommend to book a Star Tour with Ira Machefsky's Astronomy Israel.
Ira, known as the Star Man, has over 40 years of astronomy experience, and offers personalized nightly astronomy tours in Mitzpe Ramon.
The first half of the tour involves naked-eye observation of the sky, identifying constellations and gaining an understanding of the stars and the night sky. During the second half of the tour you use telescopes to view the best sights in the heavens.
The tours last around 2 hours in total. No background in astronomy is required at all for this and so they are appropriate for both beginners and more advanced amateurs.
Here are some reviews of the Mitzpe Ramon Star Tours:
The cost is 150 NIS per adult and 75 NIS per child (age 6-12). Foreign currency (dollars, pounds, Euros) are also accepted. Discounted rates are available for groups.
The Star Man (Ira Machefsky) will meet you at your hotel and guide you to his observing location in the desert behind Mitzpe Ramon. Chairs and blankets are provided.
For more information about booking a Star Tour, please complete the form below:
Okay, so if you are on your way to Eilat driving the recommended scenic (but longer) route 40, stop and check out the Ramon crater in the Israeli desert. And if you want an awesome night experience, do a Star Tour while you're there!
Hope you enjoyed our page on Makhtesh Ramon!
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