The Ramon Crater, a natural wonder that needs to be seen to be believed
Makhtesh Ramon (commonly known as the Ramon Crater) is one of Israel’s greatest hidden treasures. You might wonder how an 839-meter-tall massive cliff face can be considered a "hidden” treasure, but you have to remember that this is Israel, a nation abundant in both historical and natural splendor. The Ramon Crater has stayed off the popular tourist radar only because of a sheer glut of other famous historic and natural locations.
But it won’t stay a secret for long. The town of Mitzpe Ramon is quickly becoming a popular tourist spot for those eager to see another side of Israel. From the majesty of the Makhtesh Ramon cliffside, to the many other natural attractions in the area, and the development of several intriguing dining options and comfortable lodgings, Mitzpe Ramon has a lot to offer anyone who is willing to step off the beaten path of the typical tourist spots.
Established in 1951, Mitzpe Ramon has humble origins. Originally designed as little more than a camp for workers laying down the road to Eilat, the small town became something of a pitstop as people made their way to the Southern point of Israel. Never a booming area by any stretch, but with just enough traffic and interest to support a small community.
But that’s changed in recent years thanks to both positive developments inside the small town, and the changing demographics of Israel. Route 40, the road that winds through Mitzpe Ramon, has become a popular alternative to the busy and chaotic Road 90. This route has not only increased the number of people passing through and supporting local businesses, but also the number of eyes on the Ramon Crater, highlighting what a natural beauty it really is. Combine this with the election of a new mayor intent on expanding the town and establishing the Ramon Crater as one of Israel’s top tourist spots, and things have slowly turned around for the town.
Today, Mitzpe Ramon is home to a thriving community of artists, restaurateurs, and thrill seekers, eager to explore everything the area has to offer. If you’re visiting, the question isn’t "what can we do here?” but "what should we do first!?”
The easy answer to that is of course, "go see the crater!” The Visitor’s Center at the top of the Crater provides an absolutely perfect vantage point to witness the sheer scope and size of the crater. You can grab a few pictures and have a splendid time just touring the various perches and perspectives available here. If you want the full experience though, you’ll want to take a tour of the crater itself.
Multiple companies are currently running jeep and walking tours through the crater. Jeep is definitely the way to go here, allowing you to see more of the area (not to mention being a lot easier on the knees). A tour won’t just show you the crater in detail, but also nearby locations like Zin Valley, an actual oasis featuring natural springs and vegetation concealed by walls of rock and desert sand!
If you are feeling particularly daring, you might be interested in rappelling down the side of the crater. Definitely not for the faint of heart! Experienced guides can help outfit you with the gear and skills you need to safely step over the ledge and get a real sense for just how tall the crater truly is.
After a day of risking life and limb (or maybe, wisely, just watching experienced hands do it), come back into town and relax and unwind. Hit up the Spice Route Quarter for a variety of lovely restaurants and cafes featuring the local cuisine. There are some real gems here with menus you won’t find anywhere else in the country, so be sure to sample a few!
Rather than make the drive back to one of the big cities, stay the night. The luxury Beresheet Hotel in town offers an upscale relaxation option if you feel like cooling off in a pool or (if you maybe overdid it rappelling the crater earlier) ordering some room service. But of course, that’s just one option. Mitzpe Ramon also offers a number of smaller, more intimate hotels and B&Bs that will give you a taste of life in the area. There are options for all kinds of budgets and experiences, so be sure to ask around and find a place that suits your tastes!
Mitzpe Ramon is a bit out of the way, but if you’re looking for something unique and special to mark your trip to Israel, you won’t find a better spot.
Join Rev. Dr. John Tweedie on the Encounter Israel tour, April 4-14, 2019 and see the Ramon Crater for yourself!