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Around the crater in 8 days

Around the crater in 8 days

Sovev Makhtash
Best desert hikes in Israel

Getting There: 

By Bus:

Take a bus to Mitzpe Ramon and ask to get off at the “camel mountain” bus stop (HAR GAMAL, in Hebrew) in front of The Green Backpackers hostel. Climb up the dirt road till you reach the "Camel Hill". 

By Car:

Drive to Mitzpe Ramon. Turn into town on Ben Guryon Blvd. Drive straight to “Zvi Hazan” circle and continue straight to the next traffic circle. Turn left on Rehavam Zeevi St. Drive straight until you arrive at a circle. (The trail itself starts here as you continue straight and climb up the dirt road and onto camel hill. But you will first have to find a place to park the car...

Turn Left at the circle and drive straight for 200 meters to the left turn. Pass the Green Backpackers Hostel. Turn left and drive for another 50 meters. Park on the street, or at the nearby parking lot, and look for the first green markers heading southeast from this point.

Hike Description: 

Day 1

Starting Point: Mitzpe Ramon - Camel Hill
Finish Point: Nahal Nitzana CG
Length: 15km
Duration: 5-6 hours

Head out from Camel lookout, not before you take a moment to appreciate the view from this natural landmark that was known by nomads as SARBIT- "the staff".
You'll be heading southwest along the cliff until you reach a gate in the fence of the HAR HANEGEV field school. Enter the compound and continue along the low stone wall at the edge of the cliff. When you reach the fence on the other side, exit through another gate and pick up the blue markers (and the occasional INT marker).
The trail will head out on the side of the slope, maintaining the same elevation, and before it starts dropping down into the Makhtesh, there will be a red trail branching to the right and up. Follow this red trail to the top. You will be able to see the large antennas of the communications base above you and to your right.

Once you get to the top, the trail will take you over the hill, with the base on your right,  and down to the access road. Continue next to this road, leave the red trail and connect to the blue trail on the left of the road.  

Continue along the cliff until you reach the KKL-Grove. Enjoy the shade as you will not have much more of it on the rest of the trek...

Continue west with the Blue markers and pass the Mitzpe Ramon star observatory which is sadly closed to the public. Keep heading west along the Northern cliffs of Makhtesh Ramon. You will also pass Maale Ramon jeep trail (a red difficult jeep trail which goes down into the crater, once known as "Nakev A-Sahali = the comfortable path).

Continue along the cliff with the blue trail which will eventually part from the cliff once you enter Wadi Hemet. In the Wadi you will encounter a few  beautiful Pistacia Atlantica trees. 

Eventually the trails climbs out of the northern (right) bank of the Wadi, and after a bout 200m you will arrive at the Hemet Cistern (Hiding above the big pile of white sand). 

The Hemet cistern is an open cistern from the Israelite Period (around 4,000 years old).

Continue west along the south side of the road until the trail crosses to the other side and goes into Nahal Nitzana camp ground (you will clearly see the dirt road leading to it)

Attractions: Ancient cistern, Special vegetation in the season, majestic views.

Day 2-

Starting Point: Nahal Nitzana CG
Finish Point: Lotz Cisterns CG
Length: 20.5km
Duration: 7-8 hours

The day begins with a pretty steep ascent to a pretty elevated peak with an great panoramic view of the area. 

Once you've reached the peak, continue west along the ridge, enjoy the view from the topographic saddle and walk until you reach the road. (Route 171). 

Cross the road and head south into Nahal Nitzana with the green trail. You will pass number of ancient terraces - a true testimony of an agricultural civilization that existed in this area. In the spring you will encounter tulips (Tulipa Gesneriana L.), pink sunroses (Helianthemum Vesicarium) and desert Rhubarb (Rheum Palaestinum), as well as other flowers, some of which are endemic to the Negev highlands.

Continue hiking through the central Wadi along a plane, and head south on the blue trail west until you reach the edge of the Ramon crater. Head south west with the red trail along the cliff till you reach the Ramon Horns lookout and Colombia shuttle memorial plaques. (The Ramon Horns are the seven basalt hills you can spot inside the crater. The largest of the hills is called Mount Arod). 

Continue with the black trail to the pick of Mount Ramon - The third highest mountain in Israel. 1,037 Meters (3,402 ft) above sea level. 

Continue on the Red trail along several Tumuli- piles of rocks which are, in fact, ancient burial sites, and next to the K-line (look at the sign on the ground). This 4000 year old structure has baffled archaeologists as to its use and origin, stretching for 4km completely straight from mt. Romem to mt. Ramon.

Once you get to route 171, cross the road and walk parallel to it on its northern side till you reach the green foot trail - and start following it. You will pass a series of cisterns from the early Israelite period. 

This area, Known as the Lotz Cisterns - contains a high concentration of cisterns that fill up during the rainy season. 

Once you have reached the Lotz Cisterns, turn West (left) and reach the campground. 

Attractions: Rock drawing, Majestic view, Ancient stone structures, Historical memorial site, Flowers in the season, possible Onager sighting.

Day 3-

Starting Point: Lotz Cisterns CG
Finish Point: Mount Ido CG
Length: 13.5km
Duration: 5-6 hours

Begin the day by back tracking through the Lotz Cisterns and fruit grove until you reach route 171. 

Cross the road and turn west (right). Head down the trail into the canyon until you reach a large Terebinith (Pistacia) tree. Cross over to the eastern (left) bank and continue with a steep climb back up to mount Ramon. 

From the peak of Mount Ramon, continue right on the red trail. You will pass the mysterious "K" Line (The ancient low stone wall structure stretching for 4km completely straight from Mt. Ramon to Mt. Romem.)

The trail descends into the canyon and then climbs back up to the tip of the Ramon crater, than drops again southwest to the Arod observation point. 

Continue along the comfortable 4x4 road (Blue markers with the purple dot) and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Makhtesh Ramon western region. During the spring time you can stop Two-Flowered Tulips (Tulipa Polychroma) a unique endemic flower of this region. 

Continue on the trail crossing the Arod gap. After a short but steep climb you will arrive at a level plain called "Rhubarb Ascent" after yet another unique flower of this region - Desert Rhubarb (Rheum Palaestinum)

At this point we start heading east and can start to see the northern cliffs of the Ramon crater after we have crossed to the south side of it. Climb down the steep trail and continue to the foothills of Mount Ido. If you do have the time - climb up to the top of Mount Ido in order to admire the views and the numerous Cairns - human made rock piles that originally served throughout the ages as trail markers.

From Mount Ido, descend down the red trail until you reach the blue marked road. Turn west (right) till you reach Mount Ido campground. 

Attractions: Ancient stone structures, Endemic flowers in the season, Majestic vistas.

Day 4-

Starting Point: Mount Ido CG
Finish Point: Pitam Gap Campground CG
Length: 15km
Duration: 6-7 hours

Set east and back trail on the Blue jeep trail (from the previous day) and go past the red trail - staying on the blue / purple trail. 

After a short while you will reach Wadi Oded. Climb through the Wadi towards the impressive topographic saddle that connects Mount Oded to the northern cliffs of the Ramon crater. 

Descend along the small wadi (one of the upper tributaries of Wadi Nekarot - which is one of the Negev's largest streams). Once arrived at the trail junction, turn North West (left) to Oded waterhole, where you might have a chance for a dip. (This seasonal waterhole does not have water all year long)


Return to the trail junction and head east towards the Chalk and flint hill. Walk through the Wadi between the hill and the crater cliffs, and climb up the trail till you reach the top were you will discover a breathtaking overlook. 


Continue carefully along the crater cliffs and climb down the steep wadi till you reach Pitam Gap campground.   


Attractions: Cool waterhole, magnificent vistas, and impressive rock formations.

Day 5-

Starting Point: Pitam Gap CG
Finish Point: West Nekarot CG
Length: 14.5 km
Duration: 5-6 hours

Head back on the jeep trail and turn north (left) onto the purple / red trail.

Before reaching the Pitam gap (One of a few openings in the Makhtesh Ramon walls) turn off the road towards east (right) where you will see a small wadi which climbs along and between the crater cliffs. 


Climb up the steep ascent all the way up to elevation point 866 and enjoy the panoramic view which will unfold in front of you.  

Climb along the trail to the saddle separating between the flint & chalk stones from the limestone and start descending through the canyon. 

The trail will pass by Ramon's tooth gap which was an ancient caravan way station. 

Continue east on the trail all the way to the Ammonite wall where you will be able to see an impressive concentration of Ammonite fossils which got extinct together with the dinosaurs. (The Ammonites are right where the sign points, there is no need to climb up the green trail)

Continue east on the red trail till you connect to a black trail going south. Continue parallel to Route 40 until you reach West Nekarot Campground. 


Attractions: Majestic view - 360 lookout from peak, ammonite wall- fossils and interesting rock formations. 


Day 6-

Starting Point: West Nekarot CG
Finish Point: Be'erot CG
Length: 14.5km
Duration: 5-6 hours


Head south (right) parallel to route 40 until you get to the bottom of Wadi Nekarot bridge. Turn east (left) under the bridge and hike along Wadi Nekarot (red trail) until you reach a wide 4x4 jeep road with black markers. This is the Trans-Israel pipeline. 

Head north (left) and climb up to the saddle arriving at yet another Makhtesh Gap - Marpek Gap. 


Turn east and climb up the green Trail to the top of mount Saharonim. At this point you will start to see the national Israeli trail markers too as this is a section of it. 

Mount Saharonim is a segment of the southern cliffs of the Ramon crater. 

When you get to the top, continue along the trail till it drops (with a black trail) into Wadi Nekarot also known as the horseshoe. 

Once you get to the foot hill of mount Saharonim, turn right into the horseshoe (blue trail). 

The trail continues and becomes narrower, finally reaching a pretty limestone canyon that was created by water. 

Right before exiting the "horseshoe", you will find a hidden cave on the south (right) bank of the canyon. 

Exit the "Horseshoe" canyon and head north (left) onto the green trail called Dekalim Ascent - an ancient road leading to Saharonim Caravanserai. Han Saharonim is an archaeological site containing the remnants of an ancient Nabataean Caravanserai (a roadside inn for camels and caravans that traveled along the incense route).

From the top of the hill where the archaeological ruins are located, you can spot Saharonim spring (Ein Saharonm). 

Continue straight along the blue trail out of the parking lot on the dirt road leading to Beerot Campground. 


Attractions: Majestic view, ancient stronghold, ancient camel trails, hidden cave, and a narrow canyon.

Day 7-

Starting Point: Be'erot CG
Finish Point: Mount Ardon CG
Length: 10km
Duration: 5-6 hours


Head east on the green (and purple of course) trail, than connect to the black road and head towards "Saharonim Plateau" parking lot.  

You can head directly to Mount Ardon following the purple trail markers - (Black and then blue trail), but we would highly recommend a beautiful detour through Wadi Ardon as this day is not a long one in any case.  (This detour is of about 3 km)

Detour: From Saharonim Plateau parking lot, take the blue trail going south east. This elevated trail will allow you to have a better view of Wadi Ardon's magmatic Dikes - Magmatic sheet of rock that is formed in a fracture in a pre-existing rock body. They form when magma intrudes into a crack then cools off as a sheet intrusion, cutting across layers of rock or through a contiguous mass of rock. 

Once you get down into Wadi Ardon's river bed, take the black trail east (to your left) and walk through the Wadi where you can appreciate the magmatic Dikes from up close.  Continue on the black trail until you reach a trail junction of the black and a red trail. Take the Red trail leading to the right.  The red trail (Wadi Adom which means red in Hebrew) will lead you to the back side of Harut Hill. You can climb all the way to the top of the hill, or you can wait with the view till you reach to the top of mount Ardon. 

When you reach the blue trail, head North (right) with the Blue trail in the direction of mount Ardon which you can clearly see in the distance. 

(Detour ends here - this is where you connect back to the original 8 day around the crater purple trail)

Hiking along the blue trail to the foot hills of mount Ardon, you will encounter a variety of colored sand stone. 

The Mount Ardon ascent is pretty hard and steep. Make sure you do not try to climb down this side of the mountain as the rocks are pretty loos and crumble. This is a one direction trail. 

Once you have reached the top, have a seat and enjoy the panoramic view. Mount Ardon is situated between two valleys created by Makhtesh Ramon - the Ardon Valley to the south and Mahmal Valley to the north. 

Continue on the mountain with the Blue trail and start descending from the northern part of the mountain down to Mount Ardon campground.  

Attractions: Lone acacia tree, colorful sand, Magmatic intrusions, challenging climb and breathtaking view. 

Day 8-

Starting Point: Mount Ardon CG
Finish Point: Mitzpe Ramon
Length: 24.5km
Duration: 8-9 hours


Head west on the jeep trail marked in green until you reach a black trail going north (right). This is the Nabataen Incense Route called "Maale Mahmal" (Maale = Ascent). Maale Mahmal is one of the most preserved segment of the Incense route and a particularly steep segment throughout in which the trail overcomes the primary natural obstacle in its path. 

Climb north with the blue (purple) trail all the way up (about 200 m') till you reach the top of the Ramon northern cliff. At the end of your climb you will reach an ancient fort - Mahmal fort. This is a guard post which was designed to secure the ancient road and its travelers.

From the west (your left), you can notice a segment of the "Petroleum Road" which also ascends to the head of the cliff. 

From Mahmal Fort head West (left) along the black bike & jeep path. This too is segment of the National Israeli trail. Follow this path for about 17km (10.5 miles) till you reach the town of Mitzpe Ramon and Camel hill where you have started the trek and now are finishing it.


Attractions:  Ancient roman road, magnificent vistas of the Ramon crater, ancient stronghold and civilization.

Circle around the biggest crater in the world in 8 days, through breathtaking landscape, and geological wonders.

Closest Town

Mitzpe Ramon




132 km


8 Days

Recommended season

Oct - Apr

Recommended time

Early morning

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